Viscount Blakeney has experienced prejudice from both sides of his heritage, but a promise to his dying English grandfather has forced him to divide his time between Britain and his beautiful Sahara, where he is Sheikh Altair Mazir. When he witnesses the British Museum rejecting Alexandra Talbot’s request for help finding the lost city of Per Ramesses, he’s compelled to come to her aid, but first he dons his desert robes to hide his identity.
Alexandra has endured a lifetime of men dismissing her intelligence because she’s a woman. But unlike other men, the mysterious Altair doesn’t question her abilities or whether she’ll find the Per Ramesses. The only thing he questions is why she won’t give in to the temptation of untold pleasure.
Desire flares under the desert stars, but murder and betrayal make for a deadly quest, and trust is the only thing that will keep them alive.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Monica Burns is a bestselling author of spicy historical and paranormal romance. She penned her first romance at the age of nine when she selected the pseudonym she uses today. Her historical book awards include the 2011 RT BookReviews Reviewers Choice Award and the 2012 Gayle Wilson Heart of Excellence Award for Pleasure Me.
She is also the recipient of the prestigious paranormal romance award, the 2011 PRISM Best of the Best award for Assassin’s Heart. From the days when she hid her stories from her sisters to her first completed full-length manuscript, she always believed in her dream despite rejections and setbacks. A workaholic wife and mother, Monica is a survivor who believes every hero and heroine deserves a HEA (Happily Ever After), especially if she’s writing the story.
Monica is a survivor, and it’s a topic she has become well versed in. A survivor of date rape at the age of 19, writing erotic romance has aided her in the life-long process of healing.
Read an Excerpt
"Good Heavens, you're a woman."
Alexandra Talbot bit back the tart reply threatening to spring from her mouth. The man might resemble a toad, but at least he wasn't blind. He'd realized right away she was a woman. She tightened her jaw before she forced a smile to her lips.
"Could you please tell Lord Merrick I'm here? He's expecting me."
"But he's expecting Alex Talbot."
"I'm Alex Talbot."
"Well, I ... there must be some mistake. Lord Merrick is definitely not expecting a female."
"I'm sorry, Mr. — What did you say your name was?"
She nodded. "Mr. Stevens, his Lordship agreed to see me, and unless English manners have gone the way of so many other ancient civilizations, I'm certain he'll honor our appointment."
The clerk rose from his wooden chair, wearing an affronted look. "I must protest, Miss Talbot. This is highly unusual."
"I've no doubt it is, but I'd be grateful if you would inform Lord Merrick that I'm here."
The short, apple-shaped man scurried away to an office door down one of the British Museum's austere hallways. As he disappeared from view, Alex heaved a sigh of frustration. She was far better at debating Egyptology issues than she was at charming men into doing what she wanted.
Perhaps she should have brought Jane with her. Men seemed to fall all over themselves when it came to helping her friend. She frowned. No. She'd made the right decision in coming here alone. Peeling off her black gloves, she shoved them into the beaded bag Jane had insisted she buy. Men weren't the only ones susceptible to Jane's charm. Her friend had persuaded her to purchase more feminine trappings than she could ever want or need. She'd protested the selection of every article of clothing before they left New York, but she'd lost each argument.
Restless, Alex paced the floor, and the train of her green satin gown was a soft whisper on the marble tiles. Her hand brushed against the swag of material hugging her hips. She'd managed to keep the fripperies and ruffles on her gowns to a minimum, but the bustle at the back of her dress was a fashion trend she could have done without.
Brushing a stray lock of hair off her cheek, she frowned. She would much rather be wearing her work clothes. They were far more comfortable. Of course, if she'd tried to stroll into the British Museum wearing trousers, she never would have gotten this far.
All of this would have been so much easier if she were a man, and a British one at that. Her American accent and forthright manner were enough to earn her plenty of arched eyebrows. She could only imagine what people would think if they were to see her in her work clothes bent over a selection of dusty books and papyri.
