22 March 2009

Book Party: Bonnie Vanak

Today, our fantastic author is long-time contributor Bonnie Vanak, known for her Egyptian-set historicals published by Dorchester, her sexy werewolf series from Harlequin Nocturne, and her globe-trotting efforts to help the world's poorest citizens. She's a busy lady and took time out this week to talk about her latest release, THE LADY AND THE LIBERTINE.


Anne Mitchell, born illegitimate and raised in a workhouse, sold by her mother and packed off by her father to the East, had every reason to lose faith. But in Egypt she found identity with the Khamsin, a tribe of Bedouin warriors. Greater even than the secret they entrusted to her was her newfound honor, and for that she would give all.

Nigel Wallenford was an earl. He was also a thief, a liar and a libertine. Regaining his birthright of Claradon had been a start. Next he required wealth, and he knew of just the fabled treasure...and its key's guardian was a ripe fig waiting to be plucked. Never before had he scrupled to cheat, steal or even murder. One displaced Englishwoman, no matter how fair, would hardly be his match.

THE LADY AND THE LIBERTINE is your seventh Egyptian historical. Would you tell us a little about it?

In this book, a displaced English earl seduces a virginal beauty in order to steal the pharaoh's treasure she guards in Egypt. I pitted Nigel, a thief, liar and libertine, who was cheated out of his birthright as earl, against Anne/Karida, who has sworn to be upright and moral. Karida was born in England and taken to live with my Khamsin warriors of the wind in Egypt. They entrusted her with a ruby that unlocks the key to a fabulous treasure buried in the sands.

Nigel was fascinating to write and complex. He does the wrong things for the right reasons. He's very naughty, and just when you think he'll change, he turns around and does something wicked again.

What kind of research do you do for your historicals?

Lots! I love researching about Egypt, and with each book, I find new material to incorporate into the novel. In this book, I loosely based the pharaoh's treasure tomb on the Valley of the Golden Mummies in the Bahariya Oasis, four tombs of about 105 mummies excavated by Dr. Zahi Hawass.

I needed a treasure tomb in the western desert for Nigel and Karida to seek. The tomb inside is all my imagination, from the traps I put there to the caskets filled with lots of gold.

Are there any more plans at this time for another Egyptian historical?

Sadly, no, I'm taking a break from writing them and concentrating on writing my werewolf Nocturnes. Right now I have too much on my plate with the Nocturnes, the day job (I work as a writer for a large international charity) and travel for the job. As I'm writing this, I'm packing to leave for another visit to Haiti!

There may be more in the future, but as of right now, The Lady and the Libertine will be the last.

Could you tell us the order of your Egyptian historicals?

Sure! They are as follows:

The Falcon and the Dove
The Tiger and the Tomb
The Cobra and the Concubine
The Panther and the Pyramid
The Sword and the Sheath
The Scorpion and the Seducer
(Nigel makes an appearance in this book)
The Lady and the Libertine

Each book can be read out of order, as it stands alone, but I recommend reading The Scorpion and the Seducer before reading The Lady and the Libertine.

Thanks for having me! On my website, I have excerpts of all my books. They're all in print and can be ordered online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

An exotic backdrop sets the stage for Vanak's newest novel. With a few twists, she combines an English lord, scarred in body and soul; an illegitimate young Englishwoman; a ruby and enough adventure, pathos, secrets and betrayal to keep you turning the pages of this sexually charged romance. Four stars.
--Romantic Times

As always, Vanak creates her romantic scenes with daring sensuality and the intimate scenes between Nigel and Karida were no exception. Especially well done was the initial scene when Karida revealed the burn scars received during her childhood after falling into a fire. Vanak has a knack for creating strong, imperfect heroines and her characterization of Karida bears witness to her genius in giving life to her unforgettable characters.

The author kept the non-stop action perfectly paced and flowing well along with the suspense of whether Nigel would or could change his wicked ways and become a better man. Vanak also includes a scrupulously good amount of historical research making this series as well as this installment a highly entertaining and recommended read.
-- Marilyn Rondeau, C2K KWIPS AND KRITIQUES

Khamsin camp, Eastern desert of Egyp

He would not be the virile groom tenderly deflowering her on their wedding night.

He would never cause a sigh a passion to wring from her slender throat as he caressed her virgin breasts, now hidden beneath the modest white kuftan.

The sparkling ruby dangling between them stood out like a blood droplet against a snowy bank. His hands, accustomed to stroking the skin of whores, were not worthy of touching her. They were, however, quite capable of stealing the ruby, as they had swiped other priceless Egyptian antiquities.

Crouched beneath the shade of a cigar-shaped ben-tree, Nigel Wallenford, rightful earl of Claradon, studied his prey as he clutched an oily rifle in his sweating palms. The silent woman picked up scattered seeds on the ground. Karida was her name. She guarded the ruby he needed to complete the key and locate the treasure of the sleeping golden mummies.

All week, during his visit here on the pretext of buying Arabian mares, he'd heard her relatives praise her virtue and honor as if she were not a living, breathing woman but a limestone statue. Nigel wouldn't have cared if she was as corrupt as he; he cared only about the ruby.

Ben-trees, acacia trees, and yellow-green plants peppered the water source near the Khamsin camp. The burning yellow sun played off jagged mountain peaks and peach-colored hills of sandstone. A cooling breeze chased away the sultry afternoon heat shimmering off the tawny sands. Black mountains and endless desert ringed this part of Egypt's eastern desert.

