The City of Love

by Michelle Smart, author of The Sicilian’s Unexpected Duty

One of my favourite things about writing for Presents is the research. I can happily while away hours searching for fabulous dresses for my heroine, plush homes for my hero, and learning as much about the location of wherever they happen to be as I can. When it comes to the latter, The Sicilian’s Unexpected Duty is my favourite. Although it starts off in Sicily, the majority of the book is set in Paris, the ultimate city of love. To me, Paris has everything; history, beautiful architecture, chic women, handsome men and a thriving art scene, all of which I used to wrap around the story. By the time I’d finished writing it, I was consumed with the need to get a flight across the channel and book myself into the Champ Elysees Plaza Hotel and while my days away wandering through the Louvre, reading books, drinking strong coffee and inhaling the scents of the city. Alas, my finances wouldn’t stretch and no-one would take the kids off my hands! Maybe soon I’ll be able to do it.

This has got me thinking though, about destinations other people consider to be romantic. Is it a tiny, deserted island with white sand? A log cabin high in the Alps where fresh snow greets you in the morning? A thriving city?

I would love to hear other peoples’ thoughts on their ultimate romantic destination.

Thanks for dropping by,

Michelle xxx

About The Sicilian’s Unexpected Duty:

One incredible night…

Cara Delany shouldn’t have been surprised when Pepe Mastrangelo—world-renowned playboy—disappeared after their unforgettable night, leaving only cold sheets and X-rated memories…. Or so she thought! Four months later, with more than herself to think of, she’s forced to face the sexy Sicilian again.

One very big consequence!

When the fiery redhead Pepe couldn’t forget hurtles back into his life proclaiming he’s the father of her child, it’s a role that he never expected—or wanted. Unsure if she’s telling the truth, Pepe has five months to uncover everything about Cara, and he knows just where to start!

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Confessions of a Not-So-Secret Sheikh Lover

By Flo Nicoll, Editor 

Hello, my name is Flo, and I’m a high-functioning sheikh addict.

I’ve always known I’ve had a weakness for romantic heroes. From rakish Rupert Campbell-Black to dark-hearted Heathcliff to lovely Mark Darcy, I read every hero I could get my hands on. If pushed, I’d even have said I was a connoisseur.

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Then I started at Romance HQ, and made a *major* discovery. Far from being a connoisseur, there was a huge gaping hole in my hero knowledge. And what’s more, that hole could only be filled by the most dark-hearted, outrageous and/or protective men of all – the Presents sheikh! And so my addiction was born.

Let me explain why…

The heroes: to me, sheikhs are the ultimate heroes. Untamed, bound by duty, regal…you name it, I love it. Not convinced? Read of The Last Prince of Dahaar by Tara Pammi, released April 2014 – I defy anyone not to be enthralled by her gorgeously tortured hero!

The heroines: heroines need a special quality to capture the heart of heroes as powerful and charismatic as a good sheikh. Be it feistiness or an innocence that brings the hero to his knees, there’s nothing more satisfying than watching a heroine bag her sheikh.

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The fantasy world: it doesn’t get more high-fantasy than a sheikh romance! I love how removed they are from the world that I live in, and I find them a vehicle for total emotional escape. Take Sharon Kendrick’s Seduced by the Sultan, out in Presents April 2014 – nothing to say except a big ‘yes, please’ to that!

The settings: From the palaces to the desert, there’s just something about those desert kingdom landscapes that add an extra edge of drama and enjoyment. (Plus I’m British, so the idea of all that sunshine is dizzying!)

Finally, the heroines’ outfits! Call me shallow, but surely I can’t be the only one who wishes I got to wear jewel-coloured, gauzy, silky dresses? And the jewels… Major wardrobe envy. To be fair, I’m often jealous of the heroines I edit – they get a man, a lifestyle, and a wardrobe to die for. But those sheikh heroines… they’re just that extra bit lucky!

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So there you have it. My incurable addiction that I’m just going to have to learn to live with. (Luckily I work in the perfect place for my daily fix…! Next on my list? Lucy Monroe’s Sheikh’s Scandal, May 2014. A delicious combination of sheikh amazingness and the start to a brand new continuity, what’s not to love?!

So, who’s with me, and why? Or not, as the case may be! Let’s get sharing the sheikh love, I know I’m not the only addict out there. :)

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Under the microscope: Read on for an exclusive interview with Aaliyah Amari

by Lucy Monroe, author of Sheikh’s Scandal

If you had to pick your most public scandalous moment, what would it be?
Even if I hadn’t lived a rather sheltered existence prior to meeting Sayed, I would still definitely have to say being outed publicly as his lover in the press.  Those pics of us kissing with that obvious (to me anyway) post-coital glow still make me blush.

Was there an even more scandalous event that didn’t make it into the press
Oh, yes…let’s just say that the first night we kissed had a lot of other firsts too and leave it at that.

What is your biggest secret?
I’m not princess material. At all. But I love Sayed and I’ll do my best by the people of Zeena Sahra.

What do you love most about Sayed?
His heart. It’s hidden behind his nobility and strength, but he has such an amazing capacity to care for his family, for his people…for me. I never thought I would know this kind of love and I hope I never take it for granted.

sheiksscandalWhat were your first thoughts when you saw Sayed?
Thoughts? My brain stopped working completely.

If your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, what would it be?
My mother’s locket.

What is the naughtiest thing you did at school?
I wasn’t naughty at school. I would have been mortified to disappoint my mother in any way. Until I met Sayed, Aaliyah Amari could have been synonymous with the word repressed.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Watching Sayed sleep, but shhh…please don’t tell him.

