“Priestess of the Nile” is a mature romance novella set in Egypt during the 1500s BC. It revolves around the brief romance between the Crocodile god Bek (or Sobek) and the mortal priestess Merys.
I never would’ve guessed that this was an erotica title based on the first chapter, as the story opens with an alluring, placid interaction between the two lead characters, with remarkable potential for the story to come. The mythology appears sound, the personalities of the characters sharp and defined for the commencement. I especially like Merys’s personality considering her dedication to her sister and in light of her role as a priestess. The budding attractions and one particularly harrowing event where Bek saves Merys’ life is well-noted, but I think the sensuous scene came in a bit awkward, perhaps even being oversexed for the tone the story took prior.
From that point on, the story read rough for me because it was rushed for events. I found that it was trying too hard to sell the story for what it entailed. True, this is a novella, and it comes in at about 21,000 words, but I think the extra development would’ve made Bek and Merys’s relationship have that much more hold, and wouldn’t seem like they fell on the side of “insta-love connection”. I suppose that’s a minor quibble since there are a lot of instant connections in some stories of equivalent length and structure, but when arriving towards the novella’s last portion, where the connection should’ve been more sound for the events coming across, it didn’t add up.
The tension in the last two chapters should’ve had more impact for what they lent, but didn’t because I felt they were rushed and told more than shown. I thought it particularly telling in one of the lines where Bek thinks “Only one thing in my life might affect me in this fashion—a threat to Merys.” And while the following discovery was jarring in ideal, it passed by too quickly and with such a brief emotional resonance that I couldn’t really have the connection to it that it would’ve otherwise meant. Same with the very last scene in the final chapter – I just couldn’t connect with it despite the intention, and its uneven pacing made it seem thrown together for the resolution.
I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt – it will likely be a story that those who like brief novellas with a bit of action, romance, and historical placements would like, but I think with a bit more development and careful pacing, this could’ve come across as a better read.
Overall score: 2/5
Note: I received this story as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher Carina Press.