Hi Annie and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Healing the Sheikh’s Heart!
Thank you so much. It is great to be here!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
This is one of the Paddington’s Children’s Hospital books – only this time we leave London and head off to the magical desert kingdom of Da’har with Dr. Robyn Kelly and Sheikh Idris al Khalil. Both of them are hurting…but find they just may have met the person who will help the heal and grow.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Sure, it was clichéd, but so was the interview Idris had been forced to bring to an abrupt halt. How superficial did these people think he was?
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- This is the first time I’ve written a Sheikh…I typically steer clear of dark and brooding – because while I love reading it – I’ve always been terrified to try writing it.
- The entire time I wrote this book I had a screensaver from Oman on my computer….now I’m saving my pennies to go to Oman! It looks amazing.
- I learnt some terminology that originate from hawk flying including “wrapped around my finger” and “fed up.” Not that I used them…but I’m sure I’ll find a way to get them in there somehow!
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Dr Robyn Kelly had her heart broken quite a while ago and is a girl after my own heart, she THROWS herself into her work and always gets too attached. I loved her because everything she does is infused with a private logic that takes everyone else a few leaps and jumps to catch up to. What surprised me about her – is coming head to head with someone as powerful as Sheikh Idris al Khalil was that status didn’t matter – access to his heart did….because if you don’t care…if you don’t love…what else is there?
Now Idris? (Rowr! Yum yum) He is all dark and brooding and heart totally snapped shut…except when it comes to his daughter…and then he is willing to do anything…including play dress up! I don’t even think my own dad played dress up with me…so I loved that scene.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
Oooo – I think I would do the opening scene when they meet each other. Idris is cranky – tired of having people kowtow to an ego he doesn’t really have…and Robyn doesn’t take a blind bit of notice (oh…NB: Kaisha is the Sheikh’s long suffering assistant)
“Right! It’s the next person on the list or we’re off to Boston Pediatrics or New York ENT. Enough of this nonsense. All right?”
“Yes, Your Ex— Idris.” Kaisha gave a quick smile, proud to have remembered the less formal address in the nick of time. “Shall I fetch the next candidate?”
“We might as well get it over with,” Idris grumbled, settling back into the only chair that comfortably accommodated his long limbs. “Who is it, please?”
“Uh—yes, sorry—it’s Robyn Kelly. Dr. Robyn Kelly. Salaam Alaikum.”
Idris looked up sharply. The voice answering him was most definitely not Kaisha’s.
The pair of eyes unabashedly meeting his own were the most extraordinary color.
Lit from within just as a valued piece of the fossilized resin would be if it were held up to the sun. Mesmerizing.
The sharp realization that he was staring, responding to this woman in a way he had only done once before, made him bite out angrily, though she bore no blame for his transgression.
“How did you get in here?”
“Walked,” she answered plainly, her wayward blond curls falling forward as she looked down. “With these.” She pointed at her feet, clad in the sort of trainers he would’ve expected to see on a teenager. His eyes shot back to hers when he heard her giggling as if he had just asked the silliest question in the world.
“Oh!” She popped a finger up as a sign he should take note. “Your…I think they’re your bodyguards…kindly let me in to ‘powder my nose’ a few minutes early. Hope that was all right. And it’s Robyn with a y not an i—i.e., not like the little birdie up in the trees but pretty close! Blame my parents,” she finished with a playful shrug.
He narrowed his eyes, assessing the new arrival as coolly as he could considering she looked about as dangerous as a baby lamb. Even so, no one got past his bodyguards. Ever. And yet this amber-eyed sylph had done just that. What if she’d found Amira and stolen her away? His heart seized at the thought.
Pragmatics forced him to blink away the foolish notion with a stern reminder that this…“Robyn”…was very human and that his daughter was safe and well.
His gaze returned to Robyn. A couple of inches above average height. About his age—midthirties. Slender. At least what he could see of her, as most of her body was hidden beneath an oversized trench coat that would’ve been stylish if she’d bought the correct size or used the belt as intended rather than as a long rope to swing round and round like an anxious cowgirl as she awaited his response. A wild spray of golden curls. Untamed. A makeup-free face. Evidence the “nose-powdering” was a euphemism. Her cheeks were pink…with the cold, perhaps? By Da’harian standards, the day was wintry. A three-year stint at an English university had taught him the on-again-off-again late-summer rainstorms were normal. In keeping with the storm-tossed treetops quaking along the riverbanks below, Robyn Kelly was looking similarly windswept and ever so slightly unkempt.
Perhaps more faerie or wayward pixie than sylph, then.
The mythical creatures, he suspected, didn’t giggle. Nor did they tug their fingers through their hair when it was too late to make a good first impression.
Even so—he shifted in his seat—it was easy enough to picture Robyn in gossamer with a set of diaphanous wings taking flight over the palace gardens of Da’har.
Mercifully, he caught a glimpse of Kaisha appearing, and gave his throat a quick clear as if it would shunt away the images Robyn’s presence elicited.
Kaisha shot an apologetic look at Idris. She didn’t seem to know how Robyn had entered the suite any more than he did. “Dr. Kelly, could we offer you some coffee or—”
“Bless you, love! I’d kill for a good old-fashioned cup of builder’s.” Robyn’s face lit up with a bright smile at Kaisha’s instantly furrowed brow. “Apologies!” She laughed. “I forget English is your…what is it—third or fourth language?”
“Fourth.” Kaisha smiled shyly.
“Fourth! I should be so lucky.” Robyn’s amber eyes flicked to Idris as if to say, Can you believe this girl?
“And such different languages, as well. If I remember from our emails, you have the Da’har dialect, Arabic, French and English?”
“Impressive. The only other language I speak is ‘menu.’ Builder’s tea,” Robyn explained, hardly pausing for breath. “It means brewed strong and with a healthy dollop of milk.”
“No, love.” Robyn shook her head with a gentle smile. “I’m not so posh as all that. And if you have a couple of biccies tucked away in there somewhere so much the better.” She turned on the heel of what the cool kids would call her “trendy kicks” to face Idris. “I’m sorry. This is all a bit whirlwindy of me, isn’t it? Shall I begin again? A bit more officially?” She stuck out her hand without waiting for an answer. “Dr. Kelly from Paddington Children’s Hospital and you are…?”
“Sheikh Idris Al Khalil,” he answered, rising to his full height and accepting her proffered hand, bemused to have to introduce himself at all.
“Great!” Robyn gave his hand a quick, sharp shake and just as quickly extracted her hand with a little wriggle as if he’d squeezed it too hard and not the other way around. “Amira’s father.” Her eyes darted around the room as she spoke. “Excellent. All right if I just throw my mac here on the sofa or would you rather I grab a hanger from somewhere so you could hang it up on…?” Her eyes continued to scan the room for an appropriate place to hang her soaked raincoat while he found himself completely and utterly at a loss for words.
No one had asked him to lift so much as a finger for them since…ever. Not that he minded lending a hand to a person in need, but…her lack of interest in his position in the Middle East, let alone the world, was refreshing. If not slightly disarming.
He arced an eyebrow as she twisted around, untangling herself from the tan overcoat and about three meters’ worth of hand-knitted scarf, muttering all the while about “British summers.”
She pulled off the coat, managing to get an arm stuck in one of the sleeves, went through a microscopic and lightning-speed thought process before, rather unceremoniously, yanking her arm out and turning the sleeve inside out in the process. She gave an exasperated sigh, bundled the whole coat up with the scarf and tossed it into the corner of the über chic sofa before flopping onto the other corner in a show of faux despair.
He felt exhausted just watching her. And not a little intrigued.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I suppose the main message I would like people to take away is to find someway, some how, to keep your heart open…no matter what…because the thing or person you end of needing most in your life…just might come wrapped in desert robes and run his own kingdom! But seriously…love and kindness and compassion…they’re vital. They’re the message.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2017?
I’ve just finished working on a book inspired by a couple of quizzes we ran over on Love is the Best Medicine – the blog for Medical Romance fans. We did a kind of “build your own hero and heroine” and this is how I ended up writing a story about a Frenchman in Australia!
In August of this year I have my first ever duet – with myself: Tempted by the Bridesmaid and Claiming his Pregnant Princess. They’re both set in Italy and, surprise surprise, feature lots of food and love and some untamed passion. If you’re a fan of Italy…I would head over there. And then there’s a bit of a break before Christmas when Her Knight Under the Mistletoe comes out. This one is in London and, if I don’t say so myself…is pretty magical!
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I’ve got three copies of Healing the Sheikh’s Heart available for giveaway!
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: If you were to fall in love with someone in a powerful – off limits – type of position (King, Sheikh, President, Chief of Police, Mega Star)….who/what would it be and why?
Excerpt from Healing the Sheikh’s Heart:
Idris flicked his eyes away from Robyn’s, finding the golden glow of them a bit too captivating. More so than her ensemble: a corduroy skirt that had seen the washing machine more than a few times, a flowered top with a button dangling precariously from a string. The trainers… More student than elite surgeon.
She was a marked contrast to the four preceding candidates who had all looked immaculate. Expensive suits. Silk ties. Freshly polished shoes. All coming across as if their mothers had dressed them for their first day at school. He huffed out a single, mirthless laugh. Little good it had done them.
“What? Is there something wrong?” Robyn asked, her gaze following his to her cream-colored top dappled with pink tulips, a flush of color hitting her cheekbones when her eyes lit on a stain.
“Ah! Apologies!” she chirped, then laughed, pulling her discarded, well-worn leather satchel up from the ground where she’d dropped it when she came in and began digging around for a moment before triumphantly revealing a half-used supersize packet of wipes. “We just had congratulations cupcakes at the hospital for one of the surgeons who’s newly engaged and I shared one with a patient while we were reading and―” she threw up her hands in a What can you do? gesture “―frosting!”
She took a dab at the streak of pink icing with a finger and he watched, mesmerized, as the tip of her tongue popped out, swirled around her finger, then made another little swipe along her full lower lip. “Buttercream. I just love that stuff! Doesn’t stop the children from getting it absolutely everywhere, though, does it?”
She began scrubbing at her top with the wipe, chattering away as she did. “Bless them. Being in hospital is bad enough, but having to worry about manners?” She shrugged an indecipherable response into the room, clearly not expecting him to join in on the one-sided conversation. “Then again, if the hospital weren’t on the brink of closing I probably wouldn’t be here making a class-A idiot out of myself. I’d be in surgery where I belong.”
Her eyes flicked up and met his.
“Uh-oh.” Her upper teeth took hold of her full lower lip as her face creased into an apologetic expression. “Out-loud voice?” Again, she didn’t wait for an answer, shook her head and returned to her task. “That’s what they get for sending the head of surgery and not PR!”
Idris watched near openmouthed, trying to divine if she was mad or if he was for letting her rabbit on, all the while dabbing her blouse a bit too close to the gentle swell of her…
He forced his gaze away, feeling his shoulders cinch and release as Robyn’s monologue continued unabated. She hadn’t noticed. Just as well. He was in the market for a surgeon, not a lover.
“We, meaning everyone at the Castle—aka Paddington’s—obviously imagine Amira is a gorgeous little girl and I, for one, can’t wait to meet her. So!” Robyn dropped the used wipe into her satchel and clapped her hands onto her knees. “Where is she?”
“I’m sorry?” Idris crossed his legs, leaned back in his chair, all the while locking eyes with her. He was used to conducting interviews. Not the other way around. Who was this woman? Minihurricane or a much-needed breath of fresh air?
“Amira?” Robyn prompted, panicking for a second that she’d walked into the wrong Sheikh’s suite in the wrong fancy hotel. All the fripperies and hoo-ha of these places made her nervous. Or was it just the Sheikh? Idris.
He had breathtaking presence. The photo the hospital had supplied with his bio had been flattering—pitch-black eyes, high cheekbones, dark chestnut hair—a tick in all of the right boxes, so that was little wonder. But in real life?
She only hoped it didn’t show. Much.
She tried a discreet sidelong look in his direction but the full power of his dark-eyed gaze threatened a growing impatience.
He had said he was Idris Al Khalil and not the long-lost son of Omar Sharif, right?
“Amira,” she repeated, unsuccessfully reining her voice back to its normal low octave. “Where did you say your daughter was?”
“Out,” came the curt reply.
Huh. Not a flicker of emotion.
Still waters running deep or just a protective papa bear?
Not the way she usually liked to do things, but then she wasn’t in the habit of “pitching” herself to be the surgeon of choice, either. One of the few things she solidly knew about herself was that when it came to Ear, Nose and Throat surgeries, she was one of the best. If she thought there was someone else better for the job she wouldn’t have even showed up. But this was her gig. She’d known it from the moment she saw Amira’s case history.
She tipped her chin upward, eyes narrowing as she watched Idris observe her in return. His black eyes met hers with a near tactile force. Unnerving.
She looked away. Maybe this was some powerful sheikh-type rite of passage she had to go through. She crinkled her nose for a moment before chancing another glance at him.
Yup. Still watching her. Expectantly. Still super-gorgeous.
She pursed her lips. He’d better not be waiting for a song and dance.
