Because such a rating is an aberration for me, I feel compelled to explain my reasoning.
First star - The hero has a healthy ego. He's not brooding, wounded, possessive or insecure. Instead, he is lusty (read this as constantly horny as hell) brave, has a keen sense of compassion and honesty, a wonderful sense of humor and the only fear he shows is for others. His respect, admiration and attraction for the heroine was a pleasure to read, and a wonderful twist. (Subtract this star if you need an alpha male who can only find his salvation through the love of a good woman).
Second star - The heroine is intelligent, steadfast, and vulnerable. Like most young women of her era, she was taught that normal sexual desires were wrong, intelligence in females was unnatural, and passion toward virtually anything considered a masculine endeavor was unattractive. Despite her background, she grows with the challenges she faces, overcomes her vulnerability, and she becomes who she was meant to be. (Subtract this star if you want a heroine who seems to be out of character for her generation, or turns into a blithering idiot once she falls in love)
Third star - Storyline. Yup, this novel has an actual plot, a beginning, a middle and an end. All the threads are neatly woven, you are not left hanging with a need to read the next installment. While other stories are available to read within the family of the hero (Lord Perfect, Miss Wonderful), this book is a stand-a-lone. (Subtract this star if you enjoy waiting months or years to find out how a story ends)
Fourth star - The romance is wonderful. The sex is as it should be. Fun, sensual, enthralling and it does not dominate the story. It is never unsettling, it never feels wrong. Descriptions of a kiss are just as vivid as the actual act, and written with such incredible -nice- passion, that it tingles the heart, not just the libido. Although the scenes were actually hot, there was an innocence to them that is normally missing in romance novels. You can honestly like these people, and want them to have the joy they physically find in each other. (Subtract this star if you are only reading this genre for sexual content, or prefer bodice ripping and pseudo rape to genuine romance)
Fifth star - Overall satisfaction. The story contains true adventure, really nasty villains, quick wit, heroic actions by both hero and heroine, character growth without the people behaving outside their own personalities, beautifully written landscapes, good secondary characters, true love, a good finish. This is a book you would enjoy reading a second and third time, a book you would happily recommend to a friend, and a book you would not feel embarrassed about if read by your husband or significant other. (Subtract this star if you believe romance novels are not -real- literature, and you believe The Da Vinci Code is. Yes, I will admit that I too would prefer a book cover that does not scream Romance Novel to fellow passengers on a plane, but genre snobbishness was beaten into me as a child, and I'm trying to overcome it. Besides, I really didn't like the Da Vinci Code.)
Yes, I was reminded of The Mummy. I was also reminded of Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (another favorite novel). All had a brave hero, a spunky and intelligent heroine, Egypt of the past and wonderful adventure. All three are fresh, all three have their own stamp of originality, and all three are HIGHLY recommended.