I’m delighted to have the ever-elegant Justine Elyot grace the place today, with an excerpt from ‘The Rule of Princes’, her new erotic fantasy novel. Take it away, Justine:
Hello, and thank you, Nikki, for inviting me to your lair.
I have a book out – not really surprising in itself, as I seem to constantly have a book out, and more often than not several at a time. This particular book is the second in a trilogy so, as this is my first guest post on the subject, I thought the best thing to do would be to catch up on the story so far. But I’m going to try and do it without spoilers, for anyone who might fancy starting the trilogy at book one. Tricky…
The Rule of Princes continues the story begun in Princess In Chains.
That was largely the story of Princess Leonore of Ystra and her quest to free her maid in waiting, Asta, who had been abducted in a case of mistaken identity by the mysterious Valish Liberationists.
Leonore, who is promised in marriage to the boorish King of Vala, Corvin, escapes the castle and sets out to find the missing maidservant. She faces a hazardous journey, for which she must enlist the help of one of the Liberationists, a young buck named Taran, and his former employer, the apothecary and alchemist, Daro.
Her relationships with both are soon complicated by attraction, even when her new master is convinced by her disguise as a boy. But nothing is what it seems in these strange lands and Leonore soon finds that everything she held true has been false – except her loves, both new and old.
At the opening of book two, Leonore and her new comrades in the Valish Liberation organisation are facing difficult times. Although their cause is much stronger than at the start of book one, their leaders are captured and imprisoned, and two of their number have been killed.
Now they must leave their mountain hideout to enlist the help of the powerful Princes of Thren in their opposition to Corvin. The princes are said to be young, charismatic and keen to show strength in their new regent roles. But will Leonore and her band be able to bring their backing to their cause? And why is the fierce and beautiful Sula so very reluctant to enter their lands?
Here’s an excerpt:
They did not dare take the path that led them past their old mountain hideout; not so soon after the raid. Instead, Sula showed Taran an alternative route she knew. It was rougher by far than the other, but there was little chance of running into a rogue mercenary knight under the overhanging rock.
So narrow was the way that they had to flatten themselves against the cliff face and sidle, crab-like, along its guiding solidity, all the while looking down to a sheer drop that would certainly spell death should their footing be lost.
They stumbled with relief into safer territory, even though it was scarcely easier-going, the sharp stones now studded with spiky gorse that tore at their leggings.
‘How long till a village?’ asked Taran, but Sula merely shrugged.
‘I don’t know this country well beyond our mountain. I’ll have to consult the map Blain drew.’
She stopped and drew a many-folded piece of parchment from her knapsack, pursing her lips at the squiggles and lines that decorated it.
‘I think…Tulmor. But I cannot tell how far distant it is. If the terrain were flat, then it would be reachable by nightfall.’
‘But the terrain is not flat,’ said Taran with a wry grimace. ‘It could scarcely be less so.’
‘Blain said Romakett was attainable in a matter of a few days, if we do not meet with misfortune.’
‘If.’ Taran looked about for something to sit on. Finding nothing, he leant into the rock and put his foot on a protruberant boulder. ‘Misfortune is in the air, Sula. Blain, of all people, knows that. We might run into one of Corvin’s hired warlords at any time.’
‘Do you think they will kill him?’ Sula voiced the thought that had been on her mind since the raid on the Valish Liberation group’s hideaway.
‘I’m afraid I do,’ said Taran. ‘I am sure of it. But Danna is on their trail, and she is the most resourceful of us all.’
‘True.’ Sula tried to take comfort in this, but the wind blowing through the canyon wasn’t the only cause of her shivering.
‘The important thing,’ said Taran, reaching out and taking her hand, ‘is that we were spared and we can still succeed.’
Sula wanted to withdraw her hand – Taran was altogether too presumptuous. Just because she had let him kiss her in the pasture did not make her his sweetheart. But he was a good enough man, a brother-in-arms and handsome to boot. Besides, she was too tired for unnecessary conflict.
‘You are all for the cause, are you not?’ she said.
‘Of course. It is wonderful that Arvon has come back and intends to regain the kingdom. Truly wonderful.’
But she knew she did not sound convinced, and Taran’s raised eyebrow confirmed it.
‘Do you doubt his commitment?’
‘You heard him. He never wanted to be king. Perhaps it would not take much in the way of opposition to send him scuttling back to his apothecary shop.’
Taran squeezed her fingers.
‘Leonore will make all the difference. Her commitment is absolute, I would stake my life upon it.’
Sula gave him a knowing little smile.
‘Well, you know her best,’ she said.
‘Don’t tell me you are jealous, sweet Sula?’
‘Humph.’ Sula batted his hand aside and gave him a friendly nudge in the groin with her knee. ‘You flatter yourself, cooper’s boy. And I am anything but sweet.’
‘You tasted like honey last night.’
‘Last night has passed and gone. Romance was in the air. Arvon and Leonore’s wedding. Blain spending his last night with Jeyna before our quest. Danna and Asta all over each other. I didn’t want to feel left out, that’s all.’
‘You will break a man’s heart.’
‘Who says I haven’t already?’
The book is available now from Amazon UK: