I was curious about this book when I saw it. It’s a cross-cultural forbidden romantic suspense set in a war torn Baghdad. It was also written by an author who would have a different take on it from the usual. I was glad to have read it, but just as the book itself was a unique piece to pick up so went the story within finishing on a bittersweet non-conventional romance note.
The story opens with Iraqi, Zahra Quraishi teaching in Baghdad and living at home with her family during the war. It is dangerous and everyone lives in fear. Her family wishes that she would stay home and not take chances like her daily walks to the only school left open where she is the only teacher. But Zahra is determined to give her few students an education and a bright spot in their dreary lives. She is determined to live in the light even while her world is topsy-turvy and bleak.
A bombing comes close and it is American soldiers who come to get her and her students out. One soldier in particular captures her attention. And soon captures her heart. Zach is gentle and kind. He is as take with her as she, with him. His unity returns to help protect her and the children while there is school. Zach comes into the classroom and is there each day. Zahra knows she should squash her feelings and not give Zach any encouragement, but their friendship and growing feelings can’t be denied.
They fight against tradition, ideology, religion, and prejudice within themselves and others to be together. And just when they think they have it, something goes dreadfully wrong. Zach can’t figure out what happened and people tell him to get on with his life, but he can’t. He needs to know the truth.
Alright, this book is told with a unique writing voice. I would hazard the guess that it is a translated to English story. At least that is how it felt since there are some foreign flavored nuances. I had to adjust, but that wasn’t difficult. I engaged with the story from the first sentence. It is reflective and feels like the heroine is confessing to her journal even though it is a narrative. The heroine tells the first half of the book and then it changes to alternate between the hero’s present and the heroine in the past.
The half way point is when it alters dramatically from the romance of Zahra and Zach to add the suspense element. It’s confusing at first and then makes sense. That is when the sadness and tension is no longer hinted at, but is full blown. The story is emotional and heartbreaking. Yet so very real and gripping. The pair of star-crossed lovers are true to their circumstances. There are some gaps that I would have liked filled in better with Zahra’s side. The ending broke my heart and left me stunned. I would have liked an epilogue to give me a sense of what came after.
All in all, I was glad to have picked up this diverse read that was rich in culture and feeling and tells the story of two people who meet and fall in love in the crosshairs of war. This will not be for everyone and particularly those who are looking for the standard HEA romance, but I do recommend it for the unconventional contemporary romance and romantic suspense lovers.
I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #215 RS
New to Me #90 author