Don't Tempt Me by Loretta Chase
Zoe Lexham was kidnapped when she was 12 years-old while her parents were traveling around Egypt and spent the next 12 years as the pampered 2nd wife of the favorite son of Ushri Pasha. She learned how to run a household of eunuchs and woman, how to navigate the dangerous female back stabbings in the harem and how best to please a man. Zoe was Karim's favorite toy and he showered her with jewels but he was impotent so Zoe is virginal. When Karim and his father die Zoe takes the opportunity to run away and claim the life she was meant to live. Once in England she find that the harem didn't prepare her at all for the life of an English lady. She can't stop from saying and doing things that would scandalize the proper members of the ton such as openly talking about her breasts or throwing herself under a falling carriage to rescue a boy. Lucien de Gray, Duke of Marchmont, has regarded Lord Lexham as a father figure- ever since his own parents, and then his older brother, died. He takes it into his head to repay Lexham by using his influence to bring Zoe out into society.
It doesn't take Marchmont long to realize he has his hands full trying to make her ready for society, but first he needs to tackle the rampant stories regarded "The Harem Girl." It doesn't help in the least that he has immense difficultly keeping his hands off the very provocative Zoe whom he quickly discovers adheres to the motto "proper on the top and wicked on the bottom." He finally achieves what everyone else regarded as impossible and Zoe is very successfully presented to the queen but it proves too much for him and he finally marries her a mere 30 days after their first meeting. For the first time in his adult life Lucien finds himself caring for someone beside himself and wanting to make someone else happy. He is forced to begin taking on responsibilities, instead of foisting them off on his servants as Zoe comes in and shakes up his household. When Zoe discovers that things are not as tranquil as they appear it causes an uproar that puts her in danger of her life and tempts Marchmont into taking away the freedom Zoe risked her life for back in Egypt.
I liked the idea that the two had been destined for each other since childhood and would have ended up together, albeit as much much much diferent people, as they were both connected and drawn to each other at a young age. This is also tied in with the idea that it was only after Zoe disappeared that his life became so boring or at least uninspiring. At least his progression is realistic as his life changes so dramatically when Zoe re-enters it and when she moves into his house and it just makes sense that he too would change. However Zoe is a different story; she kicks at him, she throws things at him, she runs away from him, she punches him repeatedly while he kisses her (despite the fact that she even admits she likes it- something that drives me NUTS!)- basically does things we all learn not to do long before we're 12 and something she definitely would have learned in the world of the harem. It just made her seem childish and very easily got on my nerves. The chemistry between them was hot enough, but far from spectacular and the book was missing the passion of most Chase books.
The book's plot had enormous potential and certainly led to some funny scenes involving Zoe's overly proper and very prudish sister's, but I feel as though the very fact that Zoe was a virgin was kind of a letdown. If she'd wanted a truly scandalous former Harem Girl, surely a little prior action would have been required. (See Bold Destiny by Jane Feather) My favorite scene was one involving Marchmont and Zoe being discovered in a very compromising position by Zoe's sister Priscilla and Zoe's maid who use an umbrella to beat the two off each other. There was very little, if any angst, in the novel, but it did not feel as though the book was lacking because of that. The lacking came from other sources; the lack of sparkle in the dialogue, the not so well written steamy scenes, Zoe's childishness, Marchmont's inability to rouse any sympathy, and a villain and a murder plot that seemed as if they had just been thrown in there to take up the requisite 370-ish pages.
Rating: By far my least favorite of all Chase's novels (I've read 4) that lacked all the of the wonderful things one would expect from her books. All in all, unspectacular but still somewhat satisfying.