Monday, November 7, 2011

A Touch of Luxury - Annie West

Have you ever craved a touch of luxury in your life? A rare treat away from the everyday world of juggling responsibilities? I think most of us have.

Personally I think a little indulgence once in a while is a wonderful thing - a memorable chance to relax and experience something completely different. I suspect it could become addictive except real life always manages to intervene. After all, real indulgence costs. I suppose it's partly the novelty that makes indulgence such fun.

I was recently in London (a huge treat in itself given the fact that I live in Australia). As well as catching up with my editor and some wonderful, wonderful British Presents authors, I also managed to fit in an extra special treat: high tea at Claridges, one of London's most prestigious hotels. I'd read about the place in books for years and wondered if it would be up to expectations. Browsing the website it looked terrific but in reality it was even better.

The red brick facade is pleasant but doesn't really give an inkling of what's inside, though the very smart and friendly doorman was a bit of a giveaway. Afternoon tea was served in a lovely, bright, elegant room. Service was impeccable and the staff were fantastic. Nothing was too much trouble. I didn't get to pour my own tea - not once in several hours, and though they were at hand and very attentive, they didn't intrude and were delightfully friendly. The food was superb, the setting fantastic and the result - sheer pleasure.

Whiling away an afternoon indulging in a quintessentially English pastime - afternoon tea, was a perfect way to spend my first afternoon in London. As well as tea there were sandwiches (of course) - Scottish salmon, cucumber, ham, etc, etc. There were perfect scones, both fruit and plain with house-made jam and clotted cream (my fave!). Then there was the tray of...I don't dare call them anything as ordinary as cakes. Yes, there was cake with rich chocolately layers. But there were tarts with fresh fruit, macaroons stacked with raspberries dusted with sugar and the most amazing tropical fruit dessert. The sad thing was that despite multiple offers, we were just too full to have seconds!

As well as being a terrific treat, the experience was perfect fodder for the author in me. Just thinking about the people who take such service in their stride as a matter of course set me thinking about new stories. As for the setting - I suspect something like it is going to appear in a future book.

In the meantime my current book THE SAVAKIS MERGER, is out now in North America as a Presents Extra release. It features a couple who've lived with luxury, though neither is exactly what they seem. I wondered when I wrote my heroine, Callie, if readers might find it hard to identify with a woman who had a wardrobe stacked full of designer gowns. I needn't have worried. So far reader feedback has been terrific. Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that those gowns come with memories she'd rather avoid, and a future she's trying to build which is as far away from A list glamour as she can get. As for Damon, he might look like he was born and bred to a tuxedo but nothing could be further from the truth. It was fun writing a story where the outward trappings of wealth hid so many secrets. Here's a taste:

From untouchable socialite...
Only hours ago she was a wickedly tempting, sexy stranger. Now Damon Savakis knows who she really is - Callie Manolis, society ice-queen and duplicitous niece of his arch enemy. his unwilling mistress!
Yet when Callie's avaricious uncle loses the Manolis money, she becomes the bargaining chip in the Savakis merger. Damon is unprepared for her bravery, poise and purity in a world full of greed. Once she's paid her dues in his bed he'll make her his willing bride for free.

To find out more about the story, read an excerpt or some reviews of it, head over to my website.

In the meantime, since I've been talking about luxury indulgences, I'm wondering what your perfect luxury indulgence would be. Something big or something small? Is there a special treat you've always wanted to try?


  1. Hi, Annie! Welcome home! It looks like you had a wonderful time overseas. I'm so glad to hear you're getting an enthusiastic response from your fans on Callie.

    My perfect luxury indulgence is a nice warm bed with soft, smooth sheets and a soft pillow. Not terribly extravagant, but I do take sleep very seriously!

  2. Annie, that sounds absolutely brilliant! I'm definitely putting it on my list for my next London visit (hopefully next year). So glad you had a wonderful trip and that it's sparked ideas for more of your wonderful stories. Speaking of wonderful stories, I LOVE The Savakis Merger. One of your best, I think. Callie and Damon have such a passionate relationship - be still, my beating heart! I think I need one of those Claridges cups of tea to recover! ;-)

  3. Hi Vanessa, yes we did indeed have a wonderful time on the overseas trip. What a pity there can't be more of it!

    Ooh, I hear you on the gorgeous comfort of a good bed. Particularly on a day when you wake to the realisation you don't have to hurry anywhere straight away (rare but wonderful)!

  4. Ah, Anna, you'd have a marvellous time at Claridges. Even choosing what tea to have was fun (so many!). Not your average holiday experience and such a treat.

    Smiling at your comments on The Savakis Merger. So glad it hit the spot for you! Love the idea of you needing a calming cup of tea after reading Damon.

  5. Annie, it sounds like you had such a wonderful time in London! Your post brought back wonderful memories of when I lived in London and my stepmother took me to high tea. We went to The Ritz and Browns and it was just as you described. I worked as a magazine editor in London and one executive woman I know used to take me to her club--one of the old gentlemen's clubs that had opened up its membership to ladies. Now that was an eye opener to "how the other half lives!" And yes, there were ancient gentlemen sitting in leather armchairs snoring away with their newspapers open in front of them.
    My luxury indulgence? Small luxury hotel on the sea, superb pool, lovely beach, spa treatments every day and no housework!
    I see THE SAVAKIS MERGER is climbing the best-seller lists at Amazon--may it do so everywhere else as well!

  6. Kandy, high tea at the Ritz sounds terrific. Maybe on another trip (a girl can dream). It must have been a wonderful experience working in London and getting the opportunity to see so many great places. Those old style clubs are fascinating. We walked past one and couldn't see the people inside, only the amazing oil paintings on the wall (it was above street level) and the old fashioned booth for the concierge.

    Ooh, nice to hear Savakis is doing well on the best seller lists. I hadn't realised that. Thanks for letting me know.

  7. Annie West, I think you look VERY at home in those sumptuous surroundings and that high tea sounds wickedly delicious!

    Alas, I'm a bit of a food-sensitive petal but, oooo, I would love to indulge - so my treat would be being able to flout my pesky tum's restriction without repercussion and go for broke with a Death by Chocolate! Anywhere would do... but somewhere like Claridge's would be excellent! And they have to have double chocolate ice-cream!


  8. Hi Annie, I'd love to try high tea one day. I have a friend who's tried many locations around Auckland and one of her faves is the Sky Tower. I'd love to get-around-to-it one day!

    My perfect luxury indulgence would be top of the line Samsung Smartphone. I see them and I just drooool. I dont NEED one, I just WANT it terribly so ;)

  9. Sharon, I must say I could get used to that sort of luxury. Probably just as well it's not going to happen...

    Wow, Death by Chocolate! What a way to go. That sounds incredibly indulgent. Can I admit I've never had double chocolate ice cream? Something else to try.

  10. Hi Tash,

    Now that's probably a great definition of indulgence - something you don't need but want anyway. Maybe Santa will be kind?

    Sky Tower in Auckland would be a great place for high tea. I'd imagine the views would be terrific there.

  11. Oh, Annie, it looks as if you had a divine time at Claridges. High tea sounds like such a treat and I am going to have to indulge in a proper English high tea before I die. :-)

    Ooh, and let's aim high with our indulgences, shall we? A cruise on the QE2 sounds just the thing, don't you think?

  12. Michelle,

    A cruise on QEII sounds super indulgent. I hadn't set my sights so high but perhaps we should! As for high tea, I know you, as a tea afficionado, would love it. I hope you get to try one soon.