Just a few days left until The Priestess and the Dragon is unleashed! Check out the first chapter below. And also check out information about how to win a Signed Paperback copy!
Sweat rolled down her neck, slid down her spine and pooled at the basin of her lower back. Suzume resisted the urge to itch a tickle near her nose, lest she smear the white paint that adorned her face. The high priestess chanted in a sonorous voice and the procession moved forward a half step. Suzume sighed and lowered her head. The bells hanging from the decorative pins in her hair jingled as she did so. The second to the high priestess whipped her head around, somehow hearing the insignificant sound beneath the high priestess’ chanting. The second glared at Suzume, who returned the look with a half-smile and a tilt of her head, which jangled the bells further. The pinging sound felt like a declaration. I did not choose this life and I will not obey your rules.
The second pursed her lips as she glared at Suzume. She would not dare interrupt the ceremony to chastise Suzume. But if looks could kill, Suzume would be dead three times over. She would most likely get a tongue-lashing when they were alone again. If she had learned anything since coming to the temple, it was that the Maidens of the Mountain took their ceremonies seriously.
The procession moved forward another half step and the second turned back to the head priestess. Suzume sighed as she inched towards the temple. What she wouldn’t give to rip this constricting robe and sash off. I would trade all my father’s—no, the emperor, as I must now call him—I would give up all his gold and the power of the Eight to be free of this robe!
True, she was no stranger to fine garments. Indeed, she had often donned fine silks, she had been served by ladies from the noblest families and had men fall in love with her at least once a week. That was until her mother had ruined everything. You couldn’t tell from the bitter chill rolling off the mountain peaks, but at the White Palace, the cherry blossoms would be blooming. She should be viewing the cherry blossoms with General Tsubaki, her onetime intended, and having courtiers slipping her poetic love notes. He was the perfect match, powerful and old enough not to notice when I flirted with the younger lords. She sighed again.
The second spun around, breaking rank, and said with a hiss, “Silence.”
The young priestesses that were in three lines behind her giggled. The second glowered past Suzume towards them and the giggling died away, leaving only the sound of the high priestess, who continued to chant without breaking stride. When the second turned around, Suzume rolled her eyes. The procession moved another half step.
Suzume’s thoughts returned to her own lamentable fate. When she had imagined her wedding day, it was not like this. Instead of marrying General Tsubaki as was her right and his honor, she was to become an unwilling bride of the mountain god. Which was a romanticized way of saying she had been exiled to a life of a priestess. As the emperor’s trueborn daughter, she was born of divinity and as such she could not be simply married off. Her father insisted on adding insult to injury.
They approached a group of red torii arches. Before she passed beneath the first one, the wind picked up and jangled the bells in her hair, pushing against her as if trying to keep her from entering. She hesitated for a moment. She felt a tingle along her fingertips, a slight burn as if they had come too close to a flame. The second saw her dawdling and jerked her head to the side, indicating she should cross the barrier. It’s just a gateway. She crossed the threshold, and as she did, a prickling sensation ran up and down her arms. She pressed against an invisible barrier, as if the archway wanted to keep her back. She stumbled through and nearly lost her balance. She overcorrected and heard the priestesses behind her laughing, thinking she had lost her balance.
When she looked to them to see if they experienced the same phenomenon, they passed through without resistance. At least the wind had dried the sweat that was surely streaking the white paint on her neck. She chanced a glance to her side; beyond the red columns of the arch the pathway had a sheer drop. And in the distance she could see the mountain range shrouded in clouds. The pathway leading up to the shrine was carved from the mountain, one side a flat mountain face with a few sporadic plants growing in the cracks. The shrine was wedged into a cave; four columns supported the front facade, and beyond the veranda, the latticework doors had been pulled open. She had come a long way from the White Palace to this desolate mountain temple. Suzume suppressed another sigh, lest the second’s scowl grow deeper. Let’s get this over with, she thought.
After what felt like hours, but was closer to a few minutes, they passed beneath the last of the red arches and the house of the God of the Mountain lay before them. The wood on the front had been carved with a scene depicting the mountain range. Above the mountains, the god sat upon a cloud, and with an outstretched hand he brought rain to the needy farmers down at the bottom.
The high priestess stopped the procession. She finished her chant with one last echoing note that bounced off the surrounding mountains, and the following silence was more defined. The wind howled ominously. Suzume’s skin itched and burned. She fought the urge to rub her palms against her flesh to assuage her affliction; she wanted to maintain at least the illusion of respectability. The head priestess and all the other shrine maidens bowed in unison. Suzume, distracted by her fevered skin, did not follow but instead stared into the inner sanctum of the god. A pedestal was the room’s only adornment and upon the white pillow was an obsidian stone.