Work. The thought of it made her long for home. New York seemed so far away. Even more so since she'd discovered the Rosetta Stone had been taken off display for preservation and study. She grimaced. In fact, the discovery had almost convinced her all the plans she'd made would disintegrate like an ancient papyrus. Then, as if her father's spirit had been in the hotel room looking out for her, Lord Merrick's letter had fallen out of the stack of papers she'd brought with her to London.
As the Dean of Ancient Civilizations at New York University, her father had been a longtime correspondent with the Museum's Egyptology Director, Lord Merrick. It had been a simple matter to use her nickname instead of her full name and request an appointment.
Still, her deception might prove to be a terrible miscalculation if the museum clerk had his way. If she could just see the Stone, it would allow her to verify the translations she and Father had worked so hard on. Then she'd be able to honor his last wish and achieve her own dream.
Footsteps echoed in the hall, and she looked up to see Mr. Stevens headed toward her. Retrieving her portfolio from the chair beside the man's desk, she studied his expression with a sinking heart. The man's smug look made it clear her gambit hadn't paid off.
"I'm sorry, Miss Talbot, but his Lordship has had a sudden change of plans and is unable to see you at this time."
"I see, and when might Lord Merrick have another appointment available?"
"I'm afraid his schedule is quite full at the moment, and I don't see how I can possibly squeeze you in before the end of next month."
Alex struggled to keep from glaring at the man as he resumed his seat and went back to work. The rough edge of the portfolio bit into her palms as she considered bashing the pompous clerk over the head with the leather case. Obviously, he believed ignoring her was the easiest way to be rid of her. She stood there for a moment, trying to decide what to do. To come so far, only to be turned away. No, she couldn't accept failure. Not now.
With a swish of her gown's short train, she swept around the desk and strode determinedly down the hall to the door she'd seen the clerk enter. She was more than halfway to her destination before the man realized where she was headed and raced after her.
Ignoring his outraged command to stop, she knocked sharply on the glass pane that bore the gold-lettered title, Director of Egyptology. At the brusque invitation to enter, she sailed through the door with her underskirts rustling a soft imitation of her annoyance.
The office was crammed with a large assortment of artifacts, and the musty smell was similar to her father's office at the university. It comforted her. All her life she'd spent happy hours in rooms similar to this. It reminded her of a time and life she could never experience again.
"What the devil?" The portly man seated at the desk came to his feet quickly. Pasting a polite smile on her face, she moved forward with her hand outstretched.
"Lord Merrick? I'm so glad you agreed to see me. I felt certain Mr. Stevens had misunderstood you." She tried to make her smile as warm as possible. As much as she hated playing the charming coquette, she needed to convince this man to give her access to the Rosetta Stone.
One hand swiping through his bushy white hair, Lord Merrick peered at her over his spectacles. Wide sideburns lined his heavy jowls, and his unforgiving expression would have done a stern reverend justice. Behind her, Stevens burst into the room muttering his apologies. Lord Merrick waved the man away and came around the desk to clasp her hand. A touch of anger lit his limpid blue gaze, but he politely brushed her fingers with a kiss.
"Well, young lady, I think you know full well I was expecting a different Alex Talbot."
She lifted her chin and met his gaze with a forthright look. "What I know is that you were extremely interested in my father's theories about Per-Ramesses."
"So why didn't Professor Talbot come himself?"
"My father died unexpectedly last fall from influenza." Alex swallowed the grief rising in her throat.
Lord Merrick's cold expression dissolved into sympathy as he guided her to a chair facing his desk. "You have my sympathies, Miss Talbot. Your father was one of the world's foremost Egyptologists. Our correspondences were highly valued by me."
"And that's why I've come to you, Lord Merrick. My father's last wish was for me to complete his life's work." The bustle forced her to perch on the edge of the seat, and she silently cursed the uncomfortable fashion she wore.
Skepticism arched the man's snowy eyebrows as he returned to his chair and shook his head. "My dear, I understand your desire to grant your father's last wish, but please believe me when I tell you that even if you have all your father's notes, without his knowledge ... well, it's impossible."
Alex leaned forward, her hands tightening on her portfolio. She mustn't fail now. She had his attention. She needed to guard her words carefully. "My lord, I began working with my father at the age of fifteen, and I worked at his side until his death. I studied his notes, questioned him relentlessly. I'm confident I know as much as he did about Per-Ramesses."
"And you want access to the Rosetta Stone, is that it?"
"Yes, my lord. I need to ensure the translations my father and I made are accurate. It's critical to finding the location of Per-Ramesses."
"Finding it?" Lord Merrick exclaimed. "Young lady, what the devil makes you think you can find Per-Ramesses when England's chief Egyptologists haven't done so?"
"Because those gentlemen didn't have what I do — my father's notes and my father's knowledge. It had been his intention to come, but his death prevented it. I'm here now, and I intend to honor his memory by proving his theories and mine correct."
Sitting stiff and straight in the leather wing-backed chair, she recognized the look of disbelief on Lord Merrick's face. Jane had worn a similar expression when Alex had laid out her plans. The difference was her friend hadn't hesitated to call her insane. Lord Merrick just didn't know how to do so politely. His face bore the same benign condescension she'd seen far too often on the faces of most university faculty in New York. They believed her inferior simply because of her sex.
There had been the exceptions. Men who had found her intelligence a refreshing change, but they'd been few and far between. And it was doubtful even those forward-thinking men would have agreed to a wife working at their side. Only her father and Uncle Jeffrey had truly encouraged her pursuit of archeology. Every other man was suspect as to his real intentions where she was concerned.
Merrick leaned forward, his hands clasped and resting on his desk. "Miss Talbot, the desert is difficult enough for an Englishman, and it's definitely not a place for a woman. I cannot sanction this in any way."
"Forgive me, my lord, but I'm simply asking you to give me access to the Stone so I can corroborate our translations."
"I'm sorry, my dear, but in all good conscience, I can't do that."
Hands clenched, she kept her voice even with difficulty. "And if I were a man?"
"Naturally, things would be different."
"Naturally," she mimicked in a bitter tone.
"Why don't you let her look at the Stone, Merrick?"
Alex twisted around in her seat to stare at the man sitting in the corner of the room. She'd been so preoccupied with her desire to persuade Lord Merrick to her way of thinking, she'd failed to realize there was someone else present. As he rose to his feet, she drew in a quick breath at the sheer height of the man. He was easily more than six feet tall. She was far from short, but if she were standing, he would tower over her by several inches. It wasn't like her to pay too much attention to the men she met, but this man was impossible to ignore. Well-built, his lean figure sported a dark blue coat, which fell open to reveal a dove gray waistcoat and matching trousers. As he moved forward, the grace and regal bearing of his step reflected a primeval power. This was a man accustomed to prevailing in whatever matter he undertook. Her heart skipped a beat.
Silky waves of dark brown hair caressed the collar of his coat in a length that was almost barbaric. On any other man, the style would have looked ridiculous, but on him it was devastating. It suited the rich brown of his sun-kissed skin. A wave of heat washed over her. Dear Lord, no man she'd ever met had affected her like this. Deep brown eyes studied her closely, and she suppressed a tremor of excitement as she met his probing gaze. Dark eyebrows arched over incredible eyes, and the merest hint of a smile touched his full, sensual lips.
He reminded her of a sleek leopard, content to watch its prey before pouncing at just the right moment. The sudden image of him dressed as a pharaoh holding the collar of such a large cat caused her palms to grow damp. Where on earth had that come from? Appalled, she jerked her gaze away and turned back to Lord Merrick, who frowned at the other man.
"The devil take it, Blakeney. You can't be serious."
"Why not? What harm will it do?" The stranger shrugged as Lord Merrick stared at him in appalled horror.
"But she's ... she's ..."
Merrick was as blind as that little toad Stevens. The man was making his decision solely based upon her sex, and not her capabilities, which she'd outlined so clearly. All her life, her father had treated her with the respect of first a student and then a colleague. He'd accepted her as fully capable of acquiring the same knowledge as himself. No doubt, the possibility of a woman finding the lost city of Per-Ramesses without male assistance was incomprehensible to this man.
Her stomach tightened with concealed anger. If she didn't get out of here quickly, she'd forget what little presence of mind she had and confirm the notion that women were temperamental, hysterical and unfit for working in an academic setting. Determined to remain charming to the end, she rose to her feet and forced herself to smile.
