This month's theme is friends to lovers or unrequited love and this book fits in the latter category. I've had it for years now, having picked it up somewhere when I was trying to get my hands on Connie Brockway's backlist. Interesting timing to read it now, too. Having just had a hero with Asperger's, now I have a hero with Dyslexia. And sitting on the TBR pile is the brand new Erin McCarthy, another with a dyslexic hero. Of course in a contemporary, we "get" dyslexia. But in a historical no one understands dyslexia, so our hero Harry Braxton, an otherwise brilliant man, has suffered the stigma of being labelled retarded because he cannot read and write.
From an intellectual point of view, this is quite an interesting book because of how it treats Harry's condition. Added to that, Harry is paired with an equally brilliant heroine who can read a dozen languages, but can only speak English. (Lest you scoff, as a former linguistics major I assure you this is possible.) The setting is Egypt in 1890. Harry finds it much easier to hide his condition and make his fortune during an era when people were collecting (i.e. stealing) Egyptian artifacts. He's in love with Desdemona Carlisle, but doesn't want her to know it. He's hiding his "word blindness" from her. Meanwhile, she's in love with him, but since he rejected her once when she threw herself at him, she's convinced he doesn't want her.
I've got to say I really liked the story and both Harry & Desdemona. I could feel Harry's anguish over his condition and his frustration that he couldn't explain it. Given the kind of treatment he'd received at the hands of a rigid school system, it's no wonder he doesn't want anyone to know the truth. Nor is it any wonder he doesn't feel worthy. Meanwhile, Desdemona is a bit of a freak herself because of her linguistic ability. She thinks that all she wants is to be a "normal" Englishwoman. Harry can't give her that because he cannot/will not go back to England. A significant source of conflict in the story is Harry's cousin Blake who has come to Egypt because he needs financial help from Harry. Blake was once one of Harry's tormentors and still can only see Harry's "defect" despite the fact that Harry has clearly been successful while in Egypt.
But when all was said and done, there were some things about this book that were rather irritating. I found some of the writing abrupt and disjointed. The book was peppered with several secondary characters who seemed unnecessary. There's also a subplot involving one of Harry's enemies and this subplot seemed to get in the way of what was already an intriguing story. The kidnapping and rescue at the end happens quickly; that part of the story seemed rushed. These things were disappointing because they took the focus away from characters I liked, an unusual setting, and a pretty decent triangle between Harry, Blake, and Desdemona.
Ultimately, I would recommend this book just because it is unusual. But I do so with reservations.