Saturday, January 22, 2011

Harlequin Presents Authors Talk About Writing and Their Sheiks


Last September, my editor surprised me with a phone call where she asked if I would be willing to write a sheikh novella. Willing? Willing? I think I very calmly said, “Of course. That sounds fun.”

But the truth is that I love sheikh stories. I don’t think I’ve made a secret of the fact that I fell in love with sheikh romances as a girl. One of the first I ever remember reading is Penny Jordan’s Daughter of Hassan. I’m sure I’d read others before that, but that’s the one that made my breath catch and my heart pound as I raced to the end. I simply had to know what happened! Penny had it all in that story—the dark and brooding hero, the innocent heroine, the harsh desert setting, the strong emotion—and I was hooked.

When I sat down to write my own, my first, you might think that I immediately knew what I was doing. After all, I’d loved these stories forever. But sometimes loving them so much means you want to throw in all the knowledge you’ve accumulated. In a story that is half the length of a typical Presents, that’s a bit of a problem.

I eventually figured it out though—and King Zafir bin Rashid Al Khalifa, the hero of “Kept for the Sheikh’s Pleasure,” was born. Naturally, he’s as gorgeous and ruthless as you would expect a sheikh to be. But he’s also deeply emotional, and he’s been hurt before. When I realized that, I also knew who had hurt him. As the story begins, Zafir’s ex-lover crashes into his life after ten years—and he finds that he can’t quite let her go.

Not without tasting her one more time, anyway.

Dr. Geneva Gray is an archaeologist who once loved a prince of the desert, but who walked away when she realized they could never be together in the way she wanted. Now, she’s been captured and given to Zafir as a gift—and the feelings she once pushed away are demanding to be dealt with before she can leave him a second time.

Naturally, nothing is as simple as either of them hope it will be.

I love a good sheikh romance, and I love a reunion or second chance at love story. We probably all wish we could go back and change something we did or said at one time or another. Zafir and Genie can’t change the past, but they can come to terms with it and learn to forge a future together. Relationships aren’t always easy, and fixing one that’s previously been broken is definitely a challenge.

I’m very thrilled to get to share this story with you all now. And I’m truly honored and excited to be sharing space in Chosen by the Sheikh with none other than Kim Lawrence.  Source:  I(Heart)Presents.

This was author Sharon Kendrick's response to the above post
I’ve always had a penchant for Sheikhs, Lynn – I like the idea that by ruling their very own kingdom, they are powerful and autocratic in a way which makes other men pale into insignificance beside them.

Maybe it’s also because there’s a sense that beneath all the riches and trappings, lies a man with very elemental appetites….one who can gallop bareback across the hot, baking sands of the desert….and who can seduce a woman, almost without trying.

Sheikh. Spells. Seduction!

Part One
Writing about two brothers, both sheikhs, and both rulers of neighbouring countries, gave me the opportunity to explore two very different personalities. Sheikh Razi al Maktabi, my hero in Ruling Sheikh, Unruly Mistress, is the younger brother. Protected as a child by his elder brother Ra’id, Razi is now highly successful, both in business and in bed. We have no idea what he might be capable of until we see him tested.

Razi is one of those urbane, confident men, who seems unattainable but deep down Razi is searching too. Fortunate to have true friends he has known all his life, Razi is well aware that a man in his position can attract false friends too, and that the women who cross his path sometimes see no further than his money and status.

Razi is a strong, determined man, who, knowing that his playboy life is at an end, is determined to devote himself to his country to the exclusion of everything else. Razi is deeply kind and compassionate beneath his apparently unbreachable shell, and for this reason I gave him a vulnerable heroine – curvy chef, Lucy Tennant — a quiet girl, with a vivid inner life.

Lucy learned that she had nothing interesting to say growing up in a large, noisy family, where she was the only girl, and where her brothers and parents were brilliant academics. But that didn’t stop Lucy dreaming. In fact, the less she spoke, the more she dreamed, until one day she stole away from the family home without anyone really noticing.

Starting at the very bottom in a professional kitchen, Lucy worked her way up until finally she is offered a job as a chef, catering for a top class chalet company. It is here that Lucy is destined to meet a man who will change her life forever. Having decided to keep his identity a secret, Razi is intrigued by the quiet, dutiful girl who is oblivious to celebrity and all its trappings.

Intrigued, yes, but Razi will return to rule his magical island, which means putting all his personal desires aside. Will the quiet girl accept being sidelined, or will circumstances force Lucy Tennant to embrace her inner strength?

