Hi Annie and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Desert King’s Captive Bride!
Thanks so much for having me to visit. It’s lovely to be here. Waving hi to everyone and hoping you’re all having a good day.
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
This is one where the title really is right on the money. A captive princess, a marriage of convenience to a big bold sheikh and lots and lots of fireworks. Ghizlan and Huseyn meet under the worst possible circumstances when he demands they marry for the sake of their country. They start as enemies, neither trusting the other, despite the instant desire sparking between them. Through the book they gradually learn that there’s more to their partner than they’d assumed. The question is whether they will ever trust their hearts.
(And for those of you who read ‘The Desert King’s Secret Heir’ I can tell you there are some familiar characters in this book.)
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
She pitied his bride, whoever she was, but clearly he wanted her to be impressed. What would it cost her to play along at least until she got to the bottom of this?
‘Who are you marrying? Do I know her?’
His smile widened and she saw the gleam of strong white teeth. Fear scudded down her spine as she read his expression.
‘That would be you, my dear Ghizlan. I’m taking you as my wife.’
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
The working title for this story was The Princess and the Barbarian and I had in mind a very cultured, educated, charming princess, used to diplomacy, who comes up against a big bear of a man who’s a warrior through and through. He’s grown up in a man’s world and has no time for subtlety. I wanted a clash of cultures and attitudes, underscored by a sizzle of attraction that sparks from the moment they first met. This was a thrill to write but also, occasionally, made me wonder if readers would like a hero who really would storm into a palace and demand that a complete stranger marry him – before they learned more about who he really is. Personally, I loved him!
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Oh, continually. I always find my characters reveal more about themselves as I write. I knew Huseyn had a softer, caring side. After all, the reason for his unreasonable actions was to prevent the outbreak of war, but finding a way into that softer side only came as I wrote the book and he fell in love with Ghizlan. There’s a scene where Ghizlan gives him a present which I didn’t see coming and which was a real Aww moment for me, because of his response. I can’t tell you more or I’ll spoil it. It was great too, to learn that Ghizlan was far more than a proper princess. Her actions to save her sister are truly brave and it was great seeing how Huseyn responds to that.
What have you learned about your own writing process/you as an author while writing this book?
Definitely to trust that whoosh of excitement that tells you you’ve got a corker of a story idea. Even when I didn’t fully know these characters, I knew this was going to be one of the most exciting stories I’d write. When you’ve got a really strong conflict everything else begins to fall into place.
The First kiss…
I’d simply never marry a man I despised on sight.’
‘Despised?’ His voice dropped to that bass rumble. Thunder to the lightning she’d seen a moment ago. She felt its vibration shimmer across her nipples and thighs.
‘Absolutely.’ Her chin notched even higher. Had he moved closer?
He had moved closer. She drew in that tangy scent of stable and man as he stepped in, toe to toe.
‘Then how do you explain this, my lady?’
Big, warm, implacable hands closed around her upper arms and his face lowered to hers.
Ghizlan whipped her head to one side but only succeeded in baring her cheek to this…this…bandit.
Whiskers brushed her in a totally unfamiliar caress, sending little shivers dancing across her skin. Warm lips, far softer than she’d imagined, nuzzled her cheek, stealing her breath.
She wouldn’t scream. She wouldn’t give him the pleasure of revealing fear. Instead she stood ramrod straight. Frozen.
Yet it wasn’t fear she experienced as his lips moved in a tantalisingly slow trail up to her ear. Ghizlan blinked, surprised at the odd sensation of warmth curling in on itself deep in her belly.
This had gone on long enough.
She yanked her arms back, trying to break his hold, but it was like wrestling a boulder. A huge, warm boulder scented not just with the stables but with an enticing, unfamiliar tang that she suspected was essence of Huseyn al Rasheed.
Teeth nipped her earlobe and she jumped, horrified at the fiery trail zapping from the spot straight to her womb, as if he’d jerked a string and she, like a puppet, responded. Her nipples budded hard and achy against her bra. Did he feel that as his big body pressed against her?
‘Stop it, you lout!’
Hands braced on his chest, she leaned back, trying to escape, but he was taller and stronger. In one swift movement he clamped both her hands against that brawny, powerful chest. His other hand grabbed the back of her head, inexorably turning her face towards him.
Ghizlan saw a flash of smoky blue beneath straight dark brows, then his mouth was on hers.
