A Heroine Out For Revenge

by Maisey Yates, author of To Defy a Sheikh

This book came about the way so many books do. I had an idea that I wanted to write a present for the heroine came to kill the hero. But I dismissed it quickly because, that’s crazy. Now, I’m no stranger to crazy, but I thought that I was overstepping, even for me. Right at that time Caitlin Crews was emailing me about the book idea that she had. So I thought I would mention my new, toned down idea. No one was out to kill anyone in this new idea.

She sent back a response that was appropriately underwhelmed. I returned volley with an email that said: well I was going to have the heroine come to kill him.

Her response back was: Well, if you aren’t going to have her try to kill him what’s the point of writing the book?

I could only hope my editor felt the same way.

Luckily, she did and that was how Ferran and Samarah’s story came to be. As most of my books do, with a little help from my friends and a lot of help from my editor. :-)

I’ve always liked the idea of the heroine being the character in the story who is out for revenge. I have written quite a few vengeful heroes, but I’m not sure I’d ever written a vengeful heroine before. Certainly not one quite is determined, or as deadly as Samarah.

Like any revenge story the challenge with these two characters was to take them from a place where they hated each other to where they loved each other. Simple, right?

*cue maniacal laughter*

For all the challenges it represented, I actually really enjoyed writing this book. Because even though the heroine’s feelings toward the hero weren’t positive, they were passionate from the beginning. There was so much at stake for both of them. Ferran wanted to heal the nations, Samarah wanted to satisfy her need for revenge, to repay the evil she believed Ferran had done to her family.

When he thwarts her plan to assassinate him, he offers her an ultimatum: marriage to heal the rift between their nations or prison.

Of course, Samarah believes that she can use their tentative truce against him. But during the time she spends with Faron, as she gets to know the man, she has to concede that he isn’t the monster she has built him up in her mind to be.

Samarah has never imagined a future for herself. Beyond her revenge plan, she has nothing. Because she’s always imagined she would die pursuing justice for her family. Ferran’s offer of more is tempting, but it conflicts with everything she believes in.

Ultimately, during the course of writing this book I had to answer the question: how powerful is love? Can it wipe away years of hate? Can it heal the people who need it the most?

I think the answer is yes.

Here is an excerpt from To Defy a Sheikh, for your pleasure. In this scene Ferran and Samarah are burning off some energy…sparring in the gym.

***

She found herself fascinated by his chest. By each cut muscle. By the way the hair spread over his skin. So unique to a man’s body. These shapes, the hair, the hardness of the muscle.

She looked down farther. At the well-defined abs, the line of hair that disappeared beneath the waistband of his shorts. And she nearly choked.

She’d never been this close to a man. Not for this long. She’d fought them off before, but this was different.

She looked back up at his face, breathing even harder now. Her limbs tingling a bit. From the lack of oxygen, she was certain. Since she was breathing hard. And there was certainly no other explanation.

He leaned forward and bit her neck. It wasn’t painful, the sensation of his teeth scraping against her skin. It was something else entirely. Something that made her flail, stumble and fall backward onto the mat.

“I say we call it even, little viper,”he said, looking down at her.

Rage filled her and she popped back to her feet. “Of course you’d say that because I won. That was…not a move I recognize.”

“You didn’t say no biting.”

“One shouldn’t have to say that!”

“Apparently one did,”he said, breathing out hard, the muscles in his stomach rippling.”

“I demand a rematch.”

“Later,”he said, “when I can breathe again. You are a fierce opponent. And considering I do have a major size advantage, I cannot overlook the fact that, were we the same size, you would have destroyed me.”

“I very nearly destroyed you as it is,”she hissed.

“Very nearly.”

“Don’t sound so dry. I could have ended you.”

“But you will not,”he said. “Not now.”

“You don’t think?”

“No,”he said, shaking his head. “Because I can offer you life. Ending me means ending yourself, too.”

Her throat tightened, her palms slick. “I was prepared for that.”

“I understand,”he said, his tone grave. “But I think now that you’ve been given another opportunity you might see things differently?”

She looked down, hating that the war inside her was transparent to him. Hating that he could see her weakness. That he could see she wanted. That his poisoned apple was indeed shiny and tempting.

A future. One with power. One where she wasn’t starving, or freezing or afraid.

One where she lived.

About To Defy a Sheikh:

1114-9780373132904-bigw (1)The cost of defiance 

Princess Samarah Al-Azem knows you cannot rush revenge. Having bided her time, she’s finally ready to bring down Ferran, her kingdom’s enemy and the man who took everything from her. In the still of night, she lies in wait in his bedchamber….

It isn’t the first time Sheikh Ferran has found himself at the edge of an assassin’s blade…but never has it been wielded by such a beautiful assailant. Soon he has her at his mercy—something he’s wanted for years!

