Hi Annie and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Demanding His Desert Queen!
Waving a big hello back to you from sunny Australia where spring has sprung.
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
‘Demanding His Desert Queen’ is a reunion story between a pair who, years before, had been on the verge of marriage until their worlds fell apart. Each blames the other for the end of their relationship and both carry the emotional scars of betrayal and disappointment. Now fate brings Karim and Safiyah together. Karim is offered the crown of Assara, a role he doesn’t want. Except that to rule successfully he’d take as his wife the Assaran queen, the very woman who rejected him. Karim tells himself to rise above the temptation but finds it impossible. Since Karim broke her heart, Safiyah’s life has been one of duty and painful obedience. All she wants now is peace and her independence. But Assara won’t have peace without Karim. Can she bear to accept his marriage demand, fearing he might break her heat again?
What inspired this book?
This book came directly out of another story. I was writing ‘Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation’ in which the hero had a particularly interesting history, when I realised his brother, Karim, was equally fascinating, if not more so. I won’t tell you why here, but the more I thought about Karim, the more I realised he needed his own story, especially as I had to find out what happened to him.
Surprisingly, though this is a sheikh story, the opening scene was inspired by travel to Switzerland – memory of a long ago trip and anticipation of a trip I was planning there earlier this year. When I began writing I needed to have Karim a long way from home. What could be more different to desert sands than the mountains and lakes of Switzerland?
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
Oh, constantly. I thought I knew them before I began to write but I always learn more as the story progresses.
Even in the first chapter when Safiyah is wearing a dress of red so dark it looks black, I found her thinking that together they represent the colours of (blood)/sacrifice and mourning, both of which she’d done. It was such a powerful image and one that came directly from her, unplanned. Poor Safiyah had been through some very rough times so it was wonderful to see her discover her happy ending with Karim. As for Karim, I knew he was emotionally isolated and that marrying Safiyah would test him to the limit but I had no idea how the protective shell he’d built around his heart would ever be breached.It was fascinating watching the changes in him.
What was your favorite scene to write?
I think the opening. It just poured out, so full of emotion and energy. The moment when Karim and Safiyah meet again is so fraught – I loved it. Here’s a taste:
‘Her Highness, the Sheikah of Assara.’
The butler announced her in a slow, impressive tone that helped steady her jittering nerves.
This she could do. For years she’d compartmentalised, leaving the real her, Safiyah, behind and donning the persona expected of a Queen, gracious and unruffled.
She lifted her chin, pinned on a calm expression that hid her inner turmoil and stepped into the suite’s vast sitting room.
A few steps in and she paused, blinking against the light pouring in from the wall of windows. The butler bowed again and left, closing the door behind him with a quiet snick. It was only then that she made out a tall figure, motionless in the shadow just past the windows.
Even looking into the light, even unable to make out his features against the glare, she’d have known him. That rangy height, the sense of leashed energy. That indefinable shimmer in the air.
Her pulse quickened and her ribcage squeezed her labouring lungs. Fortunately she was old enough and experienced enough to know this was her body’s response to the pressure of her situation. It had nothing to do with feelings she’d once harboured.
‘This is…unexpected, Your Highness.’ His voice was whiplash sharp as he used her title.
Good. She didn’t want him trying his charm on her. Once bitten twice shy. The thought steadied her nerves and stiffened her knees.
‘Is it, Karim?’ Deliberately she used his first name. He might prefer to pretend they were strangers but she refused to rewrite the past to soothe his conscience. If he thought to intimidate, he’d discover she wouldn’t yield meekly to a mere hint of displeasure. She’d had years to toughen up since they’d last met. ‘I’d assumed, as the hotel owner, you’d be informed of royal guests.’
She stepped further into the room, onto a thick-piled carpet that would have taken a team of master weavers years to produce.
‘Ah, but I’m here to conduct important business, not entertain passing acquaintances.’
As if she and her business were by definition unimportant. As if they had been mere acquaintances.
Safiyah had never been more grateful for those hard-learned lessons in self-control as his words ripped through to the small, vulnerable spot deep inside. To the tiny part of her that was still Safiyah, the eager innocent who’d once believed in destiny and happy endings.
Pain bloomed, as if from a stabbing dagger. She breathed slowly and rode the hurt, forcing it down.
‘My apologies for interrupting your…important business.’ Pointedly she raised her eyebrows and glanced about the luxuriously furnished sitting room as if expecting to see a conference table or a bevy of secretaries.
A voice inside told her not to rile him. She was supposed to persuade, even cajole him. But Safiyah refused to let him think he could brush her off.
‘To what do I owe this…pleasure?’ There it was again, that emphasis that made it clear she was uninvited in his private space.
