Historical Romances Set In The Middle East And Africa

It’s no secret that despite the large span of time and places that the term “historical” covers, historical romance novels are typically set in a few locations. The most popular tales generally take place in Europe during the Medieval, Victorian and Regency eras, and America, either on the Wild West frontier or in the Southern ballrooms of the Civil War era. However, we’ve recently been spotting books with more exotic locales, from the deserts of the Middle East to the wilds of Africa.  

Here’s a list of recent releases that really got our attention, some from popular authors that have long been on our historical romance radar and others from new talents that are just making their mark. 


The Pleasure of Your Kiss by Teresa Medeiros

Get ready to be swept away by this exotic tale because much of the story takes place in a harem in the Middle East. There, the English heroine Clarinda learns all about a very different way of life than the one she grew up with. From the lush, rich setting to the ancient cultural values, Medeiros brings this adventure to life. As Clarinda gets used to a society that is much more open about sexuality (she even learns ancient ways to pleasure a man) this story is very much about the necessity of adapting in order to survive. And Clarinda is so adept at taking care of herself, the book's big question becomes: will she choose to return to her homeland when a man from her past shows up to “rescue” her from the harem? 


Flawless by Carrie Lofty

This South Africa-set story is not the author’s first visit to someplace off the beaten path. Lofty’s previous books have transported readers to Medieval Spain and Regency-era Austria, but perhaps this location is the furthest from home. Heroine Vivienne grew up in the slums of Paris, was married off to an English lord and has just inherited a diamond mine in South Africa. But don’t expect this to be a tale of glitz and glamour. As a backdrop to Vivi and her estranged husband Miles’ story, Lofty brings the dangerous African mining town to life by showcasing the dirt, danger and harsh conditions that were all too common at the turn of the century. 


The Other Guy’s Bride by Connie Brockway

Armchair travelers will delight in this tale that whisks readers to Egypt in the early 1900s. The daughter of two famous Egyptologists, Genisse is determined to find an ancient tomb without help. However, during her adventure, Genisse assumes the identity of one of her traveling companions, Mildred, and is soon caught in a mess of mistaken identity. American cowboy James is set on returning “Mildred” to her fiancée, but can’t help the romantic feelings that take root in his heart. As the pair battles the dangers of the desert, is there any hope for a happily ever after? This story, the long-awaited sequel to 1997’s As You Desire, has RT Senior Reviewer Kathe Robin saying, “It’s Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.” 


The Surrender of a Lady by Tiffany Clare

Debut author Clare sets her tale in Victorian-era Constantinople and England. Heroine Elena’s husband gambled her away to a slave trader and then died suddenly, leaving the English widow with no choice but to become a harem girl. Her ex-beau Griffin sees Elena being sold for a night and bids enough money to keep her for several weeks. But when their time nears an end, can he bear to let Elena go a second time? This unusual tale earned Clare a nomination for a 2010’s RT Reviewers’ Choice Award in the category of First Historical Romance. 


The Governess and the Sheikh by Marguerite Kaye

Kaye wraps up a trio of Arabian tales with this August 2011 story. When the English Cassandra decides to extend her trip in Arabia by acting as a young princess’ governess, she has no idea that this stay might become indefinite. Her growing attraction to her charge’s father, the handsome Prince Jamil, has Cassie re-thinking her plans to head home. As this couple tries to overcome cultural differences, there’s no question that many passionate encounters await. RT Reviewer Maria Ferrer calls this story, “Sensual, ravishing and funny. A must for all lovers of sheikh romance.”


Kismet by Monica Burns 

Burns set her January 2010 tale of desert love in Morocco. Sheikh Shaheen is an English viscount who has left behind the rain of his birthplace for the hot days and cool nights of the desert. When a prophecy says that “a woman of fire will leave her mark”, he puts little stock in the prediction. However, when famous courtesan Allegra is kidnapped, Shaheen mounts a rescue mission and then decides to keep her as his own. Despite Shaheen’s conviction that he will resist Allegra’s wiles, the passion that arcs between these two is as scorching as the sun. Fans of Johanna Lindsey’s tales are sure to find a keeper in this sultry read!


Indiscreet by Carolyn Jewel 

Take a trip to Turkey with this 2009 novel. The tale follows disgraced spinster Sabine who has agreed to travel across the Far East with her uncle. There she runs into the Marquis of Foye, a man who played a part in Sabine’s ruined reputation. Will Foye be able to redeem himself by keeping Sabine out of the clutches of a lecherous pasha who would like to add her to his harem? Don’t be surprised if this well-written tale has you pulling out travel guides and putting Turkey on your list of must-see spots!


But historical romances are not the only place you can find characters facing challenges in these unusual locales. We have several recommendations for you from across the genres ...



The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly 

The final novel in Donnelly’s Rose trilogy will have readers ensconced in the action of the early 1900s as the story spans England, Europe and Asia. The Finnegan family’s tale continues as Seamie tries to forget Willa Alden, his lost love, and Willa battles the dark machinations of the questionably trustworthy German playboy Max von Brandt. As war threatens, nothing is quite what it seems and the talented Donnelly captures this world in all of its uncertain glory. 






Author Olivia Gates

While there are lots of contemporary sheikhs to savor in series romance, Gates truly brings her desert heroes to life. And it shouldn’t come as much surprise that the skilled writer lives in Egypt! We recommend you get your hands on a copy of her novel To Touch a Sheikh, which was nominated for a Reviewers’ Choice award this year. We also suggest Gates’ newest release, A Secret Birthright. This new story has Sheikh Fareed Aal Zaafer doing his best to secure excellent doctors for his dead brother’s secret son, and falling for the boy’s mother Gwen McNeal. If you are searching for short reads set somewhere far, far away, Gates writes tales that are sure to transport!




The Illusion of Murder by Carol McCleary

This story follows real-life reporter Nelly Bly as she attempts to travel around the world in 75 days during 1889, trying to best the time set by Jules Verne's fictional character in Around the World in 80 Days. Although the trip is real, the mystery — told through Nellie’s journals — is one from the brilliant imagination of the author. But don’t be surprised if you are sucked into the story’s several exotic points of call, from Egypt through stops in Asia and beyond. Nellie interacts with famous figures of the time in this fantastic story that won April 2011’s RT’ Seal of Excellence.


So for the reader who wants to travel off the beaten path, we hope you enjoy this list of unusual stops for your reading list. And if you’ve got a favorite tale to suggest, be sure to leave it in the comments below!