Behind the Setting of The Sheikh’s Last Seduction

by Jennie Lucas, author of The Sheikh’s Last Seduction

In November of 2012, I went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE to research the setting for The Sheikh’s Last Seduction. It was my first trip to the Middle East, so I knew it would be a grand adventure, especially since I could be shown around by a childhood friend who is now living there.

After a fourteen-hour flight from Seattle over the North Pole (!) and down over Russia and Iran (!), I arrived in Dubai. I was immediately overwhelmed by humid heat – -but also dazzled by the modernity and glamour of the city, and the friendly people and culture that was so respectful of families and older people. The first thing we did that afternoon was check out the view from the viewing deck of the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world – yup, the one Tom Cruise climbed in Mission Impossible 4.

You can see one side of the mirrored building on the right, then a few of the city’s skyscrapers below, the modern highway, and the Persian Gulf at top.

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We stayed a couple days at a hotel near one of the huge malls of Dubai, a setting I used when, in the book, Sharif, the Emir of the fictional nearby country of Makhtar, forces Irene to go shopping against her will. (Yes, I know, it’s cruel of him.)  Like Irene, I was overwhelmed by all the shops and luxury goods on offer at the mall, and ended up buying only candy and little touristy gifts, like baklava and a canvas tote bag that has “Dubai” written all over it.

At the mall, I was in awe to see an enormous fish tank as big as a department store.

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The next day, my friend and I went for high tea at the most famous hotel in Dubai, the “sailboat” hotel that is to many a symbol of the city – the Burj Al Arab. Here is a view from the windows of the restaurant. You can see the man-made islands in the distance as the sun sets over the Persian Gulf. The islands have been created into the image of a palm tree.

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Here I am, drinking tea and scones (of all things) in Dubai.

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“Hammam” or the Turkish bath is a can’t-be-missed experience. We went to a spa in a very luxurious hotel, the One & Only Royal Mirage. My experience of hammam was very like Irene’s in the book. Like her, I’d forgotten my glasses, so I couldn’t see a darn thing, which made it all more disorienting to be naked in a shadowy room, smacked with water, have my skin sloughed off by the bath attendant, and etc. (Although in my case, no sheikh showed up in the middle of it.)

I of course couldn’t get pictures of the inside of the baths, but even the waiting area outside was gorgeous. Here’s a pic:

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The next day, we drove down from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, where she had an apartment. About an hour south of Dubai on a modern highway, Abu Dhabi rises abruptly out of the desert.

In The Sheikh’s Last Seduction, Irene and Sharif’s car trip to Dubai was inspired by this. The highway is flawless, the desert is vast and beautiful. And all the road signs are in two languages, Arabic and (very convenient for us!) English. At the gas stations, you can buy the same kinds of things. Skittles, for instance – only the back of the wrapper is written in Arabic.

Here’s a picture through the car window. To the upper left, you can see the skyscrapers of far-off Abu Dhabi.

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The view looking out from my friend’s apartment in Abu Dhabi.

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A lovely meal from the simple downstairs restaurant in her building. I think this cost like forty dirhams (ten dollars). A nice change from how expensive everything was at the resort hotels. I loved it all.

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As you’d expect, alcoholic drinks were not really available, except at the resort hotels. But I fell in love with this fizzy strawberry soda. Just looking at the label still makes me happy.

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Here’s one place where alcohol definitely WAS served – Friday morning boozy brunch at the British Club. For about sixty dollars there was a nice buffet and all the mimosas that you wanted. Sharif and Irene briefly visit this club so his sister can visit a friend from boarding school.

Check out the view of Abu Dhabi from the deck of the British Club…

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After a few days in Abu Dhabi, we returned to Dubai, and went to another enormous mall beyond imagining – the Mall of the Emirates. Check out the famous indoor ski slope – inside the mall! The scene where Sharif takes Irene shopping was directly inspired by this.

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After a hard day’s shopping, my friend and I recovered from all the hard touring by spending the last two days of my trip by relaxing at the Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort. It was right in the center of Dubai, but with an enormous private white-sand beach and pools right on the Persian Gulf, beneath the wide blue sky.

Standing at the pool area, if you looked one way, you’d see the beach…

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And if you turned your head and looked the other way, you’d see the hotel, with the skyscrapers of Dubai towering directly behind it.

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I spent my last day in Dubai dreaming up the story for The Sheikh’s Last Seduction, as I sat in a beach chair facing the Persian Gulf, peacefully watching the yachts float by.

Here is the view of that last sunset, from my hotel room.

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I am so grateful I had the chance to visit the United Arab Emirates. I was tremendously inspired, and love the book that came out of it – I think the most emotional story I’ve ever written.

 

Have you ever traveled to a place you never dreamed you’d go, and found it more exotic (or beautiful, or glamorous) than you’d ever imagined?

 

Wishing you the best, wherever your dreams take you…

Jennie

***

lastseductionAbout The Sheikh’s Last Seduction:

Famous last words…

When Sheikh Sharif offers Irene Taylor more money as chaperone to his sister than she’s ever made before, she can’t refuse—finally she’ll safeguard her family. Irene may be innocent, but she knows the trail of destruction playboys like Sharif leave behind, and will resist his skilled seduction….

