Miss Bates is a loyal reader to certain romance writers because they offer engaging romance about goodness: Liz Fielding, Marion Lennox, Carla Kelly, Jessica Hart, and Kate Hewitt. Their heroes and heroines may be melancholic, mistaken, even sharp at times, but they are fundamentally good – decent, caring, and kind. No one is smarmy, no one is mean, and no one dominates. It’s fair to ask if this makes their books, their characters, humdrum? Miss Bates would argue not because they create characters who are good people with plenty of personality. The dialogue is strong; the inner conflicts, believable; and the romance, of the sigh variety. When MissB reaches the end, she is replete with reader satisfaction.
Such a book is Liz Fielding’s The Sheikh’s Convenient Princess. The premise is outlandish, but Fielding’s hero and heroine are believably fleshy, in their dilemmas, give-and-take and back-and-forth witty banter, serious sharing, charming flirtations, and deepening affection. When we meet Sheikh Bram Ansari, he is “disgraced, disinherited, and exiled.” Youthful shenanigans led his father to disinherit him and put his younger brother on the throne, a younger brother who also married Bram’s arranged fiancée, Safia. Enter Ruby Dance, exclusive, much-sought-after, lauded temporary PA. Bram may not have seen kith or kin in five years, but he cleaned up his act and is now a billionaire. He can afford Ruby Dance.
Ruby Dance is the best, a fixer and filler of the first order when a business needs emergency help. When she shows up at Bram’s Arabian stronghold, she encounters a scarred, surly man with the body of a professional athlete. Bram’s newly-emerged from a swim and Ruby’s response to him is so engaging. Let’s say there are interesting water droplets. Fielding knows how to write about physical awareness that isn’t insta-lust, a rare feat in rom writing. It isn’t long before Ruby proves her worth as a superlative PA, but Bram needs her to fill a greater “fixer” role, that of wife. His father is celebrating a birthday and has summoned his disgraced son back to join the festivities. Alas, he’s also arranged a marriage for him, one that Bram doesn’t want. At the same time, Bram wants to see his family; not to forego that opportunity, he can bypass the arranged marriage and still reunite with his family with a temporary wife of his own – Ruby. In turn, Ruby takes this opportunity to help Bram and deal with certain personal financial issues.
The working-out of this premise takes the form of Ruby and Bram’s growing closeness by conversation, shared laughter, bonding over a love of horses, and gently teasing each other’s foibles. Ruby and Bram are likeable; the more we know them, the more we like them. This sounds simple, but it’s a rare feat. How many times has MissB read a romance where, by the half-way point, she wants to strangle one of the characters, or both, or she’s developped eye-strain from excessive orb-rolling. Not here: Ruby and Bram care; MissB/thereader cares, and that’s because Fielding cares.
The key to enjoying The Sheikh’s Convenient Princess is acknowledging how Fielding reveals character. Bram and Ruby are seemingly opposites: Bram is grumpy (MissB’s favourite hero) and Ruby is cool-as-a-cucumber efficient. Bram grunts here and there, while Ruby exhibits, according to Bram, an annoying “stillness”. But Fielding slowly reveals Ruby and Bram’s varied facets. To start, Ruby and Bram share a need to seek redemption for past wrongs. While we only know this initially because of Fielding’s revelation of Ruby’s and Bram’s inner worlds, the strength of their love is built on confiding in each other as trusted friends. Their attraction is strong, but Fielding is a romance writer more interested in tenderness and comfort than sexuality. Ruby and Bram’s early prickliness falls away, replaced with complexity, their need to do better and right by everyone in their lives, and love for the other.
With protagonists this lovely, Fielding, as any romance writer would, has a dilemma. What could possibly tear them apart, so she may bring them back together? The novel’s last quarter or so is a bit much: with misunderstandings, melodrama, and some uncharacteristic mistrust on Ruby’s part. All is redeemed, however, by the HEA’s deep sigh-quality, which, by the way, dear reader, includes pain au chocolat and a wonderful reversal of the MOC trope. The Sheikh’s Convenient Princess is one of the gentlest, loveliest romance Miss Bates has read in a long time. With Miss Austen, Miss Bates concurs that Fielding’s The Sheikh’s Convenient Princess is indicative of “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Liz Fielding’s The Sheikh’s Convenient Princess is published by Harlequin Books. It was released in February 2017 and may be found at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley.