Fear and Longing and Desert Sheikhs… by Sharon Kendrick

by Sharon Kendrick, author of Monarch of the Sands (Harlequin Presents, 2012)

There’s something about a Sheikh.  Something which captures our hearts as well as our imagination.  Something which makes a heroine shiver with a mixture of fear and longing.  Fear that this man can never truly be hers – because deep in his heart is a cultural darkness she feels she’ll never be able to penetrate.  And longing because, quite simply – he is the most masculine man she has ever met.  The classic novel The Sheik, first published in 1921 – illustrates this conflict of feelings perfectly, I think.

The sense of brooding presence and enormous power might help explain the enduring popularity of the Sheikh hero.  Or maybe it has more to do with their old-fashioned mastery – which women aren’t really supposed to want any more.

But of course, they do….

For me, it’s the ultimate fantasy.  The autocratic ruler leaping onto an enormous stallion and riding it bare-backed across the endlessly baked sands.  The arrogant leader who has experienced the harshness of the unforgiving desert terrain, and has survived it.   These are Sheikhs we can all recognise – I can picture the man and the horse as I write.

But what of someone who has the burden of Sheikhdom thrust on him unexpectedly?  Who has had little preparation for the mighty role he must now assume.

My latest hero is such a man. 

The characters of Zahid and Francesca were first introduced in a book I wrote a few years back called Italian Boss, Housekeeper Bride.  They made only a brief appearance – less than a page in total – but something about them obviously appealed to readers.  (Probably because they’d just had a row!). Every so often, someone would email me and ask if I’d written their story and after a while, I realised that I had to give them a life of their own.  And that’s how Monarch of the Sands was born.

There had been a definite equality between the two characters and I wondered how that might have come about.  Because everyone knows that it’s difficult to get to meet a desert King!  I decided that the only way Francesca was going to feel relaxed enough to be rude to the autocratic Sheikh, was if she’d known him for a long time.  And she had.  She’d known him ever since she was a little girl – a geeky misfit of a girl – and she had always adored him.

But Frankie’s all grown up now – and Zahid has changed, too.  The fact that he has inherited the crown made that change inevitable.  Frankie liked him better before – and Zahid found her much easier to deal with when she was a child.  But suddenly she’s all woman….  Although neither of them want it – they can’t deny the overwhelming physical chemistry which sizzles between them.

I loved the challenge of picking a moment in Francesca and Zahid’s  lives and working backwards until I had the beginning of their story.  And the result was Monarch of the Sands.

I hope you like it – and I’m wondering just what it is about a Sheikh hero which makes you go weak at the knees?

And while you’re pondering an answer, I’ll leave you with one of the most inspirational theme tunes in the history of the cinema.  As you watch and listen, just take a good look at Peter O’Toole’s eyes….

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Comments ( 21 )
  1. Abby Green
    January 24, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Sharon, you do conjure up an evocative world. Sheikhs are the perennial favourites aren’t they? Can’t wait to get stuck into this one and see how the heroine wins her elusive Sheikh 😉
    x Abby

  2. Lynn Raye Harris
    January 24, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Ooh, Sharon, I love that scene from Lawrence of Arabia! What a gorgeous movie. I know Lawrence is idealized quite a bit, and there’s controversy over a lot of what he wrote in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but he had the soul of a poet. I’ve read the book twice. It’s amazingly evocative.

    And oh, your sheikh sounds divine!! I love sheikh stories, and I think it’s that untameable quality about the men that makes me love them so much. To be that hard to survive in an almost feudal world, but then be tender enough once he’s conquered by the heroine? Oh, it’s a fab story, even if it’s idealized!

  3. Sarah Morgan
    January 24, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I remember these characters from your earlier book! Can’t wait to read their story – sounds fantastic.
    x

  4. Sharon Kendrick
    January 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Abby, Sheikhs send shiver down MY spine!

    Surprised that film-buff-you hasn’t passed comment on the theme tune from Lawrence of Arabia…

  5. Sharon Kendrick
    January 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Lynne, I confess that I’ve never read Seven Pillars Of Wisdom – just the sight of it made me pass out with fatigue!

    But perhaps I should….

  6. Sharon Kendrick
    January 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    What a clever lot you are – Lynne reading weighty tomes and Sarah remembering long-ago characters. Feel chuffed about that, Sarah!

    Zahid has a brother called Tariq and his story is called THE SHEIKH’S UNDOING….

  7. chantelle shaw
    January 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Zahid sounds gorgous, Sharon, and also really interesting because it sounds as if his role as ruler was unexpected and has forced him to lead a different life to the one he had perhaps expected. The fact that he is attracted to Frankie, who had been his childhood friend, adds to the intrigue. I love the title and can’t wait to read the book!
    Chantelle

  8. Sharon Kendrick
    January 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks, Chantelle – yes, I think how someone rules their country is governed (ha!) by their upbringing.
    Hope you enjoy reading it.

