Posts Tagged ‘writing

02
Nov
08

The Lure of the Sheikh Hero by Annie West

Thanks, Desirabelles, for inviting me to your fantastic site! It’s so exciting to have such a strong group of Aussie and New Zealand Desire authors. I’ve been reading your books with enormous pleasure!

For those who don’t know me, I’m another girl from Down Under and I write for Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern. I’m absolutely hooked on reading (and writing) romance and I’m thrilled to say my ninth book for Harlequin has recently been accepted.

In the meantime, since my latest release is about a desert prince it was suggested I talk about the lure of the sheikh hero. I wonder how many of you share an appreciation of that particular hero?

It took me a while to come to the sheikh hero. In my early days of reading romances the heroes I discovered were usually European or American or occasionally from Australia or New Zealand. There were swashbuckling men in boots, regency rakes, businessmen, boys next door, bad boys on motor bikes, occasional cowboys, aristocrats or gothic antiheroes. Why would I need a sheikh with that sort of variety on offer?

But somewhere on my radar I was aware of the fact that sheikhs (or sheiks, depending on where you’re from) loomed large on the list of potential romance heroes. I knew women had swooned in droves when Rudolph Valentino appeared on the big screen in ‘The Sheik’ in the 1920s, but I couldn’t quite see what the fuss was about.

My curiosity was aroused and I sought out books featuring desert princes. I watched Valentino and ‘Harem’ and read more on the subject. Soon I was in no doubt why so many women love a sheikh hero.

Dangerous and Delightful
There’s something scintillatingly dangerous and delightful about the sheer escapist fantasy of being swept into the arms of a mysterious, handsome stranger and carried off to his lair. What a set up for wonderful conflict and tension! What heroine worth her salt wouldn’t revel in the challenge of a man who can have whatever woman he wants, yet chooses her?

In these stories the sheikh is so intrigued by the heroine’s beauty/character/defiance/intelligence/ stupidity in venturing into this domain that he has to have her for himself. He rules his world with absolute power. He has utter dominion over the woman he’s lured/seduced/kidnapped/rescued/found. We sit on the edge of our seats wondering whether he’ll use that power for his own ends, or will he refrain, and meet her on her own terms? Will he relinquish that power for love?

Or perhaps they meet elsewhere, in her home town for instance. He stands out from other men as different, intriguing and compelling. He’s drawn to her, whether he likes it or not. Even though she’s not obviously the right woman for him, instinctively he knows there’s something in her that calls to him and he can’t ignore that. His single-minded focus on learning more about her can lead them both into dangerous waters where attraction and duty collide.

The quintessential male
The sheikh is the quintessential male, won over despite himself. Initially he holds the power in their relationship and he may be ruthless in using it, which can put the heroine in a terrible situation – something we romance readers adore.

The heroine is likely to be vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean weak! After all a strong hero needs a strong heroine. Even if she’s usually self sufficient and even if her sheikh isn’t the rampaging, ride-across-the-desert-to-kidnap-her sort, something about him will challenge her – her freedom, her perceptions or her plans for the future. Whether he wears Armani and runs a multi-national company, or lives the life of a nomad, he’s a threat, the most powerful man she’s ever met, and the most fascinating. He threatens her peaceful world.

If you love a strong alpha hero then these romances may be perfect reading for you. If you enjoy stories of Cinderella transformations or the tug of duty versus love or the strong man brought to realise love is a force he can’t conquer, you may want to pick one up.

For centuries sheikhs, sultans and pashas have intrigued audiences, perhaps in part because of Western perceptions of the sexual power play associated with harems. Maybe too because they just seem so exotic! Think of Mozart’s ‘Escape from the Seraglio’, Edith Maude Hull’s ‘The Sheik’, Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Which reminds me – did I mention the clothes and the terrific horses?

The Settings
Then there are the settings: desert strongholds, romantic oases, sprawling palaces with hidden treasures, or perhaps a penthouse apartment in the heart of an exciting metropolis. The world is this man’s oyster. For background colour there are silk carpets, souks, glittering jewels and an exotic ‘Arabian Nights’ aura.

I’ve read desert princes who are men of action in thrilling stories of adventure, or honour-bound men whose primary aim is to protect those they’re responsible for. I’ve read sexy seducers who have the tables turned on them and suave, powerful captains of industry who learn to their cost that one woman can disrupt all they’ve planned.

In part it’s the power play between two apparently unequal characters that fascinates me. There might be a clash of different worlds with all the challenges that can throw up. Above all there is sense of the power of love overcoming difficult circumstances to bring our heroine and hero together in lasting happiness.

Have you read a sheikh story? Was it what you expected? What stood out for you? And if you don’t read them, why not? I’d be fascinated to hear (and I’ll give away a copy of one of my sheikh stories to someone who posts a comment, chosen at random).

ABOUT ANNIE: Annie’s third sheikh hero is making his appearance right now. Khalid is a man on a mission to save his country from years of mismanagement. He has no time for complications like love or marriage. But a chance encounter with Maggie, the most unlikely of potential brides, brings consequences neither of them expect. Their marriage will be one of duty and convenience. At least, that’s the plan…

THE DESERT KING’S PREGNANT BRIDE is available now in Australia and New Zealand or you can buy it on the web from the UK. It will be released in North America (Harlequin Presents Extra) in April 2009. In the meantime you can read more about it on her website.

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