Congratulations to Janine Ashbless on your re-release! I’m very happy to have you here as I recently published a romance set in the same world as yours and can easily imagine the atmosphere, the mystic, and the heat in Heart of Flame 🙂
I’m also glad your heroine, Taqla, agreed to talk a little bit about her adventure and – although she seems reluctant to admit it – her heart’s desire…
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Lea!
My romantic novel, Heart of Flame, has now been republished after reverting to me when Samhain Books closed down in 2017. I’ve given it a new cover and another textual polish and I’m hoping it will find new readers who love the Arabian Nights fantasy setting as much as I do!
The most beautiful woman in all Arabia has been abducted by a djinni – and only forbidden magic can bring about her rescue.
Taqla the sorceress lives in comfortable secrecy, until she agrees to help the handsome traveller Rafiq find the kidnapped daughter of the Amir. They set off together on a journey fraught with magic and peril, though a landscape of ancient desert ruins, terrible monsters and deception. With so many secrets to keep, Taqla cannot afford to trust Rafiq – and yet she must, with her life.
In the meantime, the captive Ahleme must try to fend off the attentions of the terrifying djinni who wishes to father upon her a new saviour of the Djinn race. Can Ahleme survive her imprisonment? Can Taqla really bring herself to help Rafiq win Ahleme back, when she is hopelessly in love with him herself? Can she trust him not to betray her, when sorcery is a crime punishable by death? Passion may yet betray them all.
Get Heart of Flame on:
Meet Janine Ashbless on:
Where did the idea for Heart of Flame come from?
I’ve wanted to write an Arabian Nights fantasy for ages. Are you old enough to remember movies like Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, or The Thief of Baghdad? I found those so exciting when I was a kid – the costumes, the magic, the monsters and the adventure (Oh my goodness – Ray Harryhausen plasticine stop-motion monsters! How I love them!). I really just wanted to write a Sinbad story, but with added hot romance and strong female characters.
The Middle East has fascinated me for years. I’ve actually been lucky enough to visit Egypt and Jordan and Turkey and Syria (before the current war), and the natural beauty and the layers of history accreted in these countries just blow me away. And in the medieval period in particular, a time when Brits like me were living in mud huts, the Middle East was enjoying a golden age of learning and civilisation.
Plus, I love 19th Century Orientalist art – that is, paintings by people like Jean-Léon Gérôme of bazaars and harems and caravanserai. They’re obsessively realistic in detail and incredibly atmospheric, all filtered through a Victorian mindset of exoticism and romance, nervousness and wonder. I wanted to write that.
[Picture: Eugène Girardet (1853-1907): Bedouins in the Desert (detail)]
An Interview with my Heroine, Taqla:
JA: Hello Taqla. So – you’re a sorceress?
Taqla: Shush! Don’t tell everyone that! It’s a capital crime in Damascus and if I’m discovered by the Amir’s men I’ll be executed!
JA: So how do you manage to live?
Taqla: By subterfuge. My house belongs to the aged astrologer Umar – that’s me of course, disguised by magic as an old man if I have to receive visitors. And if I want to go out into the bazaar then I go as his man-slave Zahir, who’s young and cheery and gets by without anyone really noticing him. I mean, it’s just much easier being a man in this day and age, if you have the choice. I never show my real face or figure in public. No one knows who I really am.
JA: That sounds incredibly lonely. No one at all?
Taqla: Well, there’s my housekeeper, Lelia. And …
JA: And Rafiq the Traveller?
Taqla: I didn’t mean for him to discover my secret! But I found it too difficult to hold my magical disguise together when I was with him. My concentration just fell apart and then I’d suddenly find myself back in female form.
JA: Because you’re in love with him, that’s right?
Taqla: No – You can’t say that! I would never do anything as stupid as fall in love with a man – it’s far too dangerous for a sorceress to put herself at risk like that. I’ve got more sense. I can’t trust any man, least of all one like Rafiq. He’s too clever and too curious.
JA: And brave, and charming, and filled with wanderlust. And really good-looking, right?
Taqla: Please, you sound like Lelia. She warned me not to take to the desert with Rafiq. [sighs] Maybe she was right. When we were attacked by ghouls he discovered my secret and now I don’t know what will happen.
JA: Can you trust him to keep your secret?
Taqla: I don’t know. He needs my powers to find the Amir’s daughter. She’d been abducted by a djinni and Rafiq will never save her without magical help. He really wants that. She’s been promised to the man who will rescue her and that’ll mean he becomes the heir to Damascus. Not to mention the fact that she is supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the world…
JA: So how do you feel about helping him save her, then?
Taqla: I don’t know what to say about that. It’s a good thing I am not in love with him, isn’t it? Otherwise it would be unbearable to spend my days and nights at his side, facing all sorts of dangers, trusting him with my life and watching over his. Knowing that he’s doing it all for another woman. Completely unbearable.
JA: Oh, Taqla…
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Read an excerpt from Heart of Flame here on my blog