Hajar’s Hidden Legacy
Bought for my Kindle
Princess Katharine has always known that marriage wouldn’t be a choice she made. Rather her father and those around him would choose for her and it would be a political marriage. She was betrothed to the Sheikh of Hajar only for him and most of his immediate family to be killed in a bombing. His brother, who survived the attack now rules Hajar. He is almost never seen in public and the rumours of the injuries he sustained have led to the nickname ‘The Beast of Hajar’.
With her own father ailing, Katharine’s younger brother will inherit the throne but will not be permitted to rule until he comes of age (21) in 5 years. If her father passes before that time, which he may do, a caretaker is appointed to oversee the duties of the country until such time as Katharine’s brother can assume the role. If Katharine is married, that role of caretaker goes to her husband. If she is not – it falls into the hands of someone Katharine fears will lead the country into civil war. Someone who will affect trade and peace deals with other nations. And someone who will definitely not want to give up power when the time comes. And who would probably do anything to avoid that.
So she goes to Sheikh Zahir of Hajar to beg him to honour the contract that says Princess Katharine marries the ruler of Hajar, even though he was not the original intended groom. As she expects, Zahir refuses her but Katharine knows that this is something she cannot fail at. She must persuade him and use every political argument she can in order to do so and she’s willing to move into the palace and confront him every day until he agrees.
Zahir has hidden himself away from the world for the past five years, wracked with guilt that he survived, grieving all that he has lost. He admires Katharine for the way in which she can meet his eyes – there are not many that have been able to do that. And even more unexpected is the fact that she’s stirring up feelings in him that he hasn’t felt since before the accident – things he thought he was no longer even capable of feeling. He agrees to a political marriage in name only to protect her country and his… but he’s wondering if it wasn’t a huge mistake. Maybe what he wants is a real marriage…
I used to read a lot of M&B as a teenager and confession: the Sheikhs were always my favourites. I don’t read too many these days but this modern day Beauty and the Beast style story grabbed me + Sheikh of mythical Middle Eastern country + Princess of mythical European country + the fact that I’ve heard Maisey Yates’s praises sung a lot. She was recommended to me by Australian author Rachael Johns and so I thought I’d wade in and test the waters with this one, given it had already ticked a lot of my boxes! I was a bit wary though because one of its covers has it billed as Harlequin Presents and I have a bit of a problem with Harlequin Presents in the form that pretty much all of the heroes are overt Alpha douchebags who flirt with abuse towards the heroine. However this one? Is nothing like that.
Katharine has been raised to always do the right thing: look pretty, present a good picture of her monarch family, help with charitable works and make a great marriage. She’s tried to please her father but she’s not a male, so he’s not really interested in anything that she does, except that she marry well. Her betrothal ended when her would-be groom was killed in an act of terrorism and now five years later, Katharine decides to reinterpret the contract and apply it to the new leader of Hajar. She needs his help desperately. By contrast, Sheikh Zahir doesn’t really believe he needs anyone, with the possible exception of his adviser to make his speeches. He hides away in the palace to spare people the horrific sight of his scars, perhaps unaware that the very fact that he does hide only feeds their fear more. His people need to see a more visible leader, especially after they suffered so much with the attack. Zahir is bitter, tortured and aloof but he’s not a jerk. He’s occasionally gruff with Katharine (like the time she moves something and he yells at her. His sight is severely affected and he needs to know where things are to be able to navigate successfully, which she didn’t realise) but he’s never intolerably cruel. The two of them have a rather beautiful chemistry – she needs him and whether he knows it or not, he needs to be needed.
The sexual chemistry is even better! Zahir hasn’t really felt any sort of sexual desire since before the accident and his fiancée walked away, unable to handle what he had become in the aftermath. I think he maybe considered that part of his life over – that he’d never really feel those sorts of things again. Katharine is, as befitting any Princess offered up for strategic, political marriage, a virgin but she’s not timid or biddable. She can look Zahir in the eye and accept him for everything that he is – scars and all. This is the kind of book that proves that you can still do an old idea in a fresh and fabulous way – there’s lots of emotional intimacy and connection as well as sexual and the two characters are really well done. I’m very keen to try some more Maisey Yates now.
Book #335 of 2013