Friday, July 06, 2007

Thursday Talk Time with Annie West

Australian Presents Author Annie West is talking...about the ultimate guilty pleasure hero. Remember, all this month The Pink Heart Society and Coffee Time Romance are doing a cross promotion. Check out their blog today for a chance to see a day in the life of this author and a chance to win her latest title.


OK, so it may be a cliché, sheer escapist fantasy, the idea of being swept into the arms of a mysterious, handsome stranger and carried off to his lair, away from everyday concerns like earning a living and paying the electricity bill.

Years ago I couldn’t see the appeal myself and snickered at the idea of a sheikh hero. I’d seen those stills of Valentino and they left me cold. But then I began wondering why these stories appeal to so many women. They obviously have something going for them.

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

He’s 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 and yet we wonder, will he 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?

The heroine is by definition vulnerable, even if she’s usually self sufficient and even if her sheikh isn’t the rampaging, ride-across-the-desert-to-kidnap-her sort. 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.

For centuries sheikhs, sultans and pashas have intrigued audiences, perhaps in part because of Western perceptions of the sexual power play associated with harems. Think of Mozart’s ‘Escape from the Seraglio’, Edith Maude Hull’s ‘The Sheikh’ (the film version of which made Rudolph Valentino a pin up boy for so many thousands of women), Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Which reminds me – did I mention the clothes and the terrific horses?

The sheikh conjures ideas of untamed power, wild places, extreme wealth, independence of spirit, a warrior, sexual prowess (let’s not forget those fabled harems), old traditions of honour and exotic locations. For a backdrop think of the mysterious allure of the east, silk carpets, Arabian palaces, desert oases or even the glittering locales favoured by the ultra rich. The world is his oyster.

And so, after much research, I succumbed. By the time I’d investigated the sheikh story, read plenty, watched a few, I just had to try my hand at one.

One became two because I had such a wonderful time writing them. Now I’m contemplating another one or two further down the track. For inspiration I have photos of desert dunes, gorgeous middle eastern courtyards, a jewelled dagger, sinuously shaped coffee pots, men in flowing robes and pristine beaches. (My sheikhs live on islands and why not? It’s my fantasy after all!)

Have you read a sheikh story? What drew you to it? And if you don’t read them, why not? I’d be fascinated to hear.


Annie’s first two sheikh stories are The Sheikh's Ransomed Bride (US July 2007) and For The Sheikh's Pleasure (UK and US August, Aus September 2007). Check out the Pink Heart Society review of Ransomed. If you want to see a couple of the pictures that inspired her as she wrote, go to her website at and check out the book pages for those two stories. She also has a contest running if you want to try winning some free sheikh reading!

Stop by the Coffee Time Romance blog to win Books and get a look in a Day in the Life...


  1. Hi Annie, great post. I love your Sheikh books and would like to try one myself but feel woefully inept. As you say, they are a special breed of Alpha hero, a breed apart from the Mediterranean hero, British hero, American hero...I think I'll leave it to you for now as you're doing such a good job!
    x Abby Green

  2. Hi Abby,

    Glad you enjoyed the post. I had fun writing it, thinking again of what it is that I like most in a sheikh story.

    Thanks for the compliments on my two sheikh books. Gee, you're good for my morale! As for not trying one yourself - you don't know till you have a go. I couldn't imagine writing one for ages, but then the idea came and it was such fun!


  3. Annie - I loved - and admired your first sheikh book so now I'm waiting impatiently for the next one to arrive so I can enjoy that one too.

    I totally agree that there are some stories for which only a sheikh will do - and whe you get that idea you just have to write it!


  4. Kate, hearing you say that about Rafiq and Belle's story is an absolute thrill. Thank you!

    Hm. I do like the sound of an idea where only a sheikh will do! I'll have to look for another one of those.


  5. Terrific take on what makes the sheikh so appealing, Annie. And I suspect there's a little of that being out of "control" that appeals to something rather dark in all of us. Total surrender... (sigh) :)


  6. Interesting thoughts, Annie!

    I was 'in love' with T E Lawrence as a student. Such a romantic figure!

    I've only read a couple of Sheikh stories, one of which I almost threw at the wall because of the insanely stupid, fainting, virgin heroine. I recently read 'Sheikh Surgeon' and rather liked the hero, and the heroine who stood up to him.

    I think the heroine is key for me in these stories - I just can't stand vapid women. I love it when a swaggering macho-man is knocked for six by a woman who gives as good as she gets.

    I love this idea of the 'other world' that the hero lives in - I've been struggling with ways to make my current hero (who is a little unorthodox) appeal to the reader (some might see him as a dropout) and the sheikh archetype (well type, anyway) fits him really well. Just minus the robes and horses.