Part Two
Sheikh Ra’id al Maktabi is a flint hard man. The circumstances of Ra’id’s birth and caring for a younger brother whom he had to protect from their own father, means that Ra’id has never had the opportunity to be a playboy – or anything close. Trained to rule a country from birth and deeply mired in tradition, Ra’id is a desert warrior who must fight to keep his country and his people safe.
Ra’id is even harder on himself than on others and has never known the luxury of idle time in which to ponder his decisions but makes them swiftly and surely. His people love and respect him deeply for protecting them and for keeping their way of life safe.
Into this fierce man’s life I brought the female equivalent of the fairy on top of the Christmas tree. 
Young, wild and beautiful, Antonia Ruggiero has been ruined by her brother, Rigo – my hero in Italian Boss, Proud Miss Prim – but being indulged like this has had some interesting side-effects. Yes, Antonia can have anything she wants, which has made her wilful and defiant, but she’s more interesting than that. While Rico would like to keep Antonia in a safe, cosy cocoon, Antonia has other ideas and has escaped her brother to find answers in the Arabian Gulf.

Antonia might be tiny, but she is strong, both mentally and physically, and when the boat she is on is attacked by pirates, Antonia not only escapes but then confronts the much greater danger of the most formidable man in the region, The Sword of Vengeance himself, Sheikh Razi al Maktabi of Sinnebar. 


Mistress of the Sheikh is about sexy, wealthy, powerful Nicholas al Rashid. Nick has a home in Manhattan, more women than any man could want, and a strong dislike of the media spotlight. Amanda Benning is a successful decorator. Well, not quite. Amanda’s hoping to become successful, and when Nick’s sister suggests Amanda redo Nick’s penthouse, Amanda goes for it. It’s to be Nick’s birthday surprise, but when Nick finds Amanda in his bedroom, taking pictures, taking notes, he assumes she’s a tabloid reporter. And when Amanda says no, she’s his birthday surprise… Trust me. Things get a little confused, and a lot hot, hot, hot! Source:  I(heart)presents

Harlequin Presents makes a promise to readers and it's a BIG promise!

Presents says it will deliver the very best romantic fiction in the world. Okay, I'm biased; but I believe it does. Our books can transport a woman from the pressures of her daily life to a fantasy-land of excitement. Passion and seduction, guaranteed, we say.

And we mean it.

In the sophistication of a Presents world, gorgeous, powerful, wealthy heroes find themselves baffled by independent, stand-up heroines. It's a place in which a man and woman can generate enough heat to start a fire and, in the process, find love that will bring them enduring happiness.

I try, always, to deliver on the Presents promise. An exciting setting. A stirring conflict. Heart-pounding passion. And, always, an Alpha hero to die for.

Maybe that's what I love about Presents sheikhs. They're always Alphas! Mine surely are. They're also a little arrogant, a little too sure of themselves. They know what they want and nothing will stop them from getting it. Not a one of them has ever met a woman he can't have!


There's always one special woman who will defy that conviction. And when she does, the chase is on.

Tariq, the Crown Prince of Dubaac in my October Presents, THE SHEIKH'S DEFIANT BRIDE, has everything a man could possibly want. Rugged good looks. Money. Power. Homes in Manhattan and in his native country. And, of course, Tariq has women. Though he works hard, he plays hard, too. Marriage, family… those things are a long way off.

Then, overnight, fate intervenes. Tariq's beloved older brother dies in an accident, leaving Tariq heir to the ancient throne of the kingdom of Dubaac. It's the worst kind of wake-up call, a reminder that life can change in a heartbeat. Tariq loves his country and knows his duty.

He must find a wife and produce an heir of his own.

Well, thinks the sheikh who has everything, how difficult can that be?

Do I hear you laughing? Yes, you're right. Finding a wife, the proper kind of wife, turns out to be almost impossible. There are lots of women who want to marry him. The problem is that he can’t seem to find one he wants to marry. He has high standards. He wants a wife who will be beautiful and bright but he also wants one who will understand that he is in charge at all times.

Madison Whitney is beautiful. Sheâ's bright. She's also about as likely to let a man run her life as it is to snow in the hot desert sands of Dubaac.

Still, these two are attracted to each other. Okay, that's too wimpy a word. They are hot for each other but nothing can come of that heat because, you see, Tariq's about to use modern technology to guarantee himself a future heir and Madison's going to use the same technology to have a baby without the inconvenience of a husband…

But life doesn't always go as we intend.

An extraordinary twist of circumstance leaves Madison pregnant with Tariq's child. Tariq, with imperial arrogance, assumes Madison will agree to give her baby to him when it is born. Madison says if that's what he thinks, he's out of his mind. Tariq, a logical man, reconsiders. He comes up with what heâ's sure is a perfect solution.