“Bow, you ungrateful girl,” the high priestess scolded.
Suzume did so with reluctance. Her skin trembled and twitched like a horse trying to shake off a fly. She could not remove her eyes from the stone. It seemed familiar, as if she had seen it before. As she knelt, she lost sight of it. She lowered her head in feigned obedience. However, a sensation began to stir in her gut; she felt like she might retch. I cannot do that, not now, not here. She glanced up once more, trying to regain control of her body.
The high priestess approached the shrine while swinging a brass bowl attached to four chains, with a stick of incense in it. The white smoke swirled around her and trailed after her as she approached the pedestal.
The high priestess lit a few incense sticks that were in holders on either side of the pedestal. She knelt down with her head bowed low to the ground as the room filled with the pungent smoke. The smoke tickled Suzume’s nose. She wiggled it back and forth, the churning feeling in her gut creeping up to the back of her throat. It felt as if there were an inferno burning inside her.
“God of the Mountain, bringer of the rain, great master who parted the lands from the sea, please accept this bride as yours.” She clapped her hands together, finishing the prayer. She rose up onto the balls of her feet and turned to face the group without rising from a kneeling position. She motioned for Suzume to come forward.
She rose on shaking limbs. Only her mere stubbornness kept her moving. As she crossed the threshold, a sensation like a punch to the gut stopped her in her tracks. Whatever was inside her was coming out, now. She stopped, afraid to move for fear her very skin would melt from her bones if she went too near. Is this a part of the ceremony? If so, I refuse to be a part of it.
The high priestess frowned and once more beckoned for her to come forward with a sharp impatient movement.
Suzume shook her head and set the bells jangling. They echoed across the room and seemed to reverberate tenfold, rattling around inside her skull.
“You cannot turn back now, you will anger the god,” the second snarled, now standing beside her with a rough grip of Suzume’s elbow.
The second forced Suzume forward; then Suzume’s knees buckled beneath her. Her stomach heaved and she feared she would empty its contents in front of everyone. She grabbed her abdomen in a last effort to hold back, but something bubbled up from inside her, the burning receded from her arms and pooled in her stomach before traveling up and out of her mouth. Bright red light burst from her lips and shot out like a current that sparked and undulated as it made a direct trajectory for the pedestal and collided with the obsidian stone.
For a moment the stone vibrated, and then it began to rock back and forth on its stand. Finally it rolled and began to ricochet around the pedestal, colliding with the raised edges of the stand. Then the pedestal exploded in a shower of splintered wood. The force of the explosion threw the high priestess backwards. Suzume fell to the ground just in time to avoid a deadly piece of wood from piercing her heart.
Fragments of wood rained down on her as she covered her head with her hands. When the raining debris ceased, she looked up again. Smoke filled the chamber—she could not tell if it was just the incense or from whatever had caused the explosion. The burning sensation had left her body, but Suzume felt a new tingling warm sensation that flooded her skin like a warning bell. She could not get up, however; it felt as if an invisible hand held her down, nearly forcing the air from her body.
“High Priestess!” the second shouted somewhere in the smoke and debris. The other maidens were chattering in fear.
“I am here, and unharmed,” the high priestess said. The smoke cleared and revealed her to be lying on the ground. She sat up and bits of wood fell off of her. She looked at Suzume, her eyes wide. “What did you do?” she asked.
Before Suzume had even the chance to answer, a hollow maniacal laughter filtered through the chamber. The head priestess’ mouth dropped open as she turned her head back to where the pedestal had been. The smoke rolled away and a coiled serpentine body covered in opalescent scales dominated the room. The creature’s muzzled face looked down upon Suzume, his long whiskers brushing against the bells on her hair pieces.
“God of the Mountain and bringer of the rain, I presume?” Suzume asked.
The creature smirked, revealing rows of dagger-sharp teeth. “You awoke me?” His voice echoed and filled the room with thunder.
Had she been a cautious woman, she would have listened to the underlying threat in the creature’s stature and his words. But Suzume prided herself on the fact that she did not cower before anyone, even the God of the Mountain.
“And if I did?” she asked.
The beast exhaled; his breath, as cold as winter, froze her skin until that warm tingling sensation defrosted her.
“God of the Mountain,” the high priestess gasped.
He turned his large head towards her and looked her up and down and said, “Your voice has been in my dreams.”
Tears gathered in the old woman’s eyes. “Thank you, lord, it is a great honor. I always hoped you heard my fervent prayers. I have dedicated my life to your service. Please tell us, why now have you—”
“Silence, you speak too much, human. I did not awaken to hear your prattling. You should stick to your prayers and songs, they are much easier upon the ears.” He growled and the high priestess fell onto her knees and laid her face to the ground.
“My apologies—” she started to say, but he growled and she silenced herself.
The god turned back to Suzume. “I can sense little spiritual power in you, yet you have undone the seal,” he said while regarding Suzume. He tilted his head to the side. The shrine maidens and high priestess had moved out of the way of the god’s coiling body and were huddled outside the shrine.
She looked at them and back at the god. How had she unleashed him? As far as she could tell, it had been an accident, an involuntary action. Regardless of the how, she did not want to admit her ignorance in front of the other shrine maidens.
“It was simple, the seal was weak,” Suzume lied.
He tilted his head and barked a thundering laugh that shook the building down to its foundation. He took a few steps back and then with a puff of smoke transformed. When the smoke cleared, a young man stood in his place. A naked young man. His sleek black hair hung loose about his shoulders in an almost obscene way.
Suzume admired his lean physique and let her eyes trace his body downward. Before she could get too far, however, the high priestess forced Suzume’s head down so she could not admire the god’s other masculine assets. Suzume sighed; if this is how she was expected to act for the rest of her life, then she was not going to like living here at all.
The god approached her and loomed over her. “You are my newest servant?”
She bristled at the servant distinction and was preparing to correct his misconception when the high priestess chose that moment to interrupt.
“She is your newest tribute, my lord, your pure bride.”
He raked Suzume up and down and she met his gaze with an out-jutted chin and only took a quick peek at his manhood. Not bad, she thought. He laughed again.
“I don’t know how pure she is.”
Suzume glared at him. How dare he insinuate she was anything but chaste! She had been attempting to get a sneak peek at his godly assets but nothing more than that. It didn’t make her impure to be curious.
“My lord!” the priestess proclaimed. He turned to her and looked her up and down.
“You keep calling me that, but I am not your mountain god. I am a dragon, and before I was trapped inside that stone, I ruled this realm. And you”—he knelt before Suzume. Now she did avert her gaze; she did not need to be that familiar with his manhood—”shall help me exact my revenge.”
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I love supporting Indie Authors, there’s a real sense of community when we all rally together. I was lucky to have Kara as guest at my Kistune Release Party and I was really excited because just the day before I finished this fabulous book in her Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. This is the second book in the series, and as with her Earl of Brass, Ms. Jorgensen’s talent for diverse characters stole the show from the start!
I really enjoyed her first book, Earl of Brass, but fell in love with her writing in The Winter Garden. Throughout the book, there’s this sense of fear that overlays everything. Emmanuel is a German student studying anatomy at Oxford when he saves a girls life by using a family heirloom. Turns out his family deals in alchemy and using what appears to be a philosophers stone. But when he revives her their lives are linked together. Emmaline’s mysterious recovery piques the interest of of those who would use their apparent link, and the two become entangled together, in unexpected ways.
Ms. Jorgensen captures so many themes, and does it with such expertise that I could gush about how much I love this book for thousands of word. But I am sure they would all start to run together and I won’t subject you to that. I will give you the best impression I can, but honestly you should just buy the book. Her writing is beautiful and poignant. Starting with Emmanuel, he deals with a lot. He’s damaged and afraid and his feelings just jump off the page. I felt like he was a real person as if this was a story told by a friend beside me. Then there’s Adam his love interest, he’s hidden his homosexuality for his entire life and it takes a lot for him to give in to opening up his heart. You feel the danger of discovery for these two. I never thought too much about homosexuality in the Victorian age but now that I have, I want to read more about it. The romance between the two characters felt natural. There was no pomp, which was so great. I’ve read novels with homosexual relationships as a minor subplot and it always feels like the author is waving a diversity flag for the sake of diversity. These characters breathe real life! With Adam and Emmanuel they just are, and there’s something simple and special about that. I have to say it, I love this couple! Intermixed with these characters you fall in love with is this prevail sense of magic, danger and mystery. It had every element of a story that I just love. An absolute must read!
And once you finish that, pick up the Oxford Holiday. It’s a delightful glimpse into the lives of Emmanuel and Adam after The Winter Garden. It’s a quick read that will sate your craving for more of this couple, because believe me, you will fall in love with them! Not only was it great to see them being their adorable selves, it sets up future conflicts to come introducing new characters and teasing us with brief glimpses of what we can expect in future books. (Yes I’m onto you Kara!) Pick them both up at the same time, because you’ll want to read the short right after.
