Montaha Kochou, fondly known as Mona to family and friends, introduces to the public, her first, romance fiction, entitled, 'Burning Desire'. This Assyrian native arrived in America in 1978, and although she had been writing for most of her life, she developed a true love for the art in sixth grade where she was ranked first out of 270 students in writing composition. This achievement gave Mona the confidence to begin story writing; consequently she has several novels finished and ready to be published.
Coming from a rich cultural background has been an added advantage in writing 'Burning Desire'
which focuses on a young Lebanese woman who arrives in America with the longing and desire for a man she barely knows. "I used my knowledge of cultural differences as they affect women and men and the passion that women universally feel when they love."
Mona has six siblings and has lived in Baghdad, Kuwait and Greece. "Being Assyrian gives me such confidence; the first library was founded in the Great Assyrian Empire which existed some 6,000 years ago. Coming from that kind of historical heritage makes me proud and assured," says Mona.
The characters in 'Burning Desire' were developed from the many countries and personalities that she has experienced during her travels. With a vivid imagination, Mona has combined love, intrigue and passion to create a thoroughly captivating first novel.
Mona lives in Mount Prospect, Illinois with her husband Joseph Kochou, a handsome Assyrian
man. They have three daughters, Josephine, Christine and Pauline. "Everyone in my family and
community are excited for me since this book is like a child to me. It was a blessing from God.
I gave birth to it, nurtured it, and now I hope everyone will say my baby [book] is beautiful," says Mona.
Mona has just completed the sequel to 'Burning Desire', entitled, 'Will The Sun Rise Again' which deals more with the emotional and spiritual decisions people have to make when love doesn't go their way. For now, however, get ready to be captivated by 'Burning Desire. Release date September 2003.
Burning Desire: is the tale of three daughters of extreme beauty and courage. Placed in the care of merciless relatives, Nadia, Joseline, and Vera grow into three distinctly different women, each with a vision of love until their bond is tested when desire in the form of three men enters their lives. Love, once such an innocent spurs lies, deception, and betrayal as Nadia faces a choice between the promises to the man she loves and the possibility of a future with an American. One by one each sister will face her truth and loss of innocence.
From a city torn by religion and war comes the story of three women whose cultural differences and newly found freedom in America twist into a powerful story of love, hate, passion, and betrayal.
This book is for anyone who had found, lost, and sacrificed under the intense heat of their own Burning Desire.
II - Extract of the book (Burning Desire):
Beirut, the war-torn capital of Lebanon, lies on the Mediterranean coast surrounded by the Cedar mountians. Majestic pine trees solider the mountain tops, keeping watch over this ancient city and its history. The scent of pine lays heavy in the air, with every breath filling the lungs and mind as it cleanses the senses and lifts the spirit. Sweetness coats the pine scent with apples, oranges and lemons, all lending their aroma and color to the narrow streets of the city. Aged, brick homes that appear in shades of copper, sand and red, line the streets while boasting pleasant balconies that are heavy with dangling greenery and blossoming flowers. Its not uncommon to see people sitting and reading peacefully, drinking Turkish coffee, or simply enjoying a moment of contemplation.
Many Middle Eastern people and tourists vacation in Lebanon because of its climate and beauty, even though Lebanon experienced massive physical and emotional destruction during a civil war between its two religions. Until 1974 Christians and Moslems lived relatively at peace with one another. The war left the country and its people with economical and spiritual wounds for years to come.
In 1960, in one of the more subtle neighborhoods in Beirut, Saleem Al Khoury stood on his apartment's balcony, staring past the fruit tree-lined streets to a point far off in the distance. It was late afternnon and a soft darkness edged the horizon as it made its way across the sky and over the city. Saleem took a deep breath, passing his fingers through his dark hair. As he looked below, he watched for a moment as people strolled by, enjoying the cool breeze of a June evening in Beirut.
He couldn't enjoy the sights, smells, or feel of the night approaching for his financial problems weighed on his heart and mind. He turned and walked with lazy footsteps inside his home, theough the living room, and into the bedroom. Standing by the open door of the room, he looked at his beloved and paralyzed wife, Norma.