Heat, power, the rich, zesty scent of male skin. The soft prickle of his whiskers against her flesh contrasted with the sheer force of his mouth grinding down on hers. It was a predictably ruthless assault on her senses by a man determined to dominate.
Fear filtered into her stunned brain. Until she realised, astonished, that despite the power in that massive, muscled body, he’d pulled back a fraction. Even as the thought formed, the pressure on her lips eased and his hand in her hair gentled, cradling and massaging.
Ghizlan stared, trying to focus on the blue of his eyes, but he was too close. He shifted his stance, drawing her lower body in against him until there was no mistaking the monumental evidence of his arousal.
She gasped, stunned, and too late realised her mistake. For Huseyn al Rasheed took the opportunity to invade her mouth.
Not to ravage this time but to seduce. His movements were sure but gentle as his tongue swiped hers, learning the feel and taste of her, just as she discovered he tasted like almonds and something else impossibly, horrifyingly delicious.
Her chest cramped as she realised she enjoyed the sensation of his tongue tangling with hers.
Foggily she fought the drugging pleasure of those slow, sure, sensual movements of lips and tongue, no longer forcing but inviting.
A shiver passed from the back of her skull where his fingers caressed her, down to her curling toes.
She’d been kissed before. Perfectly pleasant kisses from perfectly nice men. Sweet kisses, even eager kisses. But none like this. None that demanded so imperiously then gentled to seduce her into feelings that surely were more dangerous than anything else he could unleash on her.
His kiss invited her to relax and follow the unfamiliar lure of pleasure. To be selfish, just once. His hand cupping her head supported but also caressed, sending whorls of languid delight through her.
And his hard body against hers—that was a totally new, electrifying experience. Ghizlan had kissed, and dated while a student, but, ever conscious of the high expectations placed on her, and the possibility for scandal if caught out publicly in a love affair, she’d never progressed beyond that.
No man had ever made her feel this potent longing for more.
Ghizlan tried to be strong, tried not to respond. Until she heard, and tasted, Huseyn’s low humming growl of satisfaction. It was a sensual assault, as real as his hand in her hair or his tongue stroking hers. The way it vibrated through her, sparking an answering excitement, was unlike anything she’d known.
His kiss slowed, deepened, became positively languorous, and Ghizlan’s bones began to soften. Her hands twitched against that powerful chest and before she knew it they’d slid up, over hard shoulders to tangle in tousled locks, tunnelling and tugging then clamping tight on his skull.
She shifted, angling her mouth to kiss him back and losing her breath as his erection aligned provocatively against her.
Another growl from the back of his throat and he roped one muscled arm around her, lifting her against him so the contact became even more blatantly sexual.
And devastatingly delicious.
Ghizlan gasped, her mind, like her body, running on overdrive. One part of her was aware of curving in, inviting more of that heavy, outrageously improper contact. Another revelled in the strength of a man who could lift her with one arm as if she were made of gossamer. But mainly she was focused on the provocative, delicious kiss she didn’t want to end.
Except this was wrong. On so many levels she couldn’t begin to count them.
The part of her consciousness that had been trained from birth to focus on duty, to be a good example, to do the right thing always, suddenly burst awake and screamed in horror.
Ghizlan dropped her hands to his shoulders and shoved with all her might.
Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?
Oh, there were several. Including the wedding scene where my heroine, with her choice of clothes, makes a daring statement of protest against being forced into marriage. And the wedding night, which doesn’t go quite as my hero planned and is intensely emotional. Here’s a snippet from a scene where he really begins to learn that his wife is far more than a pretty face. It made me smile to set it somewhere so utterly unglamorous. He’d thought her life consisted of socializing and wearing glamorous clothes.
He looked around with interest as the car passed the ragged outskirts of the city. What was she doing out here? Azim had spoken of her busy schedule and Huseyn had imagined lunch with ambassadors’ wives at upmarket restaurants. Or a goodwill visit to a hospital or charity.
They drew up in an isolated spot, before a new building. Beyond it he glimpsed more buildings and a series of regular round ponds.
Huseyn stared. His wife was visiting a waste water treatment plant?
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?
Definitely the scene where they first meet. There’s tension and distrust and a whole lot of attraction too. Tricky to portray but such fun! I won’t include a snippet here but will include a bigger excerpt later in this post. Hope you enjoy it!
