Today it is my pleasure to Welcome Harlequin romance author Annie West to HJ!
Hi Annie, welcome to HJ!
What would you say are the 5 best things about being a writer?
Living inside a romance novel all the time.
Getting to make my world work the way I want it to.
Spending time creating happy ever afters.
All the friends I’ve made along the way.
Let’s talk about your newest release: An Enticing Debt to Pay
If you had to summarize An Enticing Debt to Pay for the readers here
‘Enticing’ is a boss-housekeeper story that owes a lot to ‘Jane Eyre’ and those other books where the power play between boss and employee isn’t equal but the attraction is. It’s part revenge story, a big part redemption story and even a bit of a makeover/renovation. It’s also full of sexual tension.
Jonas has never liked Silvia Ruggiero, the family housekeeper who ran of to set up home with his father years ago. Between them the pair destroyed his mother’s life, all the while thumbing their noses at respectability and convention. Jonas knows what he wants – the things he’s never had – a loving wife and family, to turn the ramshackle old family mansion into a warm and welcoming home, as well as the continued challenge of driving his successful investment company. Simple!
His plans are interrupted when he discovers Silvia, lover to his recently dead father, has stolen a small fortune from him. Years of holding in his hatred and resentment explode along with his fabled calm as he determines to make sure Silvia gets her just desserts – in jail. Things go off the rails when he storms into her Paris apartment to find not Silvia, but her daughter, Ravenna. She’s all grown up, not the teenage waif he remembers. More, she’s turned into just the sort of scheming woman he hates. She even brags about the way she thieved from him! But despite her blatant crimes he can’t quite bring himself to send her to prison, especially when she awakens dormant longings in him. Instead he sets her a challenge – transform the old Deveson mansion into a home fit for a prince of industry and he won’t have her arrested.
Ravenna, knowing her mother stole Jonas’s funds in desperation, to buy life-saving treatment for Ravenna, is determined to protect her mother from Jonas’s wrath. She takes the blame herself. Surely she can cope with the almost-impossible task he sets her. The trouble is she hasn’t counted on living under the same roof with her arch enemy, a man she should hate, but who provokes the most wayward desires in her.
Please tell us about the characters in your book?
Jonas Deveson comes from an old, aristocratic family but it was he who saved the family fortune, building it up through sheer hard work after his father squandered it. He’s tough, focused and determined never to fall for some scheming woman the way his profligate father did. More, he’s a man of principle who hates the pain his father’s betrayal caused his mother.
Ravenna Ruggiero dreams of being a world class chef but despite her hard work and talent her plans have been put on hold as she battles life threatening illness. Recovering now, all she wants is to get on with her life, but past sins (not even hers!) have come back to haunt her and she’s determined to protect her mother in her time of need, even if it means facing up to a man as dangerous as Jonas.
Was it love at first sight for your characters? If not what was the pivotal moment of change?
It was more dislike at first sight with a fair bit of lust thrown in. I’m not counting the very first time they met when Ravenna was a teen. There was always a sizzle of attraction between them but it’s only as they get to dig beneath the surface a little that they come to understand each other and fall in love.
If your characters could go back in time and change one thing what would it be? Why?
Definitely Jonas would never have stormed into the apartment and threatened to send Ravenna’s mother with jail. He’d have been calm and tried to find out the truth.
What scene did you have the most fun writing? Why?
Maybe the opening or the scene after the ball, because the tension is running so high between them. Here’s a little from the lead in to one of the love scenes. The guests have just left after the grand ball to reopen the restored Deveson Hall:
‘I should go too.’ The air was fraught with tension that sent quivers through her body. Or perhaps it was Jonas’ proximity. He was so close she saw his eyes gleam. If she leaned in they’d touch. She felt his proximity from her tingling lips to her budding nipples and lower, where desire spiralled deep.
His arm snapped out and long fingers circled her bare arm in a bracelet of fire.
