Harlequin Presents #683
Mild Spoilers 😉
3 1/2 Stars
An Anne Mather Harlequin Presents is what I consider to be an “old reliable.” She wrote romances that are almost guaranteed to entertain me, or if not, then at least not bore. Although usually satisfactory, Mather rarely wrote books I would place on an all-time best list. Sometimes she does surprise me, so it makes reading her works an experience to look forward to. In this category romance, Sirocco, Anne Mather employs one of her commonly used tropes: a hero in pursuit of an already “attached” woman.
The Stalker vs. the User
One night, Rachel Fleming comes across a man whom she thinks requires help. The man is slumped in his car, just sleeping, but Rachel doesn’t know that. He turns out to be Alexis Roche, a blond half-Arab, half-French, sheik ruler of a tiny nation (Rachel doesn’t know that either until later).
Alexis is instantly intrigued by his would-be savior and begins to stalk her.
If it’s not him, he has his “people” trail her. Alexis finds out where Rachel lives, works, and that she’s currently engaged to a wealthy man, Roger what’s-his-name, a spoiled mama’s boy who uses the heroine for his own selfish desires.
I read this on Kindle but knew it was written long ago. The copyright date is 1983, so it’s “reasonable” to assume social values here would be similar to those found in the early 1960s as this is an old-school, vintage Harlequin Presents. What blew me away was even though the heroine was a virgin, she gets sexually intimate with her fiance:
“Roger was singularly old-fashioned when it came to relationships, and although he had taught her ways to please him without their going to bed together, they had never actually made love.”
Then Roger tells Rachel later during a passionate moment together:
“‘Oh, sweetheart, I’ve missed you,’ he murmured, drawing her reluctant hands to his body. ‘Hmm, that feels good. Go on, go on: make love to me.'”
I was, as they say, in these books, gobsmacked. The heroine WAS doing what I thought she’s doing! How Anne Mather got that past the editors in 1983 is beyond me, but sometimes, as I said, Mather does surprise.
The Rest of the Plot
Anyway, Alexis is able to manipulate his way into Rachels’ life, hawking her, hounding her, preying upon her, until every aspect is turned completely upside down. Alexis is typical of Mather’s heroes, self-centered, arrogant, and determined to have his way. She also describes the awful clothing her characters wear, so you can imagine the hero in his velvet suit, his silk shirt unbuttoned down to his navel to reveal his masculine, suitably hairy chest as he smokes cheroots while he contemplates seducing the heroine.
Alexis manages to blackmail Rachel into his arms as he uses her father’s outstanding gambling debts to force her to do whatever he wants. Alexis then whisks her away to his little sheikdom, where he has his way with her (and she with him), all while Alexis’ family looks upon Rachel with scorn.
About the heroine, Rachel. She tries to carry herself as a confident, modern woman, disdainful of the type who’d sit back and allow a man to run her roughshod. However, many awful characters weigh her down: her fiance, her father, Alexis’ family members, and Alexis himself. Rachel poses as this strong character but is she really? Alexis is certainly the take-charge type, and though she opposes him, in the end, we all know how this winds up.
Final Analysis of Sirocco
I sort of hated this book and liked it at the same time. I enjoyed Alexis’ pursuit of Rachel, although it’s hard to see when desire turns to love with Mather’s male characters. Was this just a power play for Alexis? Rachel attempts to fight for the right to live life on her terms. She’s just not very good at it. I had mixed feelings about this one, but there was something so engaging about the tale, I read it super quickly.
As I feel now, it’s a 3.5 star read, which is what I usually rate an Anne Mather book.
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader