The latest in SIM’s Romancing the Crown series revisits the Middle Eastern rivalry of the small countries of Tamir and Montebello. Valerie Parv creates characters with great depth and also tells the story in a way that includes local customs with the setting. This is done within the framework of royalty’s burden of duty before all else.
Gage Weston is the spy sent by King Marcus of Montebello to find the spy within the royal circle of Sheik Kamal, ruler of Tamir. King Marcus is certain that his counterpart is being betrayed from within, and rather than risk the newly constructed and fragile peace between the countries, elects to use Gage undercover in case he is wrong.
Gage arrives with his own hidden agenda and with preconceptions. His partner had been killed by a terrorist group and evidence points to the traitor within the Sheik’s court as the perpetrator. Although Gage himself has a claim to a royal title, he enters the country as a minor diplomat heading a trade mission.
Gage’s target is Butrus Dabir, the attorney and closest advisor to the Sheik; Gage finds that Dabir has recently become engaged to Princess Nadia. By Gage’s reasoning, if Dabir is the traitor then Nadia might be an accomplice.
Nadia had once been in love, but he drowned shortly into their affair. Since that time she has neither looked nor found anyone she cared about. She knew her father wished her to marry Brutus, and, mindful of her duty, she had agreed to the loveless union. In reality she is extremely bright, well educated and an artist of some reputation. The glass ceiling in Tamir is very low, and despite requests to be permitted a job in government, her father had consigned her to a woman’s place in the palace.
Not content with this, Nadia paints, sculpts and finds other ways to express herself. Gage tumbles on her largest deception when he follows her. Nadia employs a handmaiden chosen strictly due to their physical similarities. Wearing veils, it is easy for Nadia and Tahani to exchange clothing, thus freeing Nadia to do as she wishes without the bodyguards reporting back to her father and fiancé.
Gage catches her doing this and finds that on one of her jaunts she ends up at a homeless shelter for children. This is a shelter she has secretly funded and she spends as much time there as possible.
Gage has unpleasant memories of betrayal by his former fiancée, and reluctantly is attracted to Nadia. Naturally, unexpectedly she is attracted to him. Parv weaves a credible love story within the framework of a suspense plot that works as well.
Parv has an imagination that is equaled by her technical abilities. She breathes life into her characters, and realism into their actions. Although this is only her second book for Intimate Moments, this Australian author has a long history with both Harlequin and Silhouette Romance.