Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: None Attributed
Publication Date: 7/7/21
Period: January 1839 – Egypt
Number of Pages: 248
This author’s impeccable research, excellent writing, and vibrant descriptions of the locales always reach out and pull me right out of my comfort zone. My normal reads are located in Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland and Warfield sets her stories anywhere except those places. The topics are rarely comfortable and cover everything from the opium trade in China to the treatment of wives in Egypt. She doesn’t sugarcoat the lives lived in that time and place, but she isn’t in-your-face explicit either. With the horrors and intrigue going on around our intrepid couple, Warfield still manages to create a romance and a HEA.
Richard Mallet, nephew to the Duke of Sudbury (who happens to be the Ambassador to Egypt) is a scholar. He’s never dreamed of being anything other than a scholar and now his long-held dream of visiting the tombs in Egypt to find enough examples of Meroitic script to allow him to decipher it is almost within his grasp. No one has ever been able to decipher it – there is no Rosetta Stone equivalent to make interpretation any easier. All he needs is the appropriate permits, but since he is sponsored by his uncle, he’s sure he’ll receive the proper authorizations. Maybe… There is a lot of political plots going on and he’ll have to be very careful how he negotiates that territory.
As Richard is headed into the alleyways of Cairo, he comes across a disturbance. There is a very small, feisty, woman, in Arabic dress, who is going nose-to-nose with a much larger man. Richard prepares to step in to defend her but finds she has the situation under control. What an impressive woman to find in a country where women are property to be locked totally away from the world as one of a man’s several wives. He hears the word ‘hakima’ and he knows that means she is a healer. It turns out the Pasha wants to create a good health-care system for his country – well – what he wants to create is a healthy army and he’s been convinced that the way to keep his soldiers healthy is to also keep their families healthy. The woman Richard has just seen is there to inoculate the women and children of the household against smallpox.
Analiese Cloutier is a hakima, and it is the one thing that defines her as a person. Her work is the most important thing in her life and she has absolutely no intention of becoming a possession of any man. She will not marry but will stay in Egypt and continue to heal the sick women and children of the country. Her father, Cloutier Bey, is the Health Minister of Egypt even though both he and his daughter are French. He created the Hakima program and only reluctantly allowed his daughter to participate. However, now that he has allowed it, she is going at it full force – even though he wants her to marry and become a ‘proper; wife.
Analise and Richard were each intrigued by the other – and when they ended up in the same travel party headed to Nubia, they became even more intrigued. Friends only, each decided, because neither intended to marry as they were both intending to devote themselves to their work. Danger, intrigue, and plots abound in Nubia. Both Richard and Analise are in extreme danger and have to flee for their lives. Their camel-back trip across Egypt brings them closer and closer to each other.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and I hope you will as well. I gave a 4-star rating because of Analiese’s character and not the story content. I loved Richard and his uncle as well as Richard’s guide Ahmed – they were richly formed and I just knew I’d love them if I could meet them. I detested Analiese’s father – as I was supposed to. However, what was unexpected was that I really didn’t care for Analiese. I love a strong, level-headed, wise, intelligent heroine, but I felt Analiese was more stubborn, pig-headed, and I-am-always-right, than she was strong and level-headed. It didn’t matter what was said, if a man said it, she took exception to it because they were telling her what to do. She was foolhardy to the maximum and her stubborn insistence on doing exactly what she wanted to do caused the death of a favorite character. She mourned him, to a degree, but she was never consumed with guilt – and didn’t appear to change her attitude at all. I found it a bit hard to believe Richard would love her.
Anyway – It is an engrossing, suspenseful, well-told tale and I hope you’ll give it a try.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.