When Rafael Villar, Lord Vampire of London, stumbles upon a woman in the cemetery, he believes he’s found a vampire hunter—not the beautiful, intelligent stranger she proves to be.
Cassandra Burton is enthralled by the scarred, disfigured vampire who took her prisoner. The aspiring physician was robbing graves to pursue her studies—and he might turn out to be her greatest subject yet. So they form a bargain: one kiss for every experiment. As their passion grows and Rafe begins to heal, only one question remains: can Cassandra see the man beyond the monster? (goodreads.com)
Sweet baby Jesus do I love this series. And I’m really not a fan of period romance. But add fangs to it and BAM. You got me. In all of its glorious, bodice-ripping detail. I mean really. These books are supernatural romance perfection. And I still haven’t read the first book in the series yet and I’ll tell you how wonderful it is just based on the two I’ve read. It’s a shame the publisher is discontinuing the series. A SHAME.
So the way Brooklyn writes the series is it focuses on a single couple, brings in the couple from the book before for a cameo and then modestly hints at the next couple to come in the series. We met Rafael and Cassandra briefly in ONE BITE PER NIGHT and now they get their own story. AND IT’S SUCH A GOOD STORY.
I love the way Brooklyn writes the romance and/or sex scenes. There’s just so much wanting and desire and teasing in them that I can’t help but fan myself as I read. The sex is steamy and delicious and she builds it up just enough that when it finally happens you can’t help but squeal in delight.
Cassandra is a progressive woman for the time. A widow, she hates crowds, hates parties, her closest companion is a doctor and nearly all she desires in the world is being able to practice medicine. She’s hyper-logical to the point of sometimes just being a stubborn ass and when it comes to Rafe she can’t see the forest for the trees even when the tree is poking his branch against her but she’s really a great character. I’d love to read more about her, especially considering the end. She stands on her own two feet, proves herself in the face of great adversity, and comes out on top. What’s not to like about that?
Rafe has the same forest for the trees issue, except this forest is pressing its twin peaks into him and he’s still like SHE THINKS I’M HIDEOUS. Forehead-slappingly frustrating but living with his scarring and how people have treated him because of it for the last fifteen years it’s really no surprise that he has some confidence issues in the romance department. People are not inconspicuous when gawking at him and talking about him so it’s really no wonder the larger society thinks he’s a crank that always has a snarl on his face. Not to mention he’s Spanish so he’s basically a mongrel as far at the Brits are concerned so that doesn’t help either. But man is he taken with Cassandra and it really is endearing. He doesn’t fight it at all either, which is refreshing. A lot of times you see the manly man denying himself such weak things as love but Rafe really doesn’t abide that. He basically turns into a doe-eyed vampire around her (he’s not simpering, don’t worry) and it’s so incredibly heart-melting. I can’t get enough.
This is a book that I could read over and over again without getting tired of it. The romance, the sex, the story, the characters, it’s all so incredibly fantastic and I can’t wait until I sink my teeth into more.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Head on over to the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win one of three sets of the Scandals with Bite series! But first read the excerpt below and see just how awesome it is for yourself.
28 September 1823
St. Pancras Cemetery, London
“If one desires a task accomplished correctly, one must do it herself.” Cassandra Burton, Dowager Countess of Rosslyn, repeated the litany as she pulled the rickety little wagon through the moonlit aisle of tombstones.
She shivered under her velvet cloak. Her fingers had long since gone numb with the effort of navigating the dratted conveyance over uneven ground and across slippery, damp grass. Shovels and pry bars clanked across the wagon’s worn pine boards. The winch rattled on its frame.
Something flickered across the corner of her vision.
Cassandra jumped. She stopped and rubbed her gloved hands together for warmth, surveying the graveyard. The area was still and silent as…well, a tomb. Yet the chill in her spine refused to abate. A scornful frown turned her lips at such irrational behavior. Ghosts were an illogical figment of uneducated imaginations, and no one could possibly have business out here at this hour…except herself.
“Worthless curs,” Cassandra whispered in as haughty a tone as she could manage.
If only the men to whom she’d offered a more-than-generous sum to perform this troublesome task had done their duty, rather than disappearing. She shook her head. If not for their unreasonable negligence, she would now be comfortably ensconced in her laboratory unraveling the secrets of the human body…not out in this cold, dreary place, jumping at shadows.
Surveying the newest graves, she read the dates to decide which would be the best specimen. The mysterious disappearance of her hired hands nagged at her. Could a murderer be on the loose? She shook her head and pulled the folds of her cloak tighter. No, by now the authorities would have found their bodies and the news would be sensationalized in The Times.
They were cowards, but she was not. To prove her lack of fear, Cassandra halted her wagon and fetched out a shovel. Her hands trembled nervously as she grasped the wooden handle.
Removing the dead from their graves was illegal. If a constable caught her, she’d be sent directly to Fleet Prison. A fresh surge of trepidation curled in her belly.
Exhuming a corpse was quite a different matter from having one ready on her operating table. As objective as she tried to be, the prospect of removing the body from its carefully arranged resting place by winching it out of the ground and loading it onto her cart was undeniably gruesome. However, gruesome or not, Cassandra needed a specimen to continue her work. And she would acquire it, no matter how much her nerves protested.
Despite being barred from official education as a physician because of her sex, Cassandra was determined to learn the skills required to become a doctor. That included studying human anatomy, and for that, she required cadavers.
Returning to the graves, she made her selection. Alfred Lumley, born September first, 1801; died September twenty-sixth, 1823. Two days ago Alfred had been a living twenty-two-year-old man, three years younger than herself. Whether or not he’d been healthy, she would soon determine. A pang of sorrow struck her heart. His soul is in heaven, she reminded herself. A mere shell remains. A shell that will help me to aid the living.
She raised the shovel, ready to plunge it into the soft soil. “I am not afraid. I am not.”
“You should be.” A sinister, accented voice pierced her consciousness.
The shovel fell from her nerveless fingers, thudding onto the cold ground.
Cassandra knew that voice; it had the rich, dark cadence that had haunted her dreams since the night she’d first met him. She spun around, the hood of her cloak falling to her shoulders.
Rafael Villar stepped out from behind a mausoleum. The shadows embraced his bronze skin, obscuring the scars on the left side of his face while moonlight highlighted his exotic features on the right.
Known as “the Spaniard,” Villar had been an infamous pugilist in Cheapside despite having only one functioning arm. The eccentric and wealthy Duke of Burnrath was his sponsor. Cassandra had often encountered Villar at Burnrath House when attending the duchess’s literary circles. Right away she’d suspected that there was more to the relationship between Rafael and Their Graces. And she’d been utterly and completely fascinated by him.
When the duke and duchess departed for the Continent to travel, Villar had leased Burnrath House. By all accounts he was rich as a nabob. For the remainder of the Season, Don Villar was all the ton could gossip about. But when months passed without the Spaniard making the slightest attempt to join Society, he was forgotten. Cassandra would have forgotten him as well, if it weren’t for those damned dreams. Now he stood before her in the most unexpected place and at the most inconvenient time.
Good Lord, will he turn me in to the authorities?
She opened her mouth to ask the reason for his presence, but the words caught in her throat when she saw that his amber eyes were glowing like a funeral pyre. His sensuous lips—lips she’d unreasonably dreamed of kissing—drew back to reveal white, even teeth…with two gleaming fangs for incisors.
Before she could scream or flee, Don Villar’s fiery gaze widened, then narrowed in recognition. “You! You’ve been the one disturbing my people?”
“Y-your people?” Cassandra stammered, staring raptly at those sharp fangs. She’d certainly never seen those during their previous encounters. Her heart leaped into her throat in dawning horror. This man was not human.
His lips curled back in a sneer, puckering the scars on the left side of his face. “Don’t play coy with me, Countess.” The word was filled with disdain. “Some of my subordinates reported hunters disturbing their lairs.” He gestured at the mausoleum behind him. “It is hard to fathom that you’re behind this, though I should have guessed. Is that why you befriended the Duchess of Burnrath?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea what you are going on about. I came here to… Well, it is no concern of yours.” A wave of indignation bolstered her courage. How dare he speak of her most treasured friendship in such a manner? How dare he accuse her of duplicity when he stood before her sporting unnatural teeth and luminescent eyes? And of what exactly was he accusing her? “What does Her Grace have to do with this?” Cassandra took a shaky step back. “And, in the name of heaven, what are you?”
In a blink of an eye, Rafael stood inches from her. With the same impossible speed, he grasped her shoulder, pulling her close against him. Dizziness swarmed her mind at the feel of his firm heat and his intoxicating scent of forbidden spices. His crippled left arm moved lightly around her waist, his fingers delicately brushing across her lower back. The heady combination of rough and gentle made her tremble.
His eyes locked on hers. “I will show you, Countess.”
Then his mouth was on her neck, firm lips caressing the sensitive flesh, somehow more intimate than anything she’d experienced during her ill-fated marriage. Cassandra melted against him, tangling her fingers in his silken hair.
Sharp pain exploded in her throat as his fangs broke her skin. Cassandra cried out and tried to push him away, but his iron-like right arm mercilessly held her immobile. The pain took flight, and drugging pleasure fluttered within her belly. A low moan escaped her throat as she pulled him closer. Liquid desire pulsed between her thighs. Whatever this was, she needed more, craved it with mindless longing.
Rafael pulled away, muttering a foreign curse. “You’re a grave robber?” Lifting his finger to his mouth, he pierced his flesh with one pearly fang and then gently touched the wound on her throat. The soft touch was juxtaposed by his blazing eyes and furious snarl.
She barely heard his words as her eyes locked on those deadly fangs. Cassandra froze as realization shook her to the core. He wiped her neck with a handkerchief. In confirmation of her suspicions, blood spotted the snowy cloth like an accusation.
“Vampire,” she gasped, struggling to breathe. The foundations of her scientific beliefs quaked within her consciousness. Fairy tales were not true, and magic was not real. Yet here he stood, ready to devour her blood and perhaps her soul. Terror gripped her heart like ice.
The creature that should not exist outside of myth nodded. “Yes, but you will not remember the fact.”
His eyes glowed brighter, capturing her gaze. The intensity caused a fresh wave of dizziness, but Cassandra fought it off. The vampire stood like a statue, continuing to stare at her in a most unnerving manner.
After an endless moment, she shook her head and took another wary step back. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Villar blinked and the fire dimmed from his gaze. An explosion of Spanish expletives came out in a growl as he seized her arm. “I apologize, Countess. You’ll have to come with me.”
“C-come with you where?” Cassandra stammered in confusion, trying to pull away. He’d already bitten her and drunk her blood. What more could he want? “Why? And f-for how long?”
“I am taking you to Burnrath House,” Rafael snarled through clenched teeth. “I have no choice but to place you under arrest until I can determine what to do with you.”
Rafe bit back another growl. Madre de Dios, why did the mysterious intruder have to be her? The Countess of Rosslyn was the only mortal in over three centuries to have gotten under his skin, and he still did not know why. And why did she have to be one of the rare individuals immune to mesmerism?
He’d wanted a brief moment to punish her for being a nuisance to him yet again. He’d wanted to punish her, to show her the folly in seeking out a monster, before banishing her memory. It was the worst of luck that the first mortal he’d deliberately revealed himself to was impervious to his power.
“Arrest?” Lady Rosslyn struggled in his grip, her warm flesh slipping beneath his grasp on the sleeve of her cloak, drawing his attention back to the vexing situation at hand. “Are you a constable?”
“Constable? Hardly. I am Lord of this city.” He held her fast.
“Lord? Of all of London? Whatever do you mean?” The countess tried once more to pull away. “And what of my wagon?”
Rafe tugged her closer before she could trip over a gravestone. “Damn it, woman. Devil take your wagon! You fail to grasp the severity of this situation.”
Truly, it would have been a simple matter had he succeeded in clearing the woman’s mind of the memory. Hell, it still would have been simple if the woman hadn’t been her. Not when her sweet, rich taste lay thick on his tongue. Not when her intoxicating scent of rose petals and woman engulfed his senses.
“Well, of course I do not grasp the situation!” Lady Rosslyn exclaimed, maddeningly oblivious to the tentative hold he had on his temper. “You have failed to explain it! First, I had no idea that vampires existed outside fiction. Furthermore, I have no notion why one would arrest me for exhuming a corpse for my studies. I am fully aware that my actions are illegal, but the logic eludes me as to how that should mean anything to you.”
Rafe sucked in a hissing breath through his teeth, biting back a stream of curses. Conversing with humans had never been his strong suit, but talking with Lady Rosslyn was always especially trying. “Your morbid hobby is of no concern to me. I had mistakenly believed you were hunting my people. You’re fortunate that my people didn’t take action themselves. That you weren’t beaten bloody by a mob, your house set aflame!”
Rafe closed his eyes, remembering how Ian’s third-in-command and a gang of other vengeful vampires had done exactly that to a prominent surgeon only three years ago. Ian had been apoplectic with rage. If the man’s wife hadn’t been in the country, she would surely have perished. Ian had punished the mob and issued a law that all suspicious mortals were to be handled only by the Lord of London from then on.
“Morbid?” Cassandra repeated, oblivious to the rest of his words. “You drank my blood only moments ago and you call me morbid?” Her sea-green eyes glared up at him from beneath impossibly long lashes. The captivating contact was broken too soon when she shook her head. “Well, if it is a mistake, then why are you arresting me?”
Ah and what a sweet drink it was. Yet somehow her life and memories had been more potent. Rafe usually closed his mind to his victims’ lives when he fed, but in the case of Lady Rosslyn, he had needed to discover what she was up to.
Lady Rosslyn seemed to have been a very busy woman during the last year. She’d had the daring to apply to Oxford, Cambridge, and Saint Bartholomew’s to master the healing arts. All those establishments had turned her away because of her sex. But she did not give up. Instead, she’d set forth with her studies alone, even robbing graves to learn the secrets of the human body.
Rafe sighed. This evening’s events had all been a misunderstanding. Unfortunately, one that could not be rectified. The Elders would not permit her to leave his presence alive.
“It is forbidden for mortals to know of our kind. I attempted to banish your memory of the encounter, but it appears you are immune to my powers. So now you must come with me until…” He trailed off, strangely reluctant to voice the rest aloud.
“Until when?” Her voice emerged in a frightened whimper.
Rafe closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Unexpected sorrow churned in his gut at the consequence this encounter would bear.
“Until it is decided whether I kill you or Change you into a vampire.”
The Lord Vampire of Rochester doesn’t do a favor without a price. And now it’s time to collect.
Gavin Drake, Baron of Darkwood is being pestered by nosy neighbors and matchmaking mothers of the mortal nobility. To escape their scrutiny, he concludes that it’s time to take a wife. After witnessing the young vampire Lenore’s loyalty to the Lord of London, he decides she is sufficient for the role.
After surviving abuse from rogue vampires, Lenore Graves wants to help other women recover from their inner wounds. She befriends mesmerist John Elliotson and uses her vampire powers to aid him with his patients. When the Lord of London declares that Lenore is the price the Lord of Rochester demands for aiding him in battle, she is terrified. Will all of her hard work be destroyed by Ruthless Rochester? Yet she can’t suppress stirrings of desire at the memory of their potent encounter.
After Gavin assures her that the marriage will be in name only, Lenore reluctantly accepts Gavin’s proposal. Determined to continue her work, she invites John Elliotson to Rochester. As they help women recover from traumas, Lenore explores her own inner turmoil and examines her attraction to her husband.
Gavin realizes his marriage is a mistake. His new baroness’s involvement with the mesmerist is dangerous. He knows he should put a stop to Lenore’s antics— yet her tender heart is warming his own and tempting him to make her his bride in truth.
As Lenore and Gavin’s relationship blossoms, the leader of a gang of rogue vampires embarks on a quest for vengeance against Gavin… using Lenore as his key. (goodreads.com)
I’m excited that I get to be part of this blog tour because I just adore Brooklyn Ann’s Scandals with Bite series. And I’m so glad that she decided to keep publishing the books herself. I was starting to froth at the mouth after BITE AT FIRST SIGHT.
And let me tell you, HIS RUTHLESS BITE will not disappoint in the slightest. Ann’s characters are engaging and complex and she really doesn’t do a whole lot of the “romantic confusion” that you can find in other romance novels where the characters keep missing the mark about each other despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I think, with HIS RUTHLESS BITE especially, there was enough drama and conflict with Lenore trying to cope with her past and melding it with her present that not a whole lot else was needed when it came to the blooming romance between her and Rochester.They had enough to get over without constant miscommunication.
The sex, as always, was stellar and, in this case, more delicate than in past books due to Lenore’s history. I can’t really speak to how Lenore’s character was handled in that regard and how realistic her coping was but I think Ann handled it with care and allowed Lenore to move beyond her past and heal. The trauma of rape is different for each survivor and coping with it would be different for each person as well, making there no “right” or “wrong” way to approach the topic in fiction, I imagine, as long as enough tact is there to approach it thoughtfully. And Ann did all of that.
Rochester was also very sympathetic to Lenore’s needs as well. His number one concern was her well-being, not just from a “I’m a man and must protect the lady” perspective but in helping her manage her past as well. There was very little he did where he didn’t account for how she would react to it. It made for some fine reading and made Rochester incredibly appealing.
The sex, as always, was steamy and phenomenal, and I think all the more potent in HIS RUTHLESS BITE as it allowed Lenore to know pleasure and love in ways she never had in the past. I feel weird saying that because she is a rape survivor, and that’s a bit point in the book, but all things considered I felt the sex was that much more gratifying because of her healing and dealing with her past in her own way. Plus I just love how Ann writes sex scenes, so that too.
From a depth of story perspective I think HIS RUTHLESS BITE is my favorite of the series so far. There’s just so much going on and so much character development and breaking down barriers that even without the sex I would have been completely ensnared in the story. The sex, I think, was lighter than in past books but considering the topics handled here I imagine that would be expected.
And I’m squeeing a little because based on how this one ended I imagine there’s MORE COMING. Double entendre intended. I can’t wait.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Formerly an auto-mechanic, Brooklyn Ann thrives on writing romance featuring unconventional heroines and heroes who adore them. Author of historical paranormal romance in her critically acclaimed “Scandals with Bite” series, urban fantasy in the cult favorite, “Brides of Prophecy” novels, and the New Adult hit, “Hearts of Metal Series,” she provides love for the broken and strange.
She lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with her son, her cat, and a 1980 Datsun 210.
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Brooklyn’s books are available at your favorite online bookseller.
I read Miss Ann’s ONE BITE PER NIGHT and in my review I spewed forth my love for her daring to venture into corseted territory with fangs bared. All of the intrigue and scandal and antic . . . pation of the vampire sex to come was just sweltering. And now she’s here to talk about it! I threw out some questions at random and Brooklyn was kind enough to answer them. Thanks for dropping by, Brooklyn! Be sure to read through to the end to win a copy of ONE BITE PER NIGHT!
Donna: What made you put vampires and the prim English society of the 1800s together to create the awesome lust-filled explosion of garter-filled vamporn?
Brooklyn Ann: OMG, I’m laughing hysterically at the word “vamporn!” I might have to steal it! Anyway, part of the reason was due to my combined love of horror and regency romance. Also, Anne Rice had such captivating scenes with her vampires experiencing the twists and turns of history. However, her stuff wasn’t as romantic as I would have preferred, so when I found out that the regency era was also the birth of the horror genre— seriously the 1st vampire story AND Frankenstein were created on the same night— I was all, “OMFG, WHY is no one doing anything with this delightful fact?”
No one answered except the voices in my head, so then I decided, “Hell with it, I’ll DO IT!”
And thus I set forth on my mission to bring vampires into the ballrooms of regency London society to provide more danger to all the heaving bosoms. 🙂
Donna: Who/what feeds your inspiration?
Brooklyn Ann: Aside from my usual which is: listening to heavy metal music, devouring regency romance, urban fantasy, and rereading Stephen King like a fanatic, I ended up with a very surprising, almost surreal subject of inspiration.
You see, I had originally thought that the first book, BITE ME, YOUR GRACE would be a stand-alone. But when my publisher offered a contract, they said they wanted three books. I’d been occupied with writing urban fantasy and heavy metal romance, so I was all “Oh crap, what do I do now?”
Often when I begin a story, the hero is the first to come to mind. I was drawing a blank. Then, this guy who was friends with my ex neighbor dropped by and, as usual, I couldn’t stop staring at his really cool hair. It’s a striking blend of gold and silver.
Sooo… I modeled the hero after him. Well, his appearance only, since I barely knew him at the time. Still, with such eye candy in mind, my muse was stimulated and built a character. Vincent Tremayne, Earl of Deveril and Lord Vampire of Cornwall.
Months after the book was finished, the cutie with the cool hair and I got to know each other and became friends. Aside from being a total sweetie like Vincent, they have little in common. Vincent’s a Cornish Lord Vampire, and guy-with-the-cool hair is a phenomenal computer programmer and an amazing musician. Anyway, when I confessed that he’d unknowingly been my muse, he shook his head and said, “Oh, good Lord!” However, he’s come to embrace it and is happy to be in my acknowledgements.
Donna: What goes into writing such a vivid (vamporn) sex scene?
Brooklyn Ann: It really depends on the characters and their situation. In my urban fantasy romance, IRONIC SACRIFICE, the characters go right to bed, but with ONE BITE PER NIGHT, it took awhile for them to get in the sack. In your review you ranted, “DO IT, ALREADY!” Oh, believe me, so was I.
Unfortunately, they had a lot to overcome before the ripping bodices could commence. First off, Vincent becomes Lydia’s legal guardian, so he really did not to be a total perv for lusting after his ward, not to mention that he’s got his secret identity as a Lord Vampire to protect. And he’s a really nice, decent guy who wouldn’t dream of compromising an innocent.
Thankfully, Lydia wasn’t as sheltered as my first heroine and when she decided that she wanted to get into Vincent’s breeches, she launched a merciless campaign and drove him to the point of insane desire.
So when it finally happened, the scene practically wrote itself. My fingers flew across the keyboard as if possessed and I just read the screen, thinking, “OMG, Vincent! I had no idea you were so… so… wow.” Then I needed a cigarette.
Donna: How do you get past your own reservations about what’s on the page and just write what needs to be written for the story to be successful?
Brooklyn Ann: Honestly, I wouldn’t get anywhere without beta readers and critique partners. I get stuck a lot and they bail me out every time with helpful advice and feedback.
And in really desperate times, I closeted myself away in a hotel room with a ton of Red Bull and hard cider with the irrefutable task of writing those next three chapters. I bribed myself with time in the hot tub.
Donna: Do you believe there should be more regency vampire bodice-ripping sex and will you continue on in the great fight to fill the world with such goodness?
Brooklyn Ann: Oh hell yes!
