Guest Post: Operation Child Soldier by Jaci Wheeler

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I was trained from birth to be the best Agent possible. Growing up in a Military Training Academy for unwanted children has its perks. I might not have ever been to a dance but I am a sharp shooter, master at hand to hand combat and best hacker the Academy has ever seen. I trained my whole life to pass the final and become an Elite agent. The only problem? My entire life has been a lie. My father is a monster and I’ve been trained to kill monsters.

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I’ve had a few people ask how on earth I came up with the concept for Operation Child Soldier. I must admit, child assassins do sound a bit extreme but I had stumbled upon on article one day, I can’t even remember where to be honest, and it was talking about how more countries, especially Middle Eastern countries were starting to train women and children to become assassins. I had just watched a movie with my husband that focused on foster care and how horrible some of these homes are and how some kids rather live on the street than end up in foster care and somehow everything just clicked.

I love having strong female leads and Aria just started unfolding before my eyes. I didn’t even outline, I just grabbed my phone and started dictating the entire story to my notes. The idea that training women and children is actually happening and that these other countries are finding success really helped to unlock my imagination. My dream has always been to own an orphanage and to have a safe place for children to come. I guess you can say I merged the two together, and even though the Academy in this first book isn’t what my dream was…it just might end up that way, you will have to read book two to find out.

authorjaciTwitter/Instagram/Facebook/Website/Amazon

Jaci Wheeler lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband and two precious kids.

Her love of literature began in Jr. High when she was introduced to Lowis Lowry’s books. Since then she has had a passion for writing Young Adult books, and creating strong female leads. When she’s not writing, she is advocating for Autism Awareness and involved in the deaf community.

Her favorite things to do are play with her children, craft with her friends, sleep while her husband watches movies and indulge in her favorite addictions: Coffee, candy and shoes.

Epic reading,

Jordan

 

Guest Post & Giveaway: When Planets Fall by Abby J. Reed

WHEN PLANETS FALLWHEN PLANETS FALL (2)Website | Facebook | Twitter |Pinterest | Instagram | Tumblr | Goodreads

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On a planet where the only difference between three tribes is their blood color, war is on the horizon. Breaker, an amputee, wants peace for his family and home. Malani, a kidnapped POW, wants to return home. Luka wants justice for his home. All three teens come together when Breaker is given seven days to fix a wrecked enemy starship or their home, and peace, is forfeit.

“In this richly imagined start to a new sci-fi series, Reed brings optimism to the goal of solving entrenched violence in a galaxy far, far away . . . A propulsive, sharply crafted tale about a planetary war.” –Kirkus Reviews

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Welcome to Scarlatti! Welcome to the planet of blood. Here’s a quick tour of who’s who. Remember, If you run into anyone in the neutral zone, make sure to ask bloodcon, needlick to take the blood test. Don’t want to risk killing someone from your own tribe:

The Eliks:

The Eliks have blue blood and live in the east. Their fortress is made from a rock found in their mines that gives it a glass-like look. They are the most different from the rest of the tribes as they actually have a couple other slight differences. Their skin is thicker, so a direct hit is needed to penetrate, and they have a shorter pregnancy terms that ends in an egg-like embryo. But they look the same as everyone else on the planet.

Their art is more ornate, seeing beauty in geometric designs and tiny details. Their religion plays a heavier role in their society than the others, too. Their language is heavier, which makes Malani speak with more of an accent. They have joint rulers, a king and queen, that we see from a distance. They fight the least with everyone as they don’t like to come down from their mountain often.

The Herons:
The Herons have green blood and live on the western side of the valley, in the mountains. They are considered to be the cruelest of the three tribes and have the reputation for their love of science. Their language is beautiful, almost song-like. They love smooth, sleek lines, finding beauty in simplicity. That’s why their fortress is cylinder shape, with spokes running deeper into the mountain. It’s simple, and therefore beautiful.

Their religion is similar to the Eliks, in that they share the same creation myths. But religion doesn’t play nearly as much of a role in their society. They currently have a king, King Oma, who sees Humans as a nuisance. The Herons also fight more with the Humans than the Eliks, and there’s more tension between these two tribes than anyone else.

The Humans:

Humans are, well, us, but way in the future. They have red blood and live between the other two tribes in the valley. Chief Malvyn currently leads them. They live in the compound where they’ve developed more of a monoethnic “compound look”. Brown curly hair, darker skin, brown eyes. But since many in the other tribes share these characteristics, they aren’t much help in identification.

Humans see themselves in a very different light than the other two tribes. To give more info would be spoilery 😉

authorabbyWebsite | Facebook | Twitter |Pinterest | Instagram | Tumblr | Goodreads

Abby J. Reed writes young adult science fiction and fantasy novels that ask what if. She has a degree in English Writing and is drawn to characters with physical limitations due to her own neurological disorder called Chronic Migraine. Her debut novel, WHEN PLANETS FALL, will be published in April 2017 by Soul Mate Publishing.

Abby lives in Colorado with her husband and two fluffy pups. If her hands aren’t on the keyboard, they are stained purple and blue with paint.

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Awesome reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant


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Eva Walker is a seventeen-year-old math genius. And if that doesn’t do wonders for her popularity, there’s another thing that makes it even worse: when she touches another person or anything that belongs to them — from clothes to textbooks to cell phones — she sees a vision of their emotions. She can read a person’s fears and anxieties, their secrets and loves … and what they have yet to learn about calculus. This is helpful for her work as a math tutor, but it means she can never get close to people. Eva avoids touching anyone and everyone. People think it’s because she’s a clean freak — with the emphasis on freak — but it’s all she can do to protect herself from other people’s issues.
 
Then one day a new student walks into Eva’s life. His jacket gives off so much emotional trauma that she falls to the floor. Eva is instantly drawn to Zenn, a handsome and soulful artist who also has a troubled home life, and her feelings only grow when she realizes that she can touch Zenn’s skin without having visions. But when she discovers the history that links them, the truth threatens to tear the two apart.
Excerpt
 
           While he waits for his coffee, I snuggle deeper into the couch, hoping he won’t notice me. The only thing worse than filling out college applications the night of the homecoming dance is your crush seeing you fill out college applications the night of the homecoming dance. I guess it should make me feel better that he’s not at the dance, either, but it doesn’t. When guys don’t go to homecoming it seems like a conscious choice. When girls don’t go, it just seems like they didn’t get asked.

….

            “Tall black drip!” the barista calls out, like she’s calling out his name and not the drink. Zenn is tall and dark, but there is nothing drippy about him. He is most definitely non-drippy, whatever that means. He takes his coffee and I think I am home free until he steps away from the counter.
           Crap. He sees me. I am equal parts mortified and thrilled.
           He raises his cup in a silent greeting and comes a few steps closer. He opens the lid and I try not to stare at his mouth as he blows on his coffee to cool it.
          “Hey, Zenn.” My voice sounds goofy in my own ears. Too loud in this small, cozy space.
          He takes a tentative sip from his cup. Straight black coffee, no cream, no sugar, no chocolate syrup. What a badass.
          “No homecoming for you either?” he asks.
          I close my laptop and press my hands against the warm surface. I shrug.
         “I’m not much of a dancer.”
          Zenn nods in agreement. “Yeah. Me neither.”
          He comes even closer and sits down on the arm of the sofa across from me. His knees are spread wide, his forearms resting on his inner thighs, his hypnotizing hands holding his coffee in the triangle between his legs. He looks so comfortable, so at ease in his own skin. How does one get that way? You wouldn’t think it would be hard – I mean, we’re born in our skin. It should be pretty comfortable by the time you hit seventeen, eighteen.
          But for me … not so much.
 
