Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mirage by Monica Burns

TITLE: Mirage
AUTHOR: Monica Burns
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 110k)
GENRE: Historical erotic romance
COST: $6.50

American Alexandra Talbot has one mission in life, the mission started by her father and uncle – to find Per-Ramesses and with it, Nourbese’s tomb. She arrives in London to enlist the aid of the British Museum, and ends up under the guidance of Lord Blakeney, an employee with the museum. Unbeknownst to her, Blakeney is half English, half Egyptian, the Mazir her father had been corresponding with. He refrains from telling her the truth immediately, however, a choice that haunts him long after they have finally arrived in Egypt. He’s too busy keeping her safe, since it seems somebody does not want Alex’s mission to succeed…

This is one of those odd books where elements assessed individually rate high, yet the entire effect of the book ends up lower than all those. In this particular case, there was a definite line that got crossed for me where it was just too much of the same, over and over again, until I just grew tired of it all in the end.

The story begins with Alex showing up in London to gain access to the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, so she can confirm the translations she and her father made about the location of Per-Ramesses. She is immediately up against a wall, because the Egyptology Director never expected a woman, and doesn’t believe a woman could – or should – be a part of the archaeological community. He capitulates only because Altair Blakeney intercedes on her behalf. Altair is of mixed heritage, and spends six months of every year in each country. His Bedouin blood has been a problem for him in the past, and he is reluctant to ever get involved with another woman since he’s convinced she’ll never get past it. His attraction to Alex is immediate, however, and not only intense but reciprocated. But his fear of revealing his true identity starts a series of not-quite-truths he withholds from her, even though it’s clear by the time they arrive in Egypt that someone is determined to kill Alex before allowing her to succeed.

I really liked both leads at the start. Altair is dark, seductive, and just damaged enough to make him interesting, while Alex is fiercely independent and uninterested in feminine trappings, a refreshing mindset for the period in which the story is set. While my appreciation for Alex grew throughout the course of the story, my feelings on Altair did not. In fact, the further into the story I got, the more I disliked the way he dealt with issues and Alex, mainly by perpetuating untruths and misunderstandings when it would only take a few simple words to clear away the trouble. This typifies much of Alex and Altair’s relationship, actually. While they have an intense, passionate attraction – and highly sensual encounters to further their desires – the vast majority of the setbacks in the romance are due to Altair’s deliberate choice to withhold information from her. They act on their attraction, they argue, then they maintain their distance…until the next chapter where it somehow gets swept under the rug and the cycle starts all over again. I didn’t mind it at first, but this is a long novel for romance. It got old. When Altair would make yet another specific choice that he knew would upset Alex, I just wanted to scream at him to get over himself for two seconds and think about what he was really doing. Because eventually he does in the next chapter, which undermines whatever stock I was supposed to put into his initial decision. It’s all one big feeling of Arg! by the time I got to the end.

The story is helped considerably by the extensive detail that is placed in both the time and the place. The author has done a lot of work to recreate Egypt, its arid yet rich culture, the simple complexities of the mythology. It’s a rich tapestry she’s woven, and it helps to create a lavish landscape for her characters to act within. It does occasionally get a little overkill, but in light of the fact that many western readers are more likely to be well-versed in English history and manners of the time rather than Egyptian, it’s likely needed.

I just wish the romance had been played as smartly as the rest of the book. Because its execution, and the hero’s constant lying, ultimately let me down.


8/10 – Highly romantic and densely detailed


6/10 – Though I really liked him at the start, the more he lied, the more issues I took with him.


8/10 – Strong, fiercely independent

Entertainment value

6/10 – This is one of those stories where the cumulative effect ends up lessening my enjoyment, because it’s just too much

World building

9/10 – No denying the author has done her research, Egypt and its mythology comes alive



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