Book Reviews

Review: Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed

Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know is one of those books that entirely captivates you. Whether you love hunting for clues, art history, or forgotten women it’s perfect! This book is my latest obsession, so keep reading this book review to find out just why I’m obsessed!


It’s August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet—American, French, Indian, Muslim—is at a crossroads. This holiday with her professor parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.

Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favored status in his harem. In the present day—and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas—Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.

Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know hooked me from the first pages. It’s full of personality and Khayyam’s thoughts jump off the page. I love how quickly she establishes herself in your heart – her fierce ambition, her passion, and her heart. And she only gets better and better! The characters have to be my number one reason for loving this book. Khayyam is a complex character who is both driven, but also struggling to come to terms with her own feelings. At the same time, this dual POV book feature Leila a woman who is similarly struggling with matters of the heart as well as her own survival.

Amazing characters!

Leila and Khayyam are linked in a story that weaves art, forgotten women, and love. The way women are often not given a voice, the space to speak, erased from history and looking on from the shadows. Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know unravels Leila’s story all while allowing Khayyam to evolve as a character, to make mistakes, and to speak her own story. Khayyam talks about the struggles not only of being a woman of color, but also being biracial and how it has impacted her sense of identity. Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know is a book rich with layers and full of heart.

What I also loved was how complex Khayyam was as a character. The characters in general are so multi-dimensional, and they are allowed to make messy decisions. To betray lines in the sand they said they wouldn’t cross. And to change their mind. Not only Khayyam and Leila, but all the characters as well! Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know also has some great discussions about dating and relationships. Our expectations and desires. The ways we are limited by what we can offer.

Mysterious sleuthing!

At the same time, Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know has this treasure sleuthing angle which will completely captivate you. It’s mysterious and makes you feel like you’re discovering the clues yourself. There is a wealth of literary and cultural facts so you walk away not only having read a fabulous story, but also learning as well! It’s difficult figuring out if I love the characters or the mystery more, because they both work hand in hand to heighten the tension in the story. As our beloved characters are unraveling the mystery, they begin to open themselves up to the readers. Being vulnerable and charming all at once.

Themes of forgotten women

I cannot accurately describe how much I love Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know. It expertly balances all these layers of characters, intrigue, and themes. Our desires to be free, to love, to live without fear. The power of our stories and the ways they can become hidden. Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know is about the unsung voices of women throughout history. What happens to all the stories that are forgotten and lost, to the people who never make it to the footnotes of history? Who disappear behind tapestries and shrouds, turned into statues and idols, immobilized without a voice?


Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know is a book that celebrates history. It’s a story about passion, support, and respect. A book that explores the balance between protecting the past and saving our legacy. Find Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


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