03 January 2010

Guest Author: Monica Burns

This week on Unusual Historicals, we're welcoming Monica Burns as she launches her latest historical romance, KISMET, set in Morocco! Here's the blurb:

It was a gamble she was born to make...

Raised in a brothel at a young age, Allegra Synnford quickly learned that survival meant taking charge of her destiny. Now, a renowned courtesan skilled in the pleasures of the flesh, she chooses her lovers carefully--vowing never to be vulnerable to any one man. Until a mesmerizing Sheikh strips that control from her...

With a man who wasn't used to losing.

Sheikh Shaheen of the Amazigh has been hiding from his past for a long time, but not enough to forget how another courtesan made him abandon his life as the Viscount Newcastle. It's why the yearnings this dangerous temptress ignites within him are so troubling. Worse, thoughts of Allegra pervade every fantasy, threatening to undermine his cover. With old enemies circling, experience tells him he must resist her charms at all cost. In fact, he's betting on it. That's a risky wager when it comes to a woman of pleasure. But Allegra has her own reasons for playing games...with a man who can't afford to lose.


"This sizzling hot historical and its compelling characters will leave you panting for more! Monica Burns writes with sensitivity and panache. Don't miss this one!"
~ Sabrina Jeffries, New York Times Bestselling Author

"Burns' story is hotter than the desert sands! She succeeds with a classic captive/captor romance akin to a Johanna Lindsey classic. Relax and enjoy the sizzling show--complete with a lesson in bananas and seduction."
~ Romantic Times

"After reading the bio posted on her website, I was afforded a deeper understanding into the wealth of emotions she poured into Kismet. Tenacious, sassy heroines and strong, sexy heroes are her signature style and she's boldly penned one of the best books I've read in years."
~ Two Lips Reviews


Can you tell us a bit about how you research your books?

Research is addictive, and I sometimes forget about writing the story for a little while (not a good thing when you've a deadline!) When I researched Morocco for my current release KISMET, I searched the Internet, read books off my shelves, and bought more books. I immersed myself in the setting as much as possible to pick up small nuances to flavor the read.

Although I'm far from perfect, I like to think that my readers will have a vivid sense of the country. Hopefully readers will see what Allegra saw walking the narrow alleyways of Marrakech's souqs. My goal was to help readers visualize the Atlas Mountains that Shaheen studies them while contemplating how different his adopted home is than the one he left behind in England years ago.

Is there anything in your research that you felt compelled to include in your book or that you hesitated to use?

No matter where a story takes place, there are aspects to different cultures that people who are unfamiliar with might take offense too. I sometimes hesitate to include things because I'm writing romance, and while I want to be authentic, I think there are limits. One of things I was compelled to add was the child slave market. It played into the heart of Allegra's inner conflict and enhanced the emotions of her kidnapping.

Including the beauty of the Moroccan plain was a must for me. My research showed me a landscape beautiful in its stark simplicity. Some of the photos I saw at sunset were enough to make me think I might not be doing the landscape justice.

Is there anything fun and quirky you discovered in your research?

Goats in trees. In the desert-like plains of Morocco, goats climb Argan trees to reach the berries. I feel certain they must also eat some of the tree leaves as the pickings on the ground aren't abundant. Here's a video I found on YouTube for you to see them in action.


What is the one thing that stands out in your mind when it comes to the research you did on Morocco?

I found the culture very different from my way of life here in the US. Some of the mindsets in place during the late 1800s were even more restrictive in Morocco than England or the US. The idea of a woman being chattel is a difficult one for me to contemplate (like Allegra), but even in England and the US at the time, there were certain standards that were frowned on if not illegal. Slavery for one. Then there is the seraglio (the harîm) with its women kept isolation with little to do but spend their time making themselves beautiful. There are some fascinating books written on the lives of these women. As for me, I'm glad I don't live in one. Between boredom and the political hierarchy that exists inside a harim, I think I'd probably go crazy living in a harîm.

What setting are you interested in doing next?

Well, my next release with Berkley is my "Order of the Sicari" series. The first book in June 2010 takes place in Chicago, but the second book is set in modern-day Rome as well as Ancient Rome. It's a two stories-in-one type of deal! For the third book, I'm contemplating Venice, Italy or possible the southern region of France. It's all dependent on the characters' whims.

In closing, I'd like to thank Carrie for asking me to visit and chat a little about Morocco. If you like desert settings and sexy historicals, you might enjoy KISMET.


Thanks for stopping by, Monica! If you'd like to give sexy Morocco a try, leave a comment or question for Monica. You'll be entered in a random drawing for a signed copy of KISMET. I'll draw the winner next Sunday. Void where prohibited. Copy mailed to US residents ONLY. If the winner is outside of the US, they can pre-pay postage via PayPal, and Monica can send outside of the US that way.

Good luck!