A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Hush by Tal Bauer and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

It’s impossible to summarize the “meat” of this story in a single paragraph. Even the blurb only covers part of it, but in a nutshell—Federal Judge Tom Brewer has hidden his sexuality ever since he was a young college grad eagerly looking forward to law school. In the climate of the early eighties, when men were first diagnosed with the new AIDS disease, there was no room for doubt if a young man wanted to become a successful lawyer, so he turned away from everything he was and buried his sexuality very, very deep. Mike Lucciano, the US Marshal assigned to the federal judges protection detail, is an out and proud gay man, and he may just happen to hold the key to that safely locked away heart of Judge Tom Brewer.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Joel Leslie made this story 5 stars for me, though the raw material was certainly exemplary to begin with. This action adventure, complete with political intrigue was done in combo with a beautiful heartwarming MM romance amidst the chaos of a federal court, terrorist plots, and political intrigue.

Action packed, nail-biting suspense abounds in this story. And just when I thought things were going to run smooth, they took a turn toward crazy. And the people? Who do I trust? Who’s guilty? Who’s innocent? Who’s clueless? And who’s simply misinformed? Amazing characters, awesome situations, a grand international adventure—all rolled into one powerful story.

There are plots and subplots, characters to love and characters to hate, and both subtle and not-so-subtle nuances to the importance of any given situation. There’s no doubt Tal Bauer is a storyteller and there’s no doubt Joel Leslie can take that story and run with it. A man of a thousand voices, he brings me to my knees in heartbreak when one of our characters is at death’s door. And he brings an ear-to-ear smile to my face when the joy of finally being the man he should have been able to be all along comes to Tom Brewer.

I very, very highly recommend this story in audiobook format to all lovers of MM romance, especially to those who love older men, action/adventure, political intrigue, and a heartwarming HEA.

~~~

Cover art depicts a man with a gun to the back of his head, set against a background of the metro DC area. Just perfect for the story!

Sales Links:   Amazon  | Audible

Audiobook Details:

Length: 19 hrs and 22 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 05-01-18
Language: English
Publisher: Tantor Audio

A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Gryphon King’s Consort by Jenn Burke

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Love takes flight.

The sudden death of the Gryphon King throws the kingdom of Mythos into uncertainty, and Crown Prince Luca rushes both his coronation and an arranged marriage to a man he’s never met. Eirian is young and idealistic, and while they both want what’s best for their people, their philosophies couldn’t be more different. While Luca believes in honoring tradition, Eirian is determined to infuse modern values into their kingdom of magical creatures. When given the choice between loyalty to his husband and his own crusade, Eirian makes a decision that might doom their marriage.

Still, Luca is committed to making their union work, and that means forgiving his brash consort. But when Eirian becomes the target of a deadly conspiracy, Luca must act fast—or forever lose the chance to explore their burgeoning love.

I don’t honestly remember reading anything from Jenn Burke before but if The Gryphon King’s Consort is typical of the tales I can expect from this author, then I’m off to search for other stories to read.  It’s full of gryphons, all sorts of magical beasts, political intrigue, an arranged marriage, and happily, a romance that leads to a love that’s forever after. I mean these beings live a long, long time!

Be still my heart!

A story from Dreamspinner Press’ Dreamspun Beyond line, Burke does a lovely job of laying down a complete alternate universe.  She delivers on the history of the hidden world of magical beasts revealing themselves to humans, the resultant wars and the peace accord that survives to present day.  Also the factions within the Mythos kingdom, the Modernists and the Traditionalists.  It’s a neat believable divide albeit complete with magical beasts (which I adore btw).  Also, a touch I appreciated is the connection a King has with his people.  It’s something I wish more heads of state had these days.  That scene was marvelously touching and pulled the reader further into Luca’s character and his new role as King.

Even the author’s take on gryphons and their ability to shift into different creatures is wonderful and used to great effect here within the storyline, along with all the other hosts of magical beasts/beings we meet here and the rituals or parts of their cultures that Jenn Burke has created for the story.