Sharif excels at everything he does—especially in the bedroom! His engagement hasn’t yet been announced and he’ll enjoy his freedom until then. Starting with the beguiling Irene—she’s the ideal final challenge before he embarks on a life of duty.

But sometimes even the plans of a sheikh go awry!

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5 Responses to Behind the Setting of The Sheikh’s Last Seduction

  1. julia james says:

    Dubai is amazing, isn’t it?!

    I had a short break there a few years ago. We were really lucky to stay at the Atlantis Hotel on Palm island – the kids adored the water park there! I’m really tempted to get that fantastic setting into a Secret Baby story some day!!! :)

    I do envy you having tea at the Burj Al Arab – we never quite got there, and I know it was the only way to be allowed into that stunning hotel, by reserving for a meal. The kids went Segwaying nearby (I wisely declined – no balance at all ha ha!)

    We crossed the creek in an old wooden abbra, the traditional passenger ferry, to visit the gold and spice malls on the far side. Also amazing (especially the heady scent of the spice)(and the glitter of the gold!)

    Did you manage to go dune bashing? I could easily see a dashing Sheikh terrifying his heroine with mad climbs up and down the dunes in a revving SUV to impress her!!!

    If I’m ever lucky enough to go to the Gulf again, I’d definitely love to visit Oman – I think that’s the place to get a real flavour of ‘Old Arabia':)

    I definitely agree it’s a truly fascinating part of the world.

    We’re both lucky to have seen a glimpse of it!

    Cheers, Julia :)

  2. Julia, I loved hearing about your visit to Dubai! I’m jealous you got to visit Atlantis on Palm Island. I saw that hotel on the Amazing Race (tv show) and it looked incredible.

    And sadly, we never did any dune bashing either. You did all the things I missed (the wooden ships, the gold market). Those were all on my wish list, but I was only in the UAE for a week, and we decided that relaxing on the beach drinking pina coladas for our last 2 days was the top priority – hehe.

    Looking back, I don’t have any regrets about that either. Sitting on the beach, watching the yachts float by, turning my face to the burning sun in the wide blue sky, cooling off swimming in warm water of the Persian Gulf – I never in a million years imagined I’d experience all that.

    My heroine Irene has a scene where she’s floating on her back in the Persian Gulf, staring up at starlit sky, and it was directly inspired by how much I loved that day. (Except there was no sheikh kissing me.)

    Unlike in Europe, I met almost no American tourists in the UAE. That was the weirdest thing. Brits, Germans, Russians, Chinese – yes. But I rarely heard an American voice anywhere, not the malls, not the hotels. That surprised me. So I guess it’s officially the most exotic place I’ve ever been.

    Hugs-
    Jennie

  3. julia james says:

    Jennie, I don’t blame you at all for opting for the beach! If I have one regret it was that I didn’t do enough of that….

    Also, you got to Abu Dhabi, which we didn’t :)

    As you say, a week is hardly enough time to see all that can be seen – one thing I would really, really love to do (apart from visit Oman)(because I do think, from all the tourist information on the country, that it seems to have most of the historic sites and maedival remains, and old-style towns and buildings, of which more modern places like Dubai not suprisingly have far fewer)…is to take one of those excursions where you actually spend a night out in the desert in a (luxury!) Bedouin tent, and can star gaze to one’s heart’s content. (I most definitely think that any Sheikh worth the name of romance hero would be whisking his heroine off for such a desert interlude!!).

    It’s interesting what you said about so few American tourists in Dubai. It was something we noticed as well. As you say, loads of just about everyone else, just very few Americans. It was a real ‘East-meets-West’ sort of place, half way between Europe and the Orient. For us, here in the UK, it’s a very popular stopover en route to places like Thailand or Australia, but I can see that for Americans (especially west coast ones like yourself!) it’s a far more ‘remote’ sort of place to get to. Dubai is a great place, for us Brits, for some winter sun, as the flight time is only five hours, and when we went in February (school half term break here in the UK) it’s their ‘cool’ time, which, for us, is boiling hot summer :) (It’s something I just can’t imagine, Gulf summer temperatures up in the 40’s – which I think is about 110/120 F for you guys!)(surely even a Sheikh must wilt in that heat!!)

    Cheers again, Julia :)

  4. Hi Jennie,
    Wow! Your trip sounds amazing. I’ve never been to the Middle East, well, other than quick refuelling stops.
    Thanks for sharing it with us. xx

  5. Wow, Julia… that’s crazy to think of Dubai being only 5 hours away from you. To me it is the other side of the world. With connecting flights, it took me 18 hours to fly there. For me, 5 hours would be… hmm. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Or Anchorage, Alaska maybe. Just a hop, skip and jump.

    You’re so right about the heat in the UAE – and even worse than the heat was the humidity! I live near the high desert so thought I could deal with 100 degrees, no problem. But when I landed in Dubai I swiftly realized how different the heat was. NOT a dry heat like I’m accustomed to. How could a desert land be as humid as a swamp? The first few days, it was painful to leave the air conditioning. And this was November! Fortunately it cooled down to more comfortable by the end of my trip.

    Melanie – quick refueling stops definitely count! If you’ve been there, you’ve been there. Airports COUNT! (Or even just being in the same airspace – you notice I was quick to point out Russia, Iran and the North Pole )

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