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Behind the Scenes:The Sheikh’s Love-Child

This story is part of the International Billionaires series, which is a joint effort with the English Rugby Union and features rugby in some way. Now I have to confess I know very little about rugby, so I started my research with learning the basic rules and terms (pitch instead of field, match instead of game). I also created my own fictional kingdom of Biryal, based loosely on the gorgeous, rugged island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea. I wanted a place that was harsh and austere and yet ultimately beautiful; a place where the heroine, London physiotherapist Lucy Banks, would be out of her element—a place where she could find herself, as well as love with my hero ex-rugby player Khaled, who is injured both emotionally and physically.

It’s always a challenge to create a fictional country that has its own integrity, added to the challenge of writing characters who have a shared—and painful—history. Yet I also love the possibilities both of these ideas present… so I hope you enjoy Lucy and Khaled’s journey to love and healing as much as I did.


This is the desert island of Socotra, which Biryal is based on



This is the famed Dragon’s Blood tree, where Lucy and Khaled have a sunset picnic

dragon's blood tree


Here is a recipe I’ve tried from Yemen, which is close to Socotra, the island Biryal is based on:

Yemenite Roast Chicken with Cumin:


  • 3 1/2 lb chicken
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tb vegetable oil or olive oil


Preheat oven to 400'

Trim off excess fat from chicken. Mix together, the salt, pepper,
cumin, turmeric and oil. Rub chicken all over with mixture.

Set chicken in a roasting pan and roast 1 to 1 1/2 hours, basting
occasionally if desired. Pierce the thickest part of a leg with a
skewer or sharp knife. When the juices run clear, the chicken is

January 2008