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REVIEW: The Sheik and The Virgin Secretary by Susan Mallery

Dear Ms. Mallery:

Book CoverIn an effort to broaden my horizons and understand the appeal of the category romance and to support Harlequin’s phenomenal digital effort, I’ve taken to buying two or three series books a month. A while back I purchased The Sheik and The Virgin Secretary because the title exemplified two of the most villified but standard tropes within the series genre plus it was a play on the Boss/Secretary theme. I had to read it.

Prince Rafiq of Lucia-Serrat is the standard issue prince from some unknown principality overlooking the Indian Ocean. He’s very rich and tends to be a serial monogamist. When his assistant of two years, Kiley Hendrick, is in her office on Monday morning instead of her honeymoon, Rafiq was surprised but even more when Kiley suggests that since he gave his last mistress her conge, she fill that position.

Kiley is a very practical and direct person. She lays out all the reasons that she would make a good mistress. She doesn’t make unreasonable demands; she understands his need to work; she “clean[s] up pretty well”; is smart, and has a sense of humor.

Rafiq is quite taken aback. There are plenty of beautiful available women but not too many excellent assistants. He asks Kiley why. Kiley found out that her fiance was cheating on her and Kiley was crushed. She had actually been saving herself for marriage while her fiance was out sleeping with every woman who would take him. Having an affair with Rafiq kills two birds with one stone – ridding herself of her virginity and getting revenge. Eric, the fiance, would be eaten with jealousy to know that Kiley was with Prince Rafiq.

Rafiq looks at Kiley and believes revenge is a honorable gesture. He finds her to be fair of form and kisses her to see if they would be compatible and they are. Sparks fly.

Rafiq and Kiley agree that the affair will last for three months and Kiley extracts a promise that Rafiq will not fire her at the end of the affair and that if it is at all awkward, he will assist in finding her an appopriate position.

“Nothing. In addition to our sexual relationship, I would expect you to accompany me to various social events.”

“That’s the part I’m most looking forward to,” Kiley told him with a smile. “I want to be seen and have word get back to Eric.”

Rafiq’s expression didn’t change, but she had the feeling she’d said something wrong. She ran over her statement. Oh. Yeah. Maybe that wasn’t the most flattering thing to say.

“Of course, I’m really excited about sleeping with you,” she added, feeling both embarrassed and uncomfortable.

“I can see that.”

She wanted to bang her head against the desk. “Have I blown it completely?”

There is a wonderful ratcheting up of the tension as Rafiq recognizes that Kiley needs to be seduced and so while each encounter is steamy, the actual consummation takes place later allowing the reader to be seduced along with Kiley. Rafiq and Kiley enjoy quite a few amusing and comfortable exchanges.

Kiley didn’t look convinced. “So, is there a place one goes to find a woman fit to be a princess? Like a princess store?”

Her eyes were bright with humor and the corners of her mouth curved up.

“There’s an Internet site,” he said, pretending to be serious.

“Oh, I’d love to see it. Do you type in specifications? Height, weight, number of sons required.”

“Of course. Along with how many languages I want her to speak and what accomplishments she should have.”

“You really need to get going on that,” she said with a smile. “So you aren’t too old when your kids are born. You want to be able to play ball with them.”

“I have a few good years left.”

“I don’t know. You’re over thirty.”

“By a year.”

“Still. You’re looking a little creaky.”

“How charming,” he said dryly. He liked that she was feeling comfortable enough to joke with him.

The problem arises when Kiley falls in love with Rafiq and Rafiq cannot return the sentiment. Or believes that he cannot because Rafiq is a the subject of two careless parents who offered him little affection. Rafiq does not believe in love. He believes in mutual respect and admiration but love can only lead to intense pain and he would rather avoid that.

The best part of this story is Kiley and her honesty. I fell in love with her a little bit too so I can definitely see her appeal to Rafiq. If I had any quibbles, it would be the slimness of the character arc for Rafiq. B+

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be ordered from Amazon in paper format or from e Harlequin in ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

32 Comments

  1. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 07:48:08

    The best part of this story is Kiley and her honesty. I fell in love with her a little bit too so I can definitely see her appeal to Rafiq.

