Sunday, November 16, 2014

Backlist Bliss

Mills and Boon are putting out a dozen or so of my backlist books between now and January 1st and I'm having a lovely time watching Amazon to see the fabulous new covers as they're added to the listing.

The latest is for Chosen As the Sheikh's Wife, a novella that was written for the Mills and Boon centenary celebrations and originally published in the 100 Arabian Nights anthology.

I absolutely love writing sheikh books and the dh and I (we spent a lot of time working in the Middle East when we were young) had a ball brainstorming ideas.

Here's a little taster -

It was the phone that woke her.  Dragging her from somewhere so deep that she was certain that it must have been ringing for some time. 
She ignored it and finally it stopped, allowing her to concentrate on her headache, and the fact that her eyes felt as if someone had been shovelling grit in them all night. 
The bright sunshine didn’t help. 
With her hand shading her eyes, she made it to the bathroom.  She was in the shower when the phone began to ring again.  Sarah, she thought.  It would be Sarah, worrying about her.  She’d call her back…
She washed her hair, brushed her teeth.  Decided to forget about getting dressed until she’d had coffee. 
The local newspaper was lying on the mat.  Her gran had liked her to read the local news to her…
She bent to pick it up, groaning as the headache she thought she’d defeated slid forward and collided with the back of her aching eyes. 
Then she groaned again as she saw the front page.  It must have been a slow news day because she seemed to fill the front page, staring like a rabbit caught in the media headlights, with the Trash or Treasure expert beside her displaying the khanjar.  In full colour.
The doorbell rang and without thinking she wrenched it open, certain that it would Sarah.  She’d taken to dropping in every morning in the last few weeks, to see if she needed anything.  She usually came round the back, letting herself in with her “good neighbour” key as she had yesterday when she’d heard her cry for help when the floor had given way.
Clearly the fact that the phone had gone unanswered was causing her concern, but since she’d bolted the back door last night, the key would be useless.
But it wasn’t Sarah, who was tiny – apart from around the middle where she was spreading spectacularly – and fair;  the  figure that filled the tiny porch was her opposite in every conceivable way.
Tall, spare, broad-shouldered, male, there was nothing soft about him.  His features were austere, chiselled to the bone, his beard closely cut against olive-toned skin that was positively Mediterranean against a snowy band-collared shirt, fastened to the neck.  His hair was thick and crisply cut.  But it was his eyes that held her. 
Dark as midnight and just as dangerous.
He looked very … foreign.
He was also stunningly, knee-wobblingly handsome. 
Violet was suitably stunned.  And her knees dutifully wobbled. 
Just her luck that she’d emerged from the shower pink of face, with her hair in it’s usual wet tangle and nothing between her and decency but a film of moisturiser and a faded pink bathrobe that could only be described as … functional.
‘Miss Hamilton?’
Oh, and guess what…  He had a voice like melted chocolate, delicately flavoured with an exotic, barely-there accent. 
Whatever he was selling she was buying by the crate…
Except, of course, that he was far too expensively dressed to be a door-to-door salesman.  She knew clothes.  And what he was wearing did not come off a peg in the High Street.
Oh, well.  She was expecting a visit from a representative of the finance company to call any day with the release papers for her to sign so that they could sell the house, recover their money.
This had to be him.
‘Miss Violet Hamilton?’ he repeated, when she didn’t answer.
‘Who?’ she asked, just to hear him say Violet again.  Long and slow.
Pronouncing every syllable, turning a name she’d loathed only slightly less than the hideously shortened “Vi” into the most desirable name in the entire world.
‘I’m looking for Miss Violet Hamilton.’  And taking the newspaper from her hand, he held the front page up for her to see.  ‘I believe I’ve found her.’
No point pretending to be the lodger, then.  Asking him to come back when she’d gussied herself up;  straightened her hair, applied some make-up, was decked out in one of her more creative outfits.  Oh, well…
‘And here I was kidding myself that the photograph is so awful that you couldn’t possibly tell,’ she said.  ‘Clearly I was fooling myself.’
He looked at the photograph and then at her for rather longer than seemed necessary just to confirm the likeness.  Then, clearly thinking better of commenting one way or the other, he returned the paper and said, ‘I am Fayad al Khalifa, Miss Hamilton.’  And he held out a visiting card -- as if they couldn’t printed off by the dozen in any name you cared to dream up by anyone with a computer. 
Except that this wasn’t a do-it-yourself job, but embossed on heavy ivory-coloured card.
 If he was from the finance company, he certainly wasn’t one of the foot-soldiers.
The front of the card gave no hint, but contained only his name: Fayad al Khalifa.  Unusual enough.  She turned it over.  The back was blank.  No address, no phone number.
Obviously this was a man whose name was enough for those with the wit to recognise it.  Which did not include her.
‘Nice card,’ she said.  ‘But a trifle shy of information.’
‘The Ras al Kawi embassy will vouch for me.’
‘Oh, well, that’s all right then,’ she said.  Her friends would have recognised sarcasm.  He apparently did not, but merely nodded.  Good grief, he was serious…
Ras al Kawi?  Where was that?
‘I need to talk to you about a khanjar that I believe is in your possession,’ he said.  ‘It is possible that it once belonged to my family.’
‘Oh?’  Then, realising that he come to demand it back, ‘It’s amazing how fast good news spreads.’
‘You have no idea.  Perhaps I should wait in my car while you …’ 
He made the vaguest of gestures, resolutely looking at her face, avoiding her bare legs, the shabby bathrobe that had a tendency to gape at the neck.  It made no difference, every inch of her skin tingled.
‘Dress?’ she offered, lippy to the last.  Except that the word didn’t come out quite as she’d intended, but thick and throaty and more to avoid those eyes, than because she was interested in his choice in transport, Violet looked past him.
A black Rolls Royce was parked at the kerb.  The little green and gold flag on the bonnet stirred in the breeze.
She barely stopped herself from letting slip an expression that would have brought her a rebuke from her grandma.
Her breathless, ‘Who are you?’ wasn’t a whole heap better.
‘If your story is true, Miss Hamilton, then your great-great-grandmother, Princess Fatima al-Sayyid, was once married to my great-great-grandfather.’
At which point she did let slip a word that she used only under the most extreme pressure. 
She would have been embarrassed about that, but a scream from rear of the house – Sarah’s scream -- obliterated the sound.

Chosen As the Sheikh's Wife is available to pre-order at Amazon as an ebook for $1.89 in the US - here's the link and for £1.19 in the UK here

 Nook UK and Kobo also have it listed with the new cover - and I imagine iBooks (where the book is available but showing the old cover), will catch up soon.

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