Book 3, BITE AT FIRST SIGHT comes out next Spring, and it features the grumpy Spanish vampire, Rafael Villar, and an eccentric widowed countess who wants to be a physician.
And I’m currently working on book 4.
Now, it’s my turn to ask a question for the readers: What are some of your favorite cross-genre novels? Comment for a chance to win a copy of ONE BITE PER NIGHT! Giveaway ends on 7/22 at midnight, AZT!
One of my favorite things about Eilis’s THE FALSE PRINCESS was Kiernan. He was Sinda’s life-long friend and their relationship was a natural progression of that friendship. Kiernan really loved Sinda but it wasn’t a love to a fault. He didn’t try to protect her from herself, he didn’t try to make decisions for her. She was her own person, he recognized that and even when he really didn’t want to he left her alone so she could do her own thing when she felt she needed to. Of course I asked Eilis about this and she graciously offered up a post in response. Here’s Eilis waxing poetic about what makes a really awesome love interest (as opposed to an over-bearing, insta-love douche <–my words). Thanks for stopping by, Eilis!
When I was twelve, I was going to marry George Cooper. Never mind that he was nearly twice my age, in love with someone else, and a thief. And especially never mind that he only existed in the pages of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness books. He was my first—though certainly not last—big book crush. And he’s continued to be, to my writer’s eye, a great example of a male love interest.
Male love interests were something I thought a lot about while writing my own YA fantasy novel, The False Princess. When done well, they can be absolutely wonderful—worthy companions for your main character and crush-worthy delights for the reader. When done poorly, they can pull your whole story apart. I definitely wanted Kiernan, my main character’s love interest, to be in the first group, but I was actually a little surprised by the adoration that he received from readers right off the bat. So what makes Kiernan so lovable, and what makes for a great love interest for me in general?
To start off, there’s the best friend angle. Kiernan is Sinda’s best friend—her only friend for a lot of the novel—and, in some ways, he knows her better than she knows herself. I love this in a romance, partially because I’ve always been a little skeptical of the “love at first sight” storyline, which can seem forced if not written by someone who knows what they’re doing, but more because I love that moment when something shifts inside the main character, so that she suddenly sees this boy she’s known for years differently for the first time. There’s also something very satisfying about being able to explore a relationship that has been ongoing for years before the book begins. Closeness can be expressed in so many ways then—inside jokes, small looks, little stories from the past. And then to watch that closeness develop into new sort of bond is just yummy.
The other way that Kiernan really fits the bill for me and love interests is in the way he interacts with Sinda. It’s really important to me that my main character’s love interest be a partner with her, not a savior, and this was especially so because Sinda is (or was) a princess, and princesses traditionally get saved. I didn’t want there to be any “Stand behind me so I can protect you,” or “I can’t let you do anything dangerous because I love you so much.” Though I think we always want to keep the people we love from harm, I become really, really irritated when a love interests gets so bent on protecting the main character that his arms stop being supporting, and end up being binding. I wanted Kiernan to recognize Sinda’s competence and capability and to love her for them (indeed, he recognizes these qualities in her before she herself fully does).
In short, I didn’t want Kiernan to save Sinda, but to stand with her while she saves herself.
So those are probably the two top reasons that I like Kiernan as one half of The False Princess’s love equation, and they’re qualities that resonate with me in the works of others. Not all, of course. But that list would be a little too long, and besides, I have to get to the library. I’ve got two books waiting there with potential book-crushes in them . . .
I don’t actually interview authors often but every once in a while they’ll want to deviate from my standard blog posts and will have me wing some questions at them. Wing I did. Hopefully this’ll give you all more insight into SKYLARK and if you haven’t read it yet this should light a hotter fire under your ass. Thanks for stopping by, Meagan!
You did a good job of portraying the disparity of the city in a multitude of ways, and not glossing over any of it. Is this only the beginning of the lengths they’ll go to in order to preserve themselves?