She glanced at her watch.
That was about half a second used up, then.
Looked up at the ceiling—eyes catching with his on the way up.
Still staring at her.
She remembered a trick one of her colleagues taught her. Pretend he was in his underwear. She gave him her best measured look all the while feeling her blush deepen as she pictured all six-foot-something of Idris naked, which was really…much nicer than she probably should be finding the experience.
This whole staring/not staring thing was a bit unnerving. Part of her wished she’d brought a sock puppet.
Robyn! Do not resort to sock puppets!
She clapped her hands onto her knees again.
“So…what do I call you?”
His dark eyebrows drew together into a consternated furrow.
“Oh!” She blinked her surprise. “Phew! I was a bit nervous there that I was meant to bow or ‘your highness’ you or something. Idris. Great. Beautiful name. I believe that’s after one of the Islamic prophets in the Qur’an. Yes? Did you know it’s also a Welsh name meaning ‘ardent lord’ or ‘prince’? Fitting, right?”
“I am neither a prophet nor a prince,” he answered tightly.
Okay. So he was a king, or a sheikh, or a sheikh king. Whatever. It made no difference to her, not with how full her plate was with the hospital on the brink of closing and an endless list of patients Paddington’s could help if only its doors were kept open. Besides―she chewed on her lower lip as she held another untimed staring contest with him―she was just making chitchat until his daughter showed up.
He won. Whether or not he knew it. Who could stare at all that…chiseled perfection without blinking? He had it all. The proud cheekbones. The aquiline nose. Deliciously perfect caramel-colored skin. The ever so slightly cleft chin just visible beneath more than a hint of a five o’clock shadow. She didn’t know why, but she was almost surprised at his short, immaculately groomed dark hair. He would’ve suited a mane of the stuff—blowing in the wind as he rode a horse bareback across the dunes. Or whatever it was sheikhs did in their spare time. The color of his hair was run-your-fingers-through-it gorgeous. Espresso-rich. Just…rich. Everything about him screamed privileged. Polar opposites, then.
Of course she’d blinked first.
“Well, you know there’s also a mountain in Wales—Idris’s Chair. And just look at you there—sitting in a chair.” She raised her eyebrows expectantly. Most people would, at the very least, feign a smile.
“It rhymes!” she tacked on with a hopeful grin, trying her best to keep her nerves at bay.
His lips, though clamped tight, were…sensual. She’d already noticed he curved them up or down to great effect. Disconcerting in a man who, on all other counts, embodied the definition of an alpha male. The perfect amount of six-foot-something. For her, anyway. She liked to be able to look a man in the eye without too much chin tilting. If she were in heels? Perfect. Match. Not that she was on the market for a boyfriend or anything. She bit down on the inside of her cheek to stifle a guffaw. As if.
He looked fit. Athletically so. She would’ve laid money on the fact the hotel swimming pool had seen some well-turned-out laps this morning from the spread of his shoulders filling out what had to be a tailor-made suit. She tipped her chin to the side, finger tapping on her lips, wondering if she could drum up the Arabic word for tailor.
“Here we are! I even found a mug! The butler told me builder’s tea always has to come in a mug. Preferably with a chip, but I’m afraid this one has no chips.”
Robyn lifted her gaze, grateful to see Idris’s assistant arrive, face wreathed in a triumphant smile, carrying a tray laden with tea fixings and a huge pile of scrummy-looking biscuits. Were they…? Oh, wow. Dark chocolate-covered ginger biscuits. In abundance!
“These are my absolute favorite!”
“We’ve done our research. Let us hope,” Idris continued in his lightly accented English, “that you have done yours.”
The words were a dare. One she’d needed no prompting to resist.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A doctor for the desert king
Brooding billionaire Sheikh Idris Al Khalil wants one thing—the gift of hearing for his daughter, Amira—and he’s willing to pay anything to get it! Enter Dr. Robyn Kelly, whose whirlwind approach to life sends his senses into overdrive.
Now, as the tension between Paddington’s ENT specialist and the guarded sheikh mounts, Robyn can’t help but wonder…is life in the desert with Idris and little Amira the family happy-ever-after she’s always dreamed of?
Meet the Author:
Annie spent most of her childhood with a leg draped over the family rocking chair and a book in her hand. Novels, baking and writing too much teenage angst poetry ate up most of her youth. Now, Annie splits her time between corralling her husband into helping her with their cows, reading (natch!) and spending some very happy hours at her computer writing.
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