Interview with Susan Stephens, Author of Diamond in the Desert

Please welcome USA TODAY bestselling author Susan Stephens to the virtual offices today! Susan is here to chat about her latest Harlequin Presents Diamond in the Desert.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you describe yourself?

[Susan Stephens] The children call me Ninja Carrot.  I prefer to think of myself as driven! I love people and music, art and food, and one of my main passions is travel, which allows me to immerse myself in all these things.

I have been lucky enough to travel the world singing, and now with my writing. It would be fair to say I’ve seen quite a bit of life along the way.

I have a deep love of animals and have never been without a pet of some sort in my life, even when I was forced to smuggle a ridiculously young puppy I found in a disreputable pet shop into my theatrical digs. Poor Fleur was so tiny she didn’t even have proper fur, and the vet told me that if she was still alive the following week she would put her on an inoculation plan. Fourteen years later Fleur left me. She was a life-enhancing privilege,  to know and love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Diamond in the Desert?

[Susan Stephens] Diamond In The Desert is my first book in the Skavanga series. I feel so passionate about the heroine in this book. Britt is the oldest sister who feels herself responsible for the rest of the family, but Britt cuts herself no slack and has no personal life outside her work and family. I so want Britt to be happy and fulfilled in all areas of her life, and I hope I found a hero in Sheikh Sharif who can both excite Britt and show her that she can enjoy personal fulfilment without compromising her sense of duty.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Susan Stephens] I just love the concept of ice and fire. The characters exploded from these extreme settings and demanded to have their stories told

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Britt?

[Susan Stephens] Britt is strong, loyal, and lonely

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Sharif had a theme song, what would it be?

[Susan Stephens] My way

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Britt is never without.

[Susan Stephens] Care for those who rely on her

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Sharif’s bedroom?

[Susan Stephens] Alarm clock . A mirror. Pink cushions

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Britt’s greatest regret?

[Susan Stephens] She hasn’t saved herself for Sharif

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Susan Stephens] Life, my children, and the wonderful books I read

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Susan Stephens] The love of my family. My Betty dog lying on my feet, and the phone not ringing constantly.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Susan Stephens] Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Susan Stephens] Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Susan Stephens] Cook, bake, eat, travel, play the piano, entertain friends, read, walk, think about the next book

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Susan Stephens] www.susanstephens.com

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Diamond in the Desert from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

Breathless in a Bedouin tent With the future of the Skavanga diamond mine in jeopardy, heiress Britt Skavanga needs an injection of cash-fast. She finds it in the mysterious Arabian investor known only as Emir… 

Britt travels to the desert kingdom of Kareshi to confront her arrogant benefactor. If diamonds are in Britt’s blood, then the scorching desert sand runs through Sheikh Sharif al Kareshi’s. He’s determined to show arctic beauty Britt how things are really done in Kareshi, including how hot nights in the desert can be…

Review: The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh by Ros Clarke

Title: The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh

Author: Ros Clarke

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

His duty, her dreams, undone by their desire…

In the male-dominated oil industry, executive Olivia McInnes plays a careful game – she’s cold, uncompromising, and ambitious as hell. Once she seals the deal to drill in the clear waters of Saqat, she’ll finally prove herself worthy to take the reins of her father’s oil company. Her only obstacle is marine biologist – and Saqat’s royal heir – Sheikh Khaled Ibm Saqat al Mayim, who’s determined to protect both his people and his country from environmental devastation…

It’s not long before Olivia’s icy cool exterior is shattered by the intelligent and wickedly hot sheikh, and business is surpassed by sweet, stolen pleasures. But outside the bedroom, there’s reality to be faced. Soon Khaled must return to his obligations – and his betrothed – in Saqat.

Caught between duty and ambition, can an oil tycoon and a sexy sheikh find room for love… or will this business deal spell disaster for them both?