One of the things that’s constant throughout all three books is the struggle between what is right and what is best. I love moral grey areas–I love exploring territory where it’s not clear what’s right and wrong. We all grow up thinking in terms of black and white, and I think one of the hallmarks of becoming a teenager, of becoming an adult, is that you start to realize that it’s not always that simple. In fact, it rarely is. While I can’t quite go into deep specifics about books two and three, I will say that SKYLARK is the most black and white of all three, in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys.” Lark’s home city is a part of that, and in book two, she ends up in another city just as morally troubled as the first, but in different ways. And we haven’t seen the last of the Institute.
Lark can see past people’s rougher exteriors to something that others might not realize is even there, even considering her upbringing (Oren being more than a feral boy following her, the woman and child in the magic bubble, etc.) and experiences. At times it seems to almost be a fault. Is this something we’re going to see her grow beyond or has her time in the wild reshaped her thinking of people in general?
Having lived most of her life in an utterly sheltered environment, Lark has not had many experiences with people beyond the ones she grew up with. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about working on book two (which I finished a couple months ago, and am now revising) is exposing her to forms of civilization entirely different from what she’s encountered before. I think with each broadening of her world, Lark’s view of the people around her expands as well. And while I can’t go into it without spoiling the end of SKYLARK, I can say that by the final pages Lark transcends the definitions of what she thought she was… book two is all about her struggle to understand herself, and what she’s become. Power isn’t always a gift, after all. The demons Lark faces in book two don’t all wear fangs and claws.
Is your world supposed to be our earth? Are we going to see more of this war that completely destroyed the world?
Originally, it was our earth. The basic idea was that people discover “magic” in the near future, and society exploits it as a resource the way we’ve exploited our existing resources. Leads to a cataclysm, and then voila, post-apocalyptic magic world. In revision, though, I decided to take it another direction and create a world separate, but similar. An alternate universe, of sorts–one where magic was always the dominant power behind technology. But human nature in this world is the same as human nature in ours, and the exploitation of that resource was always inevitable.
We are going to see more of the war! We learn a bit more about it in book two–how the Renewables were involved, what they did that was so terrible, how they could have destroyed the world in their quest for power. And in book three… well, that would be telling. But I’ll just say that instead of just learning about it, we get to see it.
Your world is a combination of fey and steampunk. What made you decide to go this split route? Could one pure side or another have worked in the world you created?
I think that I probably could have told a lot of the same surface story by choosing either steampunk or magic. But at the risk of sounding utterly pretentious, I think the themes would have changed. Lark is caught between two worlds–the rigid, orderly, measured, safe world of machines and technology (the steampunk aspect) and then the wild, ruthless, dangerous, beautiful world of magic. Magic is wild and untamed, machines are by their very natures controlled, doing what they were designed to do and no more. The juxtaposition of these two elements is so much fun to play with. If I’d chosen one kind of world or the other, I wouldn’t have the same external factors on Lark as she’s having these internal struggles. Her world really is a reflection of herself.
Can we expect more unabashed monstrosities in the next book a la chick hooked to tubes and siphoned for power? I found that particular aspect of your story to be especially grounding, that you aren’t afraid to go where it needs to go.
The last thing you need to worry about with my books is a lack of monstrosities in them. One of the things I love most about working with my editor at Carolrhoda Lab, Andrew Karre, is that he not only lets me go to dark places and explore them–he encourages me, when so many YA authors and books are shying away from the dark. So much of human nature is below the surface… scuttling away in the dark, hidden and not talked about. I like to find those creepy-crawlies and drag them out so people can see. I think what makes it so horrifying is that we can see ourselves in these shadows. I don’t like villains who are just evil, you know? I like people who do “bad” things because they don’t know what else to do, because their choice was, in their eyes, the only thing they could do. Someone who we can look at and say, “I’m not sure I would’ve done differently in his place.” There’s always a reason behind every terrible act my characters commit. And sometimes it’s a really good reason.
But they’re still going to do plenty of terrible things.
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