12 June 2011

Guest Blog: Marguerite Kaye

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming historical novelist, Marguerite Kaye, as she celebrates the release of her latest novel, THE GOVERNESS AND THE SHEIKH, third in her Princes of the Desert series. It's available from Mills&Boon Historical (UK distribution- July) and Harlequin Historical (North American distribution -August). Here's the blurb and more information on the rest of the series:

Princes of the Desert Series

The Governess and the Sheikh (Harlequin Historical) out in July in the UK, August in North America:
Arabia, 1820. Dark-hearted Sheikh Prince Jamil al-Nazarri commands his kingdom effortlessly…less so his difficult little daughter. Exasperated, he hires an English governess, hoping she’ll instill some much-needed discipline. But Lady Cassandra Armstrong is a most unconventional governess. With her siren’s body and impulsive passion, Cassie is as innocently alluring as she is forbidden. Famous for his unshakeable honour, the reticent Sheikh’s resolve is about to be tested…as his feelings for Cassie are anything but honourable.

Innocent in the Sheikh’s Harem (Harlequin Historical) out in July in North America, released in Summer Sheikhs anthology in the UK:
Arabia, 1818. At twenty-five, the eldest of five sisters, Lady Celia Cleveden considers herself practical, resourceful and independent, the perfect wife for a junior diplomat. But George, her husband, seems more interested in her playing the nurse than a wife, and Celia is beginning to wonder if the match has been a huge mistake. En route to the exotic kingdom of Q’adiz, they are set upon by bandits and George is killed, leaving Celia at the mercy of the kingdom’s autocratic and fiercely attractive prince, Sheikh Ramiz al-Muhanna. In the sultry, and darkly erotic setting of Ramiz’s harem, Celia discovers her true passionate nature.
The Sheikh’s Impetuous Love Slave (Harlequin Undone, ebook novella) out now:
Arabia, 1816. For Sheikh Khalid al-Raqam, choosing a bride comes second to the responsibility of ruling his kingdom and protecting its treasures. When he is given a shipwrecked foreign beauty as a tribute gift, he foresees a diplomatic nightmare—until he lays eyes on Juliette de Montignac’s lush curves. His passion is only roused further by her bold and defiant spirit. His inner conqueror awakened, Khalid is determined to tame Juliette….by awakening her own desire for him!

So what’s unusual about the Princes of the Desert?
I like to think of them as Regency with a twist. Sheikhs are very popular in modern romances, and obviously there’s a tradition of harems and desert princes going back to the likes of E M Hull’s The Sheikh, and way beyond that to One Thousand and One Nights, but to my knowledge, there haven’t  been any recent historical romances with sheikh heroes. It’s a brilliant contrast, the life of a Regency English rose clashing with the hot, sultry and exotic world of a dark-hearted desert prince, and that’s one of the things that really appealed to me.
And because Regency England is so ‘known’ it makes an excellent mirror to reflect the otherness of my invented Arabian world. Which is the other thing that’s unusual for a Regency romance – the kingdoms, their customs and traditions are all invented! World creation, which is fundamental to paranormal romances, was an entirely new thing for me, and I loved it. Strange as it may seem, Princes of the Desert was the stepping stone for the much more unusual world of the Faol, the Highland shape-shifters who feature in my paranormal Undone trilogy, Legend of the Faol.
With so little known of Arabia in the early Nineteenth Century, how did you go about your research?
Many years ago, I came across a book called Harem by N M Penzer. It was published in 1936 (I have it still) and it introduced me to the world of enclosed harems, hammam baths, and eunuchs (of which, I was astounded to learn, there were many kinds!). It was salacious and judgmental in the way of history published at that time, and it was about Turkey, not Arabia, but I’d never forgotten it, and it was the first book I turned to.  
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s letters from Turkey were my next obvious source, but I was actually quite surprised, once I started investigating, to discover that there were a few intrepid Regency ladies who travelled East. Lady Hester Stanhope, the niece of William Pitt the Younger, has to be the most intrepid of all. She set off in 1810 with her lover and her doctor for company, and didn’t come home. Lorna Sage’s biography of her was a fantastic read, and Celia, my heroine, shares her background as a diplomatic hostess.
What do you think that readers will enjoy most about your desert sheikhs?
Aside from the contrasts I’ve already mentioned, I think it has to be the whoa factor!  My sheikhs are extremely honourable, they’re supposed to be infallible (but of course my heroines prove them wrong) and they’re also intense as well as autocratic, a bit repressed and deeply sensual, so they make fantastic heroes. Combine that with hot desert nights, steamy hammams and the enclosed, sultry world of the harem and I hope what you have is a really hot romance.  Or even three.
And finally, what’s next on the agenda for Marguerite?
Lots. To celebrate my summer sheikhs there will be a free on-line read, Desert Prince, Bartered Bride, at eHarlequin from July 18th. Next, I’ve got some autumn Highlanders. Highland Brides follow two brothers and a sister torn asunder by the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and its aftermath. Then there’s a couple of Christmas stories. Duchess by Christmas will be out in November in North America in an anthology, Gift-Wrapped Governesses, along with stories from Annie Burrows and Sophia James. My Christmas Undone, is another Regency but with a paranormal twist (and currently with no title). And if that’s not enough, there’s excerpts and more on my website.

Thank you, Marguerite. Please leave  acomment to win a copy of The Governess and the Sheikh!