    That’s interesting. This was a DNF for me, and I didn’t get much more than a few chapters into the novel, because I just couldn’t understand Kiley. She seemed to me like an American teenager of the kind I’ve seen in movies, but as I’ve never met or been one, I really couldn’t relate to her. The teenager-ishness is something suggested by the text:

    Kiley wasn’t sure what she should wear on her first night as mistress. Honestly, she couldn’t even think the question without wanting to giggle like a teenager or throw up from sheer panic. […] She was the most normal woman on the planet. Her idea of wild living was to pay for a pedicure instead of doing it herself (24)

    The idea that she’s “normal” is repeated later: “I can’t see you fitting in with my family. Everyone is very normal. We’re your basic hearty, peasant stock” (31). But to me she isn’t normal: she’s a very strange, exotic creature. I barely know what a pedicure is. She mentions having a fake tan. She thinks she’s going to vomit when she gets nervous. How many peasants do that?

    Chapter 3 managed to begin by hitting one of my hot buttons:

    I love kids. Honestly, I never wanted much more than to be a wife and mother. The business degree was so I could get a good job, and the other studies [early-childhood development] were to help me to be a good mother. Although, my mom didn’t study anything and she was the best. I want to be just like her. […] I guess I feel guilty. These days women are supposed to have it all. But I don’t want it all. I just want a little house with a garden and a couple of kids and a man who loves us as much as we love him (41-42)

    I’m a stay-at-home parent, but women who are super-mums just intimidate me.

    Rafiq and Kiley enjoy quite a few amusing and comfortable exchanges.

    I could see which bits were supposed to be funny, but again I think I hit a culture gap, because it just wasn’t the sort of humour that makes me laugh.

  2. Ann Bruce
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 08:57:48

    The business degree was so I could get a good job

    I got the business degree so I can have VP on the outside of my door one day. She got it so she can be a secretary?!? I know there are executive admin assistants who make very handsome salaries, but that’s not the impression I’m getting from this book.

    And let me tell you something, the admin assistants in my office do not have problems deciding what to wear. Sadly, most are more sophisticated and better dressed than me. Then again, I dress in the dark because I get up at 5:30 AM most days.

  3. Anne
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 10:23:00

    OMG, I absolutely LOVE Susan Mallery’s sheiks! No one does sheiks like Ms. Mallery. NO ONE. I’ve got every single sheik book she’s ever written as well as the November release (thank goodness for eharlequin and their one month in advance! YAY!). I HIGHLY recommend reading more of them. My absolute favorite? The Sheik and the Runaway Princess.

  4. Sybil
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 11:21:26

    I got the business degree so I can have VP on the outside of my door one day.

    And isn’t it great that both of you can do it for whatever reason you want to and still be respected. No matter if your goal is to be a VP, CEO, Mother, Wife or Ruler of the world.

    She wasn’t going to be a wife and mother because she was female and HAD to nor was she going to be a wife and mother because she didn’t think she had any other choice.

    This is the first Sheik book I read and I really loved it until the last few chapters my grade dropped. I could be wrong but if I remember correctly Eric had been her only boyfriend for 5 or so years and she was young…. early 20’s or there about. So those ‘teenage’ like statements didn’t bother me, then again show me a woman who has never been unsure, nervous or trying on a ton of outfits trying to figure out what to wear the first time out with a man – or any situation they wanted to impress a person or people.

    It isn’t that she couldn’t dress herself, it was she didn’t know what to wear going into a situation she had never been in before. As well as most of her clothes were work clothes, so it seems she was just as smart as anyone else’s admin. You know… even if all she wanted to do with her lift was get married and be a mom.

    I thought her honesty and their openess about the situation was refreshing. Of course that would be why I was so annoyed at the end.

  5. Laura
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 13:38:08

    I’m a virgin when it comes to sheik stories(sorry, couldn’t resist). Isn’t “sheik” a term for Middle Eastern royalty, not European royalty?

  6. Robin
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 14:11:10

    What worked for me:

    1. Kiley has good reasons for remaining a virgin, and they are in tune with her practical, loyal nature

    2. When she makes the rash decision to become Rafiq’s mistress, she freaks out when confronted with the actual physical implications of that decision, and that also was very believable and consistent with her character. No TSTL headlong rush into danger.

    3. This was really Kiley’s story, and I was impressed with the consistency of her characterization and charmed by her honesty and straightforward pragmatism.

    4. As for the issue of her wanting to be a SAHM, I thought Mallery was very conscious of the implications of Kiley’s desires, as she introduces another character later in the book who engages Kiley in a long discussion of the dilemma women face today and the importance of authentic choices, either to be a SAHM or to work and not have children, or to work and have children. In Kiley’s case, I never felt her decision was reactionary.

    5. Kiley had a normal, happy family and was not an isolated innocent. She’s not starving for love or lonely or sexually ignorant.

    Things that didn’t work for me:

    1. The ex boyfriend and Rafiq’s mother were stereotypical “bad” characters

    2. Rafiq’s emotional conflict came out of nowhere for me, and when he first had a thought of it, I remember thinking, WTF — where did THAT come from? Overall, he was far less interesting to me than Kiley was.

    3. The moments where he feels his lust is a link to his “desert warrior” ancestry. How many ways can that call to the “uncivilized Other” make me cringe.

    4. While I admired Kiley’s unflinching honesty, I was surprised it took her so long to get MAD, and I did feel a little like what should have been stronger emotions were being artificially subdued to keep her “nice”.

    I don’t know whether it’s because I haven’t read nearly as many category Romances as I have single titles, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the categories I’ve read lately, not only for their strong, independent heroines, but also for the emotional punch they pack in so few pages. Kiley was the real strength of Mallery’s book, IMO, and while I felt uncomfortable with some of the sheik elements, I didn’t find this book to be a typical “sheik fantasy”. Mallery didn’t exoticize Rafiq (except that ridiculous and offensive desert warrior stuff) or his family. Kiley didn’t have long fantasies about being an Arabian princess (in fact, she doesn’t even want the princess title). If I go simply on my unreflected read, the book rates a B from me, and upon reflection, probably a B-. I’d definitely try another Mallery book, though.

  7. Robin
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 14:18:37

    The idea that she's “normal” is repeated later: “I can't see you fitting in with my family. Everyone is very normal. We're your basic hearty, peasant stock” (31). But to me she isn't normal: she's a very strange, exotic creature. I barely know what a pedicure is. She mentions having a fake tan. She thinks she's going to vomit when she gets nervous. How many peasants do that?

    California peasants? I definitely think this is a cultural gap, Laura, because as a (IIRC) 25 year old Californian (who grew up in Sacramento), Kiley struck me as pretty “normal” – or at least what’s normal for California middle class 20-somethings. The virginity thing was less normal, IMO, but since Kiley had been in a long-term relationship of like 5 years, and because she’s not sexually dysfunctional, religiously bound to chastity, ignorant of sex, or afraid of sex, I was able to deal with that and accept her reasons for remaining a virgin as reasonable for her character and the circumstances. As for pedicures and fake tans — that’s the stuff of every CA strip mall, meaning cheap nail and tanning salons are EVERYWHERE.

  8. Ann Bruce
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 14:41:50

    I got the business degree so I can have VP on the outside of my door one day.

    And isn't it great that both of you can do it for whatever reason you want to and still be respected. No matter if your goal is to be a VP, CEO, Mother, Wife or Ruler of the world.

    I was not disparaging secretaries or stay-at-home-moms. (My mom would slap me upside the head if I do that.) I’m a little miffed that the fact that she apparently spent–I’m assuming–four years in post-secondary education to get a degree that she’s NOT using. Essentially, what I’m saying is that a business degree is not required if you’re going to be happy with a secretarial position.

    If she’d gotten the degree thinking she would put it to real use but came to realize she’d be happier as a SAHM, I wouldn’t take issue with it.

    BTW, I do have a cup that says “Master of the Universe.”

  9. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 14:46:56

    I don't know whether it's because I haven't read nearly as many category Romances as I have single titles, but I've been so pleasantly surprised by the categories I've read lately, not only for their strong, independent heroines, but also for the emotional punch they pack in so few pages.

