Bold Destiny by Jane Feather
Bold Destiny is the story of Annabel Spencer, who has spent the last 8 years as the possession of Akbar Khan (in his harem basically), and Christopher "Kit" Ralston, a dissolute and disaffected soldier in British occupied Afghanistan. When Annabel, renamed Ayesha, is given to Kit for a night of passion to humiliate him (Akbar is proving that he has power over one of Kit's Englishwomen) and put her in her place, Kit becomes determined to "rescue" her from a life she insists she does not want to leave. The setting for out story is the contested city of Kabul which is British controlled but surrounded and inhabited by natives who have more sympathy or are outright members of the rebel tribes who have Akbar as their unofficial leader. The British are being governed by the most hardheaded bonehead who refuses to see reason or listen to the advice of those who might know better and chaos breaks out. Kit uses the maelstrom surrounding him to "kidnap" Annabel from Akbar, although she kind of does go willingly as she fears that raising a fuss will cause guards to kill Kit.
The two go to a more fortified area where Annabel has trouble reconciling her two personalities and draws a lot of attention to her and Kit's unorthodox relationship. The more fortified area comes under attack and the inhabitants become virtual prisoners of Akbar's army and Annabel becomes more and more convinced that "destiny will take its' course." Tensions run high and Annabel and Kit ease their tension through a series of arguments and sex and repeat. Eventually the "prisoners" evacuate and the long hard march towards freedom is grueling and deadly until Akbar waylays them and Annabel is forced to confront the issue of where her "essence" truly lies; with Akbar or Kit and the English.
The book certainly drew on a lot of historical details and according to the afterward most of them were pretty accurate so the author obviously did a ton of research. Unfortunately this did kind of make the book heavy on the historical facts and sorting out the incompetent generals from each other become kind of a chore. But it was certainly a nice little history, in an area where too few people know the history despite its' importance, wrapped up in a sweet package. Unfortunately it may have been a little too accurate as place and personal names became confusing and suffice to say that the history tends to be incredibly depressing. The ending was definitely a good part of the book, even if it was a long way in coming, being incredibly realistic for these two people but obviously the requisite "happy" ending.
The sex in the book was certainly plentiful but not of the best quality; too short or to euphamism filled or inuendo filled, but I will admit that I was glad we didn't have a sex scene between Annabel and Akbar. I don't want to sound squeamish but I will admit to being a little squicked by having our heroine be a ... harem slave (if that's accurate cause it certainly seems so). I've had no problem with mistresses or former prostitutes because they seem to at least have had some control over their sex lives, but our heroine was instructed on how to please a man who was basically her lord and master starting at the age 15! I can't resist being a little squeamish. And there definitely should have been more angst on both their parts over it; there was only one real instance where he found himself beginning to question how much a possession of Akbar Khan could ever really belong with someone else and it could have been a great source of angsty goodness. Although truth be told perhaps angst doesn't really have a place as people are dieing all around you.
Rating: Despite my squickishness I really liked the book and it was far from bland even if it didn't really seem like all that much of a traditional romance novel.