From an early age, I have been interested in style – in fashion and accessories and looks. I’ve read Vogue. I’ve attended fashion shows. I’ve shopped-until-I-dropped in all manner of stores, from little boutiques right through to the heavenly Selfridge’s, Oxford Street, all the while with the iconic words of Coco Chanel echoing in my mind: ‘A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.’
It is little wonder, then, that the heroines of my novels are style conscious. Anything less just does not fit with my stories: beautiful, passionate, exuberant.
Of all my novels so far, Masquerade was the most interesting to write in terms of style, because of the era: 1970s Spain. The country was newly liberated from the dictatorial rule of General Franco, and its people were excitedly discovering a whole new way of living. That meant all manner of experimentation and flamboyance in all walks of life, and this spirit was exemplified in style. Whereas Alexandra, heroine of Indiscretion (Book 1 of the Andalusian Nights trilogy), had to dress somewhat conservatively, her daughter Luz, heroine of Masquerade, is free to express herself in dress as she likes. For example, Luz dresses as follows for an evening at the theatre:
She wore a midnight-blue silk-chiffon full-length dress, which skimmed her body and moulded her form to perfection. Its deep colour reflected in her large eyes, giving her irises a violet tint and setting off the radiant nature of her skin, which glowed even more warmly under her newly-caught tan from the beach. The dress had a plunging neckline and a knotted bodice from which the skirt fell into a profusion of soft folds. A fabulous necklace cascading with different-sized gold beads hung down to her cleavage, ending in a cluster of small gems fashioned as grapes. She had teamed it with a matching pair of earrings and stiletto sandals. Her long raven-black hair was tonight worn loose to the hips and acted as a cloak around her naked shoulders. The whole effect was striking.
The plunging neckline, the loose hair, the naked shoulders… this style is confident with an edge of bohemian about it.
What struck me most when I researched 1976 fashion in Spain was how sexy some of the styles were. I have written before that Luz is a heroine of the sexual revolution. Before her time sexuality – for women in particular – was tightly controlled: no sex outside of marriage, no contraception, no nudity in public. Now, women like Luz can do as they like when it comes to relationships and, of course, fashion.
I was very aware when writing Luz that not only does she have a great sense of style, but she must consider carefully how she wishes her look to affect the men, Leandro and Andrès, in the story. Put simply, she knows that her style has power.
Sometimes, Luz quite deliberately dresses simply, leaving only a slight suggestion of that latent power she wields:
The afternoon sun had given her skin a natural apricot hue so she needed no extra make-up on her cheekbones. Her eyes were shining more than usual, courtesy of the havoc the man waiting downstairs had created within her. A little kohl and a soupçon of mascara made them look even wider and deeper. To finish off she applied a tinge of transparent gloss to her sun-kissed lips.
She had changed into a white silk kaftan edged with narrow gold braid and delicate gold flat sandals. Oversized matching hoop earrings were her only other accessory.
This is how Luz dresses for dinner with Andrès. She looks beautiful, but not overtly sensual. On another occasion, however, she dresses to impress – and captivate:
The pair of silk ivory shorts she wore showed off her long shapely legs and perfect slim figure. She teamed them with a close-fitting shirt of the same colour and fabric. The curve of her small breasts and their taut little peaks could just be made out under the thin cloth, an arresting touch that, though she may not have admitted it to herself, she knew Andrés’s keen eyes would not miss. The oversized collarless camel linen-piquet jacket she had picked up in a boutique in Cádiz and the nude stiletto heeled sandals adorning her delicate, perfectly groomed feet achieved the easy glamour she was looking for.
Do you like the subtlety to her style here? Andrès, bless him, may think she’s dressed simply and that his attraction to her is entirely down to his own interpretation; little does he know the deliberate thought that Luz has put in to showing off her legs and offering a suggestion of her breasts.
Sometimes, a woman wants to step beyond subtlety, and I knew that Luz would have the confidence to do so. When she is in the mood to be noticed, her style choices can ensure that is so. For example:
Luz had spent hours in her bath, washing her hair and buffing her body, rubbing deliciously scented oils and creams into it to make her skin even silkier than it already was. Andrés had once commented that she had such pretty feet, so she had gone out and bought a new pair of gold lame sandals, which she was wearing tonight. She wore a soft, lightweight summer mini-dress with an all-over multicoloured vibrant abstract swirl design, a heavy ruffle hem and low-scooped bodice and back.
Poor Andrès: he won’t know what has hit him!
As you can see, I have a lot of fun dreaming up outfits for my heroines, and I hope you have fun reading about them.
In my novel Masquerade, book two of the Andalusian Nights trilogy, the heroine Luz is maddeningly attracted to her new employer, Andrès. I say ‘maddeningly’, because while Andrès is in so many ways a good match for her – charismatic, intelligent, charming, successful in his work – he is also edged with darkness. Luz’s body aches to get close to him; her mind, however, screams ‘danger’.