"Gentlemen." She gave both men a sharp nod of dismissal. "I'm sorry you're not interested in my work or my father's. I had hoped to convince you otherwise. However, I can assure you, I'll find Per-Ramesses — with or without the Museum's help."
Wheeling about on her heel, Alex rushed blindly to the door lest they see the tears of frustration threatening to spill down her cheeks. She grasped the brass doorknob and turned it. Large, sun-drenched fingers touched her light-deprived skin and stopped her. Fiery warmth streaked up her arm until it spread its way through every inch of her body. Startled by her reaction, she yanked her hand away and lifted her gaze up to meet his. When he smiled, her heart slammed against the wall of her chest. Lord, the man's smile was as potent as his touch.
"Miss Talbot is it?"
"I'm sorry, sir, you have me at a disadvantage."
"Forgive me." He offered her a small bow. "Viscount Blakeney at your service. I'm liaison to the Museum's Foreign Office of Antiquities."
"Another of the Museum's minions?" She could have bitten her tongue off at the sarcasm in her voice.
His eyes narrowed and his features resembled an ancient stone statue. The look he pinned on her sent a shiver down her spine. Even Ramesses could not have intimidated or excited her more. The fanciful thought made her frown. She wasn't here to find a modern-day pharaoh, especially one condescending to help her.
Once more, she reached out to open the door, but his firm grip on her wrist stopped her again. The touch made her mouth go dry as his fingers sent a shock of sensation up her arm. Again her heart skipped a beat, and a spark of awareness flashed in the depths of his brown eyes.
She inhaled a sharp breath as his thumb caressed her pulse with gentle pressure. The touch made every nerve in her body scream at the way his presence was assaulting her senses. As he leaned toward her, the whiff of a tantalizing spice spiraled between them. The scent was familiar, but it was difficult to think with him so close.
"Do not discount me, Miss Talbot. If you wish to see the Stone, I'm willing to escort you to its present location." The stern note in his voice helped her regain her faculties.
"And do not discount me, my lord. I do not suffer fools gladly, nor do I look fondly on those who think me a fool." This time she kept her tone even, yet firm. She could be polite, but she had no intention of letting this man, or any other for that matter, manipulate her.
A brilliant smile curved his mouth, and she wanted to bask in the warmth of it. Heavens, but the man was mesmerizing. She needed to control this urge to simper like an addle-brained simpleton in his presence.
"I seriously doubt you're a fool, Miss Talbot. Although it remains to be seen if you are foolish." Releasing her from his grip, he opened the door and swept his hand toward the corridor. "Shall we?"
"I thought you wanted to see the Stone?" There was more than a hint of amusement in his voice. For the first time, she heard the melodious accent beneath the proper English. The sound was so familiar and yet so foreign.
"Well yes, but I'll need at least an hour or more to study the markings."
"Then you'll have it."
Behind them, Lord Merrick came to life. "I say, Blakeney. It's just not done. She's likely to wreak havoc in the workroom. The scholars will be quite distracted by her presence."
The anger bubbling just beneath her calm surface exploded as she turned to face the protesting director. "x one aay aza mn name zapa oyhh eanno."
"I say! Did she just speak Coptic?" Merrick sputtered.