He'll marry Madison.

To his amazement, Madison laughs in his face.

So much for Mr. Nice Guy.

Tariq is a sheikh. A prince. He will do whatever it takes to claim his unborn child and if that means kidnapping Madison and forcing her into marriage by first taking her into his bed, so be it.

What neither of them counts on is that the passion they share will change everything.

THE SHEIKH'S DEFIANT BRIDE is the first book in my new three book mini series, THE SHEIKH TYCOONS. The trilogy tells the stories of Tariq, Khalil and Salim, three old friends who are the rulers of fantastic kingdoms in a place called The Nations. They're powerful, passionate men.

They're also as sexy as sin.

love that word “forbidden”. To me it conjures up images of wayward yearnings and dangerous desires, and a compelling tightrope walk between enforced restraint and sheer recklessness.

On one side of the tightrope lies safety.

On the other, the possibility of satisfaction beyond belief. But at what price?

Sheikh Rafiq Al’Ramiz, in Forbidden: The Sheikh’s Virgin, the third story in the Dark-Hearted Desert Men miniseries, knows all about that tightrope walk between restraint and recklessness. He knows he could play safe – and he’s determined at first to take just that course. Why should he have anything to do with the woman who took his heart so many years ago and then smashed it so cold heartedly on the rocks of her marriage vows to another?

Except after his return to Qusay, restraint soon finds itself replaced by the desire for revenge. Sera is now a widow. And why shouldn’t Rafiq make her feel as uncomfortable with the situation as he does? What’s stopping him now taking what was so rightfully due to him so many years ago? And what price might he ultimately pay if he does?

It’s a rocky road – or maybe more appropriately, an emerald strewn road – if this couple are to ever find their happy ever after.

I loved writing Forbidden: The Sheikh’s Virgin, the third installment in the Dark-Hearted Desert Men mini-series. I hope you love it too!  I(heart)presents

Last month, Carol Marinelli’s book, Wedlocked: Banished Sheikh, Untouched Queen, told the story of a king who discovered he was not the trueborn heir of Qusay. This month, The Dark Men of the Desert series continues as his three royal cousins are forced to decide who will take the throne!

My hero is the eldest, Kareef Al’Ramiz.

It was fascinating to write the story of a powerful man – a half-barbarian sheikh just returned from the desert – who knows he loves and wants only one woman, right from the very first page.

After thirteen years in New York, Jasmine has returned to Qusay to marry a wealthy older man for the sake of her family. That makes her absolutely forbidden to Kareef, as is his knowledge that he must marry a virgin princess who can give him an heir. But as honorable as Kareef is, how can he surrender Jasmine to another man’s possession? Especially since they share a secret that could destroy everything for them both….

I loved writing this book, especially since it meant working with Carol Marinelli, Trish Morey and Annie West. They are so great!

While writing Kareef and Jasmine’s story, I drew a map of Qusay just for fun. For various reasons related to Annie’s plot, we ended up turning this map upside down, so it’s not really accurate anymore (and I’m not sure how much the other girls really used it anyway), but I thought you might get a kick out of seeing it!

The fictional desert island kingdom of Qusay (just turn it upside down *g*)

Like Carol, I am eagerly awaiting the final two books in the series, Forbidden: The Sheikh’s Virgin by Trish Morey in June and Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child by Annie West in July. I am dying to see how it all turns out, and see if all four sheikhs have happy endings – and are ultimately tamed by the strong, loving women they deserve.  Happy reading, Iheartpresents


The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bride is the last in the Karedes series and my very first sheikh.

I was delighted when my editor invited me to be part of the series, especially when I found out that I’d be writing a sheikh romance. I was also thrilled when I saw who the other authors in the series were.

I couldn’t wait to get started.

Until I started!

My brain went into gridlock. I thought of all the fabulous authors in the series and their amazing books. I thought of all the other wonderful sheikh romances the readers love and I admit that I had stage fright, writers block… I had the lot! I tried to type, to just push my way through it, but I kept stressing about tiny details – like, do they have fridges in the desert? Honestly, I am an Olympic level procrastinator!

Well, a friend gave me a good talking to, as good friends do, and finally, when I got past the white noise in my head, I got my first real glimmer of Zakari.

For those that have read it, the image that came to mind was the first time Effie laid eyes on Zakari!

Finally I could see Zakari and his surrounds — I felt as if I were standing behind Effie and witnessing what she could see and it was at *that* moment I fell in love, not just with Zakari, but with sheikh romances. Suddenly, the book I had had so much trouble starting, I didn’t want to finish, I wanted to stay with the characters for a little while more.

