by Julia James, author of The Forbidden Touch of Sanguardo
One of the very great privileges of being a Harlequin author is the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful places in the world – all in the name of ‘research’ of course! – which present ideal settings for my heroes and heroines to get romantic in. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful of all these destinations are the fabulous islands of Hawaii – which is exactly why Hawaii proves the perfect place for Rafael and Celeste to consummate their passion in my latest story, The Forbidden Touch of Sanguardo.
Over the course of two unforgettable holidays, I’ve been fortunate to ‘collect’ four of these fantastic islands – Maui, Kauai, Lanai and Big Island (Hawaii) itself – and on each one revel in a fantastically luxurious and beautiful resort. Each has their own unique charm, but which one should Rafael and Celeste choose?
It was impossible for me to decide – so that’s why I’ve combined them all into one ‘perfect place’ for them – and added a few touches of my own as well J
What all the resorts I visited have had in common, as well as their graceful design and luxurious ambiance, was the amazing vast central atrium that greets new arrivals who, like me – and Celeste – gaze, garlanded with leis, open mouthed in wonder and delight across the marbled floor to behold the breathtaking vista beyond. The eyes are instantly riveted on verdant gardens as lush as paradise leading across translucent pools to an ocean as vividly blue as precious lapus lazuli! All framed with swaying palm trees, and fragranced by exotic blooms. If that vista isn’t heavenly, then I don’t know what is!
Like Celeste, we stayed in the cheaper rooms, but they were luxury standard for all that – looking out over the gardens to the sides, sometimes with a glimpse of sea view, or inland to the forest-clad mountain at the volcanic core of every Hawaian island. But our days were spent, as all tourist days are spent, in a glorious mixture of absolute relaxation on the palm fringed, golden beaches, the sand sometimes too hot to walk on in bare feet, alternating with days spent exploring the glories of these emerald islands.
Like Celeste and Rafael, we took to the sea, and skimmed the coastline along the formidable volcanic cliffs of the islands to find quiet bays to snorkel in, and were enchanted by seeing wild dolphins escorting us back again. We tried out the outrigger canoes, and spotted turtles beneath us. We dined outdoors, by the ocean’s edge, and breakfasted on pineapples as golden as the sun, as sweet as honey.
The most memorable, highlight excursion, however, just has to be the star-gazing expedition we made one night, which became my inspiration for Celeste’s dedication to astronomy. Unlike Celeste, we were staying on Big Island, so we were able to make the ultimate excursion up to the summit of Mauna Kea, one of the two mountains that constitute Big Island. The ascent of Mauna Kea is not a journey can make on one’s own, the road is too rough and dangerous and isn’t open to private cars. Our excursion was timed to catch the sun setting through the ‘cloud-sea’ that laps the peak of the mountain, which is, of course, itself dotted with the iconic, glitteringly white astronomical telescopes that make Mauna Kea one of the world’s great observatories. As the sun set, turning the sky to scarlet and gold in the west, came the eerie sight of the telescopes starting to open, controlled remotely, often on behalf of astronomers in distant continents!, and shift their direction towards the coming night skies. The temperature dropped rapidly, the dusk gathered, and it was time for us to take the last of our photographs, and descend to the portion of the mountain where the public can view the stars.
This lower level viewing platform inset into the side of the mountain still gave us a glittering vista of the night sky. As Celeste and Rafael did, it’s best to go when the moon is either not full, or not yet risen, or shielded by Mauna Kea, so that the stars are seen in all their brilliance. We all took it in turns to peer through the telescope that the tour organisers set up for us, having discussed with us what precisely we were looking at. Like Celeste and Rafael, we gazed at stellar nurseries, where stars are born in deepest space, and saw the strange embrace of binary stars, forever circling each other like lovers. Because the temperature by then was so low, we all wore the thick padded jackets provided, and when we clambered back into our luxury ute, we were all – because of the cold! J – allowed to restore our energy levels with some tasty – and oh so calorific! – ‘sugary snacks’…… (I’d stocked up plentifully in the shopping centre before starting the trip – bliss!)
We arrived back at sea level in the midnight hours, knowing we’d experienced a privilege that makes us, I do know, the envy of many!
Will Celeste and Rafael be the only hero and heroine of mine to find romance in such a beautiful setting as Hawaii? I hope not! Because I promise you, I’d be more than delighted to go on another such ‘fact-finding’ research mission and ‘collect’ a few more of these breathtakingly beautiful islands that lie like an emerald necklace in the vastness of the Pacific.
Celeste and Rafael’s resort is fictitious but the inspiration for it comes from four of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever been fortunate enough to stay at.
About The Forbidden Touch of Sanguardo:
Her heart rate was raised rapidly. And she knew exactly what had caused it. Rafael Sanguardo…
Celeste Philips’s night was meant to be about raising money for charity. Not trying to douse the flames of attraction between herself and self-made millionaire Rafael Sanguardo, a man who always gets what he wants.
Celeste knows she shouldn’t fall for Rafael’s practiced charm, yet the more her head tells her to walk away and protect her fragile heart…the more she craves his forbidden touch!