Excerpted from "Mirage"
Copyright © 2007 Monica Burns.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A hot, steamy tale set against the hot Arabian desert in the 1800's. Fast paced adventure. Filled with steamy passion, sexy characters, secrets, danger, adventure, and finding romance amidst the ruins. Unique and intriguing. Well thought- out tale, that will pull the reader in amidst the setting, the dialog, and Intrigue of finding a lost tomb. Think Indiana Jones adventures. Fans of desert romance, Historical Romance, and fans who enjoy hot, steamy romance and passionate embraces will delight in "Mirage". A romance lovers delight! Strongly recommended. * Received for an honest review from the author via Net Galley * **Cross-posted on My Book Addiction Reviews ** Rating: 4.5 Heat rating: Hot Reviewed by: AprilR, courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
From the moment I read the blurb for Mirage, I wanted to read it. The setting is awesome; there aren't enough stories set in the desert among nomadic people if you ask me. Alex Talbot is a strong willed, stubborn woman who meets her match and willing conspirator in Viscount Blakeney. The characters are searching for Pharaoh's treasure, but stumble onto much more than that. There is more going on than just finding a few dusty relics. From the beginning of their acquaintance, someone is out to stop Alex from finding the treasure her father knew existed in the desert. I liked Alex's spunk; she's an intelligent, stubborn heroine that has latched onto a dream and tries to see it through. She's not a bad-ass kind of woman, though she's more than capable of standing on her own two feet and it's her moments of vulnerability that endear her to you. It's the deception and lack of communication between hero and heroine that create half of the problems, and borders on the edge of monotonous. Okay, not really because there's so much else going on, but if the plot wasn't so rich and active, the lack of communication would seriously irritate me. I know this is a me thing, I'm a communicator by birth and I just don't get how people can't stop and communicate things. Bah! That said, the characters spark on paper is great; I'm a sucker for acceptance stories. One character with a blemish or a bad history or something that makes them shrink away from others being loved and accepted - yeah, I'm a total sucker for THOSE stories, and Mirage has that element in play. The one thing I didn't like was towards the end where the culmination of several non-communicated issues comes to a head - if I were Alex, there would be a bit more of hell to pay for the silver tongued Viscount.
This is an older book by Monica Burns, first published in 2007, who writes sumptuous and sexy romances usually set in the Victorian era. This, too, is set in the 1880′s but it’s also much more exotic as it takes place almost entirely in Egypt. The history is richly and palpably described in the legend, the arduous expedition and life in an archaeologist camp, and the Bedouin culture. The setting is as much a character as the passionate love story between Altair and Alexandra (Alex). Alex is a headstrong, independent, and educated woman. Following in her beloved archaeologist father’s footsteps, she is determined to find the lost city of the Egyptian pharaoh Per-Ramesses and the tomb of his wife, Nourbese. Continuing her father’s research, she travels to the British Museum to hopefully examine the Rosetta Stone. But her stubbornness gets in her own way as she makes rash decisions that often endanger her safety. Of course, the Victorian era and the British Museum refuse to believe that a woman can locate what they have been unable to for years. So when Alex approaches them, the director promptly and rudely rebuffs her. Enter another museum employee, the sexy and mysterious Lord Blakeney, an Englishman who is also half Bedouin. He is charmed and fascinated by Alex–okay, he’s also very interested in her as a woman. He agrees to let her view the stone and also to assist her in her expedition to Cairo. Alex is excited and thrilled by the prospect of finally realizing her dream, but she doesn’t want any involvement with the British Museum. So she is wary of Blakeney’s help despite her attraction to him. And when she discovers he is also known as Altair, Sheikh of Makir she believes her reservations are correct. She cannot trust a man who lies to her. And Altair continues to lie to her or, more accurately, omit the truth. Of who he is, of his correspondence with her late father regarding Per-Ramesses, and eventually, and more seriously, in a betrayal that threatens their growing closeness. Alex and Altair can’t keep their hands off each other. At twenty-four, Alex throws caution to the wind and they fall into an affair that is at first pure lust but then quickly becomes something more. Altair can’t stand lying to Alex because he has been jilted in love before (due to his mixed heritage) and Alex’s impulsiveness and quick temper threaten their relationship before it barely gets started. Someone is also trying to harm Alex, just as she suspects the deaths of both her father and uncle were not accidental. The villain is pretty obvious around the middle of the story and it’s tied into the legend of Par-Ramesses and Altair’s noble Bedouin family heritage making for a multi-layered read. Provocative and sensuous, but not as glamorous as I like. If you like your romance set in far away and exotic lands, you will enjoy this story.
When a story sweeps you into its pages and you find yourself traveling along with the adventure you know you have read a great book. Monica Burns discription of the desert and the expedition puts you at the location. The mystery/love story is quite compelling. Altair and Alexandra are so hot together. I fell into these pages and enjoyed every minute of it. If you love romance, adventure and a hot novel it doesn't get much better than this. JFM