Readers should read this book….
If they like snappy dialogue and strong sexual tension between two well matched people. If they like very, very intensely emotional stories. And if you’ve never, ever read a sheikh book, this one might be fun to start with.
What are you currently working on? What are your up-coming releases?
My next Harlequin releases are out in October and November. They’re called the Princess Seductions duet which I rather like and yes, it’s very apt. The first, ‘His Majesty’s Temporary Bride’ is about a woman who’s recruited because of her uncannily similar looks to play the part of a royal princess for a week. What she doesn’t know is that the princess’s royal suitor is due to arrive that week and that she’ll fall for him. The second ‘The Greek’s Forbidden Princess’ is about the missing princess, who must confront the man she’d loved, and who rejected her, in order to save someone she cares for. It’s a beauty and the beast story with lots of emotion and it also wraps up the link between the two women.
My current projects are the next three instalments in my Hot Italian Nights enovellas: ‘Bound to the Italian Boss’ will be released on 1 June, ‘The Italian’s Bold Reckoning’ on 1 July and ‘At the Italian’s Bidding’ on 1 August. I’m having the most marvelous time, writing an intensely passionate story set in Venice, one of my favourite cities.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I’ll give away two signed copies of ‘The Desert King’s Captive Bride’ * International giveaway*.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Ghizlan and Huseyn get off to a rocky start and it takes them a while to see behind the façade to the nicer person inside. Is there something that makes you take an instant dislike to a stranger?
Excerpt from The Desert King’s Captive Bride:
This is an excerpt from when Ghizlan and Huseyn meet. Ghizlan’s father died suddenly while she was overseas. She’s just arrived at the palace to discover there’s been an armed coup and she’s a prisoner. Her young sister, Mina, is also being held somewhere in the palace. Ghizlan is terrified, worried for her sister, and determined not to show fear.
She swung around, twisting on a stiletto heel. Her pulse tripped unevenly as she took in the great bear of a man standing before the closed door through which she’d entered.
He towered over her even though she wore heels and was often described as statuesque. The disparity in their heights surprised her. He wasn’t just tall, he was wide across the shoulders, his chest deep and his legs long and heavily muscled.
He wore a horseman’s clothes. Pale shirt and trousers tucked into long leather boots. A cloak was pushed back off his shoulders so she glimpsed the knife at his waist. Not a decorated, ceremonial dagger like as her father had worn from time to time, but a plain weapon, its handle gleaming with the patina of use.
‘Weapons aren’t permitted in the palace,’ she snapped out. It was easier to concentrate on that than the strangely heavy thud of her pulse as she met his gaze. It worried her almost as much as the inexplicable behaviour of the palace guards.
The man’s eyes were blue-grey. Light coloured eyes weren’t uncommon in Jeirut’s provinces, crossed by ancient trade routes between Europe, Asia and Africa. Yet Ghizlan had never seen eyes like this. Even as she watched the hint of blue was erased and his eyes under straight black eyebrows turned cool as mountain mist.
He had a wide forehead, a strong nose a little askew from an old break and a mouth that flattened disapprovingly.
Ghizlan arched her eyebrows. Whoever he was, he knew nothing about common courtesy, much less court etiquette. It was not for him to approve or disapprove.
Especially when he looked like he’d stalked in from the stables with his shaggy black hair curling around his collar and his jaw dark with several days’ growth. It wasn’t carefully sculpted designer stubble on that squared-off jaw but the beard of a man who simply hadn’t bothered to shave for a week.
He stepped closer and she caught a whiff of horse and tangy male sweat. It was a strangely appealing smell, not sour but altogether intriguing.
‘That’s hardly a friendly greeting, Your Highness.’ His words were soft but so resonant they eddied through her insides in the most unsettling way.
‘It wasn’t meant as a greeting. And I prefer not to be addressed as Highness.’ She might be of royal blood but she’d never be ruler. Despite the modernisation of Jeirut, of which her father had been so proud, there was no question of equality of the sexes extending that far.
The intruder didn’t make a move, either to remove his weapon or himself. Instead he angled his head to one side as if taking her measure. His eyes never left hers and heat sparked at the intensity of that look.
Who was this man who entered without a knock and didn’t bother to introduce himself?
‘Please remove your weapon while you’re here.’
One dark eyebrow rose as if he’d never heard such a request. Silently he crossed his arms over his chest.
