An Argentinian hero and an English rose with attitude + Giveaway!

by Melanie Milburne, author of The Valquez Bride

The one word that stood out on Teddy’s father’s will started with M but it wasn’t money. She looked at the family lawyer in open-mouthed alarm. ‘Marriage?’

Teddy Marlstone longs for the fairy tale even though she knows it’s unlikely she will get it. The limp she’s had since childhood hardly puts her on a level playing field with the Beautiful People. But she is about to lose her family home unless she agrees to marry hardened and devilishly handsome playboy Alejandro Valquez, a man who snubbed her the first time he’d met her when she was sixteen.

Alejandro has done everything he can to avoid emotional entanglements after being jilted in the past. The last thing he wants is to tie himself to a bride, especially one as icy and untouchable as Teddy Marlstone. But unless he marries her, the land his late father was swindled out of by Teddy’s father will be lost forever. Teddy dresses in frumpy clothes on their first meeting in an attempt to put him off. I loved writing that scene because it’s through Alejandro’s point of view. His first sight of his future bride is rather off putting!

Alejandro turned to see a small figure standing in the frame of the doorway off the black and white tiled hall. There wasn’t a fake nail in sight of a spray tan. She was wearing clothes that looked as if they had been sourced from a charity bin and her hair looked as if she had dived in head first to retrieve them. It was a wild cloud of dark brown tresses around her head and shoulders, wavy rather than curly, but clearly no effort had been spared to tame it. If anything, it looked as if she had recently mussed it up with her hands. Her trousers were a dirty shade of brown, the checked shirt un-ironed and the cable sweater she wore over it was covered in balls of lint. The outfit was masculine and too big for her small frame, swamping her like a tent draped over a toothpick.

I love marriage of convenience stories. I love that two people who would normally not see each other as viable partners are forced together and find they are actually perfectly suited. Teddy is far from the ice maiden she pretends to be and Alejandro’s cynical exterior hides a man with a warm and compassionate heart.

‘When was the last time you had sex?’

She made a choking sound and turned away. ‘I’m not going to answer that.’

‘Why not?’ Her arms went across her middle.

‘Because this is a paper marriage so you don’t need to know my sexual history any more than I need to know yours.’

‘Mine is regularly documented in the press if you’re interested.’

‘I’m not.’

I really enjoyed writing my first Argentinian hero and I especially enjoyed pitting him against an English rose with attitude. I hope you enjoy Teddy and Alejandro’s story and the second in the duet, The Valquez Seduction where Alejandro’s younger dashing polo-playing brother Luiz meets his match in London schoolteacher Daisy Wyndham!
I have a signed copy of The Valquez Bride for a reader (all regions) who tells me what is the frumpiest article of clothing currently in your wardrobe. 

Best wishes,

Melanie Milburne

Giveaway This contest will close on November 3, 11:59 ET, and a winner will be selected by random draw on November 4. Open to residents of US and Canada, excluding Quebec. For full giveaway rules, click here.

About The Valquez Bride:

valquez brideA wedding night she’ll never forget! Untouched Theodora Marlstone always wanted the fairy-tale wedding—a white dress and an adoring groom. Instead she’s walking up the aisle toward a marriage of convenience to outrageously attractive Argentinean Alejandro Valquez! He promises raw sensuality, not devotion, but thanks to her father’s will, Teddy must say “I do”…. Alejandro never wanted a wife, but his buttoned-up bride is a delicious present just waiting to be unwrapped. Beneath the white silk lies a woman who exceeds his wildest imagination, and it’s clear that this union will burn the very paper it’s written on!

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The Names from Prince Hafiz’s Only Vice

by Susanna Carr, author of Prince Hafiz’s Only Vice

I’m frequently asked how I come up with the title and character names in my work. It takes me a while to create a title and I might change it several times during the writing process. Not only am I trying to explain the story in five words or less, but I am also trying to match the tone or mood of the book.