What is your worst habit?
Sayed says it’s thinking too little of myself. For that matter, so does his dear mother. Maybe it is.

What is your favourite film?
Until I met Sayed, my favourite film was the documentary Grey Gardens (1975) – the story of Big and Little Edie Beales, the agoraphobic eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy). However, Queen Durrah introduced me to romantic comedies and I’ve fallen in love with the genre. I’ve watched Valentine’s Day three times already.

What present would you put beneath the Christmas tree for Sayed?
I’m not sure what gift I’ll give Sayed this year, but it will have an ornament hanging from the bow: a pregnant woman with Baby’s 1st Christmas. Yes, we are expecting and I’m not at all sure I’ll be able to wait to tell him!

How will you spend your first anniversary as a couple?
Knowing the romantic streak that runs in the men of Sayed’s family, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t do something like fly us to Venice for dinner and the Opera.  He’s discovered my secret passion for it and my Emir seems quite dedicated to seeing all my passions met.

***

About Sheikh’s Scandal:

When the Sheikh comes to town…

Sheikh Sayed of Zeena Sarha and his harem of beautiful women are staying at the exclusive, opulent Chatsfield Hotel, London, for the last stop on his worldwide tour before his wedding. But when his engagement is unceremoniously broken, Sayed sets his sights on his sexy chambermaid!

Liyah Amari only took the position as chambermaid to find the truth about her birth father. But her search ends in heartache, leaving Liyah vulnerable to this powerful Sheikh’s desires. Now their one night of passion could result in a scandalous consequence for the proud Sheikh!

Welcome to The Chatsfield, London!

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The Chatsfield Uncovered! Read on for an exclusive interview with Lucy Monroe

Creating a world as large as The Chatsfield must be very exciting – did you discuss the hotels with the other authors?
Absolutely.  One of the things I loved best about writing Sheikh’s Scandal was the opportunity to collaborate creatively with the editorial team and the other authors in the continuity.

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What was the most fun bit about creating this luxurious, scandalous world?
The research I did for both the hotel and Sheikh Sayed’s palace in Zeena Sahra. There are so many gorgeous places in the world to take as inspiration and I’ve definitely added to my “must travel to” list.

Did you do any extra special research for writing this book? A sneaky cocktail at an exclusive hotel perhaps?
Yes, in fact…I did. I wanted to go to London and stay at Claridges, but could not wangle the time or the travel partner. So, I took my youngest daughter for a long weekend to a very swanky hotel in San Francisco (where my heroine hales from) and did a ton of research on the city and the type of hotel that might be The Chatsfield San Francisco. We did so much walking about the city that falling into the cushy beds at the end of the day felt more like relief than research.

What did you most love about writing your story?
Besides what I’d mentioned earlier about working with some very talented creative people, I adored my characters and getting inside their heads.  It’s what makes writing romance so very satisfying for me. I always want to know why people do what they do and with my own characters, I usually get the answer!

When writing your hero and heroine’s story, did they surprise you in any way?
I’ve found that if I’m really immersed in the book, my characters will always surprise me. In Sheikh’s Scandal, I wasn’t expecting Aaliyah to take to Queen Durrah like she did and vice-versa. Sayed’s honourable nature came as no surprise, but even I was a little startled when I realised he’d been celibate for three years. Talk about a to-die-for alpha hero!

To your mind, who is the most scandalous Chatsfield?
Gene. He was better at hiding it, but his penchant for chasing (and catching) chambermaids is where Sheikh’s Scandal really began.

If you could have given your hero or heroine a piece of advice before they started on their journey in your story, what would it have been?
I would have told both of them that the unpredictability of life is what makes it so wonderful and not to worry so much about following their plans but to pay more attention to following their hearts.

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Name five things on your desk when you write.
Pen cup.
Stereo speakers.
A “Mom” poem plaque from my children.
A pink crystal heart paperweight from my husband.
The inspiration sheet for my current book.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Yes. My iTunes library is large and eclectic, but I tend to gravitate toward a certain set of playlists for each book I work on. I listened to a lot of Adele, Terry McDermott and the Beatles while writing this book, but the whole time I wrote about the characters’ time in Zeena Sahra, there was a Middle Eastern soundtrack playing in the back of my mind.

What is your worst habit when writing?
Forgetting to get up.  When I’m really lost in the story, I can sit at my desk for eight to twelve hours and that is so not good for my back or my bladder!

Do you have a writing routine? If so, could you share a bit about it with us?
I write new pages daily. The next day, I begin by editing the pages from the day before and then move on to add more. I write when my mind is freshest. So, when my sleep schedule is normal – that’s in the morning. However there are times my slumber clock gets out of whack and I’ll write through the night instead.

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Congratulations to Caitlin Crews, RITA Award Nominee!

Presents author Caitlin Crews has been nominated for a RITA Award in the Short Contemporary Romance category. Find out more about the nominated book below, and visit the RWA blog for a complete list of categories and nominees.

A Royal Without Rules

royalwithoutrulesThe most debauched man in the kingdom of Kitzinia—if not the entire world

Royal PA Adriana Righetti is no stranger to scandal. But Prince Pato takes it to a whole new level. His infamous liaisons make for exceptionally disreputable reading!

Her latest assignment, keeping the playboy prince out of the headlines before his brother’s wedding, is mission impossible. Particularly as Pato is intent on ruffling her seemingly uptight feathers!

But when the cameras aren’t looking, Adrianna sees behind his careless facade, and wonders—is there more to this rebel royal than the world knows?

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