Hi Melanie and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Cinderella’s Scandalous Secret!
Hello! Great to be here!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
This is a secret pregnancy story in which the heroine, Isla McBain, ended her brief fling with Italian hotelier Rafe Angeliri when she discovered she was pregnant. Scandalous photos from her past prevent her from continuing her relationship with Rafe. But a chance encounter with him when she is working in an Edinburgh hotel as a housemaid brings her back into Rafe’s orbit. And when he discovers she is carrying his baby, he insists on marrying her.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
This is a little more than a line but it represents the smoking-hot sensual history between Isla and Rafe.
Something passed through his gaze, as if he was recalling those passionate lovemaking sessions in intimate detail like replaying an erotic film. Images of them locked together with steamy shower water cascading over their rocking bodies. Images with his mouth sucking on her breasts or her sucking on him, drawing his essence from him until he groaned out loud, his legs buckling at the knees. Or with her hands flat against the marble walls of the shower with him driving into her from behind, her cries of earth-shattering pleasure filling the air. The warm cascading water. The slick press of their bodies. The need. The need. The need. The explosion of release that left them both gasping under the spray of the shower…
What inspired this book?
My editor was keen for me to write a secret baby story but I asked if I could do a secret pregnancy instead. I was inspired by the very real problem of the issue- Once online, forever online. It is a scary world these days that something you might have done or said in the past can come back to haunt you, if not destroy your life and reputation.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
One of the fun things about writing a novel is the surprise element. Even though I plan my novels far more than I used to, I still get surprised by things. This time it wasn’t the hero or the heroine but Rafe’s housekeeper, Concetta. She too had a secret and when she reveals it to Isla, their tricky relationship begins to heal.
What was your favorite scene to write?
I always enjoy writing the scene where the hero and heroine meet for the first time on the page.
Isla remade the bed with the fresh linen from the trolley, stretching it over the mattress and straightening it to perfection, plumping up the pillows and neatly arranging them, along with the navy-blue scatter cushions and throw rug for the end of the bed. She stepped back to admire her handiwork when the door of the suite opened behind her.
Isla turned to face the guest with her best apologetic housemaid smile in place. ‘I’m sorry. I’m not quite fin…’
Her smile faded along with her apology and her heart leapt like a ping-pong ball and lodged high and tight in her throat. She couldn’t find her voice, couldn’t stop her heart from thudding against her chest wall like it was trying to punch its way out. Bumph. Bumph. Bumph. Her skin tightened all over her body, pulling away from her skeleton in panic. She ran her eyes over her baby’s father before she could stop herself, her gaze drawn by a force the passage of time hadn’t changed. There should be a law against looking so good, so fit and healthy and virile. So very irresistible.
What was the most difficult scene to write?
I found the scene where Rafe discovers Isla is pregnant quite difficult to write. It’s obviously a highly emotional moment for Rafe but it’s a balance of portraying his shock and anger and hurt.
She took a deep breath and slowly released it. ‘I’m…pregnant.’
He looked at her blankly as if he hadn’t registered what she’d said.
‘Rafe, I’m having a baby.’ She undid the ties from around her waist, gradually revealing the swell of her abdomen. His eyebrows drew together as realisation slowly dawned on his features, leaching him of colour, stiffening every muscle on his face.
‘You’re…pregnant?’ His voice sounded nothing like his. Locked. Tight. Strangled. His Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, a host of emotions flickering over his face-shock, horror, anger. And, yes, hurt. Waves of it rippling like an eddying tide.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
I am always working on my writing style, so each book is probably a tiny departure but not enough to be too big a jump! This is my 81st book, so I am always looking for ways to remain fresh and innovative.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I would like readers to realise the importance of self-forgiveness. We all make mistakes and have to move on with our lives the best we can. The love of other people-friends, family, partner- can be healing but it is respect for ourselves that is the foundation of true healing.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I am currently working on a Sleeping Beauty plot, complete with an ivy-clad castle and a dashing Prince Charming! My next release- Billionaire’s Wife on Paper is connected to Cinderella’s Scandalous Secret. Isla’s best friend, Layla, who gave her the housemaid job at the hotel where she ran into Rafe, was one of those subsidiary characters that demanded a book of her own! It was fun crafting one for her and Logan. And the release after that is The Return of Her Billionaire Husband. This was a really emotional book to write, as it deals with the issue of stillbirth, and how my hero and heroine Joe and Juliette Allegranza find their way back to each other after a fifteen month separation.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Two signed copies of “Cinderella’s Scandalous Secret”.
