Thank you so much to Monica Burns for sharing her synopsis for Mirage. This book is published by Samhain Publishing and has won numerous awards. Click Monica Burns to visit her page and learn more about her fantastic books.
Half Bedouin, half English, Viscount Blakeney is a man without a country. In his heart, he’s always been Sheikh Altair Mazir, but a deathbed oath to his grandfather forces him to divide his time between England and his beautiful Sahara. Despite his English title and holdings, prejudice is his constant companion. Betrayed by an old love because of his mixed blood, he believes his heritage prevents him from finding true happiness, simply because he can never trust a woman to love him for who he is—a half-breed. Even if he could find a woman who could see past his bloodline, his nomadic way of life is too difficult an existence. A woman accustomed to society’s benefits would find desert life harsh, while the sneers of English society would be equally devastating.
Alexandra Talbot is a feisty American archeologist, determined to find Per-Ramesses, the lost city of the Ramesses II. But, the British Museum doesn’t think a woman is up to such a task. Unaccustomed to having her abilities questioned simply because of her sex, Alex sets out to prove them wrong. Not only does she mean to find the city, she intends to find the tomb of Ramesses II’s first wife, Nourbese, as well. What had been a family project has now become a commitment to honor the final wishes of her beloved father and uncle who’ve both died suddenly, but of seemingly natural causes.
As the British Museum’s liaison to Egypt, Altair corresponded frequently with Alex’s dead father, and had agreed to serve as a guide in their quest to find Per-Ramesses. He also witnesses the museum’s rejection of Alex’s request for assistance. Despite the Museum’s condescending attitude, she is undaunted. Her spirit, knowledge and intelligence earn her his admiration. But for reasons he doesn’t want to explore, his attraction to her is stronger than anything he’s ever experienced. It arouses a primal urge to protect her. Keep her safe. It also makes him reluctant to reveal his Bedouin bloodlines.
An unorthodox upbringing has made Alex a strong, independent woman. As a rule, she finds men are unwilling to accept her as she is. The enigmatic Englishman helping her is different. He never questions her intelligence, only her impulsive, stubborn nature. Altair arranges for Alex to travel to Egypt aboard his ship, and one evening during dinner, she reveals her knowledge of Nourbese, a Mazir tribeswoman. Ancient Mazir prophecy foretells of a woman from the new world who will help Nourbese join her husband, Ramesses II, in the afterlife. Altair wonders if Alex is the woman in the prophecy.
When a storm threatens Alex’s safety on board the ship, Altair rescues her, only to find her voluptuous curves difficult to resist. Drawn irresistibly to this man who reminds her of the ancient Pharaohs, Alex doesn’t even think to protest his intimate touch. English society has labeled him a savage because of his Bedouin blood, but Altair knows race does not define gentlemanly behavior, and he refuses to succumb to the tempting idea of Alex in his bed. Rather he attempts to assuage his physical needs on his own, but he quickly realizes true satisfaction is still out of reach.
Altair continues to keep his identity a secret from Alex because in the desert he needs her to trust him implicitly. Or so he tells himself. But the possibility of her scorn is always at the back of his mind. With each passing day, the lie he is living spins him deeper into a web from which he is not able to escape. Despite Alex’s growing attraction for him, she is reluctant to trust Altair. His mysterious air convinces her that he’s hiding something, yet despite her doubt, her attraction and desire for him continues to grow.
Fearing the British Museum will try to wrestle control of the expedition out of her hands, Alex extracts Altair’s promise not to report any success she has. Timing is everything, and she doesn’t want the museum to arrive unexpectedly and take credit for her work. When a cobra finds its way into her cabin after they dock in Cairo, she realizes someone wants her dead. Her doubts about Altair deepen, but a part of her cannot believe he is the villain.
Happy to be home again, Altair is delighted to see his cousin, Sheikh Medjuel el Mazir, waiting on the dock to greet him. Having grown up together, Medjuel is like a brother. But something is wrong. There’s a traitor in their tribe who is consorting with their enemy the Hoggar. As his cousin’s first advisor, Altair wants to take action, but Medjuel prefers to take a more cautious path. Their disagreement puts a strain on their relationship, which has never happened before.