Review:

I wanted to read The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh because I was curious to see how the conflict between the characters would be portrayed.  Olivia is an executive at a successful oil company, and in order to ensure that she will take her father’s place  when he retires, she needs to land the contract to drill for oil in the waters off of Saqat.  Khaled is next in line to rule the country, but he is also a marine biologist.  He has studied the long term effects of oil spills on marine life, and what he has learned is discouraging.  It takes far longer than originally thought for the aquatic ecosystem to recover from the devastating consequences of a spill, and he is reluctant to allow any corporation to set up shop in his coastal waters.  He doesn’t believe that safety precautions go far enough, and he thinks that the cleanup efforts outlined in the contract are also lacking.  But tempering his reluctance to open up Saqat to oil investors is the need to alleviate the poverty of his  people.  The money from oil production would help bring education and improvements in medical care, and it is very difficult for him to turn that down.  I enjoyed this conflict between these two driven people.  Olivia is gung-ho to prove herself to the naysayers at her father’s company, and Khaled wants what’s best for both his country and his people.  This puts them at odds with each other, and it is a heavy weight on Khaled’s shoulders.  Does he allow these foreigners into the pristine waters, when there is a potential that they will bring ruin to the fragile ecosystem?

While I found the business negotiations interesting, I was not convinced about the romantic conflict between Khaled and Olivia.  They are instantly attracted to each other, but because Khaled is next in line to inherit the throne, he tries to put the brakes on their budding relationship.  It just can’t work out for them, because he has a duty to his people.  Their relationship can’t go anywhere, because he is expected to marry a quiet, respectable Muslim girl from Saqat, and Olivia just doesn’t fit into the mold he has imagined his future wife must fit  into.  I didn’t buy into this conflict because the only person who had a problem with them being a couple was Khaled.  Once Olivia arrived in his country, almost everyone was open and friendly with her.  Everyone seemed to accept her.  There was no opposition to her being in the palace, other than the opposition that Khaled brought into their relationship, so I didn’t feel that there was a sense of tension or suspense about their romance.  I was a little dismayed that it took Khaled so long to question his own concerns, because he is certainly smarter than that, and as a scientist, it should have been in his nature to re-evaluate his conclusions.

Despite that complaint,  I found The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh a quick, satisfying read.  I gobbled this one up, was annoyed by Olivia’s distant, clueless father, and cheered her on as she sought to find a purpose in life beyond the one she had envisioned for herself.  Olivia, like Khaled, put pressure on herself to be something that she thought other people expected of her.  She wanted to succeed in her father’s business so much because she sought his approval, something that she never felt he had given to her.  Until she meet Khaled and traveled to Saqat, she never questioned her life goals.  Once she met him, though, she was forced to admit that maybe the career path she was pursuing wasn’t really the one she wanted.  The final resolution ties up all of the loose ends, and finds happiness and a new purpose for both protagonists and the citizens of Saqat.

Grade: B-/C+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Interview with Ros Clarke, Author of The Oil Tycoon and her Sexy Sheikh and Giveaway!

Ros Clarke is visiting the Café today to chat about her new release, The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh.  After the interview, Ros brought along a digital copy of her book for one of you to win! 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Hi, Ros! Thanks for dropping in!

[Ros Clarke] Hello and thanks for welcoming me to the Manga Maniac Cafe today!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Ros Clarke] Fun, fat, fabulous, happy, British, clever, silly, creative, colourful, addicted to adverbs, chocolate, romance novels and daytime TV.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh?

[Ros Clarke] It’s a traditional category romance, with truly twenty-first century characters. The Oil Tycoon is Olivia McInnes, a fiercely determined career woman who intends to take over the running of her father’s oil company. And Her Sexy Sheikh is Khaled Saqat, a marine biologist and expert on the long-term effects of oil spills. The problem is that there is oil in Saqat waters and Olivia wants the contract to drill. Khaled can’t think of anything worse – but his country needs the money, so he has to find a way to negotiate with Olivia to come up with a solution that works for them both. Their romance is just as complicated to negotiate as their business partnership but of course there is a happy ever after – eventually!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Ros Clarke] I love a good sheikh story, but most of them seem to bear absolutely no resemblance to the real world of the Middle East. I wanted to try to write something a bit more realistic. Oil was the obvious place to start. And if you’ve got oil, then you’ve got environmentalists protesting about it. The lightbulb moment for me was when I realised that the sheikh could be the environmentalist which let the heroine be the oil executive. Everything else followed from there.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Olivia?