Excerpt from Zenn Diagram © 2017 Wendy Brant, with permission from Kids Can Press.
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So my name alone should give you a clue that I graduated from high schoo when bangs were big and clothes were baggy. I went to Northwestern University and majored in journalism even though I had no desire to be a journalist. I’ve been married to a great guy for a whole drinking-aged person’s life. I’ve got two amazing and yet very different (and very tall) teenage kids.  I like crappy food, pinning inspirational quotes on Pinterest, have a tendency to start paragraphs with “anyway”, and I wish I were funnier. I would love to be one of those really, REALLY funny bloggers (like Insane in the Mom-Brain) that makes you pee yourself a little bit. I am only moderately funny. I admit that. It’s one of my great sadnesses in life. I started writing fiction when I was 10, but tried to be practical with the whole journalism thing. Didn’t take. Shortly after college, the fiction-writing desire reared its non-practical head and I’ve been writing ever since.

 

Anyway, I’m probably just like you. We’d probably be friends if we met in real life. (Well, let’s be honest. It’s likely that only my friends are actually reading this blog, so we probably ARE friends in real life.) But whether we are friends in real life, or just virtual friends through cyberspace, I hope you will enjoy your time here. 

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Read on, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

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Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured–all her freedoms gone.

 
Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick–the only person she can trust.
 
But Celestine has a secret–one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.
 
Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or to risk her life to save all Flawed people.
 
And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed?
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Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society in which perfection is paramount and flaws are punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.

Excerpt
Chapter Eight
 
            They stay there for three hours.
            My muscles burn, my feet ache, but I’m afraid to move.
            When the fire has reduced to a smolder, Granddad and Dahy are ordered to place the bundles of food onto the coals. The farmworkers watch from their orderly line, their F brand armbands all visible on their right arms, just above their elbow.
            This was supposed to be a celebration, a coming together to show that the Guild couldn’t beat them down. Now the Whistleblowers themselves are here. Hiding behind the tree, huddled on the ground, hugging my legs, shivering from the damp forest, I can’t say that I feel empowered. This feels like a defeat.
            Granddad and Dahy cover the food with the soil so it will cook under the ground in the heat. Granddad looks at the ground, his work finished, as though he’s buried me alive. Again I want to call out to him that I’m okay, I made it out, but I can’t.
            A phone rings and the female Whistleblower takes it. She steps aside, walks away from the others, so she can talk in private. She moves closer to me in the woods. I tense up again.
            “Judge Crevan, hello. It’s Kate. No, Judge, Celestine isn’t here. We’ve checked everywhere.”
            Silence as she listens and I hear Crevan’s voice from where I stand. Kate walks farther and stops by my tree.
            I press my back to the tree, squeeze my eyes shut, and hold my breath.
            “With all due respect, Judge, this is the Guild’s sixth visit to the property and I believe Mary May was meticulous in her search. We’ve checked everywhere you can imagine. I don’t believe she’s here. I think the grandfather is telling the truth.”
            I can hear the frustration in her voice. They’re all under pressure to find me, pressure placed on them by Judge Crevan. Kate takes a few more steps, right into my
eyeline.
            She slowly scans the forest, her eyes searching the distance.
            Then she looks right at me.
 
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At twenty-one, Cecelia wrote her first novel PS, I Love You, which was sold to
forty-seven countries. The film of the same title, directed by Richard LaGravenese and produced by Wendy Finerman productions, starred Hilary Swank, Lisa Kudrow, Kathy Bates, Gerry Butler, Harry Connick Jr, Gina Gershon and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. PS, I Love You was one of the biggest-selling debut novels of 2004, reaching number 1 in Ireland and in the UK Sunday Times bestseller list. It was also a bestseller throughout Europe and the USA, staying on the best-seller list in Germany for 52 weeks.