There is something truly wonderful about a sheikh romance , I’m completely hooked now. They’re sexier, richer, more alpha…. they’re just … more!

Pass me a fan!

The Karedes series has been a joy to work on. I spent a wonderful weekend refusing to move from the sofa, with my stash of books, some chocolate and wine, and I read all the books from start to finish (except my own) and again, I didn’t want the fantasy to end but luckily for me it didn’t have to! In April the first or a new series – Dark- Hearted Desert Men comes out. The first book, Wedlocked: Banished Sheikh, Untouched Queen will answer any lingering questions I may have left you with in the final book of Karedes.

So, even though it’s the end of a great series, it’s not all over yet. 
When I wrote the final book in The Royal House of Karedes series, I was tying up a lot of threads and also giving a little link into a new series.
Well, that was what I was supposed to do.

The thing is, when you write, there is no chance of a little link.

You write that little link and it’s like rain on soil and that little link starts to unfurl and that little link has become the Jack and the Beanstalk of little links and it’s right outside your window and PLEASE let me write it.

You see – I knew, more than Xavian did, all the challenges he faced – I knew this was so much harder for him than it first appeared and that he needed the most supportive, wonderful heroine.

Wedlocked: Banished Sheikh, Untouched Queen was to be the first in the Dark-Hearted Desert Men series and I did get to write it.


The heroine that the series required was just a little bit different to the one I had envisaged for Xavian. I like writing about real women and I had been given a Queen!

Where was calm and reassuring when I needed it for my hero?

Layla had troubles of her own – she had a Kingdom to run and she certainly wasn’t going to leave it on hold while Xavian got his act together!

She had as much drama going on as him.

The more I worked on, the more I liked her and found out that she was, of course, a real woman too, with the same, albeit different, versions of the problems we face. Pretty soon I realized that Layla was exactly the woman needed.

This is what I love about continuity – it’s your own story, but there are other ideas in the ring that push you towards a different path than the one you might have taken.

There are also the discussions with your editor and the other authors — Jennie Lucas, Trish Morey and Annie West – together we worked out jewels and characters and the fun bit for me will be reading their books and seeing what happens when Xavian and Layla left the building!  Happy reading! I(heart)presents

But for me the best stories are where the setting is not just like scenery in a play, a painted ‘backdrop’ to the action. When the setting of a book really works it adds to the tension of the story, the development of the character. And it encloses my hero and heroine in a world of their own. So that’s when Bedouin tent in At the Sheikh’s Command, that snowed in cottage, or the Greek billionaire’s island home all come into their own.
LUCY MONROE - Sheikhs Bartered Bride

THE CHARACTERS: Hakim bin Omar al Kadar is a man driven by honor, duty and loyalty to his family - the Royal Family of Kadar. His duty includes convincing Catherine Benning to marry him. Catherine spent her childhood and teen years as a social outcast because of physical problems she could do nothing about. By the time she was able to alter her appearance, she no longer trusted people, particularly men, enough to pursue her dreams of love and having her own family. She begins the book vulnerable, but she's a strong woman and her growth forces Hakim to look at his own motivations and feelings.

THE SETTING: This book takes place almost equally in Seattle, WA and the imaginary Middle Eastern country of Kadar. I had a tremendous time making up my own Middle Eastern country with its very own Royal Family as well as traditions and customs. And setting parts of the story in nearby Seattle was a lot of fun too.

THE STORY: Hakim is the alpha hero we all dream about. Sexy. Intelligent. Bent on doing what is best for all the people he cares about, including a quickly recalcitrant Catherine. While Catherine learns to trust beyond betrayal and Hakim learns to love beyond duty, they both test the limits of the emotion that simmers between them.

INTERNATIONAL CONTEST - To win a $10.00 gift card, follow the Harlequin Presents Author Blog, come back her and post a comment and leave your email address.  Winner will be announced Januarhy 24th.


Laney4 said...

My goodness, Marilyn, you sure have your finger on the pulse of the (romance/sheikh) nation! I had no idea that this blog existed, but I now will follow it, thanks to you!
What great tips you have! THANKS!
seytype at hotmail dot com (I remembered!)

Modokker said...

Love those sexy Sheiks! Susan mallery did such a awesome job ihntroducing me to these kinds of books. I love them. I went over and signed up to follow Harlequin presents blog.

Lisa B
modokker at yahoo dot com

Linda Henderson said...

I've been following this blog for quite a while but I didn't know about the Harlequin Presents blog. I am now following there on GFC as seriousreader. Thank you for all the sheikh information, I love sheikh books. I'm also a long time reader of Harlequin Presents.

seriousreader at live dot com

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

LisaB, you're the winner!

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