Wounded pride made her want to lash out but she reined in the impulse. She owed it to Tarek to stay calm.
‘I need to talk with you.’
‘About?’ Even now he didn’t move closer. As if he preferred her to be at a disadvantage, unable to see him clearly while she stood in the full light from the windows.
She’d thought better of him.
‘May I sit?’ Did she imagine that tall body stiffened? She took her time moving to a cluster of chairs around a fireplace then paused, waiting for an invitation.
Safiyah sank gracefully onto a seat and was glad of it when he moved into the light because something inside her slipped undone.
What was the most difficult scene to write?
It may sound strange but this time around I don’t recall any of them being arduous. Oh, of course, I had to work to get the words right and to polish, but this story really did zip along. It had an energy all its own!
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
Hm, what an interesting question. I think it does showcase my writing, especially in the depth of emotion this story stirs. Having said that I’ve written very, very few reunion stories so this was definitely something fresh for me. It was great writing about a couple who had so much history between them. I felt it gave their relationship real depth.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
A big satisfied sigh! This is the second story in my Royal Brides for Desert Brothers Duet (the first being ‘Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation’) so I’m hoping those readers who’ve read both stories feel I’ve delivered a satisfying, compelling pair of stories. (Note though – each is a stand alone story so it’s possible just to read one).
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
My next release is ‘Revelations of a Secret Princes’, released next February. Here’s a taste:
A princess in disguise…
To find her precious daughter, stolen from her at birth, Princess Carolina will do anything. Including masquerading as a nanny! Jake Maynard, her daughter’s adoptive uncle, is all that’s standing in the way of the reunion Caro has yearned for. If only her body got the message he’s the enemy…
Caro knows this powerful billionaire won’t give up the only family he has left. Yet after years of emotional numbness, Jake is reawakening her! He shows Caro a life filled with passion, not protocol, but what will happen when Jake discovers her true identity?
I’m currently working on a book which will be called ‘Contracted to Her Greek Enemy’. It features two people who appeared in ‘Wedding Night Reunion in Greece’ which was published earlier this year. I’ve had a lot of readers asking me for their story and that’s what I’m aiming to deliver. That means I’m spending my days mentally at least in the Greek islands!
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Two people will each receive a signed paperback copy of ‘Demanding His Desert Queen’ (open internationally).
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Do you have a favourite reunion story (maybe a book or film)? If you can’t think of one, perhaps you could tell me what, if anything, you enjoy about second chance romances.
Excerpt from Demanding His Desert Queen:
Karim has proposed a marriage of convenience for political reasons. The trouble is that both he and Safiyah are haunted by memories of their past attraction.
‘I need your answer now.’
‘Oh.’ She frowned. ‘My answer.’
Safiyah look distracted. As if her mind were elsewhere, rather than on the honour he’d done her by suggesting marriage so she could retain her royal status.
Karim gritted his teeth, fury rising. She acted as if the suggestion they marry was trivial. Not enough to hold her interest when she had more important things on her mind. And this after the insult of her desertion five years before. It was more than pride could bear.
Something ground through him like desert boulders scraping together, the friction sparking an anger he’d harnessed for so long.
Karim had spent a lifetime being reasonable, honourable and above all, rational. He’d been trained never to act rashly. To weigh his options, consider the implications not only for himself but for others.
Not tonight. Tonight another man inhabited his skin. A man driven by instincts he’d repressed for years.
‘What is it, Safiyah?’ He took two paces, stopping only when she had to hike her chin high to hold his eyes. ‘You’ve got something else on your mind. Is it this?’
He cupped one hand around the back of her head, anchoring his fingers in that lush, silky hair.
No protest came. His other arm wrapped around her waist, tugging her close. He had a moment of heady anticipation as her soft form fell against him, her eyes growing huge and dark as pansies.
Then his mouth settled on hers and the years stripped away.
Safiyah clung tight, her fingers embedding in the hard biceps that held her to Karim’s powerful frame.
It was so unexpected she had no time to gather her thoughts. No time to do anything but bend before the force of sensations and emotions that made her sway like a sapling in a strong wind, her body arching back over his steely arm.
To her shame it wasn’t outrage that overwhelmed her. It was shocked delight.
Because she’d never been kissed like this.
Never felt like this.
Even in those heady days when Karim had courted her, for then he’d been considerate and careful not to push her into a compromising position. She’d been innocent and he’d respected that.
Even when she’d married she hadn’t felt like this.
Especially when she’d married. She’d felt no passion for Abbas. No desire. Except the desire to do her duty. And Abbas, though he’d enjoyed her body, hadn’t expected anything from her other than acquiescence.