"I'm going to Kuwait," Saleem said sadly, pausing for a moment to wait for his wife's reaction.
Norma turned her head toward Saleem, silently searching his face as she waited for him to continue.
"There, I'll be able to find a good job." He breathed deeply, adding, "When I have enough money saved, I will return."
Norma watched as the lines in his face that she had come to love grew deeper.
"But, what will the kids and I do?" Norma asked miserably.
"You'll stay with your brother, Elias," Saeelm said sadly, knowing it was not the most pleasant of situations in which to place his family.
Elias, younger than Norma by ten years, was a selfish and mean man. Beside Elias, there was Lisa, Norma's sister who wasn't much better than he was. Lisa, who is almost seven years older than Norma, was an old maid, mean selfish and without mercy in her heart. Her face was stoic; a smile never crossed he lips. She was lazy, lying about the couch all day and night reading the Bible, but sadly, never hearing the Spirit because of her cold soul.
"Do whatever you think is right." Norma said unhappily, fearing the idea of staying with her brother and sister, knowing in her physical state that she would be mentally abused and unable to protect her daughters from the same or worse.
Saleem and Norma have three beautiful daughters. Vera, the oldest and most responsible at 12 years of age is a soft-spoken girl with medium length brown hair and large brown eyes while her seven-year old sister, Joseline, was blessed with a lighter complexion, hazel eyes and sandy brown hair. But it is Nadia, the baby, who receives all the attention. Even at the age of five her exotic looks, long blond hair and sparkling emerald green eyes make her the most beautiful amongest her sisters.
From the moment Saleem turned away, Vera took all responsibilty for her mother and sisters upon her frail shoulders. Though they were used to not receiving much affection from their mother because of her illness or their father because he was always working, it was still painful to see Saleem leave. She, her sisters and mother would share a small room in the back of the house; barely big enough for one large bed much less their suitcases. As soon as they moved in, their uncle and Lisa divided the work between Vera and Joseline. Lisa sent Vera to take care of her mother and ordered Joseline to begin cleaning the little house they lived in.
One day, Vera made a doll. She put two sticks together as a cross and covered them with cloth. Joseline was thrilled to see it and picked it up to play with it. Nadia came and grabbed it from her, and they both ended up fighting for the doll. When Elias approached it was Joseline he slapped, snatching the doll out of her hand and giving it to Nadia. Joseline started screaming and crying for the doll.
"Shut up you dump, ugly thing!" He screamed, slapping her again.
Joseline kept crying and screaming. Lisa then came and slapped Joseline.
"Shut up! You dirty, dumb monster!" Lisa yelled, pulling her hair.
"I got it first, I want it back," Joseline whined, ignoring Lisa's screaming. Lisa grabbed a belt and began wickedly striking Joseline over and over.
"Shut up! No-good monster! Ever since you were born, it's been nothing but bad luck for this family!" Lisa was hitting and screaming so hard that her words spit out like sharp daggers between her heavy breathing. "You 're the reason your mother can't walk. Your name should be 'bad luck' not Joseline!" Joseline lay helplessly on the floor, trying to cover her head from the razor sharp crack of the belt until these words sank in.
When Joseline heard this, her cries died instantly in her throat. She ran to her mother with tears streaming down her eyes. Only now she wasn't crying from the ache of the beating; Joseline was crying from a worse pain, a pain that would never heal nor leave her in the days and years to come. this idea, this thought, so sinfuly planted in Joseline's heart, took root.
"Mom, did I make you sick? Am I bad luck?" She shrieked.
"No honey, you are not bad luck. Darling you have nothing to do with me being sick," Norma cried, hugging her and caressing her hair. "Lisa said that becuase she's upset. It is not true."
The answer from her mother didn't comfort her at all; they couldn't uproot what had already laid calim to her heart. It would not be until she was a grown woman that one senseless act of verbal abuse would start to diminish.