As they head out into the desert to Per-Ramesses, Alex is still not aware that Altair is the Sheikh Mazir who corresponded with her father. During an overnight stop at a small oasis, Alex stumbles over Altair as he bathes in a lagoon. When he emerges from the water, their incendiary embrace sends Alex’s heart and mind reeling. Alarmed that she is allowing her desire for Altair interfere with her quest, she flees the encounter. As she returns to camp alone, she is attacked, but manages to escape.
The incident makes her come to the conclusion that her father and uncle were most likely murdered to keep them from finding Per-Ramesses, but she doesn’t understand why. For Altair, her close brush with death convinces him that the traitor in their midst is responsible for the attempts on her life. Frightened and confused, Alex doesn’t know whom to trust, and she is torn by her wanton desire for Altair. Despite her fears and conflicting feelings, she is determined to find Per-Ramesses and prove herself a capable archeologist. Refusing to turn back, she insists they push onward and when they arrive at the Khatana-Qantir oasis, she begins her search for the lost city.
After two weeks of fruitless searching, Alex discovers the wall surrounding Per-Ramesses. Jubilant over her discovery, she finds herself in Altair’s arms, experiencing a night of sinfully erotic pleasure. However, when she discovers Altair’s lies about his background, the knowledge shatters her happiness. The mixed blood flowing through his veins means nothing to her, but his deception and manipulation of her since their first meeting proves he’s untrustworthy. Despite her growing feelings for him, she rejects him as she remembers a Coptic warning she’s translated—trust not the Mazir who lies. It describes Altair precisely.
Altair believes Alex’s rejection is because of his Bedouin blood. He’s furious that he was foolish enough to ever think he could trust her. Her actions convince him that she’s no different than the woman who spurned him so many years ago. Even more difficult to accept is the intense desire he still feels for her despite her rejection. Complicating matters is his cousin’s objection to the excavation of Per-Ramesses. Confused by Medjuel’s protests and his reluctance to confront the traitor in their tribe, Altair begins to experience doubts about the man who’s like a brother to him.
Devastated by Altair’s deception, Alex struggles to understand why he lied about his Bedouin heritage. His subterfuge only makes sense when she realizes his lies were a means of protecting himself against the prejudice he’s always experienced at the hands of the British. Forgiving him, she reveals she wants him simply for himself. But old wounds are hard to heal, and Altair grapples with the notion of entrusting his heart to her.
Resolute in her search for Nourbese’s tomb, Alex sets off alone to explore the excavation site. When she drinks from her poisoned water bag, she almost dies. Finding her close to death, Altair realizes that life is meaningless without her. Believing someone doesn’t want Nourbese’s tomb opened, Altair fears for Alex’s safety and wires the British Museum for a team of archeologists. He believes their presence will halt the attempts on her life. He would rather have her hate him than let her come to any harm.
After a bitter conflict about the traitor in their camp, Medjuel removes Altair from his position as trusted advisor. His cousin’s actions increase his misgivings about the motives of a man he loves as a brother. Worse still, he has broken his promise to Alex, and when she discovers he’s contacted the British Museum, she rejects him bitterly, wanting no part of his explanations.
Altair’s betrayal leaves a wound Alex is certain will never heal. He’s broken his promise to her—showing once more, he’s not trustworthy. She had been so certain he believed in her ability to lead the excavation of Per-Ramesses, and his contacting the British Museum is the ultimate betrayal. By doing so he’s declared his belief that a woman isn’t as capable as a man when it comes to archeology. It is a painful rejection of her worth as individual.
Convinced Medjuel is somehow responsible for the attempts on Alex’s life, Altair confronts his cousin. He’s taken by surprise when his cousin attacks him and leaves him for dead. When Alex discovers Nourbese’s crypt, the joy she feels turns to fear as Medjuel accosts her in the tomb. Revealing himself as her assassin, he explains that ancient prophecy has foretold of his loss of power and death if it becomes known that Alex has found Nourbese’s tomb. He is about to kill her, when Altair arrives and a life-and-death struggle ensues between the three.
With Medjuel no longer a threat to them, Altair uses his status and position with the Museum to secure Alex’s final authority over the excavation of Per-Ramesses. His act of love makes her realize how little faith she’s shown in him. She offers him her love, assuring him that home is where the heart is. Devastated by his cousin’s betrayal and final words of hatred, Altair has lost the one place where he truly felt at home, and he’s hesitant to trust Alex with his heart. But her persistent reassurances finally convince him that her love is not a Mirage.