Madeleine McDonald’s book is a traditional romance set in an unusual location. Told from the points of view of the two main protagonists, the story reveals secrets about both that neither are aware of in each other. The clash of cultures and personal histories makes the possible resolution of this romance uncertain until the very end.
The characters, as is always the case with this author, are fully rounded, interesting, and unique individuals: you’ll find no stereotypes here. Emily is a world-travelling seeker of adventure who has never faced the fact that what she really wants is love. Rafi is a successful businessman, widower and father in need of a partner. Love is the last of his requirements, so he believes.
Nour, a naïve seventeen-year-old girl in search of experience, love and excitement feels she has no need of the companion imposed by her father. But it is she, and her actions, that act as catalyst to the relationships between her father and others.
The story is full of fascinating background about Morocco and its customs. A land where Arab tradition meets Western ideas, the location acts as another character in the tale. The author deals sensitively with issues of cultural difference, getting beneath the skins of her characters to illustrate why they think the way they do. Tradition is equally well dealt with, so that the reader gains an understanding of habits, attitudes and social mores whilst engaging with the characters and their dilemmas.
The romantic relationship between the main players is handled very well, providing the reader with that ‘will they, won’t they?’ curiosity throughout the story. Frustrations borne of misunderstandings mingle with habits of thought that stem from lifetimes spent in different cultures to cause many ups and downs.
And the denouement builds rapidly into a tense situation with the threat of death hovering over the characters the reader most cares about. Its resolution is brilliantly handled and leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction that all ends as it should. A good romantic read, spiced with thought-provoking details that give startling insights into the way those of different cultures approach life. I thoroughly enjoyed it.