When my first book, An Image of You, was accepted by Harlequin Mills and Boon in 1991, it had plenty of sizzle but the sex was pretty much left to the reader’s imagination. Back then in the U.K., all the books, sexy or sweet, were published under the same cover (readers bought by author, cover and blurb). In the U.S., however, my books were slotted into the “Romance” series, and although I did frequently flirt with very edge of the guidelines (and my books were often published in the sexier lines in other countries) the sex had to stay in the imagination.
In its original conception, the new Kiss series — with it’s fresh, flirty, international editorial — was to have revisited that early, and very successful, British model of mixing sexy and sweet. It quickly became obvious, however, that this confused readers who were used to one heat level per series. After a few months, it was decided that all the books in the series were going to be sexy. With a capital S.
I had to decide whether to return to Romance, or accept the challenge of adding heat to my stories. Writers are always looking for new ways to stretch themselves, and I had no hesitation in staying with an exciting new series jam-packed with terrific authors from all over the world.
It was easier said than done. To begin with, I was already a third of the way into my new book and I had to go back to the beginning and rethink it. Added to that, years of writing Romance had programmed me (ie; my heroine) to either step back at the crucial moment, or draw a veil over what happened after they hit the mattress. Here I was with Darius inviting Natasha to get naked, and Tasha reaching for her top button while my inner editor shouted “Stop now!”
And as Tasha kept on going with those buttons, it felt like I was taking off my own clothes in public.
My first effort at getting this scene from my brain to the keyboard was painfully tentative, but the great thing about writing is that you can go back and add layers. Every time I revisited that scene my confidence grew and I felt more and more at home doing what I had so often longed to do — going the distance with my characters.
Once I had that first scene down I completely lost my inhibitions. In the Land Rover. In the kitchen. In the shower. Then I had to hit “send” on my manuscript and chew my nails to the quick wondering what my editor of many years would think. Would she be shocked? Or far worse, would she say I hadn’t done a good enough job?
Er, no. To both concerns. She loved it, and For His Eyes Only went through with only the lightest of copy edits. And to add joy to that feeling of having dived off the ten metre board and hit the water cleanly, Romantic Times gave it a 4.5 star review.
So was it easy? No. Like every one of my books, I had to work really hard to write something I’m happy with.
Did I love being able to push open the door and share every moment of my characters’ journey? Yes and yes and yes!
Finally, the last, the most important question. Will you love it?
Here’s a little taste of Darius and Tasha getting to know one another a little better:
“…That’s the good news. The bad news…”’ She faltered. Bad news? What the…?
‘Don’t stop now.’
The words were spoken with a clear, crisp, don’t-argue-with-me certainty, but not by her boss and she spun around as the owner of the voice rose from the high-backed leather armchair set in front of Miles Morgan’s desk and turned to face her
Her first impression was of darkness. Dark hair, dark clothes, dark eyes in a mesmerising face that missed beauty by a hair’s breadth, although a smile might have done the business.
The second was of strength. There was no bulk, but his shoulders were wide beneath a crumpled linen jacket so old that the black had faded to grey, his abdomen slate-flat under a t-shirt that hung loosely over narrow hips.
His hand was resting on the back of the chair, long calloused fingers curled over the leather. They were the kind of fingers that she could imagine doing unspeakable things to her. Was imagining…
She looked up and met eyes that seemed to penetrate every crevice, every pore and a hot blush, beginning somewhere low in her belly spread like wildfire in every direction—
Miles’ sharp interjection jolted her back to the page but it was a moment before she could catch her breath, gather her wits and focus on the words dancing in front of her.
“…the bad news is the wet rot, woodworm, crumbling plasterwork and leaking roof. The vendor would, no doubt, have preferred to demolish the house and redevelop the land, but it’s a Grade II listed building in the heart of the Green Belt so he’s stuffed. There is a fine oak Tudor staircase but bearing in mind the earlier reference to wet rot and woodworm, an early viewing is advised if you want to see the upper floors.”
Her heart still pounding with the shock of a sexual attraction so powerful that she was trembling, she had to read it twice before it sank in. And when they did her pulse was still in a sorry state.
‘I don’t understand,’ she said then, realising how feeble that sounded, ‘How did this happen?’
Her question had been directed at Miles, but the response came from Mr Tall, Dark and Deadly. Who was he?
‘Hadley,’ he said, apparently reading her mind. Or maybe she’d asked the question out loud. She needed to get a grip. She needed an ice bath…
She cleared her throat. ‘Hadley?’ His name still emerged as if spoken by a surprised frog, but that wasn’t simply because all her blood had apparently drained from her brain to the more excitable parts of her anatomy. The house was unoccupied and the sale was being handled by the estate’s executors and since no one had mentioned a real life, flesh and blood Hadley, she’d assumed the line had run dry.
‘Darius Hadley,’ he elaborated, clearly picking up on her doubt.
In her career she’d worked with everyone from young first time buyers scraping together a deposit, to billionaires investing in London apartments and town houses costing millions. She knew that appearances could be deceptive but Darius Hadley did not have the look of a man whose family had been living in the Chase since the seventeenth century, when a grateful Charles II had given the estate to one James Hadley, a rich merchant who’d funded him in exile.
With the glint of a single gold earring amongst the mass of black curls tumbling over his collar, the crumpled linen jacket, jeans worn threadbare at the knees, he looked more like a gypsy, or a pirate. Perhaps that’s where the Hadley fortune had come from — plundering the Spanish Main with the likes of Drake.
For His Eyes Only by Liz Fielding is on sale from March 1st in the KISS series in the US and Modern Tempted in the UK.
* * *
Best-selling author, Liz Fielding has written more than sixty books for Harlequin, has won two Ritas®, and her last KISS, Anything But Vanilla, has just been shortlisted for the 2014 Romantic Novelists’ Association RoNA “Rose”.