Deciding on a character’s name is much easier! Sometimes I choose a character’s name because of the meaning or symbolism. Other times I pick a name because it would have been a popular choice for that character’s age and birth country. But there have been many times I use a name just because I like it.

Here is how I came up with the names found in Prince Hafiz’s Only Vice:

The title: I did not come up with the title of this book. My working title was Secrets of a Playboy Prince but then my editor suggested Prince Hafiz’s Only Vice. That title was a much better fit for the story!

The hero’s name: I came across the name Hafiz while flipping through a book on Arabic first names. According to the book I read, Hafiz means “guardian” or “keeper”. I felt this would be an appropriate name for a prince. It also represents something the hero is trying to be for his kingdom.

The heroine’s name: I chose the name Lacey for a couple of reasons. First, I like it. That’s always a plus. More importantly, Lacey would have been a popular name around the time the character was born. I often check databases like the ones on the Social Security Administration’s website that list top baby names by decades.

The fictional setting: It turns out that naming a desert kingdom is a challenge. I knew I didn’t want to make up a name because I’m not familiar with the Arabic language and anything I came up with would not look authentic. Instead, I used a female name that has been around for centuries. I thought this wouldn’t be unusual because pioneers had been known to name territories after women. The desert kingdom in Prince Hafiz’s Only Vice is called the Sultanate of Rudaynah.

As you can see, it takes some time to find the right title or a name for a character. I admit that my title suggestions rarely make it to the final stage. The editors are much better at naming books! And I don’t always keep my characters names while I’m writing the book. I have no qualms in discarding a name and going through the process one more time. I have found that changing the character’s name can often change the character’s personality. I don’t know why that is but it shows me that naming a character is an important task.

About Prince Hafiz’s Only Vice:

viceWhat a royal wants…  

Prince Hafiz devotes his days to his people and his nights to indulging his desires with his stunning American mistress, Lacey Maxwell. But duty requires him to marry a “suitable” bride.

In her deepest secret fantasies, Lacey naively hopes to one day wear Hafiz’s ring, until her dreams are shattered and he chooses someone else.

Faced with the reality of a passionless union, Hafiz realizes the years spent with Lacey have done nothing to slake his hunger for her. Instead he’s determined to turn his only vice into a virtue for the sake of his country…and each other!

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Hidden Gems from Harlequin Presents!

by Carly Byrne, Editor for Presents

I’ve survived my first year of motherhood (and have the food-stained clothes and gray hairs to prove it!) and am excited to be back in the much more glamorous and sophisticated world of Presents. As this is my first I Heart Presents post since my return, I wanted to make a splash, and I’m thrilled to reveal some hidden gems from Harlequin Presents…

In September 2014, alongside our usual eight Presents offerings on Harlequin.com, you will find even more alpha males, decadent glamour and jet-setting lifestyles to curl up with as the nights get longer… These are brand-new stories, never before published in the US, from a selection of your favorite Presents authors: Carole Mortimer, Abby Green, Kate Hewitt, Caitlin Crews and many more!

Among these titles you will be swept away to a variety of enticing exotic locations from breathtaking Brazil to irresistible Italy to the dark heart of the desert. Your companion could be a gorgeous Greek, a sensual sheikh or a ruthless royal. And if one ruthless royal isn’t enough for you, you will find three in The Prince Brothers trilogy by Carole Mortimer. These are the stories you love by the authors you love, and now they’re available to download for the first time in the US!

While these stories deliver the passionate, powerful read you expect from Presents they have their own distinctive look, with the unmistakable red of Presents that’s hard to miss:

Carole Mortimer - Prince's Passion.indd Kate Hewitt - Bound to the Greek.indd Abby Green - The Call of the Desert.indd Caitlin Crews - In Defiance of Duty.indd

So now you can really immerse yourself in the sensational, sophisticated world of Harlequin Presents, where sinfully tempting heroes ignite a fierce and wickedly irresistible passion! Don’t miss out! Your alpha males are waiting to be claimed now at Harlequin.com.