The Winter Garden:
An Oxford Holiday:
This is the second part of the Kitsune Chapter One. Read part 1 here. There’s just a few days left until the release!
Once again in fox form, she flew through the forest undergrowth. She could smell blood in the air; the boar had not been completely unsuccessful. I thought humans of this region knew to stay away from this forest. I wonder what madness drove them in here. She leapt over a fallen tree. It does not concern me, I suppose. Though I would have liked to learn more about that human. He was interesting. She laughed at her own curiosity. That is the first time I’ve ever thought that of a human.
As she ran, she spread out her senses. She had felt nothing since the boar, and then as she approached her destination, she noticed an overhead shadow, which leapt from branch to branch, keeping pace with her. If it was a Yokai, they had cloaked their spiritual energy, making them invisible to her probes. And if it was a Yokai, it also meant they were more powerful than her. She reached a clearing in the woods; the trees circled a grassy area open on all sides. It was a convenient spot to confront her stalker, one where she could escape from if need be.
She transformed back into a woman and said, “Come out, I know you’re there.”
It dropped out of the tree to her right. She tilted her head to look at him, as if she were merely curious and not on the defensive. His tunic and split pants were black and he wore a white mask over his face. The mask had only two dark holes for the eyes, no space for a mouth or nose.
“Can I safely assume you are here to welcome me?” Rin asked.
The messenger did not appear to be amused. “What business do you have in the guardian’s forest?” was his monotone reply.
“I am the Dragon’s messenger.”
The warrior’s hand hovered over his sword. “And what message might the Dragon have for Akio?”
“Are you Akio?” Rin asked, though she already knew the answer.
She laughed. “Then I am not inclined to answer your questions, now am I?”
“You saved that human, why? You know I must report this to the guardian.”
She shrugged. How could she explain such a whim when she did not even understand it herself?
“Do you plan on taking me as a prisoner to Akio, then?” She held out her hands as if she expected him to bind them together.
“No, but I will escort you to his palace.”
She waved her hand. “Lead the way, then.”
Rin followed after the warrior. He walked with an upright rigid air that one would expect from Akio’s guard. He did not turn to make sure she followed. Not that it was necessary, he could stop her in an instant if she tried to flee. The guardian’s palace was hidden in the middle of the forest, the entrance guarded by a long rope bridge over a canyon. They crossed the bridge, which swung back and forth. Rin glanced over the edge at the chasm below. Low-hanging clouds blocked the bottom from view. The palace building itself was hidden amongst the trees, some twined with the building, as if it had been here since the dawn of time and the trees merely grew through the structure. The verandas and covered walkways were shaded by the canopies of trees to the point where Rin could not see where the building started and the trees ended.
Once they crossed the bridge, they climbed up a narrow set of stairs, which ended at a double door. There were two guards; both of them had the head of deer and the body of men. They wore armor, painted red, over black gathered pants and tunic. They stared straight forward, ignoring the warrior who had come to fetch Rin. The warrior moved silent as a ghost into the courtyard beyond. It was slated in marble, twisted with black and gold flecks. The roots of a large tree grew in cracks of the marble, like veins. She followed after the warrior, who gave her no instruction but seemed to expect compliance.
They climbed a smaller set of steps into the main building. Here the floors were covered in tatami, bamboo mats, and at the far end of the room on a raised platform sat the forest guardian, Akio. He was a massive creature who dominated the space. He had the head of a boar and instead of hands he had hooves. He wore several layers of bright silk robes. The sleeves draped over his arms and pooled on the ground near his thick meaty thighs. Yokai attended him, all of them animal hybrids like the guards at the door, a few monkeys, and a few more deer women served him platters of dumplings and fish cooked in a thick dark sauce. The warrior who had come to fetch her knelt down before the boar and laid his head down to the ground.
“My lord, I found this Kitsune wandering the forest,” he said in a formal clipped tone.
The boar ate messily; dark sauce dribbled off his snout and onto his bright yellow kimono. He glanced over at Rin like one does a buzzing fly. He had small beady eyes like the creature who had attacked the young lord. But unlike the dumb animal, there was cunning staring back at her.
“You are a messenger of the Dragon,” he said. His voice rumbled and shook his massive gut.
“Is it that obvious?” Rin replied. She could not help but taunt him. Her position as a messenger gave her immunity.
Akio did not seem amused. “Does your master forget that I have forbidden any of his court in my domain?”
“Ah. As the Dragon has often reminded you, your domain is within his kingdom and therefore you are his subject.”
The boar laughed. “You are brash for someone with such a low status.”
He thinks to humiliate me. Well… “That jibe might sting more if it were not coming from a mouth full of food.”
He jumped to his feet, knocking over platters and spilling a jug of sake in the process. Rin grinned, not backing down an inch.
“How dare you insult me in my own palace!” he roared.
“I would chastise you for being rude as well, but I feel it would be a futile effort.”
“You insolent worm. I should have you locked away to rot.”
“And then you would have a real war on your hands,” Rin replied.
The boar narrowed his eyes. “Who are you really?”
“Just the Dragon’s messenger, nothing more.”
“I find that suspect.” He sat back down on his cushion. And then he leaned forward, his hooves folded in front of him.
“The Dragon asks that you attend a feast,” Rin said.
“Does he now? Is this his way of distracting us from his human lover?”
Human lover? She had expected tricks from Akio, but this was too farfetched even for her to imagine. The servants that sat beside him leaned in and whispered to one another, giving her furtive looks. A doe towards the front gave her a slow smile. Rin smiled back, full of honey laced with poison. They cannot possibly know me. I am just being paranoid.
The boar grinned, revealing crooked yellow teeth. “You know about it, I am sure. They say the Dragon has become ensorcelled by a human woman. There are rumors he has even abandoned his palace in favor of dancing to the human’s whims.”
She tried to picture the Dragon with a human. She had spent so much time avoiding him she could not recall where she had last seen him. He leaves from time to time and he’s been known to take human lovers but never for long and never serious. “That’s the problem with rumors, they are often misleading. Don’t you agree?” she said.
The boar shook his head. He waved his hoof and the servants rose as one and filed out of the room. Rin watched them go with a growing sense of dread. She may have bitten off more than she could chew with Akio.
“I have no time for your games. I know the Dragon wants to lure me out of my palace, but I am no fool. You thought to trick me, but you’re not nearly clever enough to play this game.”
“I never intended to enter a game of wits with you. There’s no competition where you are involved.” She examined her pointed nails.
He grinned at her, revealing yellow teeth. Perhaps he missed the insult. “You would have done better to come groveling if you wanted to play a spy, Rin.”
Her mouth dropped open as her stomach sank. How could he possibly guess her motives? She had told no one of her intentions, not even Shin. “You—”
“Yes, I know who you are, and I know you are no mere messenger. You would have been better served to not break my laws as well; I might have let you go otherwise.” He waved his hoof and guards approached from all sides. “Take her prisoner.”
Find out what happens next by reading, Kitsune.
Available Friday August 14th at these retailers:
Kitsune Chapter One: Part 1
The boar was covered in coarse black hair. The giant yellow tusks curved around his snout as he pawed at the ground. The young man stood transfixed in place, staring down the eyes of the beast. Rin watched him, wondering what he would do. From the trembling of his hands, he did not seem to be the type who could defend himself very well. His clothes were tattered and dirt stained but finely made. He must be someone important in the human world. I wonder why he came into this forest.
She did not meddle in human affairs as a matter of principle. They lived such brief uninteresting lives she could not be bothered by them. Then as she stared at the young man, he turned slowly to face her. His dark eyes looked at her and saw her not as a fox, as he should, but as a woman. She could see the spark of recognition, and the confusion, overlaid by his fear. The boar charged and the young man looked for his sword, just out of reach in a bush nearby. Not that it would have mattered either way—no human blade could kill that beast. She should not have cared what happened to him. But as if controlled by some outside force, she pushed the young man out of the way of the churning hooves of the monstrous boar.
The boar roared as he passed, the sheer weight of his body propelling him forward and crashing through the brush. It was a large clumsy beast. It collided with a tree twice as thick as Rin and snapped it in half. It tossed its massive head and focused gleaming yellow eyes on the pair of them. Now I’ve done it. Akio will have my head for interfering. She looked down at the young man as she straddled his waist and he stared up at her in a daze. His eyes glazed over her face and came to rest upon the pair of fox ears on top of her head. No doubt about it now, he knows what I am.
He opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water. It was rather amusing. She grinned as she jumped off of him.
“We should get out of here; those trees will not hold him back for long.” She jutted a thumb towards the trees that shielded them from the boar’s wrath. The boar tore at bark with his tusks, grunting and snorting as he dug chunks of earth out of the ground. The space in between the branches was too narrow to allow for his massive body to pass. But judging from the growing pile of splinters, they would not remain an obstacle for much longer.
A wild animalistic panic threatened to overcome her. It screamed at her to transform into a fox and hide in the underbrush. She smothered the impulse; for some strange reason she felt she had to help this young man. If Akio wants him this bad, then I cannot let him have this man.
