HAREM GIRL is, at its heart, an engaging and erotic love story. Yet it is also much more than that. It takes us on a tumultuous adventure as we follow the main character, Mariyah, from her girlhood in Tunisia to early middle age in Arabia during the opening years of the last century. We experience with her the joys and sorrows of an eventful life. We follow in her footsteps as she marries young, is sold into slavery as one of the harem of an Arabian sheikh, eventually marries him and is ultimately brought face-to-face with the troubled past that she can neither escape nor hide from. She recalls in lucid, unashamed and unblushing detail her tortuous life as “Sapphira”, one of eleven slave girls in the sheikh’s service. She guides us, much as we might imagine the sheikh’s eunuchs to have guided and instructed her, through an intimate experience both heartwarming and harrowing. HAREM GIRL’s depictions of lustful debauchery, decadence and total female submission to the will of a man are hard for us to comprehend in today’s world, yet they are entirely believable for the bygone age in which the novel is set. Sapphira, even after her life-changing immersion in the harem and extensive instruction in the ‘art’ of pleasing a man, remains “aghast at the way I had to show myself” and appalled by “the distasteful things I might have to do”. Nonetheless, she describes for us the secrets of the sheikh’s sexy lovemaking and gradually opens up chinks in his cold and indifferent armor. Even the strongest hearts – and perhaps this is one of the novel’s most profound messages – are not made of stone and, in time, a man and a woman fall in love and Sapphira crosses the forbidden boundary that she could scarcely have imagined doing at the start of her journey. Years later, her unlawful deceit returns to haunt her and her now-calm life as the sheikh’s wife collapses as she is faced by swift and cruel retribution. Like a spider web of innumerable strands, her lifetime is filled with enough highs and lows to fill ten lifetimes, yet HAREM GIRL is still a believable tale, written both skillfully and sensitively. I bought this book for myself, thoroughly enjoyed it, and then gave it to my lover. It was well received—as were the thanks the book inspired! If you enjoy sheik/harem girl stories, you will not be disappointed! However, note the sensible warning on the back cover:—"A book recommended for the mature and broad minded—not for teenage daughters." It is quite erotically explicit in parts, but tastefully written, not pornographic.
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