Take, for example, this excerpt from the book:
He looked like Apollyon, his head tilted back a little in haughty disdain and his swarthy profile limned clear-cut against the vaulted backcloth of brilliant darkness: proud and arrogant, belonging to the distinguished physique of a man born to dominate and rule. She was aware of a fluttering stir in her gut, shooting pulses at her nerve-endings that were becoming all too familiar.
Apollyon, in case you’re wondering, is a dark angel in Greek mythology, and the Devil himself according to some Biblical sources. Clearly not the ideal man to fall for, and yet Andrès makes Luz feel so intently. No wonder she drives home ‘as if running away from Lucifer himself… in a frenzy of shock and confusion’.
For the coming days, whenever Luz encounters Andrès she is plunged into turmoil, and invariably finds herself comparing this man to the prince of darkness. He is as ‘handsome as the Devil in his white dinner jacket and dark trousers’. He hasa ‘devilish glint in those dark smoky irises’. Angered, he looks ‘like a fallen angel, raised from the bottomless pit to take out his wrath on mankind’.
Understandably, Luz is perturbed by her pervading instinct that there is a darkness in Andrès. But she is also excited by his devilishness. Take the following glimpse:
As Luz glanced at the elegant businessman facing her, she took in the lean jaw and slight frown marring his perfect profile. She imagined he was as magnificent as an avenging angel when in full flight of fury. Luz saw him stiffen as he noticed her looking at him. That hooded gaze was back as he lifted his glass to his mouth and drank, watching her, before slowly placing it down again. She quivered as if those sensuously sculpted lips had touched hers.
Masterful, enigmatic, powerful, unhindered by rules: is it any wonder women are attracted to ‘bad boys’?
What is it that draws Luz to Andrès? If I were being kind to Luz, I would say it is that she can sense what lies beneath his mask; that she knows what is for show and what is real; that she knows that the light in him far eclipses the darkness.
Truthfully, though, the attraction is based more on the universal fascination for, and attraction to, ‘the dark side’. As Oscar Wilde wrote, ‘We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.’ In a country just awakening from the repressive regime of Franco, which exacted so many limitations and rules, Luz is drawn to rebellion, to a man who will spar with her and allow her to explore her deepest desires – and despite his smart suit and professionalism, Andrès on some level represents this.
Do you enjoy romance novels with a devilish hero? Does the fallen angel type appeal to you? Who is your favourite romantic hero with an edge of darkness? I would love to hear your thoughts.
In my lifetime, I have been fortunate enough to travel to all manner of places around the globe. I have liked many, and loved a few. One of those few is Andalusia, Spain. That sultry, sunny Spanish region so fired up my imagination that I set not one or even two but three books there: my award-winning Andalusian Nights series – whose dramatic conclusion, Legacy, is publishing in just a few weeks (28 July for the ebook and 25 August for the paperback).
Here, in no particular order, are ten things I love about Andalusia. Readers can expect to find each aspect in my novels Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy, in stories that transport you from the comfort of your armchair to the beautiful south of Spain.
The stunning scenery
I love the colours of the landscape; Andalusia is known for its pueblos blancos – white villages – and the sky and sea are so beautifully blue. Here’s a glimpse of the scenery as seen through the eyes of Alexandra, heroine of Indiscretion, when she first arrives in Andalusia:
They were running over gently undulating ground, which rose and sank in larger billows. The yellow Guadalquivir followed the train all the way, through a valley that sometimes widened to the Sierras, blue mountains that walled the horizon, their bare sharp peaks and rainbow-coloured spears of rock – yellow, orange and crimson – stabbing the air. In the distance, Alexandra could see towns, very white, beyond the wheatlands and olive orchards that divided the landscape. One of these towns nestled brightly at the base of a hill, topped by a Moorish castle, golden against the blue sky.
The Moorish influence
The Moors from North Africa ruled parts of Andalusia for 800 years (between the 8th and 15th centuries), and they have left their mark, most especially in architecture. My favourite example is the Alhambra, the amalgamation of fabulous Arabesque palaces and a fortress complex built by the Moors on a steep wooded hill during the mid-14th century in Granada, Spain. It’s straight out of the Arabian Nights, and is startling for its beauty.
The art scene
This is especially important in Masquerade, in which the heroine is writing a biography of a famous Surrealist artist. I was deeply inspired by the Surrealists, whose aim was to explore the line between dream and reality, especially the Spanish artists Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso (from Andalusia) – and the writer Federico García Lorca from whose work I quote in the epigraph to Indiscretion: ‘To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.’
An intrinsic part of Andalusian culture, it is so vibrant, evocative, stirring and soulful. I adore the fashion of flamenco; the beautiful red and black dresses the women wear, in particular. Most of all, I love the music – what Federico García Lorca called, ‘The weeping of the guitar’. There’s no other music like it in the world, and no other music so raw and moving.