    I’ve read a lot of category romances over the past few years, and I think that “emotional punch […] in so few pages” may be a hallmark of category. They do tend to be intense because they’re short and there generally aren’t secondary plots (or time to have a “sagging middle”).

    show me a woman who has never been unsure, nervous or trying on a ton of outfits trying to figure out what to wear the first time out with a man – or any situation they wanted to impress a person or people

    I haven’t. Which is partly why I can’t relate. For one thing I simply don’t have a “ton of outfits” and secondly I don’t spend much time worrying about my appearance. I’ve always been more interested in books than clothes, and I never got the knack of how to put on make-up.

    I definitely think this is a cultural gap, Laura

    I think it is. It’s not that you can’t find tanning parlours etc around here, but they’re not as common as the situation you’re describing in CA. Thinking a bit more about the cultural gap, I realise that the category lines that are (a) most readily available in the libraries around here and (b) which I prefer, are all the lines which are edited in London. Recently I’ve been trying out more of the lines edited in New York and Toronto, and somehow I’m more likely to hit a cultural gap with them.

  10. Robin
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 15:13:33

    I'm a little miffed that the fact that she apparently spent-I'm assuming-four years in post-secondary education to get a degree that she's NOT using. Essentially, what I'm saying is that a business degree is not required if you're going to be happy with a secretarial position.

    One of the surprising moments in this book was when Kiley tells Rafiq about her “odd combination” (her words) of degrees, he replies: “Not if one plans to open a day-care facility.” Part of Kiley’s situation, I think, is that she went to college trying to be practical, with a strong desire to be a SAHM, and when she gets engaged, she has really no interest in pushing beyond that desire. And interestingly, between her American fiance and her sheik lover, the sheik is the more socially progressive of the two where women and their roles are concerned. Another push against type, however small, IMO. Now, we could argue, I think, about whether the married princess ending of the book breaks type, lol.

    Laura, re. the nervousness and the clothes thing: didn’t you think that so much of Kiley’s initial clothes crisis isn’t at all connected to her clothes, but to the implications of the rash deal she’s made. Her whole thing about “mistress wear” seemed much more to me about her anxiety over Rafiq than about wanting to pick out the perfect outfit. Plus she’s super-conscious of their class differences and of the strange boundary crossing in their professional/personal relationship. I saw the clothes thing as really about everything but clothes, really.

  11. Chantal
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 15:23:54

    I liked this book.
    I’m a Harlequin fan. The titles are horrible, but the books make me feel good.

  12. sherry thomas
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 15:34:20

    Nobody answered Laura’s question so I’ll ask, too. Why is an European prince referred to as a Sheik? Is he like those old-timey Johanna Lindsay sheiks who are mostly Caucasian?

  13. Jane
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 15:39:38

    I think it’s just that I am an idiot. In reviewing the book just now, the description is overlooking the Indian Ocean, so I need to go and change that.

  14. Ann Aguirre
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 16:14:46

    I bought the ebook on the strength of this review, then loaded it onto my Lifedrive and read it in one go.

    Though I haven’t been a huge category fan in the past, I really enjoyed this. It made me laugh, and shiver deliciously in all the right places. I think very highly of Susan Mallery’s storytelling ability — and the way she turned the trope into something new and fun. It was like an updated HQN fairytale.

  15. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 16:25:09

    I saw the clothes thing as really about everything but clothes, really.

    Possibly, but it wasn’t as though the clothes were a deal-breaker for me: like I said, it was a combination of factors which made me feel that I couldn’t relate to Kiley. None of her ways of reacting to anything that happened (albeit in the few chapters I read) were ones I could relate to. For example, I can relate to someone wanting to do something to get back at a fiancé who did what Kiley’s had done, but it would never cross my mind to do it the way she did. I can relate to someone feeling nervous, but it would never manifest itself in me in worrying about my clothes or vomiting. I can relate to someone studying for a degree which is perhaps not directly relevant to the job they end up with, but I know I’ll never be a super-mum.