The young lord climbed to his feet, his hands shaking. His open mouth gaped at her ears; then slowly his gaze traveled downward to her foxtail, which she swished back and forth behind her. The boar roared again and the young man tore his gaze away from her and stared terrified back at the beast trying very hard to come and tear them apart.
“Run, my lady, I will defend you,” the human said. He reached for a sword that was not there. So instead he put up his arms to shield her from the boar.
She laughed. She did not mean to, but he had all but wet himself out of fear. How could he hope to protect her when she had to save him first?
“You cannot hope to defeat him,” she replied. “Follow me or die, those are your choices.” She jogged away from the clearing and deeper into the forest, where the undergrowth grew to her thigh and the trees close together. It would be impossible for the boar to follow.
It was foolish to save him, even more foolish to talk to him, but sometimes it was the foolish things that brought the most entertainment.
What I want to know is how he can see me. A human should not be able to see my form without me revealing it to him. Any other Yokai in her position would leave him to the mercy of the boar, but he had piqued her curiosity. He fumbled in the undergrowth as he followed after her, whereas Rin moved about with grace, not so much as bending the grass underfoot. He broke branches and mumbled curses under his breath when his silken robes got caught on a thorny bush and tore a gaping hole. He’ll wake every bloodthirsty Yokai in the forest, stomping around like that. She waited perched on a boulder as he mourned his ruined clothes.
He glanced up to see her watching him, dropped the fabric and continued onward. She flicked her tail and leapt down from the boulder, running ahead, checking to make sure there were no more nasty surprises waiting for them in the shadows. She spread out her senses, searching for other Yokai, and though she sensed others in the forest, none were close by. That’s a relief, at least.
She led him through the twisted pathways through the forest known only to forest inhabitants. She felt the boar waiting on the edges of the forest, where the woods were sparse. He roared again but too far away to be any danger now. He’ll be returning to his master, I suspect. She glanced over her shoulder to check on the young man, and found him bent over gasping for breath. I forget how fragile these humans can be. She waited for him to regain his composure. She wanted to question him further, but she had broken enough laws just by saving him. She dared not incriminate herself further, not in Akio’s realm. She looked away from him lest he catch her staring and take it upon himself to ask his own questions. She had seen the sidelong looks he gave her, and she knew he had questions of his own.
When he stood upright once more, she said, “Keep going this way and you’ll be outside the forest.” She pointed to a narrow animal track that twisted around the trees and led out onto a human road. He looked up at her, then past her to the path. When his eyes were off her, she cloaked herself. When he looked up again, he would see the forest behind her.
“Thank—” he started to say. He swiveled his head back and forth. He scratched his head as his eyes skimmed over her, unseeing. She could see the question in his eyes, wondering what she was, just as she was wondering why he could see her. After a few moments, he shrugged and turned to walk away. She watched him amble down the pathway she had indicated. He took a few steps before stopping to check for her over his shoulder. A part of her wanted to chase after him, but she knew no good could come of that. They lived in separate worlds. How he could see her would remain a mystery. After searching for her to no avail, he continued on the path and disappeared around the bend. She waited until he was out of sight before heading back into the forest.
Part 2 coming soon!
I try to keep my ear to the ground and if I ever find interesting books coming up, I like to share them with everyone. I discovered this gem recently and I cannot wait to read my copy. I’m helping out the author by sharing an excerpt and the cover as part of her book tour. It looks really interesting, be sure to check it you.
Excerpt: Songbird by Colleen Helme
Her eyelids drooped. Half asleep, she didn’t hear the door to her room open. It shut with a soft click, startling her. She jerked to her feet and found a cloaked man standing inside her room. In the dim light, she recognized the Ambassador from Braemar, and gasped.
“Shh.” He held a gloved finger to his lips and waited like a coiled spring for several seconds.
Teya’s heart beat furiously. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s all right. I’ve come to get you out.”
“Are you crazy? It’s impossible. You’ll only get yourself killed. Believe me, it’s happened before. You should leave now before you get caught.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “You don’t want to be rescued?”
“Of course I do. But…it won’t work.”
He frowned. “I’m sorry you have so little faith in me, but I assure you, I can get you out.”
“Why would you do that?”
“I have my reasons, and I’ll tell you once we’re away.” He stepped further into the room and pushed his dark cloak back, revealing several tools and a long rope.
As he moved to the window, she stepped in front of him. “It won’t work. The king has guards everywhere, and I’m watched all the time. We’ll never get out of the palace, let alone the city. They’ll kill you.”
He considered her for a moment. “I have everything planned to the minute. I can get you out. Do you want to leave?”
His boldness shocked her, but he waited patiently while she gathered her wits. There was kindness in his eyes, and it was hard not to believe him. “Do you mean to keep me enslaved? Or can you take this off?” She lifted the kundar from her skin, hardly believing that she had the gall to challenge him.
Here was someone willing to get her out of this hell, and she was bargaining over the kundar? If she went with him, she would be out of her prison with a better chance of getting it off than she had now. She swallowed, regretting that she’d asked, but wouldn’t take it back now.
He stared at her with surprise. After a pause, he came to a decision. “I can’t guarantee anything. But even with it on, I can promise you more freedom than you have now.”
“So you can own me?” Defiance laced through her tone.
About the Book
Author: Colleen Helme
Genre: Romance Fantasy
As the ambassador from Braemar, Bran is sent on a diplomatic mission to the Old Country to establish trade relations. But the real reason for his mission is to uncover the secrets of a potent elixir that can give magic to anyone who drinks it.
While there he encounters the Songbird, a beautiful, exotic woman, and the king’s most prized possession. Her song is full of magic, and he determines that her people must be connected to the deadly elixir. In exchange for her help, he is willing to risk his life to set her free. What he doesn’t expect, is to fall under her spell…
As the author of the Shelby Nichols Adventure Series, Colleen is often asked if Shelby Nichols is her alter-ego. “Definitely,” she says. “Shelby is the epitome of everything I wish I dared to be.” Known for her laugh since she was a kid, Colleen has always tried to find the humor in every situation and continues to enjoy writing about Shelby’s adventures. “I love getting Shelby into trouble… I just don’t always know how to get her out of it!” Colleen lives in the Rocky Mountains with her family. Besides writing, she loves a good book, biking, hiking, and playing board and card games with family and friends. She loves to connect with readers and admits that fans of the series keep her writing.
Author Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/Colleen-Helme/e/B004JP9RWO/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Steam punk is one of those genres, I thoroughly enjoy but so rarely indulge in. I had the pleasure of reading The Earl of Brass recently and absolutely fell in love with the genre all over again. I’m going to try and keep this review concise, because I want to gush about everything all at once. Let me start by saying, I adored the main characters Hadley and Eilian. Two very different characters, who broke the mold on gender sterotypes in a classically rigid time period. Hadley is everything I look for in a female lead, strong indipendent and out to change the world. Hadley is a mechanical genuis who learned about autotomics from her older, when her older brother dies from a disease, she is determined to keep her business afloat, even if it means impersonating a man. The secret feminist in me, gets a little giddy when women in the Victorian era are going against the patriarchy. And Hadley definitely fights the good fight.
While Eilian, is not classically masculine, he is the right mix of intelligent, insightful and with perhaps a dash of awkward, but that might be my imagination since that’s my weakness. He has a serious case of wander lust, and rejects the antiquated notions of earldom, which he is destined to inherit. After a derigible accident (which is tragic but also awesome, come on a derigible crash!) he loses his arms from the burns. In comes Hadley. She and her brother make prostethesis and after a humiliating dinner party, Eilian agrees to be the guinea pig for a new experimental prostetic arm, which will move and function like a real arm, but made of metal (this is freaking amazing, I cannot tell you how much I fangirled over this one concept).
I have to talk about the arm, because I can tell Jorgenson spent a lot of time researhcing biology and mechanics. But if any of you are a fan of the Manga/Anime Full Metal Alchemist, you’ll remember Edward Elrich had a metal arm, and Eilian’s puts it to shame. It was a forgone conclusion from there that I was going to love this book after that.
I wont spoil what happens from there, but lets say there’s a bit of gender bending, some interesting philosophical questions posed, bad guys with guns and the pressures of gentry. This is an absolute must read! But if you still need convincing here’s some of the book details:
When Eilian Sorrell, a promising archaeologist and the eldest son of the Earl of Dorset, loses his arm in a dirigible crash, he fears he will face a bleak future among London’s aristocracy. On a quest for normalcy, Lord Sorrell commissions a prosthetic arm but finds the craftsman is not what he seems.
After the death of her brother, Hadley Fenice takes over his prosthesis business but knows it will be an uphill battle as women are discouraged from doing man’s work. In return for building Lord Sorrell an automaton arm, he offers her a chance at freedom by following him to the Negev Desert under the guise of a man.
But what lies beneath the desert is more precious than potshards or bones. As they venture deeper, they discover a society where the path of life is not governed by gain but by passion. When imperialistic invaders come in search of a new colony to pillage, Eilian and Hadley are forced to defend their fleeting glimpse of paradise.