Which made the fire licking her veins unprecedented. Totally new.
Safiyah shivered, not with cold but with a roaring, instantaneous heat that ignited deep inside and showered through her like sparks from a bonfire, spreading incendiary trails to every part of her body.
This was passion.
This was desire.
It was like the yearning she’d once felt for Karim, multiplied a thousandfold. Like the difference between the heat of a match and the scorch of a lightning strike.
Her mouth opened, accommodating the plunging sweep of his tongue, relearning Karim’s darkly addictive taste. It was a flavour she’d made herself forget when she’d told herself to stop pining for the mirage of true love. When she’d given herself in a dutiful, arranged marriage.
Because to hold onto those broken dreams would only destroy her.
Now, with a force that shook her to the core, Safiyah felt them flood back, a deluge of sensation to a body starved of affection, much less delight.
Once Safiyah had yearned for Karim with all her virgin heart. Now time, experience and loss transformed her once-innocent desire into something fierce and elemental. Something utterly unstoppable.
Instead of submitting meekly, or turning away, Safiyah leaned into his hard frame. This felt as natural as smiling. As necessary as breathing.
Her tongue slid the length of his, exploring, tasting, enjoying the rich essence of sandalwood and virile male that filled her senses. She revelled in the feel of his taut frame solid against hers and rose onto her toes to press closer.
A shudder passed through him, his hands tightening possessively, as if her response unleashed something in him that he’d kept locked away. He leaned in, forcing her head back, deepening the kiss and she went willingly, exulting in the breathtaking intensity of the moment.
Past and future blotted out. The present consumed her. Her need for this, for him. Nothing else mattered except assuaging that.
Karim’s arm slid down her back, his palm curving over her backside, lifting her towards the drenching heat of his muscled frame. Excitement tore through her, a fierce exhilaration as she read the tension of a man on the brink of losing himself.
Then, with an abruptness that left her swaying, he released her.
Blinking, Safiyah watched him step back. Saw his mouth lengthen in a grimace. Saw him shrug those broad shoulders and straighten his jacket as if brushing off the imprint of her clawing hands. Then he shoved both fists in his pockets and lifted one eyebrow in an expression of cool enquiry.
Flustered, Safiyah felt her heart smash against her ribs, her breasts rising and falling too fast as she tried, unsuccessfully, to get her breathing back to normal.
Her robe had come undone and she knew without looking that her nipples were hard, needy points against the thin fabric of her nightdress. Worse, between her legs was a spill of dampness. Restlessness filled her, the need to climb up that big body and rub herself against him, chasing the fulfilment that no-holds-barred kiss had promised.
Instead she stood stock still, feet planted. Mechanically her hands grabbed the sides of her robe and tied it tight. Because, despite the thwarted desire churning through her, Safiyah read the chill in the green eyes surveying her like an insect on a pin. Her skin turned to gooseflesh and the fine hairs at her nape stood on end.
Karim wasn’t even breathing heavily. He looked as calm and remote as a stone effigy. And as welcoming.
Looking into those austere features Safiyah felt all that lush heat dissipate. Instead of his deliciousness, she tasted the ashes of passion.
She might have been swept away by forces she couldn’t control but Karim hadn’t.
‘Well, that little experiment was instructive.’ His voice came from a great distance, like low thunder rolling across the wide Assaran plain. ‘It’s as well to test these things in advance, isn’t it?’
‘Test what?’ Her voice was husky but reassuringly even. She’d had years of practice at perfecting a façade that hid her feelings.
Those powerful shoulders shrugged nonchalantly. ‘Our physical compatibility.’ He paused, his gaze capturing hers as he continued with conscious deliberation. ‘Or lack of it.’
Deep, deep inside, in that place where she’d once locked her secret hopes and cravings, something crumpled and withered. There was an instant of shearing pain, like a knife jab to the abdomen. Then it morphed into an unremitting ache that filled her from scalp to toe.
He’d kissed her like that as an experiment?
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Duty bound at the altar…
Passionately reunited in his bed!
Desert prince Karim needs a bride to ensure his smooth ascension to the throne. Intelligent, captivating Queen Safiyah is the perfect choice, yet the pain of their broken engagement remains.
This time Karim’s demands are simple: a diplomatic agreement, nothing more, for their country’s sake. But Safiyah’s reunion with Karim, the man she was forbidden from loving, is anything but convenient! Duty may have brought them back together, but it’s their undeniable bond that will force them to confront a still-burning desire…
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 lives on the east coast of Australia and her favourite things are books, good company, good food and travel. She is currently writing what she hopes will be her 40th book for Harlequin Presents!
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