Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: The Golden Barbarian by Iris Johansen

Title: The Golden Barbarian
Author: Iris Johansen

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: March 1, 1992
Publisher: Bantam
ISBN: 0553296043
ISBN-13: 9780553296044

A timeless novel of love and adventure set among the hot sands of an endless desert, here is the scintillating story of a fearless princess and a barbarian sheikh.

Flaunting the oppressive destiny decreed for her by the kingdom of Tamrovia, Princess Theresa Christina Rubinoff struck a sensual bargain with a handsome barbarian chieftain. She vowed to play his seductive game, surrendering herself to his will, all the while determined to fight for her independence in a land that considered women only as playthings.

Mysterious as the desert night, rich as Midas, Galen Ben Raschid swept Tess away to his palace in exotic Sedikhan, offering her freedom in exchange for the marriage that would join their kingdoms. A man surrounded by enemies, he would make her a slave to his passion in order to bind her to his side, little knowing that when he took the captivating pricess as his bride, he would lose his heart....

My rating:

Princess Theresa "Tess" Rubinoff and Sheikh Galen Ben Raschid first met when she was twelve and trying to save her dog from the smelly bog...He ended up saving her and the dog.
That night, his last night in the kingdom of Tamrovia, Tess came into his chambers begging him to save her two dogs from being snuffed by her tyrannical father, promising him anything in return.
Six years later the time came for her to keep her promise. Galen needs a wife to secure an alliance between Tamrovia and his homeland, Sedikhan, and no one is better suited then Tess.
And he knows just how to tempt her. He offers her freedom after three years of marriage to secure the unity of his country, and a child.
Tess promptly accepts, but little do both of them know, that such bargains rarely work. Especially if there's the heart involved...

This was, I think, the first historical romance I've read back in time when I could still find my library card.
I'll admit, this book has many faults, slow-moving plot (until the last forty-or-so pages, acute lack of romance - blink and you've missed it (you really have to read between the lines, squint your eyes, and have a good imagination to spot it!), and a storyline that has to be desired, but still it's an amazing and titillating read.
Tess is quite a character, strong, smart (a boon, really), fiercely independent, stubborn to a fault, yet lovable to a fault. Hey, she managed to make a barbarian sheikh fall in love with her! And she kicked some serious barbarian booty in the end, you go girl!
Galen is a bit more of a mystery, he certainly isn't drawn as well as Tess is, but that's the charm of these bad boys. Just as you know what makes him tick, he veers left and completely surprises you.
I loved his inner turmoil, though. The way he was struggling with keeping the balance between a savage barbarian (that he thought he was) and a civilized man (as civilized as it got in a desert country ravaged by war and disputes between clans).
The love was there, even more for him than for Tess, if you ask me. Maybe because the author showed more his adversity toward the end of their "agreement" than Tess' - the man went caveman whenever she mentioned leaving, for crying out loud. And despite the fact he needed a woman "frequently", he didn't want anyone but his wife. If that ain't love, I don't know what is.
What was really the best part of this book was the seduction. Despite the title and the "inner Galen", this was seduction plain and simple. And he was not only seducing Tess, he was seducing the reader as well. The heat and intensity slowly and leisurely rises and the tension is so thick you can chew on it, until you want to grit your teeth and shake the two idiots to just get it over with...But let me tell you, they certainly don't need you to tell them that.

Yeah, it wasn't perfect, but it is definitely a keeper.


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