And all that serves as a foundation and stage for her two main characters, Luca and  Eirian (as well as some memorable secondary characters).  I felt both men/beings were so well done.  The story is told from both perspectives and works extremely well that way.  The reader can see what the emotional cost of an arranged marriage is as far as trust, lack of friendship, personal knowledge  and even missing simple comradeship can be between two people.  Especially when the affairs of state seem determined to keep them apart.

This is, quite simply, a slam bang fantasy romance!  One you can immerse yourself in and be quite startled at how quickly you’ve come to the end.  I loved it and was sorry to see it over.  If you are a lover of fantasy and romance, here’s a story for you!

Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson.  I like the cover, definitely catches your eye.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Expected publication: December 15th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781635339208
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Sūnder (Darksoul #1) by Lexi Ander

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

If Sūnder Alārd had been born female he would have been cherished for being faeborn—born with magick—and his birth celebrated. Instead, his L’fÿn mother insisted on his death. Only his Panthrÿn father’s desperate escape through the forest saved him. With most Chándariāns uneasy in his presence due to rumors he is doomed to become a darksoul, and unlikely to find a mate because of it, Sunder has nevertheless carved out an honorable existence as a warrior and commander. Serving as bodyguard and chaperone for the Chándariān prince, Sūnder accompanies his charge to the annual mating festival on Earth, and when the prince is injured, he can’t help but be fascinated by the tongue-tied nurse who attends them at the hospital.

At sixteen years of age, Gabriel St. Baptista came home to discover his parents had taken off into space, leaving him behind to look after himself. Gabe never recovered from the unexpected desertion, and keeps everyone at arm’s length to avoid being abandoned again. However, after meeting Sūnder, Gabe finds himself unable to resist the bond between them and breaks all of his carefully crafted rules to spend time with the Chándariān, regardless of the fact that Sūnder will soon leave. Scared by what he feels for Sūnder, Gabe can only hope his heart won’t be too broken when Sūnder returns to Chándaria.

But deceit and treachery is all around them, and when Gabe saves Sūnder’s life, it sets off a chain of events that could either tear Gabe and Sūnder apart or give them both exactly what they want.

I’m totally captivated by the fantasy world and characters of Sūnder (Darksoul #1) by Lexi Ander.  Finishing at wee morning hours, I lay there lost in the relationship of Gabe and Sūnder, the amazing resolution of the saga that had unfolded through the night hours, all the beings that I had met and fallen madly in love with and knew I was not ready to leave any of them behind.

Ander has created such a deeply layered, diverse universe for the Darksoul series.  There are a multitude of beings, hybrids, mixtures of cultures,  planets, religions, levels of soldiers, magics and technologies interwoven with history, past wrongs and current politics (galactic and racial).  That’s a lot of elements to juggle but Lexi  Ander does a remarkable job of it while keeping the tension and suspense tight and the romance between our two main characters hot and everything you love to read.

Yes, you can have a remarkable foundation but without the characters, the heart of the story, you have nothing.  Here the author truly delivers.  Gabe is one that almost breaks your heart.  Abandoned by his parents inexplicably when he’s in his teens, he has but one friend in his life, Ronan, whose family took him in when his parents left.  Now grown, Ronan remains his best and perhaps only friend who helps him recover from things like his latest boyfriend breaking up with him and going off planet.   Gabe’s that endearing mixture of vulnerability, kindness, and intelligence that draws you in immediately.  Then he meets Sūnder, the faeborn with his own anguished past and pained present, one who smells sooo good, and I’m so connected to this pair that the thought never occurs to me to put down the story.

Told from Sūnder’s perspective as well as Gabe’s, you understand  what Sūnder has gone through his entire life, being on the outside, never being acknowledged for who he really is.  Like Gabe, he too carries his own family induced pain, lessened only by the love of his adoptive mother Princess Válora (adore her too).  Ander lets both Gabe and Sūnder become true partners to each other, working through and supporting each other.   It’s such a joy to read, especially with all the amazing storylines going on around them that adds to the suspense.

