review by Maryom
In 1833 although slavery has recently been abolished in Britain, elsewhere it is still flourishing. Zena, an Abyssinian beauty, is captured and taken to the slave market of Muscat in Arabia where her captors expect to raise a high price for her. Passing through different hands she is given to Lt James Wellstead, a British naval officer involved in mapping the coastline of the Arabian Peninsula and about to embark on an arduous trip into the desert in search of two missing fellow officers. In charge of the rescue party, though, are the two slave traders who captured Zena. Their knowledge of the desert makes them ideal guides but not the best companions.
Secret of the Sands is a book I came across through a Twitter friendship with the author. Initially I wasn't sure that it would be my kind of book as I'm not really a reader of romantic fiction but I decided to borrow it from the library and give it a go. I'm glad I did, finding it to be an exciting adventure story rather than a purely romantic one.
The starting point for the novel was an account of the real life adventures of James Wellstead - maybe not quite as exciting as this fictionalised account but something that lends a good historical backing to the novel.
The telling alternates between the viewpoints of Zena, Wellstead and the 2 missing officers - conjuring up the atmosphere of 19th century Arabia, of bustling towns and sea-ports backing onto the endless, empty desert. A world peopled with a large cast of diverse plausible characters - not all the bad guys are totally bad, and the good ones aren't too good to be true!
Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - HarperCollins
Genre - romance, historical fiction
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