Jabari bin Tarik Hassid, the Khamsin sheikh, thought Nigel was currently at the water source to kill desert hares, but he had chosen the spot to pursue Karida. Each afternoon since his arrival, she came here to gather seeds. Like a good hunter, he'd learned her habits, knew her movements. Like a hare struck down by a bullet, Karida would never know what hit her.

The ruby would soon be his.

Karida kept stealing glances at him. Her face, hidden by a half-veil out of courtesy to the visiting al Assayra tribesmen, was expressionless.

A good hunter knew how to disarm his prey, make them feel false security. Nigel set down the rifle and offered his most charming smile. He gestured to the bullet-hard seeds she dropped into her goatskin bag but kept his gaze centered on the ruby. His fingers itched to swipe the stone. Soon.

"Are those for eating?"

Karida blinked, as if startled to hear a human voice. "Samna. Cooking oil."

Like her Uncle Ramses and the rest of her family, she spoke perfect English. Yet her accent was odd, as if she'd lived somewhere other than here in Egypt.

"I'm marrying tonight. This will be my last time gathering the seeds." She gave a little sigh, as if pondering her fate.

"Do you love him?' Nigel blurted, then could have kicked himself. A rude question. But he was a foreigner; maybe she'd forgive him.

"I do not know him." Karida gave a little laugh, as sweet and musical as the jingling of gold bracelets. "I was informed I was chosen as a bride, but I don't know who has chosen me. All the al Assayra warriors are honorable and noble, however, and so my husband will be." Her large, golden-brown eyes, so exotic and mysterious, seemed to pierce him. "He will never lie to me or steal, and he will be admirable all his days."

Nigel stared at Karida in sudden bleakness, feeling the shadows of old ghosts smother him. She was so damn perfect, an angel compared to the demon lurking inside him. His gaze dropped to his hands, and he rubbed them violently against his khaki trousers, knowing he wasn't fit to touch her.

You would never marry me. I can't father your children. My own sire lied about my birthright because I was sterile, and though I was older, I could not give him an heir like my twin brother. I wouldn't give you my heart, but I could steal away yours.

Or worse. I could kill you.

Screams echoed down a rocky mountainside in Nigel's mind, then silence. Nigel tensed against the memory, guilt swallowing his soul until nothing remained but an inky darkness. He could just shoot Karida, take the damn stone, and leave her corpse here, festering in the blistering heat. One more crime to add to his list.

She glided over to a small brown rock to pluck out the few seeds scattered there. Each movement held an inborn grace. As sinuous as a serpent, so lovely. Unlike Nigel, Karida was not scarred from painful surgeries to fix an arm that would never work quite right. Her skin was flawless, her body smooth and unmarked.

Her exotic gaze centered on him as she straightened. "You won't see many hares at this time. It's too hot. Like the scorpions and the vipers, they like to hide."

"Like Englishmen should," he joked. "Ground's hot enough to poach an egg."

His gaze dropped to her feet, and he wondered if her toes and ankles were as perfect as the rest of her. Fabric billowed in a sudden gust of wind as the gods answered his prayers, revealing a flash of shapely ankles and well-shaped feet in silver sandals. Nigel licked his lips, imagining his fingers stroking her delicate skin and tickling her toes.

As she moved toward the tree, his eyes caught a sudden movement in the rocky sand. "Christ, watch out!" he yelled.

He raced forward, hooked an arm about her waist, swept her off her feet, and waltzed her away as if they were dancing in a ballroom. The goatskin bag tumbled from her fingers and fell to the ground with a smack just as the viper's head emerged from its sandy nest. Fangs struck the bag instead of her ankle.

Trembling, she remained in his embrace. Nigel became aware of those soft breasts pressed against his chest, the rapid pounding of her heart. A fragrance of orange blossoms and almonds filled his nostrils. For a wild moment, he wanted to rest his cheek against the top of the scarf covering her head and stay there, holding her in his arms.

Reluctantly he set her down and turned, watching the snake disturbed from its afternoon nap. He hunted for a rock to kill it.

"Use this."

Karida handed Nigel a nearby stick he'd seen the Khamsin use for shaking acacia leaves loose to feed their camels and sheep. He grasped it, and his fingers tentatively brushed hers.

Nigel trembled violently at the sizzling contact. Drawing in a sharp breath, he curtly told her to stand back.

He lifted the sturdy pole to strike the viper. It lifted its head and, for a moment, its cold, beady gaze seemed to reflect the blackness inside him. Then Nigel struck. Again and again he beat the snake, even after it lay motionless on the ground. Blow after blow, the misery and self-loathing inside him exploded like gunpowder.

A gentle hand tugging on his jacket sleeve caused him to stop. "That's enough, Thomas. I think it's past dead."

Her gentle, teasing tone caught him off guard, almost as much as her use of his false name. Nigel tossed away the stick and turned to stare at her. Dryness filled his mouth.

Bloody hell, she was beautiful. Pure as polished ivory. Radiant as the sun. His gaze dropped to his hands. Hands that killed more than just snakes. Nigel scrubbed them against his trousers.

"Are you all right?" he asked hoarsely.

Karida gave a little nod. She stared back with frank interest.

Rapt, he leaned forward. Was it his imagination, a trick of fading sunlight, or did her eyes widen as if she liked what she saw and wanted him as well?

His pulse quickened. Nigel wished he could see more of her face. Was her mouth thin and flat? Did she have a wart on her nose? The flimsy veil was a fabric barrier between his curiosity and answers.

Take it off, he silently ordered. He began chanting in his mind: Take it off.


If you'd like to enter for a chance to win a copy of THE SCORPION AND THE SEDUCER, leave a comment or question for Bonnie. A winner will be selected next Sunday. Good luck!