That same year, in November 2004, her second book Where Rainbows End (as Rosie
Dunne hardback in the US, Love, Rosie paperback in US) also reached no.1 in Ireland and the UK, remaining at the top of the Irish bestsellers list for 12 weeks and again was a bestseller internationally.  Where Rainbows End was adapted for film titled Love, Rosie and will be released in Oct 2014, starring Lily Collins and Sam Claflin.
 

Her third book If You Could See Me Now was published in November 2005 and also became an international bestseller. It has been optioned by producer Simon Brooks, producer of Love, Rosie.


Cecelia’s fourth novel A Place Called Here (published under the title There’s No Place Like Here in the US) also became an international number one bestseller.

Thanks For The Memories her fifth novel was also a huge bestseller and is now being adapted for a TV Drama Series by Gate Productions.

The Gift was published in October 2008 and became an International bestseller. It is optioned by Oscar winning producer Andreas Bareiss, and it is going into production later this year.
 

Her seventh novel The Book Of Tomorrow was released in October 2009 and eOne
Television are developing it for a TV series in the US.


In March of 2011 her two short stories, Girl in the Mirror were published.
 

In November by Cecelia’s eighth novel The Time Of My Life was published and also became a bestseller.


Her ninth novel One Hundred Names was published in October 2012 and became a number one bestseller.

Her tenth novel How To Fall In Love was published last November and also became another bestseller.

To date Cecelia has sold over 22 million copies of her books worldwide.
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2 Winners will receive finished copies of FLAWED & PERFECT, US Only.
 
Ends on April 18th at Midnight EST!

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Pleasant reading, 

Jordan

Release Week Blitz & Excerpt: Other Breakable Things by Kelley York & Rowan Altwood

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca | Entangled Publishing | Goodreads

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According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

Excerpt

Nembutal isn’t a name I recognize. One of Luc’s medications? Something he wanted to try that he couldn’t get here? He didn’t tell me anything about it. I Google the name and get an array of results: Nembutal (pentobarbital), sedative and anticonvulsant. Used to treat tension, anxiety, nervousness, and epilepsy. Pentobarbital may induce death in high dosages and is used for euthanasia in both humans and animals.

My legs nearly give out.

The night Luc went to the hospital, I saw webpages open on his phone on euthanasia in Oregon. It hadn’t seemed right, and I hadn’t been able to wrap my head around it at the time, and so I’d shrugged it off and never even broached the subject with Luc. He could have been looking it up for any number of reasons. Curiosity brought about by temporary desperation.

This, though? This is a step further. This makes me feel cold all over.

The bathroom door swings open and Luc steps out. I hadn’t even heard the shower turn off. He’s dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, towel around his shoulders, and he

pauses when he sees me. “Evelyn?”

I could ignore it. I’m overreacting. I have to be…right? Yet I find myself turning to stare at him, holding up the business card and trying to keep my voice level. “What’s this?”

There’s a hitch in Luc’s step as he crosses the room to take it from me, and he won’t meet my eyes. “Just something someone gave me the other day. I don’t know.”

Any hope I had that this was some dumb misunderstanding is quickly fading. “Don’t lie to me.”

“It’s nothing,” Luc insists, pushing a hand back through his wet hair and turning away. “Just…don’t. I don’t want to—it’s not…”

“It’s not what? Not what I think it is?” My voice cracks near the end, and Luc goes still, as though he knows this entire conversation is about to hit the roof. I snatch my phone back up and read to him aloud: “Pentobarbital is contained in a group of drugs called barbiturates.”

“Evelyn…”

“Used to treat insomnia and seizures—”

“Evelyn.”

“—and for human euthanasia. Death in a bottle.” I lower the screen and stare at him, fighting back the overwhelming flood of tears threatening to reduce me to a complete mess. “Is that not what I think it is?”

Slowly, Luc turns to me, his expression one of guilt and grief and frustration. “I’m dying. You know that.”

I twist my fingers around my phone so tightly it hurts.“We’re all dying, Luc.”

“Some of us faster than others.”