Saleems' daughters grew into three beautiful young ladies. Nadia was the most ravishing among her sisters standing 5'7" with thick, long, wavy blond hair and a natural tan that attracted even more attention. Her emerald eyes remained large and bright, crowned with arching eyebrows and balanced with thick lips. When she walked down the street, everyone turned their heads. Her confidence in herself only emphasized her natural beauty. She was very intelligent; everyone called her the brain of the family. She was almost sixteen years old although she behaved much older than she was. Her soul seemed wise for her actual age. Full of courage and determination, no one, or nothing, could stop her when she wanted something.
"My mother never had a good life, all of us suffered so much. I simply wish she could be here now."
"Vera. she is here in this face I'm looking at; in these eyes I lose myself in and in the woman I am about to marry. She is here," he said, while placing his hand on her heart. "And she will be with you on our wedding day," he smiled.
They sat and spoke through the night, sharing pains and promises until the moon rose high above them, lighting the smooth glassy water separating Vera from her home here, and her future home, an ocean away.
Second Book: Will the Sun Rise Again?
An attractive young woman, married with two children, will come face to face with her first love after fourteen years of separation.
Her first love story started in her mother land Lebanon, a country that has exotic beauty and was torn by religious war. Will she be able to win the battle between her beliefs and convictions and her desperate need for love and attention? Or, will she follow her burning desire, and lose her kids, husband, pride, and dignity?
Montaha Kochou, an Assyrian in origin, presents to the readers her second novel. A love story that start in Beirut, Lebanon, the bride of Middle East, and ends in the great city of Chicago. It is the episode of a woman who finds herself on the horns of dilemma; torn between her devotion to her family and her burning desire to be with her first love. A rather moral adventure where faithfulness and infidelity meet half way.
This story takes you to moments of romance, suspense, spirituality, crime, mystery, and adventures.
Extract of the book (Will the Sun Rise Again?):
At the police station, Joseline's face looked gloomy and pale, shaded with fear and frustration. Her heart was pounding faster and faster as the policewomen guided her down the hallway into the jail cell. She stood behind the bars shivering and sobbing while tears rolled down her cheeks.
Confused and scared as she was, fearful thoughts started racing in Joseline's mind. She was wondering, "what will happen to me? What will my husband and my kids think of me? Will I ever have a chance to be with them again? Or, will this be my end costing me my life?"
A deep sigh let her held in breast loose and brought her back to her senses, to find herself grabbing the steel bars with both of her hands with her head leaning over them. She was frightened and confused, murmuring and blaming herself for her unknown fate. All of a sudden, her ears began humming. She almost went deaf. She couldn't hear anything, but the strenuous sound of her breath getting shorter and shorter to finally crack up into a loud cry.
Fatigued and exhausted, Joseline sat on the narrow stiff bed sobbing. She covered her face with both of her hands and began rocking and beseeching God. She looked as if she was hiding herself, feeling shameful and guilty. "Oh Lord," she cried, "I admit that I made a mistake, and knowing that I am a sinner, will you forgive me one more time? For my kid's sake, please God,
embrace me with your divine providence and don't turn me down now that you
are my only hope and refuge".
Hours went by while Joseline was begging God for help. There were no more tears left in her eyes to shed anymore. With shaken soul and broken spirit, the wings of her memory fluttered and flew back in time. Diving in the folds of her past, she was trying to capture those few sweet moments she had in her life in order to ease off her pain and sorrow. She recalled her early
childhood when her mother, still healthy and sound, would pick her up in her gentle arms, rocking and singing for her, to go into a peaceful sleep in her safe and warm lap. She was almost asleep when a reflex shook her and brought her back to her bitter reality, terrified.
Joseline thought of her family and tears started oozing from her swollen eyes to continue rocking and murmuring with a husky voice, "Dear Lord," she sobbed, "I have the feeling that my days are nearing their end while I am here in this cold and depressing cell away from my poor children and
miserable husband who need me most. Tell me, Lord, will I be able to go home? Will the sun rise again in my life?"
Tears of sorrows were still trickling down. She placed her hand on her big belly and felt the kick of her baby. Then, she went back into the memory of the incident which was the reason why she was standing behind the bars.