    The way I see it, the dynamic of this sort of sheik story is that the heroine is supposed to represent “normality” and be contrasted with the sheik who’s exotic. But for me Kiley was more exotic than the sheik, which is, I think, why emotionally the whole thing wasn’t working, because there were then two characters I couldn’t relate to. It reminds me of something that Jenny Crusie wrote about community:

    the reader will bond to the community in the book if the community appears to share her values, which means the characters would recognize her as one of their own if she came into the story and would invite her to sit down and stay. This one is pretty much out of your hands: the reader chooses the kind of book he or she likes to read, the type of book that has the kind of community that shares her values

    I can’t imagine those characters inviting me to sit down and stay, and if they did, I wouldn’t want to, because I don’t share their sense of humour or know how to relate to them. So, because I didn’t have to, I didn’t finish the book.

    I feel I should add that because my reaction is based on cultural/emotional factors it doesn’t in any way imply a judgement about the quality of the writing.

  16. Robin
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 16:44:32

    it was a combination of factors which made me feel that I couldn't relate to Kiley. None of her ways of reacting to anything that happened (albeit in the few chapters I read) were ones I could relate to. For example, I can relate to someone wanting to do something to get back at a fiancé who did what Kiley's had done, but it would never cross my mind to do it the way she did. I can relate to someone feeling nervous, but it would never manifest itself in me in worrying about my clothes or vomiting. I can relate to someone studying for a degree which is perhaps not directly relevant to the job they end up with, but I know I'll never be a super-mum.

    There was little in Kiley that matched up to my own life circumstances, but I at least felt that Mallery made her consistent and comprehensible to me, so it worked for me. I don’t know if your opinion would have changed if you had finished the book, Laura, but regardless, I think it just goes back to all those elements of reading that factor in to one’s response: cultural background, personal experience, religion, etc. I wonder if the cultural tags are particularly relevant in genres like Romance or chick lit, where the reader is invited into a pretty intimate relationship with the characters. I don’t know, though, since I haven’t given it a lot of thought. I am reminded, though, of the ruckus in Britain when Renee Zellweger was cast as Bridget Jones instead of an English actress. And yet both sides of the pond seemed convinced after the film came out. What allowed Fielding’s books (and the adapted films) to cross over but not others?

  17. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 17:13:20

    I wonder if the cultural tags are particularly relevant in genres like Romance or chick lit, where the reader is invited into a pretty intimate relationship with the characters

    I think they’re important in other genres too. For example a lot of spy/adventure films are very heavily influenced by ideology. If you’re really wanting the “bad guys” to win, or if you’re sitting there thinking “a plague on both your houses”, then you aren’t likely to enjoy the film.

    What allowed Fielding's books (and the adapted films) to cross over but not others?

    As I’ve not read more than a couple of paragraphs of one of Fielding’s books, I can’t say. I couldn’t relate to that either, for different reasons. I wonder if the crossing over has got to do with something else that Crusie mentions in that essay:

    stories that do not spell out every single motive for every action, describe every setting in detail, and provide every moment of back story, leave room for the reader to co-write the story filling in the blanks with her own assumptions based on her own experiences.

    So, for example, Austen leaves out a lot of details which, judging by the fan fic I’ve seen, different people fill in in extremely diverse ways. And it can be apparently very small, insignificant things which fill too much of that blank space and annoy/alienate the reader:

    I made the mistake of giving my hero in my first novel a mustache; a lot of readers have told me since that in their version of Manhunting, Jake does not have a mustache. I didn't leave enough white space for them

  18. Ann Bruce
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 17:46:36

    show me a woman who has never been unsure, nervous or trying on a ton of outfits trying to figure out what to wear the first time out with a man – or any situation they wanted to impress a person or people.

    I wasn’t going to respond to this comment, but it kept niggling at me.

    As someone who was tormented as a child because her parents were immigrants and couldn’t afford new clothes so she had to make do with ill-fitting hand-me-downs, I’ve learned very early not to care about physical appearance and clothes. To this day, I don’t worry about my appearance. While some of the people I work with dress to the nines every day, I go in casual unless I’m meeting with senior execs. Then, I pick out any old suit and put it on. I don’t have nervous fits and try on every suit hanging in my closet.

    My mother always asks me how I got hired when I always dress like I’m struggling for money. I tell her I was hired for my brain and not my wardrobe, which does have some very nice and expensive pieces, but I hate shelling out money for dry cleaning.