He might as well have said it out loud. The challenge sizzled in the air between them.
Bizarrely, instead of being scared by this big, bold, armed brute, Ghizlan’s blood fizzed as if trading glares with him had finally woken her from the curious, dormant feeling that had encompassed her since the news of her father’s death.
She kept her hands relaxed at her sides but allowed her mouth to quirk up in the tiniest show of superiority. ‘Your manners as much as your appearance make it clear you’re a stranger to the palace and the niceties of polite society.’
His eyes narrowed and Ghizlan felt that stare as if it penetrated her silk-lined suit to graze her flesh.
Then in one swift movement he hauled his dagger from his belt and threw it.
Ghizlan’s breath stopped in her throat and she knew her eyes widened but she didn’t flinch when the unsheathed blade skidded across the desk an arm’s length away.
Slowly she turned her head, seeing the jagged cut in the polished wood. Her father had prized that desk, not for its monetary value, but for the fact it belonged to a forebear who had introduced Jeirut’s first constitution. A visionary, her father had called him. His role model.
Ghizlan stared at the deep, haphazard scratch on the beautiful wood and anger welled, raw and potent. An anger born of shock and loss. She knew the stranger’s aim was deliberate. If he’d planned to attack her he wouldn’t have missed.
Why inflict such wanton damage except to make a point of his rudeness? And, of course, to frighten her. Yet it wasn’t fear bubbling up inside her. It was wrath.
Her father had devoted his life, and hers, to the betterment of their people. He may not have been a loving father but he deserved greater respect in death.
She made no move to grab the weapon. She was fit but no match for the sheer bulk of the man filling her father’s study with his presence. He could probably snap her wrist with his bare hand and no doubt he’d enjoy demonstrating his greater physical strength like a typical bully. But she refused to be cowed. She swung to face him.
He didn’t even blink. ‘And you’re a pampered waste of space. But let’s not allow name calling to get in the way of a sensible conversation.’
Ghizlan almost wished she had lunged for the knife. She wasn’t accustomed to such rudeness and for the first time ever her blood surged with the desire to hurt someone. Slapping him would probably only bruise her palm when it came into contact with that high, sharp cheekbone. But with a knife…
She dragged in a fortifying breath and squashed the errant bloodlust. She blamed it on the creeping certainty that something terrible had happened here. Something that brought unfamiliar faces and armed guards to the royal palace that had epitomised the peace her father had worked so hard to win.
Mina! Where was her sister? Was she safe?
Fear skittered through her but Ghizlan wouldn’t let it show. She wouldn’t reveal it to the man looking so predatory. His eyes never wavered from her face as if he searched for weakness.
Ignoring the tremor in her knees, Ghizlan crossed the fine silk carpet and pulled out her father’s chair from the desk. Deliberately she sank onto the padded leather and planted her arms on the chair, for all the world as if she belonged in her father’s place.
If she was going to face this lout she’d do it from the position of power.
Too late she realised that while he stood, dominating the space with his size and raw energy, she was forced to tilt her neck to view him.
‘Who are you?’ She was relieved to hear her voice revealed none of the emotions roiling inside.
An instant longer that clear, cold gaze rested on her, then he bowed, surprisingly gracefully. It made her wonder what he did when he wasn’t trespassing and threatening unarmed women. There was a magnetism about him that would make him unforgettable even if he hadn’t barged, uninvited into this inner sanctum.
‘I am Huseyn al Rasheed. I come from Jumeah.’
Huseyn al Rasheed. Ghizlan’s stomach plunged and her brow puckered before she smoothed it into an expression of calm.
Trouble. That’s who he was. Trouble with a capital T.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
“I was blackmailed into this marriage. I will not be blackmailed into bed.”
Princess Ghizlan of Jeirut has returned home to find that warrior Sheikh Huseyn al Rasheed has seized her late father’s kingdom. With her sister held hostage, Ghizlan has no choice. Her barbarian captor is determined to tame her, rule her—and make her his own!
Forcing Ghizlan’s hand in marriage will not be enough to conquer her body and soul: Huseyn’s iron will is challenged at every step by her magnificent beauty and fierce pride. It won’t be long before they both fall prey to the firestorm between them…
Meet the Author:
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. She leaves on the east coast of Australia and her favourite things are books, good company, good food and travel.
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