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lynnec.jpgLynne Connolly’s reviews of the Throne of Judar Trilogy by Olivia Gates and The Billionaires’ Brides Series by Sandra Marton
Contemporary romances released by Silhouette Desire & Harlequin Presents

I’ve been in bed for a week with the flu for the past week, and all I could do was read. So, being woolly-headed, I went for Harlequin, my comfort reads of choice.

Apart from my fave Sara Cravens, I discovered Olivia Gates’ Throne of Judar trilogy, and Sandra Marton’s The Billionaires’ Brides series. Totally preposterous plots, but if you go with them, you find interesting characters and situations that the authors work hard for you to believe in. 


Throne of Judar Trilogy by Olivia Gates

The Gates trilogy — Throne of Judar, consisting of The Desert Lord’s Baby, The Desert Lord’s Bride, and The Desert King — is delicious, all three, but with plots I’d usually avoid like the plague.

I’m not fond of children in my romance books, but the baby in the first book was necessary to the plot, acted its age and didn’t take up too much page time. It was also a Secret Baby, but in this book, it worked.

The writing is lush and romantic, the hot scenes tended towards the purple, but worked in the context and I found that, for me, the books improved as the series went on, mainly because of the quality of the writing. As a writer myself, I love reading writers who “come on” in their writing, and I believe Ms Gates really does.

For the Throne of Judar, B-, mainly for the purple in the sex scenes, and the fact that I couldn’t always work out what exactly was going on in them.

Overall Grade: B-

Book Cover The Desert Lord’s Baby by Olivia Gates
Contemporary romance released by Silhouette Desire 13 May 08


There was nowhere Carmen could hide from this prince of Judar. No stone he wouldn’t turn to find her, no wall he couldn’t tear down. Nothing would stop Farooq Aal Masood from claiming the mother of his baby.

She had betrayed him. And she would pay. In his bed. As his wife…until he tired of her. And though Carmen professed to love him, that it was all a misunderstanding, well…Farooq would never fall for her lies again!

Read an excerpt.

Book Cover The Desert Lord’s Bride by Olivia Gates
Contemporary romance released by Silhouette Desire 8 Jul 08


The future of Judar rests with Farah Beaumont, a foreigner who wants nothing to do with her heritage.

And to secure his country’s peace, prince Shehab Aal Masood must make her his bride-by any means necessary.

Hiding his identity and sweeping Farah off her feet is a start. But the joyful, seemingly innocent Farah is nothing like he expects. And Shehab’s calculated seduction soon becomes an affair too powerful to control….

Read an excerpt (scroll down).

Book Cover The Desert King by Olivia Gates
Contemporary romance released by Silhouette Desire 9 Sep 08


Their farce of a marriage will save his kingdom. And in return for an heir, Kamal Aal Masood will give his new wife Aliyah anything-except the trust and intimacy she desperately wants.

When Kamal abruptly ended their blistering affair years ago, he vowed Aliyah would never ensnare him again. Only a fool allowed his actions to be ruled by his heart. And only a woman like Aliyah would dare to challenge a king in a passionate battle of wills….

Read an excerpt (scroll down).


The Billionaires’ Brides Series by Sandra Marton

Sandra Marton’s Billionaires’ Brides series is about three European princes finding their American princesses, and consists of The Italian Prince’s Pregnant Bride, The Greek Prince’s Chosen Wife, and The Spanish Prince’s Virgin Bride. (I cringe at the titles, why do they do that?)

Again, there is that pattern to the stories, but I found that interesting, to see what a good writer can do with a restrictive format. Each book conformed, but the characters in the books treated their situations differently.

Sandra Marton is an experienced Harlequin writer, and her books are really easy to read. That kind of skill isn’t in itself easy to acquire, and I found myself admiring it while I was reading. Scenes and situations flow naturally, and it’s only when you stop reading, you start to realise how daft the whole set-up really is. But it doesn’t matter, because Marton takes you into her world and lets you play there. Beautifully written and constructed, with the characters making the difference between believability and preposterous over-the-topness, they were all great reads.

Book Cover The Italian Prince’s Pregnant Bride by Sandra Marton
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents 1 Aug 07


It was payday for Prince Nicolo Barbieri. The Italian aristocrat’s negotiations to take over Manhattan’s SCB bank were about to bear fruit. But he wasn’t expecting Aimee Black, granddaughter of the bank’s current owner– who was pregnant with Nicolo’s baby! Nicolo felt duty bound to marry Aimee and give his child his name. But Aimee had other ideas about surrendering herself to this arrogant foreigner, who surely didn’t love her!

No excerpt available.

Book Cover The Greek Prince’s Chosen Wife by Sandra Marton
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents 1 Sep 07


Ivy Madison claims she’s pregnant with Prince Damian Aristedes’ baby, but he’s never even met her! Is she just another gold digger, exploiting his wish for a son and heir?

But Ivy is expecting Damian’s child — as a surrogate mother! The arrogant Greek is furious, but he’s not about to let Ivy go. After all, he missed the pleasure of bedding her to conceive his baby…

No excerpt available.

Book Cover The Spanish Prince’s Virgin Bride by Sandra Marton
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents 1 Oct 07


Prince Lucas Reyes is angry. His grandfather is forcing him into marriage with penniless Alyssa McDonough who’s pretending she’s untouched by any man. But the intense sexual chemistry between them tells him otherwise.—Lucas’s fiery royal blood is roused! He’ll force Lyssa to go to Spain with him, where he can get their marriage annulled. Because he’d swear that she’s pure, uninhibited mistress material, and never a virgin bride!

Read an excerpt.


Although one series (the Gates) was a Desire, and the other a Presents/Modern (Modern in the UK, Presents in the States), I didn’t actually find a lot of difference in the heat level. Although the Martons had one less sex scene per book, it was more explicit than the Gates ones.

These books are really hard to write, and very easy to read, which is why many women find them perfect in certain situations. On long journeys, ill in bed, or just looking for a read to accompany a break and a cup of coffee, they’re excellent.

I’ve tried a number of times to write for Harlequin, and so I know how hard it is. Taking a restrictive set of requirements (not a formula, because you can do what you want within those requirements) and writing a believable, enjoyable story within them is so much harder than writing whatever you want and letting your imagination dictate the story completely.

Actually, I have a couple of submissions in right now. Just sayin’.