    As for impressing a man, the BF knew what he was getting with me from the start and he likes knowing he never has to wait while I try on outfit after outfit. Our first date was jeans and T-shirt–and that set the tone. When I do break out the evening gown and high heels, he appreciates it so much more because it’s uncommon. Even then, I don’t spend time waffling about what to wear (but that’s because the selection’s limited).

  19. Jessica Inclan
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 18:11:22

    My mother made my clothes until I was in fourth grade. Sadly, by fourth grade, polyester had been invented and the clothes actually hurt to wear.

    Jessica

  20. sybil
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 19:16:44

    That’s nice Ann but I don’t think all women are that confident at 25, at least not one in Kiley’s place with her experiences. Of course I could be mixing the book up because I only recall one scene. And don’t remember her having any issue getting herself dressed for work or having that large many to pick from. I had recalled her being paid well but saving up for a home. Then saving up to pay her parents back for the marriage that never was.

    I don’t expect the heroine in any novel to reflect me or how I would behave. They don’t have to have my goals, morals or standards. The characters need to reflect who the author has set them up and make it believable.

    guess Susan Mallery wasn’t able to do that for you…. for me Kiley was honest, refreshing and very typical middle class… and I thought it was great that even though she wanted to be a wife and a mother she had a back up plan and wasn’t sitting back singing someday my prince will come – even if he did *g*.

  21. Ann Bruce
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 19:44:03

    I don't expect the heroine in any novel to reflect me or how I would behave. They don't have to have my goals, morals or standards.

    Neither do I. SEP’s Ain’t She Sweet is one of my favourite novels. I reread passages from this book every couple of months, but very carefully because I don’t want to crease the spine. (Heck, sometimes I want to snap on some latex gloves so I don’t smudge the cover with fingerprints.) But I so cannot relate to the heroine.

    The characters need to reflect who the author has set them up and make it believable.

    Yeah, I guess that’s the problem I had with this one. I didn’t feel the heroine is believable enough.

    Of course, I seem to suspend disbelief very well for the prolific Robyn Donald and the not-prolific-enough Susan Napier.

  22. Robin
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 20:27:22

    I think they're important in other genres too. For example a lot of spy/adventure films are very heavily influenced by ideology. If you're really wanting the “bad guys” to win, or if you're sitting there thinking “a plague on both your houses”, then you aren't likely to enjoy the film.

    I definitely think that ideology shapes our response to EVERYTHING we read, but perhaps there are 1) different modes of reading and 2) different expectations for different genres. In Romance, for example, there seems to be this tension between readers who claim they need to personally relate to the heroine and readers who claim they don’t need that connection. In a way, I think Romance invites the reader to connect personally to the heroine in a different way than, say, SF, F, lit fic, or mystery. And I do think readers read differently, with some finding their suspension of disbelief in the relatability of the characters. I haven’t worked all this out mentally, and right now I’m in the midst of a nasty bronchial virus, so there’s very little synaptic activity going on at all, but I’ve noticed this issue in Romance for a long time, that is, the question of whether a reader needs to relate personally to the heroine to like the book. And like I said, I think that the nature of the genre sort of encourages or invites that sense of identification to greater or lesser degree, because so much of the pleasure in the genre revolves around what each of us finds romantic (i.e. to what degree a book seduces the reader).

  23. Robin
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 20:32:58

    I reread passages from this book every couple of months, but very carefully because I don't want to crease the spine. (Heck, sometimes I want to snap on some latex gloves so I don't smudge the cover with fingerprints.) But I so cannot relate to the heroine.

    I would hate hated Sugar Beth in high school, but I LOVED her as heroine of ASS. And that book — all of SEP, in fact — lends itself so well to selective passage re-reading, IMO. SEP’s books simultaneously charm me and annoy the ever-living crap out of me, but I could read those passages that charm me a thousand times, I suspect, without ever dimming my enjoyment. And then I get to skip all the frantically annoying stuff, too. Like Winnie’s whining.

  24. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 21:02:17

    In a way, I think Romance invites the reader to connect personally to the heroine in a different way than, say, SF, F, lit fic, or mystery.

