Beautiful setting! Loved the Moroccan backdrop, Teresa did an exceptional job painting the Middle Eastern desert, the sights, sounds and the character interactions and culture there. Everything felt so vivid and very real, I loved all the attention paid to every finite detail in the Moroccan culture. The palace, the harem, the desert weather, the hammam, the concubines and dancing girls. Fun and so enchanting! Really loved the Sultan, Farouk and the surprise side love story between him and Clarinda's best friend the bespectacled cheerful Poppy. So so charming and adorable! Those two honestly stole the show for me in this as far as couples. I kept wanting to skim pages in hopes of catching another scene between them. I kept wishing we got more page time with them and their HEA near the end was a little bit rushed. The overall ending of the story was dragged out a *little* too long and I did struggle to feel the connection between Ash and Clarinda for some reason. I don't know why, there was a whole lot of tension and sexual chemistry between the two but I just struggled to feel that oomph
, something for them, Clarinda in particular. I think part of it was the whole 'we loved each other when we were kids' lovers reunion that I'm personally not a fan of. I struggled to believe the idea of these two longing and dreaming about each other for 9 years straight especially over their one brief awkward tumble in the meadows when they were teens. And I wasn't crazy about the whole reasoning/misunderstanding behind why Ash left all those years ago. Meh.
I have to say the reason I'm giving this a 3 star is because of the last 2/3rds of the book. I was for sure going to give this a 4 star until I came to the end of the book. After Ash and Clarinda make an escape, the sultan catching up with them, Farouk's quick decision regarding Poppy, etc...I didn't feel satisfied enough, I felt a little bit underwhelmed to be honest. First, like I said earlier I really wanted more page time with Farouk actually courting Poppy and falling for her, most of it seemed to happen off the page and his feelings for her were never really voiced until the very end where he's kind of cajoled in to asking her to stay (I didn't like that, I was hoping for more) in front of an audience no less. The second reason, once Ash and Clarinda are free to go, the whole drama with Ash's brother Alex just seemed to drag on tirelessly and took a while to come to a conclusion. The confrontation at the very end for me wasn't as dramatic as I thought it would be (given all the build up) especially with the surprise secrete revealed by Clarinda, which by the way felt too contrived for me. Like these two didn't have enough misunderstandings and secretes to deal with, this had to be thrown in there too? Yikes. Too much. And then you have 3 characters spilling everything in literally the last 3 pages of the book. It just became silly and exhausting. The ending just wasn't as satisfying as I was expecting it to be given how engaging the rest of the story was up until that point. But still, it was a very wonderful book. These were my own personal gripes, the rest of the story was very fun and enjoyable with tons of adventure and laughs. The banter in this was wonderful! The quick wit and humor was very charming and very Medeiros. Ash and his sidekick Luca cracked me up. :)