Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stranger in Paradise: "The Sultan's Favorite" by Anne Burnside

Romance, intrigue, murder... when you start with a hero like Erik you are bringing a lot of baggage to the table. There are a lot of loyal Phantom Phans out there who want authors to stay true to Erik's character and I want to say The Sultan's Favorite, by Anne Burnside, delivers! Erik is back working for an Eastern ruler, (remember the shah of Persia and those rosy hours of Mazenderan?),  this time a sultan , the ruler of the Ottoman empire. Erik has distanced himself from Paris and his loss of Christine to Raoul, though he still feels angry and hurt, and throws himself into his passion for architecture by designing the sultan a magnificent palace.
This sultan appreciates Erik, and accepts his quirks, and the mask he always wears and even his bad tempers, because he sees the genius behind it. Though their cultures clash, the sultan often tries to show his appreciation by offering Erik select girls from his harem. Which Erik disdainfully declines, often to the relief of the girls who cringe from his mask.
Things seem to be going smoothly, Erik getting along particularly well with the sultan's first wife, not so well with wife # 2. Then, surprise! The sultan is taking on a new wife, # 3! This is Alexandria, the widow of a friend whose kingdom he will now be ruling, and taking on this young woman will secure his place with the subjects of that kingdom.
Alexandria was the ruler's only wife and he adored her and educated her and never resorted to a harem or concubine, as he wanted only her by his side. The sultan develops a fondness for Alexandria, who then becomes the Sultan's Favorite!
Erik is tasked with working with Alexandria to design her suite at the new palace, something Erik does not relish. Or...does he? She is smart and lovely and... well read. She is also lonely and in need of a friend, someone who will appreciate her for her mind and not just her gorgeous body.
Ms. Burnside has created a world you can lose yourself in . I adored her Erik and the many sides of him she portrays in this lavish and sensual  novel. And Alexandria is every bit as captivating as Christine. There are alliances you never expected and surprises along the way. The Sultan's Favorite is a great addition for any Phan to add to their library, and one that might become one of your own favorites!

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