There’s so much more I’m not going into here. A Jade forest, Guardians, moving trees, battles…this story is a feast on every level!  I just love it so!  And there’s the promise of more.  I especially want Ronan and Akira’s story so I hope the author is listening.

If you love fantasy, run immediately get this book!  And prepare to fall in love just as I did.  It’s going right on our STRW Fantasy Rec List!

Cover art by Kirby Crow is perfect for the character and book.

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

Book Details:

ebook, 2
Published September 4th 2017 by Lexi Ander
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesDarksoul #1

A Lila Review: The Dragon’s Devotion (Chronicles of Tournai Book 5) by Antonia Aquilante

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

 

Corentin is a scholar with a secret—his magical Talent allows him to turn into a dragon, and he isn’t alone in that ability. Long ago, dragons were hunted fiercely, until they went into hiding, becoming things of legend. Corentin has traveled the world with one aim—to protect his people and keep their secret safe. Drawn to the principality of Tournai by news of someone close to discovering that secret, he hopes to avert suspicion. His attraction to the too-serious Bastien isn’t convenient for his purpose, but it isn’t something he can ignore either.

Lord Bastien, Earl of Ardesia, inherited his title unexpectedly when his parents were killed in a sailing accident along with the parents of his cousin, Prince Philip. Since then, Bastien has devoted his life to the obligations of his family and estate—so much so, that it has caused tension between him and his siblings. His world is further shaken when he receives an anonymous letter informing him that the tragic boating accident may, in fact, have been murder. Bastien throws himself into investigating whether the allegations are true and finding out who killed his parents.

As Corentin and Bastien become closer, the mystery of Bastien’s parents’ death draws him further into danger. Corentin feels compelled to protect Bastien, but the threat is closer than they know. Now, Corentin must decide whether preserving his secret—and potentially his people’s safety—is more important than saving the man he loves.

 

The Dragon’s Devotion is a slow burn, suspense story. It can be read as a stand-alone, but the details would make more sense after reading at least one of the previous books. In my case, I have read books three and four, which give a good overall background about the world-build and the rest of the cast.

 

This installment starts shortly after the last one and we get to know how important is for Corentin to keep his secret from others, including the royal family and their sorcerer. Etan’s research is the main reason he comes to Tournai and thanks to an invitation to Etan’s wedding to Tristan, Corentin gets to meet Bastian.

 

Bastian’s responsibilities have taken over his life since his parents’ deaths and only his obligation to attend the wedding and his need for answers brings him to town. This secondary information becomes the plot of the story, adding obstacles to the main love story.

 

The story moves slowly and has a lot of details. Most of them add to the story’s enjoyment, but others drag the pacing a bit. This isn’t a quick book to read, details matter and the story threads are important. It’s perfect for fantasy lovers and for those looking for more than a romance angle.

 

The book is well-written and entertaining. It has angst and dramatic moments, but it also has some comedic relief. I wish the MCs had a stronger connection, but their times together were lovely. I did enjoy their courting, too.

 

The cover by Natasha Snow is nice, but a bit dark for the story’s tone. It does have the basic elements described but it lacks a connection to the heart of the tale.

 

Sale Links

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

 

Book Details:

 

ebook, 286 pages
Published: September 4, 2017, by NineStar Press
ISBN: 9781947139787
Edition Language: English

 

Series:  Chronicles of Tournai
Book #1: The Prince’s Consort
Book #2: The Artist’s Masquerade
Book #3: The Scholar’s Heart
Book #4: The Sorcerer’s Guardian

Book #5: The Dragon’s Devotion

Antonia Aquilante on Dragons and her latest release ‘The Dragon’s Devotion (Chronicles of Tournai #5) – (author guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Title:  The Dragon’s Devotion

Series: Chronicles of Tournai, Book Five

Author: Antonia Aquilante

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: September 4, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 108100

Genre: Fantasy, fantasy, paranormal, shifters, dragons, magic users, bisexual, family drama, abduction/kidnapping, political intrigue, royalty

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Antonia Aquilante on Dragons

I’ve been a fantasy reader forever, it seems (and a romance reader too, but that’s probably another post). When I was very little, fairy tales were always my favorite stories. As I got older, that love of magic and magical worlds (and happily ever afters) in my stories stuck with me. I don’t exclusively read fantasy or fantasy romance, nowhere near that really because I read so many things, but I still love those stories. I really loves stories that have dragons in them.

I’ve been trying to remember if there were any books with dragons in them from when I was very little, but I can’t really remember any. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is probably one of the first movies I saw with a dragon (maybe?), but while Malificent’s dragon is very impressive, it’s never my favorite when the dragon is bad and has to be defeated. At some point in elementary school, I found Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which begins with Dealing with Dragons. I think I discovered it at a school book sale, and the combination of princess, dragon, and enchanted forest was irresistible to child me. I remember loving those books, and I still have the battered copies on my bookshelf. I’m tempted to pull them down and reread them now. I think I was twelve when I discovered Anne McCaffrey’s dragonriders, and I binged through those books and then faithfully read new ones as they came out, all the while dreaming of being a dragonrider. There have been so many other books in the years since that I’ve loved (I probably have recs, and please rec me dragon books you love!) and sparked my imagination.

So it was probably inevitable that I would write about dragons sometime. There’s just something about them—the power and the beauty, the awe-inspiring majesty of a dragon in flight. Before I wrote one word of the first Tournai book, I knew that dragons existed in this world. Granted, I had an entirely different story in mind to write about them—though the basics of the dragons’ backstory and abilities remained the same—but when does anything I write go exactly to plan? I’ve dropped vague hints about dragons in a couple of the previous books, none of which are necessary for you to understand this one, but enough that some readers noticed and have been asking me what’s going on with the dragons. I’ve been mean and didn’t tell, but The Dragon’s Devotion will give you some answers.

My dragons in the world of Tournai are people with the magical ability to turn into dragons. They are the stuff of legends, having faded into stories as time passed, and that’s just the way they want it for their own safety. I spent a lot of time figuring out dragon history and society. Some of it comes out in The Dragon’s Devotion, but some of it wasn’t necessary in this story. I definitely have plans to work more of it in future stories, though, and maybe even spin something off for more about dragons outside Tournai. We’ll see.

Writing the scenes with Corentin using his magic to become a dragon was so much fun. He’s keeping what he is a secret, so he has to be very careful about when and where he changes, but when he can, there is such relief and joy in him. I loved imagining what he would look like and how it would feel for him to fly out over the ocean. The scene when Bastien finds out is one of my favorites in the book. We get to see Corentin as a dragon through Bastien’s eyes and Bastien’s reactions. I’m hoping you’ll love it too.

Synopsis

Corentin is a scholar with a secret—his magical Talent allows him to turn into a dragon, and he isn’t alone in that ability. Long ago, dragons were hunted fiercely, until they went into hiding, becoming things of legend. Corentin has traveled the world with one aim—to protect his people and keep their secret safe. Drawn to the principality of Tournai by news of someone close to discovering that secret, he hopes to avert suspicion. His attraction to the too-serious Bastien isn’t convenient for his purpose, but it isn’t something he can ignore either.

Lord Bastien, Earl of Ardesia, inherited his title unexpectedly when his parents were killed in a sailing accident along with the parents of his cousin, Prince Philip. Since then, Bastien has devoted his life to the obligations of his family and estate—so much so, that it has caused tension between him and his siblings. His world is further shaken when he receives an anonymous letter informing him that the tragic boating accident may, in fact, have been murder. Bastien throws himself into investigating whether the allegations are true and finding out who killed his parents.

As Corentin and Bastien become closer, the mystery of Bastien’s parents’ death draws him further into danger. Corentin feels compelled to protect Bastien, but the threat is closer than they know. Now, Corentin must decide whether preserving his secret—and potentially his people’s safety—is more important than saving the man he loves.

Excerpt

The Dragon’s Devotion
Antonia Aquilante © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

In the privacy of his small office, Corentin circled his neck and rolled his bare shoulders and back, trying to loosen the stiffness there—impossible because his muscles weren’t really stiff. But he did it anyway. It was just that he hadn’t changed and stretched his wings in far too long. Whether real or imagined, it had always been this way if he didn’t use his Talent regularly. Only how was he to accomplish that in this place?

There wasn’t anywhere in the capital city where he could change unseen, and few places close to Jumelle where a large dragon would go unnoticed.

But while he was in Tournai, he’d have to deal with it. He’d managed a few night flights out over the sea when there wasn’t much moonlight. He’d have to get away for another as soon as he could without rousing suspicion. Not that he was being watched, or that anyone suspected what he was, but if a foreign scholar slipped away too many times with no explanation and someone were to notice… He didn’t want to take the risk. He’d come to the principality of Tournai to make sure no one knew of dragons; he wasn’t going to risk anyone finding out from him.

With a sigh, he reached for a fresh shirt from the cabinet in the corner. It wasn’t entirely appropriate for the university, but the more formal shirt and tunic he’d been wearing for this morning’s early lecture had been ruined when he’d walked into a sorcery student’s experiment out on the lawn. The lack of formality of his new attire wouldn’t be a problem since he’d only be working in his office.

He’d just lifted the shirt over his head and was letting it fall over his shoulders when he heard the creak of the floorboard a step inside his office, warning him too late that he wasn’t alone.

His own fault. He’d gotten complacent about pushing the door closed since he was usually the only one on this corridor. And he’d just been chastising himself about not giving away his secrets.

He whipped around, and the man who’d caused the creak froze just inside the room. His tall frame was elegantly and expensively attired, his pale blond hair perfectly styled, his exceedingly handsome face brimming with shock and curiosity. Corentin’s stomach sank. He knew what this man was—he’d made a point of avoiding him because of that knowledge. Master Savarin, the most powerful sorcerer in Tournai, stood just inside his office. He’d obviously seen the markings on Corentin’s back, the faint, shimmering scale pattern that marked him as one with the Talent to become a dragon.

Corentin froze as well, a litany of curses running through his mind. Anyone who saw the pattern would know what he was. Or, anyone at home would know, at least. He’d come to Tournai because there were whispers of the prince’s cousin Etan looking into dragon legends. Lord Etan, a young scholar who often lectured at the university, was well-respected, and his interest was enough to worry Corentin. But Etan had only theories—some quite close to the truth but nothing proven.

The question was: what did Master Savarin know? He was a powerful sorcerer, and a scholar as well, which was why Corentin made a point of avoiding him. Corentin had already displayed too much of his power by using it recently to help find a kidnapped child, but it could still be passed off as merely a powerful fire Talent. Dragons were myth and legend these days. He could bluff his way through this… as long as Master Savarin didn’t know what the markings signified.

Corentin forced himself to relax, to present a casual demeanor he didn’t feel. He reached for his spare jacket, shrugging into it as he spoke. “Master Savarin, isn’t it? What can I do for you?”

Silvery gray eyes focused on him. “What are those? On your back.”

Corentin buttoned the jacket, keeping his movements unhurried. He would not look as if he was trying to hide anything. “On my back? You mean the tattoos? I suppose they’re not quite genteel, but…” He shrugged.

Master Savarin’s gaze sharpened. “Those are not tattoos. I’ve never seen tattoos that look like that.”

“Have you seen many tattoos?” Corentin asked, keeping his voice mild.

“Some.”

“I wouldn’t think they’re very common in the circles you move in. Or at least I haven’t seen many tattoos during my time here at the university.” Was this argument going to get him anywhere except into more trouble? He needed to divert attention from the markings, not discuss them interminably.

“Perhaps I know different people than you think.” Master Savarin’s attention never wavered even as Corentin used his most forbidding stoney mask.

“I got these on my travels. Perhaps they’re different from the ones you’ve seen.” Maybe that would be the end of it.

“I’m rather well traveled myself. I still haven’t seen anything like that.”

“You can’t have seen everything.”