Joseline was driving home after she had visited her sister Vera. Her kids were sitting in the back seat of the car with their seat belts on. She was listening to a song with the volume up. She looked at the horizon and saw the sun going down. The sun rays penetrating the few clouds in the sky made them appear reddish. It seemed as if angels, in pink night gowns, were dancing around to send the sun to it's sleeping chamber. Darkness crawled over the city of Chicago. The weather was wonderful for a mid June evening.
The gentle breeze was blowing her soft, light brown hair into her lovely face. At times, it covered her beautiful large hazel eyes.
With the surrounding atmosphere, her first love crossed her mind. She thought, "I wonder where Alex is now. Is he sill in Beirut? Or is he somewhere else? I wish I knew. I really wish I could see him again. I wonder if he still remembers me, or perhaps, the problems of life erased my name
and my picture from his memory. Oh, Lebanon, the land of the brave, how did you survive the bitter war and you're still standing proud and beautiful.
Oh, Lebanon, you are in fact a paradise. I miss home, I miss your mountains that look like stretched arms of a beautiful bride hugging her groom the Mediterranean Sea, an everlasting warm hug. I love you Lebanon, north and south, mountains and hills, let alone your kind, affectionate people. Oh God, I miss it all so much and Alex, too. At times, I feel like I can't bare
his love in my heart anymore."
Joseline sighed, "Oh Ashur, if you had paid just a little more attention to me, I wouldn't be thinking of anyone else but you."
A feeling of distress filled her soul. After all these years of separation from Alex and her marriage with two children, she still thinks of him. "God, it's like I can never get over Alex," she thought.
Finally they got home. Her kids climbed down and ran toward the house. Joseline opened the door and entered calling for her husband, "Ashur! Ashur!"
His voice came from the bedroom, "Honey, I'm right here."
She walked to the bedroom and stood still beside the open door. "What are you doing?"
He smiled, "As you can see, I'm dressing up to go out."
"What about me?" she asked nervously.
"What about you, darling? You just came home," Ashur calmly replied.
She crossed her arms and said, "Are you going to leave me here alone again?"
"Look, sweetheart, you have all your freedom. I didn't ask you to come home early. You could've stayed with your sister longer," he said while brushing his hair.
"It's like you're totally ignoring me. How long can I live like this?" she said with tears gathering in her eyes and continued, "I'm married with two kids. But it's like I don't have a husband. I feel like a single mother."
He walked toward her and hugged her, "You don't have anything missing in your life. You have a car and you always have enough money in your purse. I don't argue with you when you go out. Just let me enjoy my life, too."
"But I want you to be with me. I don't feel like I have a husband. I'm married and I feel lonely. Had I known that this would be the case with you, I would've stayed single. That would have been a lot better for me," she said angrily.
"Honey, you are never lonely. You have your kids. Enjoy them!" With that, he walked out of the room. She followed him with a saddened face. The kids were in the living room watching television. He hugged his kids, "they are the joy of my life. Look at how beautiful they are. Besides, you have your sister Vera, and, of course, your good friend Ralph. What else do you need?"
"I need a husband. I need a man in my life. I'm sick and tired of being alone."
He looked at her furiously and said, "You know what? You always like to ruin my happiness! I can never go out with a peace of mind. You have everything, but you are never satisfied. What else do you need?"
"You go out every night and leave me alone. Who would accept this from her husband?" she cried.
"You know where I am at. I don't go fooling around with other women. I spend my time playing cards for fun and enjoying the company of my friends.
What's wrong with that? I work hard all day anyway. I need to have a little fun in my life too."
With a serious look on her face, she said, "Why don't you stay home and enjoy the company of your wife and kids for a change?"
"I need to see other people. I need to be away form home for a little while," he answered and continued, "If I did stay home, what would we talk about? I'll tell you exactly what the topic would be. It would be about your sister Nadia. I'm sick and tired of hearing this depressing story anyway."
She felt like she was exploding. "Fine! Why don't you think of some pleasant subjects to talk about? Or, can you only make jokes and have fun with your friends?"