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Excerpt from Cinderella’s Scandalous Secret:
‘And do you have a good reason for not telling me you were pregnant before now?’ His voice sounded as intimidating as a headmaster admonishing a recalcitrant student, but his eyes still pulsed with waves of hurt.
Isla hugged her arms around her middle, trying to keep control of her escalating emotions. ‘I was worried you might pressure me into having a termination and—’
His frown was so deep it closed the space between his eyes. ‘Do you really think I would do something like that? For God’s sake, Isla. Surely you know me better than that?’ His ragged tone contained deep notes of anguish along with the chord of anger.
Guilt rained down on her like hail, making her huddle further into herself, her gaze lowered from his. Had she made a mistake? Had she seriously misjudged him? Would it have been better to be honest with him from the outset? Hindsight was all very well, but she had thought she was doing the right thing at the time. The shock of finding out she was pregnant had thrown her completely. In her panicked state, it had felt safer to leave than have him send her away.
Hadn’t she been sent away too many times in her childhood to count?
‘I didn’t know what to think,’ Isla said, slowly raising her gaze back to his. ‘I wasn’t prepared to hang around long enough to risk you doing something radical like asking me to marry you or—’
‘Well, at least you do know that much about me, because that’s exactly what I plan to do.’ The stridency in his voice was matched by the glint of determination in his gaze. ‘I’m not having any child of mine grow up illegitimate. I want it to have my name and my protection. I can’t—won’t—accept any other alternative. We will be married as soon as it can be arranged.’
Isla’s mouth dropped open and her stomach turned over. ‘You can’t be serious? We’re practically strangers who—’
‘We spent two months living and sleeping together. That’s hardly what I’d call the action of strangers. We’ve made a child together. That’s not something that I can approach in a casual manner. Formalising our relationship is the next step. The only step.’ He walked over to the minibar and took out a bottle of mineral water, holding it up. ‘Drink?’
Isla nodded; her mouth was so dry it felt like she had been licking the plush carpet at her feet. ‘I can’t marry you, Rafe. I won’t marry you.’
‘You can and you will.’ His mouth had a stubborn set to it, his eyes now as hard as lichen-covered stones. ‘I am not taking no for an answer.’ He unscrewed the top of the mineral water with a loud hiss of released effervescence and poured it into two glasses and then turned back to hand her one.
Isla took the glass from him with a hand that was visibly trembling. ‘Rafe…be sensible about this. Marriage between us would never work.’
Lingerie waitress weds Sicilian hotel billionaire? How would she cope with the shame of her past splashed over every paper and news outlet?
‘We will make it work for the sake of our child.’ His jaw was set in an intractable line. ‘How far along are you? Are you feeling well?’ His tone softened a fraction, his eyes losing their hard glitter to be replaced by a shadow of concern. ‘I’m sorry, I should have asked earlier.’
Isla put her glass down on a nearby table and then placed a hand on her small baby bump. ‘I am now… I was more or less constantly sick for a couple of months. I’m five months into the pregnancy. I’m due around Christmas.’
His eyes went to where her hand was resting, his throat moving up and down over another swallow. He stepped closer, coming to stand in front of her. ‘Can you feel the baby moving?’
‘I started feeling it moving around the sixteen-week mark. Here—’ She reached for his hand and laid it on the swell of her abdomen, watching his face as their baby gave tiny kicks. ‘Can you feel it kicking? There—feel that?’
Rafe was standing so close she could see the dark and generous spray of stubble around his mouth and jaw. She could smell the sharp notes of citrus in his aftershave, redolent of sun-warmed lemons. She could feel the magnetic pull of his body making her ache to close the small distance to mesh her body to his—thigh to thigh, pelvis to pelvis. Why couldn’t she be immune to him? Why did her body have to betray her? Could he sense the storm of hungry need he caused in her flesh? A need he had awakened.His gaze softened in wonder as the baby moved against the press of his hand. ‘That’s amazing…’ His voice became husky. ‘Do you know the sex?’
‘No. I didn’t want to find out until the birth.’
