July 2017

 

Go West for Great Reading, Young Man (and Woman!)

I’m very lucky to work with a critique partner whose work I absolutely adore. I can’t think of anyone to rival Annie West for an emotionally driven, passionate contemporary romance. If you want the sort of read that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn’t let you go until the last blissfully happy page, give Annie a go.

She also writes the most wonderful heroes. Heroes in the best sense of the word – at least by the end when they’ve come to terms with their destiny and how they have to step up to the plate to claim it. I love her sheikh romances in particular – this particular trope is quite easy to tip over into caricature but with Annie, these men are real kings with responsibilities and ambitions that often don’t match with the longings of their passionate hearts. Although in the end they can’t resist those longings. Sigh.

And those men need a strong woman to stand up to them and make them everything they should be. Annie writes great heroines, brave women who take any risk to claim their happiness and the man they love. When you read an Annie West, you want to be the heroine and you want to win the hero. It’s a pretty powerful combination!

Annie’s books deal with life in the spotlight – billionaires and princes and sheikhs and men who are singled out in their culture in some way. But there’s always a deeply felt emotional plot beneath the glitz and glam. The powerful things of life – desire and the need to create a new generation and fulfill potential. When Annie’s people fall, they fall hard and forever.

And that to me is the definition of a great romance!

So today, I thought I’d talk about some of my favorites out of Annie’s huge oeuvre – as she’s written over 30 books this was difficult, but not quite as difficult as it turned out to be. I might finish today’s list of five with a couple of books that just missed out on the top by a whisker. I have to say I was surprised that I could easily have done my top 5 and stuck completely with sheikh books – Annie really is the queen of the sheikh romance!

Anyway, I’ll start with her passionate Girl in the Bedouin Tent (2011) which opens with a bang and just goes up from there (reminds me of Samuel Goldwyn wanting to start with an earthquake and build from that!). Aussie Cassie has stepped into the wrong quarter of the desert and she’s been captured by bandits who offer her to handsome Prince Amir as a gift to sweeten a treaty. Amir finds himself with more than he bargained for when he retires to his tent to find his unexpected present ready to slice him into little pieces with a knife.

But Amir has more at stake than just the fact that he finds this feisty woman breathtakingly attractive – his kingdom is on the skids and he needs to make a diplomatic marriage. Please refer to my comment about a book that takes you by the scruff of the neck!

The next one isn’t a sheikh story. It’s Rebel’s Bargain from the Chatsfield continuity that was released in 2014, based around a dysfunctional family who own a chain of glamorous hotels. This one really piles on the glamour. Poppy Graham is a supermodel and her estranged husband is an internationally famous extreme sports practitioner and most of the story is set around a very glitzy fashion shoot in a French chateau. But Annie never loses sight of the broken hearts beneath all that glitter and glam. I think this one really went deep into the emotions so that when Orsino and Poppy finally get their happy ending, they’ve really worked for it! Cue blissful sighs from the reader.

My next choice is another sheikh story (I told you I found it difficult to look past these in Annie’s work). Defying Her Desert Duty from 2014 is a modern retelling of the Tristan and Isolde myth. Soraya Karim has been promised to the ageing prince of her country since she was a girl and while she’s in many ways a modern woman undertaking studies in France, she’s never wavered from what she knows to be her duty.

But when the ailing sheikh sends his right-hand man Zahir to fetch her back from university to become a bride, she finds herself caught between honor and desire. Because Zahir is everything she’s ever wanted in a man and while he struggles to do his own duty to a man who has become a surrogate father to him, he wants her too.

Such high stakes in this one! All that forbidden desire. And a road trip besides. I’ve occasionally described the recipe for a a great romance novel as trap two people in a crucible and then apply heat. This one is the epitome of that classic trope!

Annie is an Aussie although she sets her wonderful stories all around the world (including in quite a few imaginary and fascinating kingdoms). One of my favorites of her locally set stories is Seducing His Enemy’s Daughter which came out in 2015. In this one, ruthless tycoon, Donato Salazar sets out to gain revenge on the man who destroyed his family. The tool for his vengeance is his enemy’s spirited daughter Ella – surely the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and the girl is made of the same rotten stuff as her father.

Except she’s not. She’s the most fascinating woman he’s ever met and Donato’s evil plans take a slide to the side as he falls in love with Ella. But what happens when Ella finds out what Donato is up to? As you can tell, another high stakes romance with some wonderfully glamorous scenes on Sydney Harbour and up in the beautiful Blue Mountains.

My last choice is Annie’s recent release (2017), The Desert King’s Captive Bride, which is a sheikh story to out-sheikh all other sheikh stories. Princess Ghislaine finds herself unwillingly married to fierce and passionate Huseyn Al Rashid who has staged a coup and taken over her father’s kingdom. I adore enemies into lovers stories and this one is an absolute corker. Sparks fly from the beginning between these two – is it hatred or the beginnings of love? And what happens when Ghislaine finds herself trapped for life. in love with a man who she’s sure has no heart.

Except I think he might have  heart somewhere under that dashing exterior…

If you haven’t tried an Annie West, do yourself a favor and grab one now. They offer the best sort of escapism!

You can find a complete list of her books here: http://www.annie-west.com/books/

By the way, here are the other books that could have made the list!