Review: The Secret of the Sheikh's Betrothed by Felicitas Ivey

A billionaire and a Bedouin girl—each with a shocking secret.

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?

I am a bit confused with this one and it’s bugging me because I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

I liked the idea of the story though it was extremely melancholy to read about Ikraam’s life. Born a man to a second wife, Ikraam was raised as a woman to not be the only man in the tribe and ruin whatever his sister Bahiyya, wanted. Point blank Bahiyya is a monster bitch. I couldn’t stand her and get that Ikraam would do anything to be away from her even marrying a stranger. I liked Ikraam and felt terrible for him and the life he has had to live with abuse and disdain. He is a good man who is extremely close to his niece Sabah and his “pet” Leopard Saumer. He would give up everything for his niece even trading places with the horrible man her mother wants to marry her to.

I have a soft spot for Ikraam and almost like the story just as a character study of him more than the romance it intended. I felt for him so many times as he dealt with his gender; not knowing he wasn’t a woman until he was older and feeling more comfortable as a woman because that’s how he was raised. His twisted life at the hands of his sister twisted my gut and made me compassionate for his plight as we get to know him. As we know his shame of the amount of people, animals etc. brought to his wedding, and his need to do what his name implies; be honorable to the man he would marry.

The story is told from both POV’s of Ikraam and Fathi as they learn of their upcoming marriage. Fathi is upset at his grandfather for bringing up the arranged marriage and holding true to his word as Fathi is gay but has never told his grandfather. Fathi’s twin Rayyan is a womanizer who isn’t ready to settle down so Fathi will do the right thing and go through with the marriage.

Fathi is an upstanding man who went to university in America and is knowledgeable of the Western ways. His shock at his grandfather’s announcement of marriage throws Fathi into turmoil as he wants to please his grandfather but wants to be true self but fears coming out to his grandfather. He is a soft hearted man but one you wouldn’t want to cross in business or by hurting his family, even his intended extended family to be. Fathi deserves to be happy and while I liked his inner conflict about being attracted to Ikraam as a woman, I was still conflicted about them together.

Now, part of my confusion with his book is based on my lack of knowledge with the culture portrayed. There was a lot of information in the book on the way the “desert tribe” lived and my ignorance questioned the true diverse difference between how Ikraam’s people lived to how Fathi’s lived with their abundance of wealth. Normally I can read a book about a culture different than mine and feel at ease with the setup given but for some reason, I felt uncomfortable reading this.

There are moments in the story that were very sweet and some that were truly emotional. I could connect to Fathi and Ikraam as individuals but found it hard to see them together given the time frame allowed after they actually meet and tell each other the truth; Ikraam being a man and Fathi being gay. I wanted this story to grab my heart but I simply feel confused about my feelings.

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