    I think, though, that I read the same way in all genres but if I’m doing literary criticism I read differently, and my emotional response is less important, than if I’m caught up in the story. When I’m reading solely for pleasure, however, if I don’t find something of interest in the characters or plot (or if the characters irritate me or otherwise provoke a negative reaction), I’m not likely to be interested in reading further. I don’t think it’s gender specific: I might read on if I liked a hero, a heroine, a non-human creature, or if I wanted to know more about a quest/adventure. The thing with romance is that unless there’s a suspense subplot, the quest/adventure is pretty much about the characters’ evolving relationship, so if you don’t care about them/don’t want to spend time with them, there’s not so much of interest (at least, not to me, although, as I said, if I went into analytical mode I might get enjoyment out of analysing the novel).

  25. C2
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 21:50:51

    I used to read a lot of category romances but now…not so much. However, Susan Mallery is one author I continue to look for (along with Catherine Mann) because she does so well within the limitations in the genre. Yes, it’s hard to squeeze in a lot of character development and story arc – but her books are so enjoyable that I don’t miss the other stuff so much.

  26. TeddyPig
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 22:19:36

    3. The moments where he feels his lust is a link to his “desert warrior” ancestry. How many ways can that call to the “uncivilized Other” make me cringe.

    Yeah, when I’m having sex I always think of my father and his father etc etc. Because anal sex is digging in the past and like wearing kilts or looking up your family crest and that stuff.

    I'm a little miffed that the fact that she apparently spent-I'm assuming-four years in post-secondary education to get a degree that she's NOT using. Essentially, what I'm saying is that a business degree is not required if you're going to be happy with a secretarial position.

    I guess some of us do not have to pay off the severe loan entailed in a 4 year degree. Oh and I do not let my husband spend a red cent paying off my ed loan. I’m a liberated fag like that.

    I love these comments by the way.

  27. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 07, 2007 @ 10:00:23

    I’ve been thinking about this a bit more and I think I respond differently to historical and contemporary romances. I expect a greater cultural distance in the historicals and in fact if it’s not there I wonder about historical accuracy.

  28. Shar
    Oct 08, 2007 @ 13:34:54

    For those curious about the origins of “sheik” here is a link to wikipeida which probably explains it better than I can.

    The term literally means a man of old age, and it is used in that sense in Qur’anic Arabic. Later it came to be a title meaning leader, elder, or noble, especially in the Arabian Peninsula, where shaikh became a traditional title of a Bedouin tribal leader in recent centuries. In the Persian Gulf States the title is used for men of stature, whether they are managers in high posts, wealthy business owners, or local rulers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh

    I hope that helps some. To be honest, I thought it was interesting to see what the term started out as and later became.

  29. Robin
    Oct 08, 2007 @ 14:24:57

    To me, one of the pleasurable surprises of this book (keep in mind that this is only the second “sheik” book I’ve read) is that IMO Mallery is tweaking both the sheik and the secretary stereotype. Because thinking about the secretary side, I can tell you that if I referred to any of the women who provide administrative assistance to me as a secretary, I’d have earned my ass kicking. Going back to this issue of getting a business degree to be ‘just a secretary,’ I know from dealing with assistants of varying competence, that a fabulous admin is worth his or her weight in gold. Not only because some of the job requirements are kind of thankless, but also because our information-centered world means that good admin support is far, far beyond what we may think of as “secretarial.” There are some days I think that admins should be encouraged to pursue an MBA because of the opportunities in those roles for everything from supervision of other admin staff to various writing and analytical tasks to general office management requiring much discretionary decision-making. NOT that a business degree guarantees anything, of course, but IMO admin work — at least in the environments I’m familiar with — is hardly low-level scribe work, either. And for me, at least, it was nice to see Mallery reflect that in her book, too.

  30. Confess Yourself: Are you a closet category romance reader? | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 04:01:53

    […] and its progeny is all about the boys, many of these category novels are all about the girls. The Sheik and The Virgin Secretary is really the story about Kylie. Beyond Breathless is a story about Jamie. Billionaire Next Door is […]

  31. Hello, I’m Jane. I have a lot of reader baggage. | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Jun 03, 2008 @ 04:01:15

    […] problem is that readers come to a book with a lot of reader baggage. Take commenter Laura V who wondered if there was a cultural gap which prevented her from relating to the heroine. In The Sheik and The […]

  32. muzizu.com
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 18:39:57

    This post could not be more factual!

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