The spirit of the people
Andalusia is an autonomous community, and it is more populated than any other autonomous community. So there are many people who are very proud of their Andalusian nationality. The geographical location of Andalusia, on the south coast with a coastline on both the Mediterranean and Atlantic, has made it a popular place for holidaymakers, and I found a real sense of ‘fiesta’ in the places I visited, and an intensity: as Salvador says in Indiscretion: ‘Everything we Andalucians do, we do with intensity.’ Plus the temperate climate makes for such a wonderful life enjoyed in the warmth and beneath glorious blue skies (the dry area of Andalusia enjoys some 300 days of sunshine per year!).
Have you heard of the Andalusian horse breed (also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE for Pura Raza Española)? It has been bred on the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years, and has long been prized as a beautiful, noble and sensitive horse – the horse of kings through history. The de Falla family at the heart of my Andalusian Night trilogy breed Andalusian horses and train them for the cavalry, the show ring and the arena, and so these feature prominently in the stories.
What amazing meals I’ve had in Andalusia! The ingredients are of such a high quality: langostino de Sanlúcar (prawns), jamón serrano and jamónibérico (cured meats), gazpacho (cold soup), alboronía (like ratatouille), and amazing sweets like merengadas and amarguillos (biscuits) – all accompanied by a little jerez (sherry) or local wine.
I love the fiesta culture of Andalucia: how people come together. Sometimes the occasion is a corrida (a bullfight), and while these feature in Indiscretion, I can’t say I love to watch them. The Jerez Horse Fair, however, is one of my favourite events. Held in May each year, the Feria de Caballo has been drawing huge crowds for more than 500 years. It is a riot of colour and noise, and the horses on display are some of the most beautiful and expensive in the world. There is nothing quite like standing at the side of the Paseo de Caballistas y Enganches (Carriage and Riders’ Avenue) and watching the processions of horses and carriages go by. Some are bedecked in the most amazing colourful attire.
The importance of family
Family is an important theme in the Andalusian Nights trilogy (the title Legacy hints at this), and so where better to situate the story than in a country where roots are a source of great pride – and, sometimes, friction.
From the opening of the trilogy: En la sangre hierve España sin fuego. (In Spain blood boils without fire.) This proverb says it all: Spanish is a land of deep passions, the perfect setting for fiery, dramatic romance. Olé!
My latest fiction series is set in Andalucía, Spain. It is a region I know well, having travelled there several times. Whenever I visit, I try to practise my Spanish (I am far more fluent speaking in French and English), which requires that I listen carefully to the language and read as much native material as possible: from signs and menus to newspapers and tourist guides. In doing so, I invariably notice Spanish words that look very familiar: they have been adopted in English.
Today, for your interest, I am sharing some of the many English words that are of Spanish origin. I think some may just surprise you!
Aficionado: from the verb aficionar, meaning to inspire affection
Alcatraz: means gannet.
Alligator: from el lagarto, meaning the lizard
Armadillo: means little armored one
Bonanza: means prosperity
Breeze: from brisa, meaning a cold wind
Cafeteria: from cafetería, meaning coffee store
Canyon: from cañón, meaning a gorge
Cargo: from the verb cargar, meaning to load
Chocolate: from Nahuatl xocolatl meaning hot water
Cockroach: from cucaracha
Cocoa: from cacao
Comrade: from camarada, meaning mate
Crimson: from Old Spanish cremesín
Crusade: from cruzada
Galleon: galeón, meaning a large sailing ship
Guerrilla: means small war
Hacienda: from Old Spanish facienda, meaning estate
Hurricane: from huracán
Lasso: means tie
Maroon: from cimarrón
Matador: means killer
Mosquito: means little fly
Oregano: from orégano
Patio: from patio, meaning inner courtyard
Platinum: from platina, meaning little silver
Potato: from patata
Ranch: from rancho, meaning a tiny rural community
Renegade: from renegado, meaning heretic or disowned
Salsa: from salsa, meaning sauce
Savvy: from sabe, meaning knows
Stampede: from estampida
Suave: means charming and confident
Tobacco: from tabaco, meaning snuff
Tomato: from tomate
Tornado: from tronada, meaning thunderstorm
Tuna: from atún
Tourist: from turista
Vamoose: from vamos, meaning let’s go
Vanilla: from vainilla
Vigilante: means watchman
How many of these have you been using in everyday conversation without knowing their origins? Do let me know if you have any to add to the list.
Welcome to my blog, and thank you for visiting. For this hop, I’m giving away ebook copies of my novels Masquerade and Indiscretion, books one and two of the Andalucian Nights trilogy, and recent award winners:
Entry is open to all, via Rafflecopter. The prizes are ebooks: mobi, epub or PDF.