To Tame a Sheik contains (but is not limited to) the following tropes and cliches.
--Falling in lust/love with an old friend
--The ugly duckling turned swan heroine
--Business/Duty vs. Love
Sounds like a lot for one little book, right? This book does do a lot in a really short space. So even though it's a cheesy little category, and even though I could probably explain the entire plot in cliches, I found myself really enjoying it.
The basic premise is that Johara, our heroine, has been in love with Shaheen her entire life. After years of separation, they encounter one another at a party. Shaheen doesn't recognize Johara, but is enthralled by her and seduces her into coming home with him. Johara has every intention of spending one night in his bed and then leaving, because doing otherwise would have catastrophic consequences to Shaheen's political position. He is expected to marry for political purposes. But even after learning her true identity, Shaheen is determined to have Johara as his wife at any cost.
What made this book enjoyable to me, aside from the novelty of reading about sheiks, was that the characters genuinely care about one another. This is a fact that is reflected in all of their actions. There is never any doubt that Shaheen and Johara are in love and should be together. They behave like people who've known one another for years. The conflicts are external, which is a good thing because in such a small book internal conflicts are often impossible to solve to the reader's satisfaction. It's a simple, steamy love story about overcoming social and political barriers to find happiness. I also really liked Shaheen's family, and the way they come together to help him when he's in need.
My primary complaint is that there's really know character development to speak of. Two people want something that seems impossible, but then it turns out it is possible, and the story ends. No radical transformations. That's the downside of not having an internal conflict. I thought perhaps Johara might have some sort of breakthrough, because throughout the book she's painfully self-sacrificing and martyr-like. I was hoping she'd stand up and start demanding the things that she wanted and needed, demand to stay with Shaheen and damn the cost. Sadly though, she's angelically selfless to the end.
Considering that I got this book from paperbackswap.com and read it all in one sitting, I'm pretty confident that it was worth the time and money I invested in it. I'd be willing to read more books by Olivia Gates, and I understand their are a handful out set in the same universe. 3.5 stars for this one.