‘Let me go.’ She tried to keep her voice even but it came out in a rush of breathless energy.
‘Not till you tell me what’s going on. Why aren’t you wearing my dress?’
Ravenna tried and failed to tug her arm free. Desperation rose. She needed to get away.
‘Because it would mark me as yours. Bought as easily as any other commodity.’ She shook her head, trying to find her voice in a throat choking closed on a rush of emotion. ‘I know you didn’t do it because you want me. Only because you want to be rid of me. But,’ she drew a ragged breath and met his eyes, ‘I am not for sale. You don’t need to buy me with anything. I told you we were quits. I won’t wear your guilt.’
His hand slid up her arm to close on her shoulder. Hard fingers spanned her bare flesh, warming it against the chill inside her.
‘You’re wrong.’ His voice was a low throb, brushing like velvet across her skin and making her shiver. Ravenna squeezed shut her eyes. He only had to speak and she weakened! And his touch…this was impossible.
‘Let me go, Jonas.’
For answer he lifted his other hand and cupped her face, his hand engulfing her jaw, imprisoning her so she had no option but to lift her head towards his.
‘You’re wrong,’ he said again and this time she heard a tremor in that deep, rich voice. It mirrored the shiver in his long fingers. ‘I do want you, Ravenna. I’ve never stopped wanting you. Seeing you tonight only confirmed it.’
How did your character spend the week just before the story starts?
Jonas was busy at his desk in London’s financial district, wheeling, dealing and building financial success on financial success.
Ravenna lying low, recuperating from a daunting range of medical treatments, then catching a train to visit her mother in Paris.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book was optioned for a movie?
Possibly Anne Hathaway. Definitely someone with great eyes and lush dark hair. For Jonas…hm, I’m still working on that. Someone who looks great in a tuxedo and but definitely with an air of danger about him. Any suggestions would be welcome!
What are you currently working on? What other releases so you have planned for 2013 into 2014?
I’m currently putting the final touches to a book about a reckless princess who meets her match in the form of a Brazilian tycoon who challenges her at every turn. I don’t have a title yet but I understand it will be out in July 2014.
I’ve already finished ‘Rebel’s Bargain’ a scorching hot reunion story, which will be part of an exciting new continuity in 2014 (probably November).
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: A signed copy of ‘An Enticing Debt to Pay’ to one reader and A signed backlist book (reader’s choice) to another reader.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Maybe you could help me in casting someone to play Jonas. Tall, broad-shouldered, decisive. Smouldering looks but with an air of reserve. He’s a man who’s lived with hurt most of his life and though he doesn’t know it yet, he’s just found the woman who can make his life whole.
‘Much as I appreciate the Sleeping Beauty tableau, it’s not working.’ The rich voice lost turned harsh, yanking her out of her hazy dream of warmth and wellbeing and the delicious scent of spiced citrus. In her dream strong arms had held her tight and close. Now she was alone, her skin chilled and legs cramped.
Ravenna opened her eyes and swallowed a scream as she saw Jonas looming above her, all but blocking the light.
‘You!’ It was a strangled gasp, torn from tight lungs as she struggled up, scooting back against the carved headboard.
‘You were expecting someone else?’ Dark eyebrows slashed down in a ferocious scowl that turned his proud face into that of an avenging angel. He didn’t seem move but she had the impression he stood closer, keeping her within reach.
Panic flared and her heart beat a tattered rhythm as she read the sizzle in those narrowed eyes. Not pewter now, but the luminous silver-grey of lightning. Ravenna remembered his fury in Paris, his lashing tongue and hard, unforgiving hands that turned gentle as they curved around her breast.
Fear sliced her. It had nothing to do with the taut anger in his face and wide, masculine shoulders and everything to do with the yearning that softened her traitorous body. Liquid heat rushed to her womb as she met his gaze and felt again that juddering vibration, like an unseen explosion radiating through the air between them.
