``All these years, I thought...I assumed you felt the way I did....Maybe I should have communicated with you,'' says Tarik, the anguished hero of this potboiler by the debuting Salk, when he sees the great love of his life after a ten-year separation. Pretty dumb for a smart guy, is what a reader can't help but think--even if Tarik is the king of a small but strategically placed, oil- producing Persian Gulf state. When the story begins, he meets brash, blond Clare Barrow, the daughter of a Kentucky miner, in the power corridors of Washington, D.C., just before goons from the State Department and CIA give him a knee-up to the throne of ``the kingdom''--US-educated, he seems a natural, since his dad was an assassinated popular leader of the little country. But once Tarik marries Clare and takes her to the Middle East (she, full of ideas, imagines transforming the former king's harem into a clinic, the wives into nurses), the couple's union is sundered by internal politics. Pregnant, Clare is shipped back to the States, where she weds rich and connected Lawrence Sayles, who will help her take revenge on the mine owner who caused her daddy's death; disconsolate, Tarik eventually remarries, modernizes ``the kingdom,'' loses his new family to more treachery, and discovers who his father really was. By the close, though, East meets West, with Clare and Tarik's son taking over the throne. Full of predictable plot turns, but intelligently written- -indeed, Salk manages to make the Middle East light entertainment.