Now Samarah must decide: imprisonment in a cell…or in diamond shackles as his wife.

 

 

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On Set for the Making of Sexy Christmas Harlequin Presents Covers

by Tania Perry, Art Director 

I woke up waaaay before the buzz of my alarm feeling surprisingly well rested and eager to get the day started. Perhaps I was rekindling a bit of my childhood; when my brothers and I would be up at the crack of dawn all bright eyed and bushy tailed to see what was waiting for us under the Christmas tree.

So what had caused these feelings to stir so far ahead of Christmas? After all, it was only May, a good six months ahead of the holidays.  Easy, it was photo-shoot day, and I was set to make the magic of Christmas come alive on set. Not just any Christmas, either—a sexy Christmas, Harlequin Presents–style!

I’ll give you a glimpse into what happens during a photo shoot and how we get the perfect image for the cover.

Ingredients for a sexy Presents Christmas cover:

–          One passionate art director (that’s me!)

–          Two super sexy models wrapped up in each other

–          A brilliant photographer and her crew

–          Glamorous wardrobe and sparkling jewels

–          An intimate set

–          Christmas decor aplenty

–          And a partridge in a pear tree (sorry, just got caught up in the Christmas spirit!)

As you can imagine, it takes a sleigh load of planning! This explains the six months lead time. Not only for the photo shoot, but for all the stuff that happens before and after, like drafting the creative brief, developing concepts, finishing the art, laying out the full cover, and getting approvals (all of which are posts on their own that I will save for another time),

Here’s a visual, bits-and-pieces overview of the planning we do to source props and wardrobe.

PropsC1

PropsC2

But let’s get back to shoot day: I arrive at the photography studio at 8:00 a.m. It is already bustling with the photographer and her crew setting up the equipment. The models arrive shortly after and the transformation into their respective characters begins; first in the hair & makeup chair and then into wardrobe.

Meanwhile, the crew and I build the set for our first cover shoot, Christmas in Da Conti’s Bed by Sharon Kendrick. The location is a Christmas-themed country cottage bedroom. We assemble and dress the bed with a fabulously rich red quilted duvet and crisp white sheets. Finally, it’s decorating time! We wrap the garland along the headboard and hang strings of twinkling lights and golden ornaments. I take a step back, soak in the wonderfully intimate and festive set and think, all this needs is the sexy. That’s when our models climb into bed and turn up the heat!

The second cover shoot of the day is for To Claim His Heir by Christmas by Victoria Parker. Although this is another sexy Christmas Presents, it has an altogether different vibe because of the characters and setting. We tear down the cottage bedroom set to make way for a glamorous palace backdrop. We hang luxurious, red drapery and cascade a series of glimmering white lights to create a sensual holiday glow. Next we steam things up with our bare-chested hero and sizzling heroine, who’s in a lavish sequin gown—so much glamour and holiday magic I almost wish I was the heroine in the book!

Over the course of the day we capture hundreds of steamy frames for both cover shoots. I try several poses to get the composition, candor and chemistry between the models as authentic as possible. I look for the best camera angle to find the most flattering and unique vantage point. I adjust and finesse the set, making sure the sheets are rumpled just enough, the drapes are nicely gathered, the Christmas decor is hanging perfectly in the background. The technical goings-on behind the camera are equally critical and the most important of these is lighting. This is really what separates a good shot from a spectacular one. It holds the key to creating shape, depth and mood. The rest of the day is a controlled flurry of passion and excitement until I shout, “That’s a wrap!”

The studio begins to clear as the photo shoot winds down. Over the next week, I pour through all the shots and get down to creating the cover art. Here is a small snapshot of the process and the final cover reveal.

Design_c1

Credits: Photographer Joanne K (joannek.com), Retoucher Olga Barkhatova (olgabarkhatova.ca)

Design_c2

Credits: Photographer Joanne K (joannek.com)

covers

Pick up these sexy Presents Christmas titles by November 18 in stores

or

preorder the books online now!

Available at

http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=55067

&

http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=55058

I hope you enjoyed this on-set glimpse of the making of sexy Christmas Presents covers.

And that’s a wrap!

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Do You Believe in Second Chances?

by Tara Pammi, author of The True King of Dahaar

In my November release, the heroine Nikhat and hero Azeez are seeing each other after almost a decade.

He’s the not the dashing, gorgeous Crown Prince of Dahaar that she loved with all her heart before she left.

You see, as much as she loved him, Nikhat left because she thought herself unworthy of him. She was diagnosed with stage-3 endometriosis, told that she might never have children and so she lied to Azeez, told him she wanted her medical career more than she wanted to be his queen.