Despair filled her. She’d convinced herself it had been a one-off. Some horrible aberration, never to be repeated. She couldn’t be attracted to him. She wasn’t!
In a tumble of limbs Ravenna scooted to the other side of the bed and off the side.
But she’d underestimated her exhaustion after her recent illness. No sooner did her feet hit the floor than her knees crumpled. Only her hold on the high bed stopped her collapsing.
A split second later he was there, arms outstretched as if to support her.
If she’d needed anything to galvanise her failing strength that was it.
‘Don’t touch me!’ It came out high and breathless, choked with emotion.
Instantly he reared back, his mouth a thin line and eyes unreadable.
Dragging in a rough breath Ravenna braced herself and stood straight. She had herself in hand now. Her legs shook like jelly but that was to be expected after the hours she’d been on her feet. It had nothing to do with Jonas Deveson.
‘What are you doing here?’
His eyebrows arched high. ‘That question is my prerogative. What are you doing sleeping here of all places? And in the middle of the day?’
Ravenna glanced at her watch. Two o’clock. No wonder she felt wobbly. She’d only lain down fifteen minutes ago, in desperate need of a restorative nap.
Since arriving at the Hall she’d forced herself to her limits, ignoring earlier advice about taking things easy and allowing her body time to recuperate.
Terror was a fine motivator, allowing her to push beyond the boundaries of exhaustion, knowing Jonas Deveson would leap at that chance to accuse her of not being up to the impossible job he’d set.
And here he was. Just as she’d feared.
Ravenna swiped clammy palms down the worn denim of her jeans, vowing not to let him best her.
‘I started early this morning so I was having a short…break.’
‘Most people take a break over a cup of tea, not stretched out on a valuable antique bed.’
He was accusing her of damaging the furnishings? She might not be some delicate, petite woman, but she was hardly a heavyweight, especially after her recent illness.
Her gaze swept the bed. It was huge enough to sleep four and she’d barely wrinkled the coverlet. The rich, embroidered coverlet she’d carefully cleaned along with the full-length curtains that just a week ago had been caked in dust.
‘If you’re waiting for me to tug my forelock you can give up now.’ She stuck her hands on her hips in a confrontational pose she hoped hid the way her legs shook. ‘If I’m good enough to clean it, I’m good enough to sleep in it.’
His features tightened. ‘Spoken like your mother’s daughter. She must have had the same view of Piers’ bed whenever she serviced…his room here.’
Ravenna felt the blood drain from her face at his crude inference. That Silvia had been some greedy tart, using sex to her advantage.
‘Now, now.’ His voice was maddeningly superior as he raised his hand. ‘Don’t say anything you’ll regret.’
‘Believe me,’ she bit out, ‘I wouldn’t regret it.’ But the warning hit the mark. She couldn’t afford to get him even further off side. It was only at his whim that she wasn’t in police custody.
Ravenna drew a shaky breath as the surge of adrenalin dissipated, leaving her feeling fragile. ‘But since you have such archaic views on class, I should warn you that this is my bedroom.’
That shocked him.
Swiftly she surveyed the room she’d so painstakingly brought back to mint condition, from its plaster-decorated ceiling to its delicately shaded carpet. Old wood gleamed after multiple applications of beeswax, the soft furnishings had been painstakingly cleaned and even the crystal drops in the overhead light had been polished till they shone. He hadn’t even spared it a glance.
For some reason that galled her almost as much as his high and mighty attitude.
‘The housekeeper’s accommodation wasn’t good enough for you?’ His eyes glinted a warning she refused to heed.
‘The housekeeper’s accommodation wasn’t weatherproof or dry.’ She watched shock freeze his face and knew an unholy pleasure that she’d punctured his self-satisfaction. Then realisation dawned. ‘You didn’t know, did you?’ Ravenna stared at his still face. ‘How long since you’ve been here?’
Predictably he ignored her question.