[Ros Clarke] Ambitious, independent, lonely

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Khaled would never have in his bedroom?

[Ros Clarke] A hot water bottle, a cute picture of a baby dugong, a cat. Actually, I don’t know about the cat, but I wouldn’t have one, so I am projecting.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Khaled had a theme song, what would it be?

[Ros Clarke] Whale Song, Pearl Jam

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Ros Clarke] I suppose it’s the authors I’ve read most: Dorothy L Sayers, Dick Francis, Georgette Heyer. They all wrote genre fiction but they all wrote intelligent, interesting books with believable characters and realistic settings. They are books you can fall into and inhabit. I don’t think my writing is anywhere like as good, but that’s what I’m aiming for.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Ros Clarke] Time, lack of stress, laptop

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Ros Clarke] Kate Hewitt’s The Darkest of Secrets. I loved the way she explored the taboo subject of adultery in romance and I really loved the way she made the hero work for his happy ending. I don’t want to say any more because it will spoil the story, but if you haven’t already, go read it!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Ros Clarke  ]Peter and Jane. I honestly can’t remember a time when I haven’t loved reading. Anything and everything. One of my earliest memories is watching my mother attempt to teach my brother (a year older than me) to read. He wasn’t interested at all, but I was fascinated and sped through the beginning-to-read Ladybird books. From then on, one of my dad’s party tricks was to pick a book at random off the shelf and get me to read it aloud, to the amazement of everyone else. As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on. As a teenager, I read a lot of detective fiction. And as an adult, I’ve grown to appreciate romance more and more.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Ros Clarke] Oh, everything! I do lots of crafty things – knitting, sewing, colouring, cooking, gardening. I also have a job working for my church. Oh, and I am supposed to be finishing my PhD dissertation…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Ros Clarke] I’m on twitter, at Goodreads, and at my own blog. Come and say hi!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Giveaway Time!!

Thanks to Ros and Entangled Publishing, I have a digital copy of The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh to give to one of you! Just fill out the widget below for your chance to win.  Extra entries for following.

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Didn’t win? You can purchase The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below:

About the book

The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh is part of Entangled’s Indugence line of contemporary category romances.

His duty, her dreams, undone by their desire…

In the male-dominated oil industry, executive Olivia McInnes plays a careful game – she’s cold, uncompromising, and ambitious as hell. Once she seals the deal to drill in the clear waters of Saqat, she’ll finally prove herself worthy to take the reins of her father’s oil company. Her only obstacle is marine biologist – and Saqat’s royal heir – Sheikh Khaled Ibm Saqat , who’s determined to protect both his people and his country from environmental devastation…

It’s not long before Olivia’s icy cool exterior is shattered by the intelligent and wickedly hot sheikh, and business is surpassed by sweet, stolen pleasures. But outside the bedroom, there’s reality to be faced. Soon Khaled must return to his obligations – and his betrothed – in Saqat.

Caught between duty and ambition, can an oil tycoon and a sexy sheikh find room for love…or will this business deal spell disaster for them both?

More details and an excerpt are available here.

About Ros

Ros is a writer, a student, a church worker, a crafter, a blogger, a twitterer, a lazy gardener, and an appalling housekeeper. She lives in a sixteenth century shed in England and is very glad that it has twenty-first century plumbing. She is interested in almost everything except cricket and football (US and UK) and mostly she likes happy endings in fiction and in real life.

Ros has been writing stories for as long as she can remember, never dreaming that other people would be interested in reading them. A few years ago, she discovered a writing forum on the internet, and has never looked back. Her head—and her hard drive—are full of ideas for fresh, fun, contemporary romances that she hopes you’ll love as much as she does.