The Cactus Blooms

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My publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing has a brand new website, from which you can now purchase directly. However, if you prefer to purchase your books on Amazon, there is a link on the page to take you there too.

Here’s an extract from Desert Flower… perhaps it will tempt those who haven’t read it yet to do so.

This time I entered the majlis quietly, slipping through the archway, less than a shadow, less than a breath. My face was properly covered with the niqab drawn across it. I had pinned it in place to make sure my face would not be exposed. After all, this was a foreigner who had come to the house, not another person from the Arabian Gulf, a Khaleeji, which if it were, of course, I wouldn’t have been called. This time my black abaya shrouded my entire body. All that was exposed were my eyes. I could see that the stranger was drinking a small cup of gahwa, our thick, rich coffee, and a small piece of baklawa. The fine pastry stuffed with pistachio nuts that I had the cook make that very day lay untouched on his plate. Eihab’s mother had seen that the servant had provided that.

And now that my frantically beating heart was somewhat stilled I had my voice under control too. I inclined my head slightly in a silent salaam and raised my right hand just a little.

“Have you got your wits about you?” Father asked gruffly.

“Yes, Father,” I whispered, using the more formal version of that word.

“Good.”

“Who is the stranger?” I asked, hoping not to sound too eager.

“I don’t know. That’s why I need you. Proceed.” He waved his hand imperiously towards the stranger. Although my father was a short man, there was always something regal about him.

“Good day, stranger,” I said. And he smiled. It was a smile that lit up his face and made my heart beat a little more quickly. But I managed to keep my facial muscles under strict control. Those of us who lived with our faces covered knew from the sound of the voice and the formation of the words, almost as if our faces were uncovered, what expression accompanied the words. At that time I didn’t know that the stranger was unaware of the difference in expression.

“Hi there!” he said. “How are you? And who are you?” It was a strange accent. The r’s were rolled out and clearly pronounced; it seemed a little nasal, but was not unpleasant. His deep voice had a melody all its own and sent a wicked tickle down my back.

I replied briefly, “I am his daughter. I speak English, a little. What is your name?”

Somehow he knew instantly that I was the one who had rushed in earlier. “You’re very beautiful,” he said.

My face burned. I lowered my eyes as I begged him with my voice as flat as I could manage, “Please keep to the subject, what is your name?”

A brief synopsis of the story:

1930s Bahrain, oil has just been discovered in the Middle East and Andrew MacInnis from Canada has come to work there.
Andrew visits a Bahraini carpet merchant, who does not speak English. The merchant calls for his daughter, Noor, to act as interpreter.
Noor is a devout Muslim and as such must not expose her face to men outside of her immediate family.
She acts as translator for her father and although he never leaves the two alone, under his very nose, Andrew and Noor get to know each other and fall desperately in love. The lovers secretly plot to run away but the risks are terrible. Noor’s father may send members of the family to hunt them down and kill them.
Do they escape? Will Noor have the nerve to follow Andrew’s plan or will centuries of a formidable culture and Noor’s upbringing prevent these two young lovers from following their hearts?

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