As You Desire by Connie Brockway
(Dell, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-440-22199-4
Here is a new romance to delight the reader who thinks she's read it all. A desert love story with no sheiks, no camels, no harems, no slaves but instead a pair of wonderfully warm and funny misfits who can't help but fall in love, and in the end it's even with each other. How perfect.

Desdemona Carlisle, lovely flower of English womanhood, lives in Cairo with her grandfather, who is a respected Egyptologist and hunter of antiquities. Desdemona is somewhat of a freak. She reads and writes no less than twelve foreign languages, yet can't speak any of them. No matter. Her services as a translator are in demand, so she's putting her talents to good use. But Desdemona, a closet romance reader, longs for the lush landscapes of England, and a suitably dark and brooding hero to go with it.

There's a bit of a dearth of dark, brooding types in Cairo at the moment. What Desdemona DOES have is Harry Braxton, antiquities hunter extraordinaire and sometime bane of her existence. (In fact, he calls her "Dizzy".) Harry is an expatriate Englishman, which would certainly fit Dizzy's bill, except for two things: Harry has no interest in returning to England, and although he treats Dizzy like a sister, she can't forget that he once spurned her and broke her young heart.

Harry conceals a painful secret, one he's sure will drive Dizzy away for good if she only knew. As it is, he's madly in love with her but doesn't know how to show her. To complicate matters, Harry's cousin Blake shows up in Cairo to settle a few family scores. Blake is exactly the hero that Dizzy has been dreaming of ... or is he?

This entire book was great fun. Harry's secret is a fresh twist for a wounded hero, and Dizzy is his perfect foil. They love each other but blunder around convinced that they are all wrong for each other, and in the meantime Dizzy is trying hard to fall in love with another man while Harry plots for a way to keep her in Egypt.

The sexual tension between Harry and Dizzy was terrific. I couldn't wait for them to get together, and when they did, it was a memorable love scene, indeed. Suffice it to say I had to put down the book and get a glass of tea. Iced tea. Brockway can write tender, steamy sex with the best of them.

It's to the author's credit that she avoided making any of these folks read like caricatures, while lightly skewering a few romantic conventions along the way. Even Blake, the most susceptible to stereotyping, was human all the way. And the lack of sheiks and such was a definite plus, in my opinion. The Egyptian setting didn't dictate the characterizations, which made the story seem fresh and original. There was just enough desert detail to set the scenes effectively, and the descriptions of Cairo were vivid and clear.

So if you're looking for something new, join Harry and Dizzy as they yearn and bicker and stumble their way into a most wonderful love. As you Desire will leave you desiring more romance of this quality.

--Cathy Sova

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