"Oh, I'm wasting my time!" he shouted grabbing his car keys. He opened the door to leave and said, "Men don't like to talk, but women love to talk all the time. You should find some interesting topics. Not pathetic subjects like Nadia's tragic end and your abusive childhood. Get over it. Look ahead to the future and stop dwelling on the past."
He walked back as if he remembered something. He kissed her cheek fast. Sadly she looked at him, "Had you filled my life with happiness, I wouldn't have kept bringing up the past. The misery that I'm living in now brings back the memory of tragedies I've had in my life."
"You know what your problem is? You always love to be sad," he said.
"You're talking nonsense now. Who loves to be sad?" she yelled angrily.
He kissed her cheek again and left out the door. Silently she sat on the couch thinking, "I have to admit, I have a failed marriage. I'm married, but there's no man in my life. I only have kids around me without a husband. What a depressing life I have!"
The telephone rang. She got up lazily and picked it up. "Hello?"
"Hello, how are you doing?"
"Oh, hi, Ralph. How are you? I haven't heard from you the last couple of days."
"I was busy and as soon as I became free, I thought of calling you. What's up?"
"Everything is the same, no changes you know, my main problem is my husband."
"What's with him this time?"
"It's like he's living in a different world."
"What do you mean?"
"I want him to spend more time with me. But he's always worried about his friends and playing cards with them," Joseline replied.
"I see. It's the same old problem. I was worried, I thought it was something else." He said and asked, "What are you doing tomorrow?"
"Nothing special. What are you up to?"
"Let's take the kids out," Ralph suggested.
"After we come back from church I'll call you," she concluded thankfully.
"You're right. Tomorrow is Sunday. I'll see you then," he said.
"I'll see you tomorrow," she said and hung up.
She sat sadly and thought again, "Instead of their father thinking of something to do with his kids, Ralph is thinking of where to take them. If Nadia had stayed with him and had kids, they would've had a wonderful father. Besides, all her history would have been different. Her son, Mike,
would then have had an excellent father. He wouldn't have been without his parents as he is right now. Even though Ralph wanted to adopt him, Vera insisted on keeping Mike with her family. What's the difference? He's with Ralph most of the time, anyway. Thank God, Ralph doesn't let Mike feel parentless. On the other hand, Mike behaves with Ralph as if he's his own father. What a wonderful man Ralph is; he is great in every way. He still has much of his love devoted to Nadia."
The next day the door bell rang at Joseline's house. Her kids ran to answer the door. She was in the kitchen and heard her kids shouting, "Mom, Uncle Ralph is here!" She went toward the living room. He was standing there holding both of her kids in his arms.
"Get down! You're not little babies anymore. He can't hold both of you at the same time." She smiled.
"Didn't you know, I'm Hercules?" He laughed.
The kids stepped down, but were still holding his hands. "Leave them alone, Joseline. Mike and them are the therapy in my life. What? You didn't believe I was Hercules?" He laughed and continued, "please, make some Turkish coffee first."
"Sure I will. Anything for you." She smiled and went to the kitchen preparing the coffee.
They had their coffee and left. In the car, Joseline asked, "Where will you take us?"
"Where else? The same beach. I love to be there all the time. Besides, there's a park where the kids can play at. Above all, it's a beautiful sunny day. We'll be able to enjoy it there." He smiled.
Joseline kept quiet and traveled through her thoughts, "I know why he likes that beach so much. I know he has had some wonderful memories with Nadia there. I cannot believe this. After all these years, he still loves her.
She's still alive in his memories. I don't believe that there is a more faithful man in this world than Ralph. Nadia was a wonderful person with ravishing looks and a strong personality. She is still in control of his heart and emotions even though, she's dead. Oh Nadia, although you are sleeping in your grave you still have it all. You were strong and still are. You can still get what you want. I'm alive and can't even get my husband's attention. I really have a weak personality. I'm helpless. I wish I could be more like you, Nadia."One week later, Joseline was at the beauty shop changing her hair color.
She was adding highlights to her hair. When the hair-dresser finished, he said, "I think being a blonde matches your figure and your skin tone real good."
"I love it! You did a wonderful job." She smiled.
Excitedly, Joseline entered her house and dialed Ralph's number.