The baby quietened and Rafe removed his hand and stepped back, his expression hardening once more. ‘Were you ever going to tell me?’ The note of accusation in his voice was sobering.
Isla moved to a little distance away so he wouldn’t see how much she ached for him to hold her, to comfort her, to reassure her. I was only trying to protect you. The words were assembled like soldiers on the back of her tongue but she couldn’t give the command for them to march forward. What good would it do? The less he knew about her reasons for not telling him the better. ‘I decided it was better for both of us if I just quietly disappeared from your life.’
‘You decided.’ He spat the words out like bullets. ‘You had no right to decide for me.’ He thumped his fist against his chest for emphasis. ‘I had a right to know I was to become a father. And my child has a right to know me. To have me in its life.’ He swung away with a muttered curse, his hand scraping through the thickness of his hair so roughly she was surprised some of it didn’t come out at the roots. He turned back and glared at her. ‘For God’s sake, Isla. Do you know how it feels for me to find out like this?’
Isla bit her lip, the tension in her head now feeling like needles poking into the back of her eyeballs. ‘Look, I know it must be upsetting but—’
‘Upsetting?’ He gave a rough humourless laugh. ‘Now that’s an understatement. You denied me knowledge of my child. You planned to keep my child away from me indefinitely. Don’t you think I have the right to be a little upset?’
Isla closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to quell the stabbing pain behind her eyes. ‘I was worried you would do exactly what you’re doing. Barking commands at me as if I have no will of my own.’ She dropped her hand from her face and sent him a defiant look. ‘I will not marry you just because you insist on it. Lots of couples have babies together without marrying. And yes, even couples who are no longer together.’
His eyes clashed with hers in a battle she fought not to lose, but in the end, Isla was the first to look away. She couldn’t cope with him when she was feeling so fragile. She couldn’t cope with him, full stop. He was too commanding. Too directive. Too everything.
‘You will marry me, Isla.’ His voice had a steely thread that sent a chill rolling down her spine like a runaway ice cube. ‘For, believe me, you might not like the alternative. If there were to be a custody battle between us, I can assure you I will win it.’
The pain behind Isla’s eyes intensified to a piercing drill that felt like it was burrowing deep into her brain. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. He was threatening to take her baby off her once it was born? He would be able to do it too. It wouldn’t take too much digging into her background to cast doubt on her suitability as a mother. Those topless photos she’d stupidly been talked into doing for her ‘portfolio’, for instance. Who would ever believe she hadn’t done them willingly? That she had been duped into making those shamelessly provocative poses, never realising how they might come back to haunt her. The photos alone might not be enough in a court of law to take her baby off her, but the thought of having those lewd photos out in public, splashed over newspapers and gossip magazines, was too much to bear.
Rafe’s veiled threat only confirmed why she hadn’t told him she was pregnant in the first place. He could be coldly ruthless when he needed to be. How else had he accumulated the amount of wealth he owned?
Her vision became blurred and the room began to tilt and sway as if gravity had been removed. She reached out her hand for the nearest solid object to stabilise herself but misjudged the distance. Her hand patted at mid-air and then a tide of nausea swept over her in an icy wave that prickled her scalp and sent pins and needles to her fingertips.
She was vaguely conscious of Rafe’s concerned tone but she couldn’t get her voice to do anything much past a mumble. And then she folded like a ragdoll and slumped to the floor and everything faded to black…
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Isla McBain’s affair with Rafe Angeliri was meant to be temporary, a chance to explore their passionate connection-but now she’s carrying the famous hotelier’s baby! This pregnancy will make headlines, but no one can know. Isla can’t risk anyone digging into her heartbreaking past and ruining Rafe’s impeccable reputation.
After learning about her pregnancy, Rafe is intent on sweeping her away to Sicily and marrying her! Isla is tempted beyond desire, but dare she step into the spotlight as Mrs. Angeliri?
Meet the Author:
Melanie Milburne writes modern romance stories for Harlequin Mills and Boon. Her love affair with romance novels began when she read her first romance at the age of seventeen and it inspired a dream to one day become a romance author. With over 80 books in print and several industry awards and nominations for her work, Melanie enjoys crafting contemporary romance stories from her home in Hobart in beautiful Tasmania, where she lives with her husband and fur family of two dogs and two cats.
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