When he saw the suspicious glint sharpen in Savarin’s eyes, Corentin wondered if he’d gone too far. Was it the words or the smooth tone with just a hint of flirtation that took him a step further than he should have gone? The question was what would Savarin do. And what did he know?

Savarin laughed, a smooth, practiced laugh probably not out of place at the court of Prince Philip and his consort Amory. “No one could, but I’m certainly doing my best.”

Corentin propped a hip on the edge of his desk, letting out a laugh of his own and fixing a charming smile on his face. He could still divert this conversation. “A fellow traveler. I’m doing my best to see everything as well. Insatiable curiosity, I suppose.”

“A thirst for knowledge and new experiences.”

“Yes, I’m always eager to see and experience new things on my travels.”

“I am as well.” Savarin tilted his head slightly, regarding Corentin in a way he couldn’t decipher. “Of course, sometimes I don’t have to leave home to find new experiences.”

For a moment, he wondered if Savarin was flirting. “A true scholar is always learning.”

“Yes, exactly.”

“It’s why I came here, why I travel in the first place.”

Savarin nodded. “I don’t think I ever heard where you’re from.”

Corentin’s guard went back up. “Far from here. A small place in the foothills of the Nashira Mountains.” Not exactly the truth but close enough. “No one’s ever heard of it. A reason to travel, yes? If you come from somewhere so small and isolated?”

“I suppose it is. I grew up here, so I didn’t have the same experience.”

He hadn’t heard much other than that about Savarin’s vague origins. “No, you wouldn’t have. Jumelle is a vibrant, busy city from what I’ve seen. So many people from so many places. So much knowledge here at the university.”

“Yes. And with all that, and all my travels, I’ve never heard of magic of the kind you performed.”

Corentin forced himself to remain calm, to appear calm at least. “Magic I performed?”

Playing dumb to stall would probably get him nowhere, but he did it anyway. And of course Savarin proved him right, because the man wasn’t stupid. “Yes, the magic you used to help recover Master Tristan’s baby daughter when she was kidnapped earlier this year.”

Since the incident, he’d been kicking himself for using the magic, and he’d done his best to avoid Savarin’s attempts to question him about it. But what could he have done? He hadn’t met Master Tristan, who was a merchant in Jumelle, before that day. He’d gone to have lunch with Etan and found the palace in an uproar because his infant daughter was missing. As much as he wanted to not draw attention to what he was, he couldn’t have lived with himself if he hadn’t offered to help.

And his help had aided the royal guard and Savarin in finding the baby. Both Etan and Master Tristan had been extremely grateful, and Etan, who was soon to marry Tristan, had said he was in Corentin’s debt.

“It was no great or special magic, but I was happy to be able to help. Horrifying that a baby would be stolen from her home,” he said.

“I have to disagree about the magic being special. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“You didn’t see it, so I can’t imagine how you would know.” His words came out sharper than he intended, and he regretted it immediately, but there was nothing for it now.

“It was described to me in detail,” Savarin said, showing no reaction to Corentin’s slip in tone. “You told Lord Etan, Master Tristan, and Lord Flavian that you have a fire Talent, but I’ve never seen someone with a fire Talent do what you did.”

“I doubt you’ve met every person with a fire Talent in the world.” He tried to say it lightly, almost joking, but annoyance at the questioning was layering over his worry.

“No, but I’ve spent my life studying magic and the different Talents people possess. I have a touch of a fire Talent myself. So I know something about it.” Before Corentin could decide what to say next, Savarin continued. “At first, when I’d heard what happened, I was simply curious. I wondered what you’d done and if I could learn how to as well. But when I asked to talk with you, you put me off. And soon I realized you were avoiding me. That’s when I got suspicious. Because you had no reason to avoid me.”

“Perhaps I didn’t feel the need to be interrogated about an uninteresting bit of magic used to help someone recover his child.”