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Kelley York and Rowan Altwood are a wife and wife writing team living in central California with their daughter and way too many cats. Kelley is the author of Hushed, Made of Stars, and Modern Monsters, and Other Breakable Things is Rowan’s debut.

Website | Kelley York Twitter | Rowan Altwood Twitter | Author | Kelley York Goodreads | Rowan Altwood Goodreads

Happy reading, 

Jordan

 

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

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In The Great Pursuit, the dramatic sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Great Hunt, Wendy Higgins delivers another thrilling fantasy filled with dangerous enemies, political intrigue, searing romance, and a princess who is willing to do everything to protect her kingdom. 
 
One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continues.
 
The kingdom of Lochlanach has traded the great beast that once terrorized the realm of Eurona for something far more dangerous: the ire of powerful Lashed woman Rosaria Rocato. Rosaria demands that Eurona overturn the laws prohibiting magic, or an innocent will be killed each day.
 
Despite the king’s resistance, Princess Aerity believes they must make peace with the Lashed, and though she’s accepted a betrothal to the man who took down the beast, she cannot help thinking about Paxton, the Lashed man who stole her heart and disappeared.
 
Aerity soon discovers that Paxton has joined Rosaria’s army in the war against her family. Though her feelings for him are still strong, her duty to her kingdom and her family is stronger—especially when her parents are kidnapped and she has to step up to the throne and once again put aside what’s best for her in order to do what’s best for her people. Paxton and Princess Aerity must fight to see what is more powerful: their love or the impending war between the magical Lashed and the non-magic humans.
 
Grab the eBook 1 THE GREAT HUNT !
Excerpt

CHAPTER ONEA new beast roamed the kingdom of Lochlanach, killing at will. A second unnatural monster created by the hands of Rozaria Rocato, granddaughter of the most infamous and hated Lashed One of all time. Princess Aerity Lochson’s mind was a blur of piled-up worries as she rushed from High Hall of the castle, away from the frightened commoners and guests who’d come for her betrothal ceremony, and toward the office of her father, King Charles. She turned at the sound of heavy footsteps behind her and found both her childhood friend Lieutenant Harrison Gillfin and her betrothed, Lord Lief Alvi, following. Lord Alvi looked every bit the hero—his broad stature striking, with elk furs about his shoulders and a black kilt to his knees above leather boots. His blue eyes were filled with bright passion and hunger, but those emotions were not for her. They were for the beast. The new hunt.

He had killed the first creature, thereby earning her hand in marriage. The thought twisted Aerity’s stomach with discomfort and turned her mind to the man who’d disappeared weeks before when the beast was killed—the Lashed man who’d taken her heart with him and would likely never return. She clenched her jaw. This was no time to think of Paxton Seabolt or her drowned desires. The kingdom was suffering again—rendering everything she’d sacrificed to have been in vain.

Her eyes shifted from Lord Alvi’s to Harrison’s and found a fierce, protective comfort there. Harrison stood tall, lean, and capable. Never faltering. The thought of her noble friend fighting yet another beast filled her with sharp fear. So many lives had already been lost, including Harrison’s cousin Breckon, who’d been the true love of Aerity’s cousin Wyneth. Half a year was all it had taken to trample the dreams and futures of so many.

Aerity gave the men a nod to follow her. She lifted her long white skirts and moved quickly down the tapestry-lined hallway to her father’s office. Guards and soldiers ran past, shouting orders, fully armed with bows, swords, and lines of throwing daggers strapped across their uniformed tunics.

She opened the door without knocking. No fewer than twenty faces shot toward her. She recognized the burgundy red hair of her mother, along with her aunts and uncles, military elite, and royal advisers. Her father invited them in with a quick flick of his fingers.

When the door closed he asked her, “What is the state of things in High Hall?”

“The people seemed to have calmed for the moment, Father,” Aerity said. “And supper is being served.”