What do you think of our hidden gems? And their unique looks?  

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Meet the Presents Team: Introducing Isabelle Gormezano Marks

by Isabelle Gormezano Marks, Editorial Assistant

Bio picHello everyone!

I’m more than pleased to introduce myself as the most recent addition to the Presents team. Though I’m hardly shy of writing, it always strikes me as a far more difficult task when it’s about myself, so please bear with me!

Where to start…

Since I was at school I had always hoped that publishing would be where I would end up, and after reading English for three years at university, I still can’t believe that I’m here!

I love cheese and wine (yes, my mother is French) and have climbed mountains in Peru, Tibet, Ecuador, Northern Pakistan and Kazakhstan purely for the fun of it.

However, despite scaling mountains at altitude and growing up with my nose in a book, I’ve found that at times, it’s been difficult to be taken seriously. On my first day of Sixth Form at a new school – a charming cliché of inner-city London education, where the corridors were dominated by mini-men in suits and assemblies took place in an old church hall, wall-papered with regal portraits of past headmasters – I was more than aware that I had to prove myself.

It was when I first walked into my classroom and met my tutor, a fountain of knowledge who had been moulding the minds of students for over thirty-five years, that I realised this was not a place for fluffy pencil cases and bright pink post-it notes. I’m more than certain that my too-long blonde hair, red nails and bright suit jacket may have been where I lost Sir’s confidence. But as those who know me would say, a challenge is always where I have the most fun.

And this is where my moment of nostalgia finds some relevancy to publishing. It was through the fun and love of words that I managed to win over one of the longest standing tutors who knew everything about anything, and who probably thought I was just another silly girl traipsing into school to swoon over boys (although that was fun too). How did I manage this? By bringing the free newspaper from tube to classroom and conducting the ‘clockword’ puzzle every morning, of course. Gradually, registration transformed from a sleepy and sombre half-hour before classes began, to a daily slot of literary chaos. Bizarre, silly and some just-plain-fictional words would hurl across the room in order to find as many as we could from a diagram of letters before our time was up. And Sir loved it.

As you may have gathered, I feel at home with words no matter where I may be. So, finding myself in an office and at a desk where I am part of making stories ready to be enjoyed by lovely and loyal readers is more than reason enough to wake up on a Monday morning with a smile on my face.

So, thank you for having me Harlequin Presents and a very warm hello to everyone who keeps us having fun and busy in the office!

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“Sometimes it’s the little things that brighten someone’s day”: Rachael Thomas on A Deal Before the Altar

by Rachael Thomas, author of A Deal Before the Altar

How far would you go to ensure a family member’s happiness? Throw a party? Pay for something? These are fairly tame suggestions in comparison to what Georgina Henshaw does.

She wants to secure her younger sister, Emma’s, happiness. But there is one thing standing in the way and that one thing is the unrelenting determination and pure arrogance of Santos Ramirez. Georgina meets him head on, offering him a solution to what he considers an irritating problem. Marriage, but only one of convenience. Of course she gets much more than she ever bargained on!

I had such fun writing Georgina and Santos’s story and was thrilled their story did so well in So You Think You Can Write. I hope you will enjoy meeting them in A Deal Before The Altar, my debut Presents.

Ensuring those around us are happy doesn’t always involve massive gestures or drastic action. Sometimes it’s the little things that brighten someone’s day. What has recently brightened your day?

About A Deal Before The Altar:

adealbeforethealtar“I have a deal to put to you, Mr. Ramirez.”

Georgina Henshaw will do anything to ensure her younger sister’s happiness—even marry the darkly enigmatic Santos Ramirez! She has just one condition—she’ll wear his ring, but she’ll never share his bed!

Santos has earned his ruthless reputation, but even he isn’t sure whether to be shocked or awed by Ms. Henshaw’s proposal. He can’t deny marriage would solve his current problem, but to truly secure his family business, the delectable Georgina must provide him with an heir….!

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