Release Day Review: The Secret of the Sheikh's Betrothed by Felicitas Ivey
Billionaire Fathi al-Murzim is a workaholic businessman, too busy running the family’s companies to even think about marriage. Too bad he never told his grandfather he’s gay, because Grandfather just announced a childhood betrothal—to a Bedouin girl Fathi never heard about before.
Ikraam din Abdel was raised as a woman by his avaricious and abusive older sister, who didn’t want him to be their father’s heir. He’d never thought to be married either, and is surprised when his sister informs him of his betrothal.
When Fathi and Ikraam meet, they are drawn to each other in a manner neither of them expected. As the plans for their wedding progress, they both realize they need to tell the other the truth. But can they, with both cultural taboos and family pressures to deal with?
A classic Arabian romance with a twist
Sheikh Fathi al-Murzim is an American educated billionaire, working long hours in his family's business. Having accepted that being gay in an Arab country means a life without love, Fathi channels all his time and energy into work, much to his grandfather's chagrin. With his twin brother, Rayyan spending his time with one woman after another, and Fathi dating no one, their grandfather decides he must take matters into his own hands if he is to ever have the great-grandchildren he so desperately craves. A decades-old agreement sees Fathi, as the oldest twin, betrothed to the youngest daughter of a Bedouin Sheikh. Even though he is not a strict Muslim, Fathi has not told his grandfather he is gay and feels obligated to follow through with the arranged marriage.
Ikkraam bin Abdel is a young man who has been hidden and raised as a woman, by his tyrannical older sister, Bahiyya. Not wishing to give up the leadership of their tribe to a brother nine years her junior, Bahiyya forced Ikkraam to hide his identity from birth. The fact that his father died before he was born, and his mother was easily controlled until her death, made Bahiyya's machinations quite easy. Marrying a weak man who she easily controls means that Bahiyya is effectively the leader of their Bedouin tribe. Being constantly isolated, living the life of a woman, and hidden beneath a chador, Ikkraam's secret has remained hidden for almost twenty-one years.
When Fathi's grandfather contacts Ikkraam's tribe to settle the arrangement, Bahiyya sees the perfect opportunity to get rid of her troublesome younger brother. She intends to be long gone, back to her nomadic desert existence, by the time they discover her subterfuge. Ikkraam's fate is no concern to her.
The descriptions of the lifestyle of these two men, their culture and the expectations placed on them, made for a fascinating and riveting read. The side characters were well fleshed out and evoked strong emotions. There were plenty of twists and turns along the way and some nasty characters gumming up the works. I fell in love with Fathi and Ikkraam and found myself willing them on to the HEA they both richly deserved. A thoroughly enjoyable read which I have no hesitation in recommending to lovers of sweet romantic stories with bite.