As part of International Billionaires month at Mills & Boon we sat down with Modern author Annie West to talk about her writing and latest book, The Flaw In Raffaele’s Revenge. We know you’ll love this modern twist on a Beauty and the Beast story so grab a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) and read on!
Hello Annie! We love the idea for The Flaw In Raffaele’s Revenge. What was the inspiration for reversing the traditional gender roles?
I can’t honestly say what my inspiration was. I just know that for a couple of years now I’ve had the idea of writing a reverse Beauty and the Beast story. I’ve written a few B&B stories and loved them, and I just thought it would be enormous fun to write a twist on that – where he was the beauty and she was the beast (at least on the surface). I wondered what would happen if a scarred, reclusive heroine was pitted against, and fell for, a man who’d been named the Sexiest Man in the World. Once I had that idea I just couldn’t resist writing it, though I still didn’t have the story. I mentioned to a friend, author Abby Green, that I didn’t know what to write next – a reverse B&B story or an office romance and she asked simply why I didn’t combine the two. Sheer brilliance! After that my brain just wouldn’t stop till I’d fleshed out an idea for the book.
In this book Lily isn’t the focus of Raffaele’s revenge. She’s a tool he needs to help him best the man he believes destroyed his sister. He’ll do whatever it takes to get his vengeance, even forcing a stubborn but gifted recluse out of her hideaway to work for him on the most important project of his life. Lily resents him as she’s dragged kicking and screaming (not literally) from her safe haven and back into a world where she has to show her scarred face to strangers on a daily basis. To her horror she finds herself attracted to Raffaele, knowing he’d never look at a woman as plain as her. But to Raffa, Lily is quite different to every woman he’s ever met. She treats him not as a sex symbol or a meal ticket, but with a determined indifference that intrigues him and makes him want to find all there is to discover about her. What he doesn’t expect is to be attracted and more, wanting to protect and support her, and help her conquer her fears.
So my imperfect, selfish hero becomes the man who helps Lily overcome her fear and embrace a new life. But the Beauty and the Beast theme runs more deeply and it’s not just at surface level. Raffa may look like he has everything a man could ever want, and more, but inside he hides scars uglier than Lily’s. I loved the fact it was gentle, protesting, scarred Lily who helped heal the Beast within him.
As an aside, I particularly enjoyed writing this book because of the beautiful Caribbean island location. Every day I’d open my manuscript and dive into that sunny, glittering world. What a treat!
Do you picture your characters as you write? If you could/wanted to turn the book into a movie, who would you cast?
Oh, this is easy. When I pictured Raffa, my golden-haired, golden-toned hero, I had an image in mind. Have you seen ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’? If so you’ll remember a younger Jude Law in that – all casual charm and elegance, and bright and attractive as summer sunshine. And those eyes! He really made an impact. Let’s just say Raffa owes a lot to Mr Law in that film, though not in character, as Raffa is streetwise and driven, a man who learned not to trust.
Lily is a little harder. I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind as I wrote her, but she was no less real for that. Now, after a little research, I suspect I’d cast Felicity Jones in the role.
What about those moments when you’re not writing. Do you tend to read in the same genre you write in? Tell us about your favourites regardless!
Argh! I always find naming favourites difficult. I never have just one but many.
Yes, I love to read romance. And of course nothing beats a great Modern/Presents/Sexy story. It’s hard to name just one or two authors but I’m always on the lookout for new stories by Sarah Morgan, Abby Green, Michelle Conder, Caitlin Crewes and Trish Morey. Lately I’ve been reading Sarah’s longer stories and loving them. I read historical romances too and wish I had the patience to write them but all that research…no, no, easier to stick to my contemporaries. I love a good book by Loretta Chase or Anna Campbell or Christine Wells.
I love to dip into old favourites like those by Georgette Heyer or PG Wodehouse. I’ve been reading a wide range of fiction lately and not much non-fiction (I enjoy a good historical bio). In the last couple of months I’ve read Ben Aaronovitch (crime meets comic fantasy), Lindsey Davis (who brings ancient Rome alive) and Julia Spencer Fleming (fabulous mysteries with a romance but they need to be read in order).
My to be read pile is so large it’s in several rooms and that’s not counting what’s on my e-reader!
Share five things we’d probably never guess about you. Fun, interesting or even embarrassing!
- My first job was picking grapes for a wine harvest.
- I can’t watch horror movies – even with all the lights on.
- Someone once proposed to me and offered a herd of camels to show he’d make a good husband.
- Like my grandmother (but much to my mother’s chagrin, not her) I can divine for water. But don’t ask me how that works. I have no idea of the scientific explanation.
- I’m a sentimentalist. I still have the dress I wore when my husband proposed. It was a favourite and brings back such memories!
Finally, what is in store for your readers next?
Smiling here as I think about this. My next book is a sheikh story that really touched me. It’s called ‘The Desert King’s Secret Heir’ and it’s about second chances. Arden and Idris met years before and had an idyllic holiday romance that ended abruptly. They’d planned to meet again but it didn’t work out. Those of you who know the film ‘An Affair to Remember’ might notice a few similarities!
Four years later their paths cross and the fireworks start because the connection between them is as strong as ever. Unfortunately Idris is on the verge of announcing his very public betrothal in a marriage of convenience much needed by his country. And then the press (and he) discovers Arden has a little boy who looks remarkably like Idris did at that age…