“Your daughter gave a rousing speech,” Lord Alvi pro- claimed in his rumbling voice. “She is to thank for the calm.” Aerity’s face flushed with heat at the unexpected compliment. Then he put a heavy hand on her shoulder and pulled her close. Aerity fought the urge to shrug away. For the sake of the kingdom, she had made a commitment to become his bride, and she would follow through regardless of what her heart wanted, and regardless of the fact that she was certain feelings had grown between Lief and Wyneth.
“Did she?” The king’s eyes softened with pride, and her mother, Queen Leighlane, smiled at Aerity and Lief, no doubt thinking what a lovely couple they were. If she only knew.

Behind them Harrison cleared his throat. “Are we to begin hunting the creature, Your Majesty?”

King Charles nodded, his face lined with anxiety. “Aye. But most of the hunters have dispersed.” Or been killed, Aerity thought with sorrow, remembering the men who’d come from all over Eurona and even a huntress who’d lost her life.

“I can have a message sent to Tiern Seabolt,” Harrison said. “I’m certain he would return with haste.”

Aerity’s abdomen tightened. Tiern was Paxton’s younger brother. He’d nearly been killed by the first beast and had been saved by Paxton’s Lashed magic. It was the very reason Pax had fled the kingdom—using magic was illegal, even to heal. Aerity didn’t want Tiern to hunt again. She didn’t want Paxton’s sacrifice to have been a waste.

“And his older brother?” the king asked.

“Nay.” Harrison paused. “He disappeared after the hunt. We don’t know his whereabouts.”

“Must you call Tiern back?” Aerity asked. When her father’s eyebrows drew together she emended, “He’s . . . so young.”

“He’s the same age as you, Daughter,” the king reminded her. “Seventeen. A man who’s already proven himself in the hunt.” Aerity pressed her lips together and nodded. She could not keep Tiern safe any more than she could force Harrison to stay out of harm’s reach. Their heroic hearts would urge them forward.

“Can we send word to the Zandalee?” Aerity’s uncle Lord Wavecrest asked.

The king shook his head. “I’m afraid not this time. The letter from the Rocato woman stated that her creatures have now been released in all the lands of Eurona. The Zandalee will be needed to fight in their own drylands of Zorfina.”

A fearful silence fell over the room. Each kingdom was on its own with its own beasts to battle now. Lochlanach was a quaint kingdom of fishermen and crop villagers, farmers, that had enjoyed many years of peace. The people had risen together to fight the first beast, but how much more could the king expect from them? It was too much. To imagine this kind of horror inflicted on innocent people all over Eurona sickened Aerity.

“Perhaps another proclamation?” Lord Wavecrest suggested carefully. At this proposal from Aerity’s uncle, the men in the room glanced around at one another, and the hairs rose on the princess’s arms. The queen caught her daughter’s eyes, and they both went still.

The last proclamation had offered Aerity’s hand in marriage to whoever killed the beast. The only thing left to give was the second princess, Aerity’s fifteen-year-old sister, Vixie. Her father stared down at his desk.

“No.” Aerity stepped forward, out of Lord Alvi’s embrace, her body trembling. “You cannot offer Vixie’s hand.”

The king’s hazel eyes, filled with regret, rose to hers. “I have nothing left to give.” With Vixie’s hand would come her dowry of lands. Using Vixie as a prize would surely smother her soul. Aerity wouldn’t stand for it.

“And why should you oppose it?” her uncle Preston asked haughtily. “The first proclamation provided you with a fine match. It can do the same for Vixie.”

Aerity stilled, forcing back the torrent of words that flooded her mind: unfair, poor match, confinement, no joy, no love. She was to endure those things for her kingdom, but the thought of Vixie losing her freedom to choose her future . . . it gutted Aerity. She knew how it appeared to the world—that she’d landed a handsome, noble, brave lord—but the heart didn’t care about appearances. It wanted who it wanted.

“And then what?” Aerity asked. “Who shall we offer for the next beast, and the one after that? Your own Wyneth? Or perhaps six-year-old Merity?”