  9. Sandra Marton
    January 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    The very word, ‘sheikh,’ conjures up an image of an exciting, brooding, demanding hero. As with many things in life, the reality often doesn’t come close to the fantasy… but that’s why women love to read romance fiction. It’s the fantasy that counts, and reality that gets left behind! Can hardly wait to read the book, Sharon. It sounds wonderful.

  10. Carol Marinelli
    January 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I recently read The Sheikhs Undoing and it was wonderful. I can’t wait to read Zahid’s story. Thanks for the clip – sigh – nice to have music and Peter O’Toole while I ponder 😉
    I love Sheikh heroes because it is so much their world that the heroine steps into – just so masculine and sexy.
    cxx

  11. Sharon Kendrick
    January 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks, Sandra – and yes, it’s true that reality often doesn’t match the fantasy. Or maybe that the fantasy is so elusive…. What I like about the Sheikh fantasy is that it is ageless – and timeless.

  12. Sharon Kendrick
    January 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Ooh, am glad you read THE SHEIKH’S UNDOING, Carol – cos the hero of that book is Zahid’s playboy brother!

    As for the film clip, I just lurve that music and the penetrating sexiness of O’ Toole’s eyes.

  13. Abby Green
    January 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Shazza – have to admit that Lawrence of Arabia was never one of my fave movies…so don’t think the music really registered ;)!
    x

  14. Caitlin Crews
    January 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Oh, I can’t wait to read this, Sharon! I love a sheikh story. Something about them, isn’t there?

  15. Annie West
    January 25, 2012 at 2:32 am

    Hi Sharon,

    Wow, I love the sound of this. From the moment you mentioned Francesca was rude to an autocratic sheikh I was fascinated. I bet their shared history is fun and I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve done with this particular sheikh story – always a treat.

    As for Peter O’Toole – isn’t he magnificent in Lawrence? I’ve always thought the combination of his amazing fair looks (with the stunning blue eyes), arab clothes, desert and fantastic music was pure cinema serendipity. Great inspiration!

  16. Pippa Roscoe
    January 25, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Hi Sharon,

    I love your sheikhs! And you’re right, for me it has always been about the man who commands the desert. It takes power, determination and understanding to harness nature’s harshest landscape – if he can handle that, it’s so wonderful, then, to watch him struggle to handle his feelings for a woman. And when we’re projecting (at least I do!) on to the heroine, who wouldn’t want to provoke such an extreme reaction in such a strong, powerful man?

    Anyone know of any single sheikhs?
    Pippa
    Xx

  17. Jennifer Drogell
    January 25, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Sharon – I have never seen that movie!! But I may have to now 🙂 Just bought the book and cannot wait to curl up with it! I love that you picked a later moment in their relationship and worked backward to create the book. Very cool. Jen xo

  18. Hélène Boschung
    January 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Hello Sharon,
    Having read and enjoyed the books you mentioned, I find your reasoning accurate. As I got engulfed into the love story I realised how little I know about sheiks and their world. I caught myself wondering how on earth you came to know so much about interior designs, way of life, hyrarchies and so forth. I think my curiosity about a different culture was as much tantalised as the process towards the inevitable happy ending. Well done!

    Writing to you, makes mr think, that I could make my Kate really Swiss, knowing English ways through her regular contacts with the UK. I may as well start with things I know and thise that should come easily. Thank you Sharon! You are inspiring. 
    With a big hug warm hug from very snowed in Swiss mountains,

    Hélène 

  19. Rachael Thomas
    January 26, 2012 at 7:19 am

    Sharon I loved this book. Zahid is gorgeous!
    I like Sheikh stories because it is the ultimate fantasy – a man from a background so different with so much conflict already between him and the heroine even before the chemistry is added in!
    I could see your hero on his horse galloping hard across the harsh desert as I read your post, could hear the snort of the gleaming black stallion.
    Rachael

  20. Sharon Kendrick
    January 26, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Thank you Caitlin, Annie, Pippa and Jennifer for such sweet words.
    Helene – you have paid me a very great compliment.
    And Rachael – I can also hear the snort of the gleaming black stallion….!

  21. TashNz
    January 29, 2012 at 5:19 am

    Hi Sharon, I love the Sheikh stories because it’s about an unknown world that you’re only limited knowing about by your imagination. In the books the Sheikhs are open to female equality, not like (maybe) reality. They are always described as tall dark and handsome too – one of my favorite descriptions 🙂