I received this as an eARC back in September. I breezed through it pretty easily, and it wasn't until the very, very end that I realized I was reading a book that was part of a series.
"Shadow of the Sheikh" is book two of Nina Bruhns "Immortal Sheikhs" series. Though, honestly, you can definitely read "Shadow of the Sheikh" without reading the first book.
Be prepared for a bit of a let down, however. While you may not need to read book one, you'll definitely want to read book three -- "Shadow of the Sheikh" ends on a huge cliffhanger. It makes me wonder if book one ended on a similar cliffhanger, though through reading it, I couldn't tell.
"Shadow of the Sheikh" opens with anthropologist Gemma Haliday and her sister receiving a letter from their youngest sister, who had apparently run off with a man without a word (I'm guessing this is book one).
Gemma isn't buying the story the messengers have brought her, so she sets out to discover what really happened to her sister. Her search brings her into the center of a well-laid trap.
Sheikh Shahin Aswadi, "The Black Hawk", is a ruthless legend. He is one of the immortal shape-shitfters who serve ancient Egyptian vampire-gods.
Shahin is a very typical alpha male. He doesn't just want Gemma, he wants to possess her. But you can easily ignore that, because what really turns this story from "Oh, it's Harelquin. I don't want to read that," to "That was a Harelquin? Wow, I'm impressed!" is Bruhns' mythology.
Bruhns' takes Egyptian mythology and gives it a paranormal flair. These aren't just desert sheikhs, these are shape shifting desert sheikhs. They don't just serve and worship Egyptian gods, they serve and worship vampire Egyptian gods.
I admit, when I first saw that this story was published by Harlequin, I didn't think much of it. To me, Harlequin is one of those brands of romance that I tend to think is mostly smut between pages. With "Shadow of the Sheikh", that's not so.
Yes, there is sex, it is a romance, after all. But there's an actual story and plot, centering around two warring factions under the leadership of enemy vampire gods. There's something important about one of the Haliday sisters, and as the story progresses and the war between the factions comes to a head, be prepared for a lot of action and an OMG NEXT BOOK NOW! moment.
It's the cliffhanger at the end that's really frustrating. Not just because it's a cliffhanger, either. It's the way it was done. Bruhns may have well ended the book mid-sentence for all the help that cliffhanger was. I mean, I want to know what happens, but I'm wary of another big cliffhanger moment. I don't want to invest in a series that's going to give me heart attacks every last page.
There's also a lot of back-and-forth stubbornness between Shahin and Gemma. Both have a strong desire for one another, but neither wants to admit it -- they want the other to admit it first. Usually, I love this kind of agonizing stubbornness, but Bruhn over does it just a tad. Nearing the end the stubbornness factor becomes a bit of an eye roll. I found myself skimming over these passages in order to read more about the mythology and to get to the action sequences.
I give it three stars for being a surprisingly interesting (in a good way) Harelquin with a fascinating mythology. Stars taken away for drawn out stubbornness that didn't help the story and a cliff hanger that was just cruel.