‘If this is your room then we’ll go elsewhere for our discussion.’
It was on the tip of Ravenna’s tongue to give some barbed retort when she realised the sense of his words. The last thing she needed was to imprint the memory of him here, in her personal space.
Abruptly she spun around to lead the way out. But she’d reckoned without her lingering physical weakness. Her limbs still felt like wet noodles, wobbly and uncoordinated and for one horrible, slow-motion moment she felt herself sway dangerously and begin to topple, her arms flailing.
He grabbed her elbows, his long fingers hard and hot through the wool of her ancient cardigan.
Ravenna stared at the charcoal knit of his cashmere pullover, rising and falling with each breath. Her nostrils twitched as his scent reached her, the tang of lemon and hot male skin that conjured images of long, powerful limbs, naked in warm Mediterranean sunlight.
A shudder ripped through her and she closed her eyes in denial. No, no, no. She was weak from what her body had been through recently, but she wasn’t weak for him.
She’d have to be sick in the head to desire him.
‘Are you all right?’
Slowly Ravenna lifted her gaze, passed the strong contours of his jaw, up to his grim mouth, bracketed now with disapproving grooves that somehow emphasised the leashed passion in those surprisingly soft lips. She remembered the tender way they’d caressed her neck and shivered as that betraying heat swirled and swooped low in her belly again, settling and spreading at the core of her.
A tingling started up between her legs. An edgy sensation that made her want to snuggle up against him and-
‘I’m fine.’ Her voice was hoarse and she ducked her head rather than meet his scrutiny. Instead she felt it graze the contours of her face.
How she wished she still had her long hair. She could use it as a shield, obscuring herself from his sharp eyes.
Ravenna shook her head. Of all the things to regret, the loss of her hair was the least of them.
She stepped back and his hands dropped instantly, as if he was only too eager to let her go.
Ravenna told herself that was a good thing. If he realised the power his physical presence had over her, he’d use it to his advantage.
They were on the landing when she spoke again. ‘You haven’t told me why you’re here.’
‘To check up on you, of course.’ The words came from too close behind her. She imagined his warm breath on the back of her neck and hurried down the stairs.
‘In case I was stripping the place of valuables?’
‘I’m sure security would put a stop to that.’ His tone was complacent. ‘No, I decided you needed supervision and from what I’ve seen I was right.’ Familiar disapproval coloured his voice. ‘That’s why I’ve decided to stay.’
Ravenna clutched the banister as the world reeled.
She’d thought this nightmare couldn’t get any worse. How naïve she’d been!
Dial R for revenge…
Forgiveness is a foreign concept to wealthy investment trader Jonas Deveson. Someone has been stealing from him and he’s got a good idea who it is…and he’ll make her pay.
Seeing the harsh lines that bitterness has carved into Jonas’ handsome features, Ravenna Ruggiero knows he’ll never see the shades of gray in her actions.
Jonas blackmails Ravenna into working as his housekeeper to pay off her debt, but living under the same roof leads to unexpected yet forbidden temptation, and Jonas is no longer sure who is being punished!
USA Today Bestselling author Annie West loves writing passionate, intense love stories. She has devoted her life to an in depth study of tall, dark, charismatic heroes who cause the best kind of trouble in the lives of their heroines. Creating heroines who are a perfect match for those strong, stubborn men is one of her all time favorite things. As a sideline she’s also researched dreamy locations for romance, from vibrant cities to desert encampments and fairytale castles.
Annie won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for ‘Protected By the Prince’ and her titles have finaled in or won a range of romance reader awards. Romantic Times said in its review of The Sheikh’s Ransomed Bride ‘This is what a love story could be.’. CataRomance described it as ‘…an awesome page turner filled with sizzling sexual tension…’.
You can catch up on Annie’s latest news at her website www.annie-west.com or via Facebook. She lives with her family at beautiful Lake Macquarie on the east Coast of Australia.