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My Notes on Medusa’s Sheikh


So there’s a story to how this book came about…

Medusa's Sheikh by Cindy Dees

Medusa’s Sheikh

Sent undercover as a belly dancer, she’s fishing for a suspect’s lawyer, but snags the suspect himself. He’s a billionaire playboy and doesn’t do relationships. But then he meets a Medusa, and she’s unlike any woman he’s ever encountered. He’s under orders to find himself a wife, and she’s under orders not to fool around with the man she’s supposed to be protecting. But as attraction explodes between them and killers close in, they’ll break all the…

I read a book, which shall remain nameless, from my publisher that included a belly dancer in it…and the book was a terrible and inaccurate depiction of Middle Eastern dance. I should probably confess that I studied this gorgeous and ancient dance form for many years and was a professional Middle Eastern dancer for years.

At any rate, I complained about it to some rather senior executives of my publisher at a cocktail party, and while I was at it, I complained about the depiction of modern sheikhs as still having harems and riding around on camels. (I also spent a fair bit of time in the Middle East during my military career.)

Long story short, the folks at my publishing house challenged me to write a modern, more accurate version of belly dancers and sheikhs. Because I relish a challenge, I decided to make this story into one of my Medusa books, too. And voila, the final book in this installment of the Medusas was born.

The particular belly dancer I had in mind when I wrote Cassandra’s dance scenes is one of the great American Middle Eastern dancers, a stunning woman named Suhaila Salimpour. There are lots of videos of her online if you want to check out her dancing.

As for why I started this book in London? It’s a truly international city and a gigantic financial center, so it made sense for Hake to be there. Also, I wanted him to be a fully modern man and not a caricature who rode around in desert on camels and had a harem. To my knowledge, the only camels in London are in London Zoo. 

But, I also didn’t want to completely ignore his Middle Eastern heritage, hence I added the nomadic tribe that visited his family from time to time. I got to see such a tribe once in my time in the Middle East, and that was the memory I called on to describe by fictional tribe. 

As for the subject of religion? Yeah. I dodged that. In fact, much of Middle East is heavily multi-cultural and multi-religious.  In the back of my mind, I pictured Hake’s family maybe as Coptic Christians. But rather than torque anyone off, that didn’t make it into the book.

As for the rocky mountains and steep ravine at the end of the book—I was shocked the first time I flew over the Middle East and saw how rocky it is. I’d always envisioned mile after mile of golden sand dunes. Man, was I wrong. 

While parts of Egypt look like that, most of the Middle East is red or gray sand in and around a LOT of dark gray rocks. Turns out the Middle East had a lot of volcanic activity a long time ago, and much of the sand today is ground down pumice and volcanic rock. The sand is VERY fine—sometimes almost like talcum powder. It’s not at all like beach sand made up of pulverized bits of seashells.

It was bittersweet writing this book because I knew it was going to be the last Medusa book. I had gone to the giant Booksellers Expo of America (BEA) in New York right before I wrote it, and I’d met the senior marketing and distribution people from Harlequin. They told me to stop writing about women soldiers because readers only read their books for the men and only wanted the men to be strong and capable.

This was the last book on my contract for Medusa books, and I knew that for my next contract I would have to go back to writing military men and civilian women in jeopardy. 

By the same token, I was a little tired of writing Medusa stories by the time I got to this book. I was ready for a change, but disapponted that I HAD to leave behind the Medusas. 

It was more than five years later when I had dinner with the senior editor of the Harlequin Romantic Suspense line, the awesome and marvelous Patience Bloom. She happened to mention having loved my Medusa series, and replied that I had been really sad when I’d been told to quit writing Medusa books.

She was aghast and demanded to know who told me that. When I relayed the story, she rolled her eyes and told me she would love to have more Medusa stories from me. And that’s how the Mission Medusa trilogy (that’s still in print from Harlequin) was born.

If you have any questions about Medusa’s Sheikh, or any of the Medusa books, for that matter, feel free to leave a comment or contact me using the Contact form on my website, and I’ll get right back to you.

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  1. My book club members and I love to read books about strong women. That is why I seldom read Harlequins any more, but read all of the books by Marie Benedict, Kate Quinn, etc.

    • I’m with you Judy! I have always preferred to read and write about strong women. I think when the first Medusa books were originally published, I was a few years ahead of this trend. But the market seems to have moved more toward books with women like the Medusas in them…for which I am exceedingly grateful. And I haven’t tried Marie Benedict, yet…off to the Amazon rabbit hole to check out her work. Thanks for the new author recommendation!

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