“But the magic wasn’t uninteresting to me. And it wouldn’t have been an interrogation. It would have been two scholars—two men with Talent—discussing magic. From what I’ve heard, you have no problem engaging with scholars here. You and Lord Etan meet often to talk about your respective work. Given that, surely you can see how I might suspect you’d done something you wouldn’t want anyone to know about? Something that might even be dangerous to Tournai or its royal family.”

“I resent that implication. You’ll remember I used the magic to help Tournai’s royal family.” Corentin kept his voice steady, but he silently cursed himself. He hadn’t meant to become more conspicuous by putting Savarin off, but he’d needed more information, and a plausible story. Keeping away from him had seemed best if the alternative was giving away who and what he was. Now he wasn’t so sure.

“I haven’t forgotten.” Savarin’s tone wasn’t anything other than what could be termed condescending. But Corentin expected arrogance from him. “Neither does that mean you don’t have bad intentions. A smart man knows to bide his time, to gain the trust of others, before—”

“Before what? Betraying it? I do have some loyalty, and whatever you think, I helped out of the desire to see an innocent child brought home to her father.” Corentin regarded Savarin steadily, not giving him a flicker of anything he might twist into more suspicion. “I assume you used your magic to help for much the same reason.”

“I did. But it’s your behavior afterward that reflects poorly on you. You’re lucky I haven’t alerted anyone else to my suspicions.”

Corentin forced himself not to react to the threat in those words. He’d heard rumors, whispers, of spies being found in Jumelle, sent to ferret out information by the conquest-mad emperor of Ardunn. The Ardunn empire had been conquering and absorbing countries to its east for years, and it was rumored that its emperor had his sights set on Tournai, which was wealthy and strategically located on the western half of the continent. He had no love for Ardunn himself—the empire’s borders had expanded far too close to his home, which remained safe and hidden only due to the impassable mountains—so he could understand that there might be an air of caution. Would vague suspicions be enough in Tournai’s current climate? Savarin was trusted. Would his word be taken without any other proof?

“I don’t know what you think I’ve done, or am planning to do.”

“My suspicions might be nebulous, but my concern is for the safety of my country and its royal family when they are in such close proximity to an unknown and potentially dangerous magic.” Savarin seemed about to say something else, but at that moment, the university bells chimed the hour. He cursed under his breath. “I have to go to the palace for a meeting with the princes.”

Corentin nodded, glad for the reprieve. “Of course. We’ll finish our discussion at another time.”

A time long in the future, if ever.

Savarin hesitated and then seemed to come to some sort of decision. Dread flooded Corentin. “No. I’m not going to chance you getting away from me again.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m going to make sure you’re here waiting when I return from my meeting,” Savarin said as he stepped back through the doorway.

“I say again, excuse me? I might agree to wait for you, but I can’t see what you can do otherwise.”

Savarin’s lips curled into something that was almost a smile, but very definitely smug, and Corentin’s dread grew stronger. Corentin strode toward Savarin, not sure whether he would throttle the man or stride past him and away, putting an end to an infuriating and nerve-wracking confrontation. Before he could make the decision, he hit an invisible barrier in the doorway and stumbled back a step.

He put a hand up, flattening it against the magic that barred his path, a wall he couldn’t see. “What have you done?”

“Ensured that you’ll still be here to finish this,” Savarin said, as if it made complete sense for him to trap another person against his will, as if it was all right.

“You think I’m going to run away?”

“I think you’re going to go back to avoiding me, and I can’t have that. We’ll continue our discussion when I return.”

“You can’t do this,” Corentin bit out, but the sorcerer had already turned away, and a moment later he had disappeared down the stairs.

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Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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Tour Schedule

 

9/4      On Top Down Under Book Reviews

9/4      Books,Dreams,Life

9/4      A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

9/5      Love Bytes

9/5      The Novel Approach

9/5      Hoards Jumble

9/6      Queer Sci Fi

9/6      Drops of Ink

9/6      Erotica For All

9/7      Bayou Book Junkie

9/7      Stories That Make You Smile

9/7     Shari Sakurai

9/8      Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

9/8      Boy meets boy reviews

9/8      Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

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