Holiday with the Mystery Italian
Winning the ultimate prize…
Since the accident that paralyzed him, Italian tycoon Mauro Evans vowed to embrace life. So when he stars in a dating show for charity, picking prickly journalist Amber Harris as the winner to take on holiday is a challenge he can’t resist!
In Amber’s experience, relationships equal pain, so she’s determined to ignore her attraction to charismatic Mauro. But his bravery and strength threaten to tear down her defenses, giving her a new Christmas dream—ringing in the New Year with wedding bells!
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Guys, today I’m interviewing Harlequin Romance author Ellie Darkins for the first time. Please help me welcome her.
- Ellie, please tell readers a little about yourself.
Hi Amanda, and thanks so much for having me. I’ve been writing since 2009, and since 2014 for Mills & Boon/Harlequin – and I still think it’s the coolest job in the world! Before I was a writer I was an editor, and I do still like to wield my red pen. When I don’t have my nose stuck in a book, I’m chasing after my toddler, trying to persuade her to sit still and enjoy a story.
- Plotter or panster?Oooh this is a toughy because I fall somewhere in between. I’m naturally more of a pantser but I’m trying to be good and plan ahead more to avoid blind alleys and getting completely stuck. At the moment I try and have a detailed plan for the first few chapters, and know the big turning points all the way through before I get started, but sometimes you’re just so excited about a story you have to dive in
- Your December release is titled Holiday with the Mystery Italian. What is this book about?This book is about so many things to me! There’s lots of things in there that are so personal, like the Sicilian setting, based on where I spent my honeymoon, and the fact that the hero has a disability. But like all my stories, at its heart it’s about two people – Mauro and Amber – who will be much happier together than they will apart, if only they’d believe me. I send them to a beautiful Mediterranean island and throw everything I can at them – good food, plenty of wine, erupting volcanoes and adventure sports until they stop fighting their attraction and really explore why they’re so scared to give a relationship a chance.
- What inspired you to write this story?
I think that the very first idea came from watching a dating show on TV, and wondering where a start like that could take a relationship. From there I stole little bits of inspiration from a hundred different places. The TV date took them to my honeymoon location; the hero’s nonchalance about his disability was way inspired by my little brother; his devotion to recovering after an accident has shades of Nikki Lauda, the famous F1 driver. I love to ferret away little seeds of ideas so that once I have my starting point, I can feed it with inspiration from lots of different areas.
- Tell us a little about your hero and heroine in this book?
Where to start?! Amber, my heroine, has a battered and bruised heart from a cheating ex who left her disillusioned, broke and practically homeless. Mauro is the king of his sport, with a cabinet of gold medals, and a successful post-retirement career in sports management. They both agree to take part in a celebrity version of a dating show to support a good cause, but Amber is determined not to be the contestant who gets picked. Unbeknownst to her, though, her prickly answers intrigue Mauro, and he can’t resist choosing her.
- Do you have any favorite lines in Holiday with the Mystery Man that you’d like to share?
I think my favourite line is actually one I have to credit to a friend. Mauro asks the dating show contestants which sea creature they would be, and Amber replies: ‘A killer whale. Because they’re intelligent, the women stick together and they can be ruthless predators when it’s called for.’ For me it just sums up what a spiky place Amber is in at the start of the novel, and of course Mauro can’t resist meeting her after that!
- Were you rooting for any of the characters? If yes, what can you say about him or her?
I’m always rooting for my hero and heroine. Sometimes when I’m writing they’re so hurt or angry or sad, it’s hard to see how they’re ever going to get their HEA. But when you start to see those chinks of hope and light, and see a path towards them understanding and loving each other, that’s what really makes the job exciting.
- If you were to choose a celebrity for your hero and heroine, who would they be?
On my Pinterest board I have Gillian Anderson in The Fall for Amber – she does icy like no one else I’ve seen. And her silk blouses made me drool. And Michael Fassbender for Mauro because … seriously, you need to ask?!
- What is the working title of your next book?
It already has an official title, and I absolutely love it….. FALLING FOR THE REBEL PRINCESS. It’s party-girl princess meets rock royalty.
- Any advice for aspiring writers?
The simplest advice is the best I think: Just keep writing. It’s the best way to hone your voice, improve your craft, and absolutely the only way to finish the book.
Excerpt of Holiday with the Mystery Italian:
The screen rolled back, with a wobble and a creak, and then she saw him, and realised she had been right. It was him, the athlete her brain had clocked and ogled, and then apparently saved half-naked images of in some deviant part of her mind, just in case it came in useful one day. His dark hair, not slicked back this time, but rebelling from a side parting, showed a hint of red—a dash of chilli hidden in the chocolate—and the shoulders dominated the rest of his body, making his waist look narrow, although she remembered abs that would make a lesser woman dribble. His wheelchair was small and space-age-looking, and the least interesting thing about this mountain of a man. An open shirt collar showed a triangle of tanned skin below his neck—and for just a moment Amber remembered that bronzed torso, thrust out of the pool by powerful forearms.
She shook her head. This should not be happening. He should not have picked the woman who had chosen her brain, when asked what her favourite part of her own body was. But the presenter of the show had grabbed her hand and was dragging her across to meet Mauro.
‘Mauro, meet your date—Amber Harris. Amber, how do you feel to have been chosen?’
As if this was all a big joke, and she was the punchline. If he’d been able to see all three women she knew for a fact that he would have chosen one of the others.
‘Erm…surprised,’ she choked out, and didn’t know whether to be pleased or not at the look on Mauro’s face, the one that suggested that he liked catching her off guard, that maybe he’d done it on purpose.
‘Well, Amber, just you wait until you see what we’ve got in store for you. You’ll be jetting off on a romantic week-long break to sunny Sicily. Mauro has generously allowed us to use his luxury villa, complete with swimming pool, private beach and no fewer than seven beautiful bedrooms to choose from. Over the course of your week you’ll be wined and dined by the owners of the Castello Vigneto, and tour the grounds of their beautiful vineyard before feasting on local foods and wines. You’ll take jet-skiing lessons from Mauro himself, and can choose from any of the other water sports equipment available at his private pontoon. There will be a hike up the Mongibello, otherwise known as the live volcano Mount Etna, and to top it off we’ll be flying you, by helicopter, to view the volcanic eruptions of the island of Stromboli! Amber, what do you say?’
Ellie spent her formative years as a committed bookworm, devouring romance novels. After completing her English degree (which had Mills & Boon on the syllabus) she decided to make a living from her love of books. As a writer and freelance editor her work now entails dreaming up romantic proposals, hot dates with alpha males and trips to the past with dashing heroes. When she’s not working she can usually be found manning the desk or sampling the coffee at her local library, or out for a run – listening to an audiobook, of course.