More about Kara Jorgensen:
Kara Jorgensen is an author and professional student from New Jersey who will probably die slumped over a Victorian novel. An anachronistic oddball from birth, she has always had an obsession with the Victorian era, especially the 1890s. Midway through a dissection in a college anatomy class, Kara realized her true passion was writing and decided to marry her love of literature and science through science fiction or, more specifically, steampunk. When she is not writing, she is watching period dramas, going to museums, or babying her beloved dogs.
Lately, I have been really enjoying paranormal romances. And no not the sparkly vampire kind. In particular I have been enjoying paranormal romances with historical tilts. Like The Casquette Girls that I reviewed a few weeks ago. This weeks feature also has those same elements and some ties with the real Casquette Girls from New Orleans. I just found this story a couple of days ago and I have been reading it non-stop as time allows. This week I am featuring:
by: Lynn Woodbury
From Author’s Summary:
As a performance artist in the New Orleans Old Quarter, Elise plays a stone angel frozen to the spot to amuse tourists, but in those vacant minutes, she is anything but still. The past shifts, the margins between centuries blurs, and suddenly Elise is pitched into 18th century New Orleans, accused of treachery by a man she knows died in 1759. And now her time lapses intensify, impacting her current life. Did she really make an indecent pass at her professor, shove a customer downstairs at the Bourbon Street bar? And where was she the night that customer died, since it was her purse found at the scene? Elise desperately needs help but not from physicians or psychiatrists or any modern science. No, she has to convince everyone trained in rational thought that the soul plays by different rules and can transcend place and time. Adrian, her own professor who she passionately loves, must understand that his rejection is based on a tragic event replaying itself over and over again, that they are tangled in time’s web and must fight their way free. Only Louise Dupre, her friend’s Aunt Loo, can guide them. A phenomenal spirit in her own right, it is she who leads them back to New Orleans in 1756 when a young Acadian convent girl living amid the Ursuline nuns risks her soul to save her city and in so doing unleashes a storm. As history claws its way into the present, Elise must track her parallel self back through time and learn to change the future with her heart.
The sensory details in this piece are amazing! I feel like no matter what time period Elise is living in, I can touch, smell and hear everything she is experiencing and the emotions of her main character are so vivid, I feel like I have taken residence up inside her head! Mix that with captivating story telling and you have a hit for me! I love the mystery surrounding not only, Elise’s parallel self but Elise’s modern day life. This story hooked from chapter one and everyone should read it!
This week, I am omitting the usual weekly feature in favor of a new month long spot highlighting some great Author’s on Wattpad. My first feature is one of my Wattpad BFFs but that is not the reason she won this feature. My choice for the month of February has consistently produced amazing stories that I fall in love with over and over again no matter what the story line! And what better writer to showcase in the month of love than the goddess of romance:
Her works will be featured on the side bar and you can read a review of her story ‘Catch Curse and Release‘ that I feature previously!
Check out her stories, what are you waiting for?
As I review my favorites on Wattpad I often times find myself with a difficult choice. I have quite a few authors that I enjoy everything they write and yet I don’t want to just bombard everyone with a billion stories from one author. So here I sit staring at my favorites list on Wattpad making the difficult choice. And in the end I went with a story I have been literally addicted to for the past week or so. Today’s feature is:
Catch, Curse, Release
Author’s Summary: Lori Mayer is a failing law student whose latest boyfriend just ran off with her study partner (she was really going to miss Karl, he took the best notes). However bleak everything seems now, Lori soon discovers that life and love can get a whole lot crazier when a psychotic love god named Des sends her back in time to meet her true love; A time and place where immortal warriors run rampant and her iPad is about as useful as a frisbee. Can Lori resist her attraction to Eric, the ridiculously tasty leader of the immortals, and return to her own time? Not if Des has anything to do with it. He may be cursed to help mortal women find their true loves but it’s his game, and in this game only one thing matters: sealing the deal. Unfortunately for him, Lori has her own rulebook and she isn’t about to give in without a fight. Can a modern-day woman really outplay him at his own love game? Not bloody likely!
Never before have I found the combination of comedy and sex appeal that Mrs. Nelson brings to a story. Her characters practically jump off the page, pick you up in their well oiled arms and ride with you off into the sunset. (I may have a slight crush on her heroes). I enjoy everything she writes but after devouring some 10 chapters over the course of a couple days and one very steamy scene, this story won this round. Her plots are clever and never cliched and her heroes… well just read and you’ll see what I mean.