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    Wedlocked!

    The Desert King’s Captive Bride is the second book in Annie West’s Desert Kings series. “Wedlocked!” is the tag line on the cover. I loved that, and I loved this latest book from the fantastic Annie West. I don’t know why I am always so enthralled reading one of Annie’s books, but I am. A good feeling washes over me and stays with me until the last page, last word, last syllable. And at the same time that I can’t put the book down, I don’t want it to end. I don’t want my time with such fascinating, lovable characters to be over. Princess Ghizlan of Jeirut has returned home to find that warrior Sheikh Huseyn al Rasheed has seized her late father's kingdom. The only way for Ghizlan to free her younger sister who is being held hostage is to marry Huseyn. She views him as a brute and a barbarian, but she is loyal with a strong sense of duty and love for her sister, so what choice does she have? However, we soon find out he is no barbarian, and that her iron will is as strong as his. The story hits you right away with suspense and unease: where is Ghizlan’s staff and security, what has happened here, who is this guy, what’s going on in the palace? I know there should eventually be a happy-every-after somewhere here, but I’m not feeling it. All I’m feeling is nervous. The description of Huseyn as a great bear of a man has me on edge. But wait - Ghizlan “Watched, mesmerized, as those impossibly broad shoulders lifted.” And when “That deep baritone rolled along her bones, shivering into recesses she tried to hide” I felt it too, my shoulders involuntarily lifted and I felt a chill run down my spine. Oooh, this is going to be good between these two. And it is good. Ghizlan and Huseyn are both so strong-willed, with pasts that Annie West reveals a little at a time. Ghizlan is a princess, and her life has been duty, duty, and more duty. She has never been valued for herself, and for all her worldly experience she is profoundly innocent when it comes to love. Huseyn has a heavy-handed way of going about things, but he’s not the brute he appears to be. His sense of duty is strong as well, and he is worried about his country. Ghizlan and Huseyn are like two fighters in a ring, circling and looking for advantage. She distrusts him but can’t help being drawn to him both physically and emotionally, which makes her distrust him even more because she is afraid to let herself give in to the strange, new feelings she is experiencing. He doesn’t know how to keep the country safe without giving orders and staying firm in his plans. And he is suspicious and sees a past or present lover in everyone Ghizlan mentions or contacts. But slowly they become friends. He goes from bogeyman to hunk in her eyes. He feels protective. They (chastely, of course) share an apartment in the palace, and spend a lot of time together, confiding in each other and working together over business matters. Suddenly I experienced a feeling of warmth over this togetherness, and when “Ghizlan’s throat dried as if she’d swallowed part of the Great Sand Desert” I got a little warmer. When Huseyn told Ghizlan, “When I don’t need you anymore we’ll divorce” I couldn’t help but think the day when he doesn’t need her will never come. This was a fun, exciting, romantic, sexy (yes!) story. I wasn’t really sure if they could get beyond their pasts and pre-conceived opinions. Just when the future looks promising, something comes up to throw them off track again. This is another wonderful book from Annie West, and as always a one-sitting read for me. I just couldn’t put it down and I can’t count how many times I said, “Awww.” There is a tie-in to The Desert King’s Secret Heir, but while it was fun visiting again with Idris and Arden, both books can be read as standalones. I received an ARC for an honest review, but I read all of Annie’s books, ARC or not. I highly recommend you do, too, and add The Desert King’s Captive Bride to your library.
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