Now Nikhat is back and it is Azeez who needs her help. And after all this time, she’s the only one who can help.

And he’s not making it easy for her to help him.

He’s so far thrown a bottle at her (okay, he was drunk and thought she was a mirage) , he’s roped her into being his physiotherapist/punching bag. He’s done everything he could to chase her away because he can’t bear her to see him like that.

Both of them are changed now, and each love the other…

They have to walk through the fire of their insecurities, figure out that they love each other just as they are…

Do you love second chance romances?

About The True King of Dahaar:

dahaarOnce he was a crown prince with a kingdom to rule…

But when heartbreak drives him to recklessness, Azeez nearly loses everything, including his life. Now he must make a choice. Spend his life in the shadows of the past, or embrace his future as the true king of Dahaar.

Behind every strong man…

Dr. Nikhat Zakhari left Azeez because she couldn’t give him what he needed to rule. But now the only man she’s ever loved needs her healing touch, and she is powerless to refuse him.

Azeez knows he must assume the crown—but will this unforgettable woman agree to be his desert queen?

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A cover make over!

by Lynne Graham

Dear Reader,

It’s usually a Presents heroine who gets to have a fabulous makeover at the hands of the gorgeous hero, but I’m thrilled to see my very own titles getting their own North American makeover!

These four titles, one of which is previously unpublished in North America, are some of my old favorites, and I am over the moon that they are now available for you to read. I am absolutely thrilled with the cover makeovers they have received. Although I, of course, loved my original covers, their brand-new twenty-first-century makeover is an absolute delight.

When I wrote these books, it was definitely a time when alphas could get away with being even more commanding than they can now. And I’ve always had a bit of a weakness for those brooding heroes!

Whether you’re after a demanding desert sheikh in An Arabian Courtship, or a beautiful Irish heroine in Emerald Mistress, the high octane attraction in An Insatiable Passion or a reunited love in The Veranchetti Marriage, I hope that these books have something for each of you.

I have my favorite, but like all good Presents heroines, I won’t kiss and tell! I would love to know which ones you like best!

Best wishes,
Lynne

Xx

EmeraldMistress courtship marriage passion

EMERAL_MISTRESS ARABIAN_COURTSHIP VERANCHETTI_MARRIAGE INSATIABLE_PASSION

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…Planning the Next Continuity!

 by Laura McCallen, Editorial Assistant

It’s that time of year again…but not the time you might have expected. While others bundle up against the impending cold and the faint sound of festive music starts to invade life from every angle, the Presents team are thinking beyond Christmas and even 2015! Why, you may ask? Because it’s time to start planning the (destined-to-be-amazing) 2016 continuity!

Our 8-book continuities are a staple of our Presents schedule every year and so over the past few weeks the team has been busy brainstorming ideas and narrowing the options down as we try to find the concept that captivates, inspires and excites us! It’s one of our favourite parts of the job and so I thought I’d let you in on how we’ve kicked things off this time…

This year our continuity planning began with a pop culture questionnaire so take a peek at some of our answers below to find out what’s been capturing our interest this year. Spoiler alert: there’s nothing we love more than stories of weddings and royal babies!

What was your favourite song this year and why?

Carly: Happy by Pharell – remember hearing him say in an interview that he wrote it to ‘keep us all going’, which is what I also think our books do for people!

Laura: I’ve really enjoyed everything Sam Smith has put out – he’s the male Adele and you can’t help but be caught up in the emotion of his songs.

Izzy: Say Something I’m Giving up on You – it’s sad, but just lovely.

Pippa: Wonder by Emeli Sande because ‘we are full of wonder’ always reminds me of our fabulous Presents authors.

Jo: All About the Bass by Meghan Trainor – unbelievably catchy, uplifting and you can’t help but dance around when you hear it!

 What was your favourite non-Harlequin book this year and why?

 Carly: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding – pleasingly familiar, like being wrapped in a safe warm blanket, and hilarious!

Laura: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green– powerfully emotional and witty all at the same time. It made me laugh out loud and ugly cry but it was the best book I’ve read outside work in the past five years!

Izzy: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – it’s engaging even though the storyline isn’t the kind that I would usually be very captivated by, but it’s so beautifully written you can’t help but get sucked into it.

Pippa: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead – the feisty heroine is fun and the incredible sexual tension with the brooding Russian hero reminds me of our own Presents!!

Jo: Mr Mercedes by Stephen King – this author is the master of characterisation and I loved the incidental romance the retired detective protagonist has – just don’t expect a happy ending!

What was your favourite news story this year and why?

 Everyone: The second baby Cambridge and George Clooney’s wedding! No explanation needed!

So, now that you know what we’ve been reading and listening to we want to know what’s captivated you this year? We’re always looking for more inspiration!

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