"Hello, Ralph. I would like you to join us for dinner. I'll make some shish kabob tonight."
"Thank you, but I'm not sure if I can make it."
"No, please, I want you to come over. I'll wait for you anyway."
"Fine, I'll be there a little late though."
Joseline anxiously waited for Ralph to come for dinner. She heard the door bell ring and hurried to open the door. Ralph stood there startled by her looks.
"What did you do to your hair?" He asked.
She smiled and turned around. "Do you like it?"
"Yes, you look good with blond hair." He said and stared at her eyes. "What happened to your eyes?'
"Do I look good with green eyes?" She kept smiling.
"What are you trying to do?"
"I thought of some change!"
He silently sat down and thought to himself, "Why is she trying to look like Nadia? She really looks like her, but why is she doing this?"
"So, how's everything?" He said under his breath.
"Dinner is ready. Let's go eat and I'll tell you all about it." She smiled and continued, "I made sure not to waste any time to prepare food while you're here because I have a lot to tell you."
They walked to the dining room and sat down at the same table. Her kids came running into the room. "Uncle Ralph! Uncle Ralph is here!" Her kids jumped, shouted loudly then climbed into his lap. "Shami, Sarge, behave. Let uncle Ralph eat his food in peace. He'll come and play with you later."
"I don't mind, I love them very much," he smiled.
"You don't know how much they love you. All I hear from them is 'Uncle Ralph!" She laughed and continued, "Their father doesn't have enough time to spend with them. You spend more time with them than he does."
"Start talking. What's going on?" he asked.
"Yesterday I had an argument with Ashur."
"Because he goes out and leaves you alone?"
"Yes, that's a part of it. But he also wants to go to Iraq to visit his relatives."
"What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing, just he wants me to go with him and I don't want to," she said and continued, "When we argue, I always threaten him that I'll leave him one day and take the kids with me. He, in his turn, threatens me back that he'll kidnap the kids and run away some day. I'm afraid I have the feeling, if I go with him, I'll face an even bigger problem that I don't need," she kept silent for a
moment. "Besides, I don't have anyone over there. If he wants to go I'll let him go. I feel more safe in America."
"Your husband is a very kind and lovable person. I don't think he's really all that serious about his threats. Personally, I like him a lot." Ralph said.
"But you never know if he's serious or not. I don't like to take any chances. As a matter of fact, I even have the passports ready for the kids. They're locked in a safe place."
"Oh, I never knew you were so serious about this." He said.
"I really get frightened when he intimidates me like that. There's always many arguments between us, yesterday was the worst one. I just can't imagine myself without my children," she said.
"It's just your imagination. A nice person like Ashur would never do that," Ralph assured.
"I know he has a wonderful personality. But, I'm worried about the arguments we have all the time. I wish he would pay more attention to me as much as he does to his friends." She paused for a moment and looked at Ralph with a smile on her face, "We always talk about me. What about you Ralph? What are you up to?"
"I'm fine. I'm busy trying to catch up with my work all the time."
"I don't mean about your job, I mean about your life," she explained.
"Look, I once had a wonderful woman in my life. She was my wife and I'll never replace her with anyone. It's enough for me to live within my memories." Ralph replied sadly and continued, "I'll never forgive myself for not being able to speak up before she died. As someone once said, 'One
of the greatest human sorrows is when you lose someone, before you could ever have a chance to tell them how much you really loved them.'" Tears were welling up in his eyes. He held Joseline's hand, "I'm so thankful to God that I have you and Vera, and especially Mike; the gift that Nadia left for me, and that you are so close to me. I can still see Nadia's picture in
your eyes and catch her scent through you."
"No matter what happens, I'll be close to you forever" she said. While holding her tears back remembering her sister and feeling pity for Ralph.
Ralph looked down and remained quiet.
Joseline thought, "Nadia, no matter what I do, you remain stronger than me. Even being in your grave, you are still controlling Ralph's heart. I guess looks are not the key. It's the personality. You had it in you, both looks and personality. There's no way I can get anyone's attention. Not
even Ralph's. I just wanted to prove to myself that I was wanted and lovable. But I have failed."