Lord Wavecrest scowled.

“Enough, Aerity,” Queen Leighlane said quietly. Aerity met her mother’s eyes and felt an understanding there. No one knew better than the two of them how this would crush Vixie’s spirit. These men couldn’t possibly understand.

“Vixie’s nearly sixteen,” Lord Wavecrest pressed. Aerity wanted to claw out his eyes and force him to stop speaking.

“A proclamation offering Vixie’s hand will be my very last resort,” King Charles said, standing taller. “It is my hope that the people will rise of their own free will to protect their families and lands as they did in the last hunt. I will not hinder them with further curfews.”

Lord Wavecrest shook his head and crossed his arms. Aerity breathed a temporary sigh of relief.

“Sire, we should address the other part of the Rocato woman’s letter.” This was from the king’s oldest adviser, Duke Gulfton. This duke had been the closest adviser to Aerity’s grandfather King Leon. His views on the Lashed were legendarily conservative and strict, and he was a proponent of keeping the Lashed lists up to date. All persons with Lashed capabilities and their families were notated in the records and checked regularly for markings.
The stooped man wore a sea-green robe around his shoulders and a perpetual serious frown on his face. He leaned on his cane. “We cannot do as the Rocato woman demands. We cannot burn our records of Lashed Ones in these lands, or give them rein to take over our kingdom.”

A few of the other older men murmured their agreement.

Harrison stepped forward. “What if we made a copy of the list? Then it wouldn’t matter if one was destroyed.”

“I’ve got scribes copying pages as we speak,” the king responded. “But the Rocato woman has called for the records to be burned by sundown. The copy won’t be complete. There are thousands of names.”

Thousands of persons with Lashed blood in Lochlanach. Amazing, Aerity thought. Only a small percentage of those on the list actually had magic, though. Paxton’s family was not on the list. Aerity wondered how many others of magical blood had been able to elude the system.

“How will the madwoman know the difference?” Duke Gulfton asked. “Burn papers to appease her, then kill her and her monsters once and for all. End of story.”

“Here, here!” a few men shouted, as if it were that simple. As if they wouldn’t have done it by now if they could.

The king’s jaw was set. “I have a terrible feeling this woman has eyes and ears everywhere.”

The room quieted and a sense of unease spread as heads turned and everyone eyed the others present. Her father’s council was a small group of family and a mere handful of wise advisers, all landowners, who’d been loyal to the kingdom since her grandfather ruled. She couldn’t imagine this group being compromised.

“With all due respect, gentlemen,” Lord Alvi said to the room, “we will find every beast and even Rocato herself, but we cannot guarantee immediate success. The last hunt took two months.”

“Aye,” Harrison added. “And she’s threatening to kill seven men each week.”

“You’ll have to work faster this time,” Duke Gulfton told them.

The room tensed. During the last hunt they’d had a hundred men. They’d sought the monster nearly ten hours a night and spent the days scouting and preparing. The lands of Lochlanach stretched far and wide. Yet people like Duke Gulfton were expecting a miracle of the sea.

Queen Leighlane cleared her throat. “The fact of the matter is that we’re going to have to at least put on a show of honoring her wishes. We need to buy time as we plan.”

Another elder, Duke Streamson, asked, “What are you proposing, Your Highness? Rocato is demanding that all Lashed be allowed to freely work magic.”

Magic that wasn’t all bad, Aerity thought. Magic that had saved Tiern and could save others. If only she could get them to embrace that.

“I have an idea.” Aerity’s brain whirred as all eyes turned to her. “What if we set up a public area just outside the royal lands and invited Lashed from throughout the kingdom to come, and any Unlashed who wishes to seek their healing can receive it?”

Duke Streamson made a choking sound. “Round up the people of Rocato to turn against us in one place? That’s precisely what she wants!”

Aerity rushed on. “I don’t believe all Lashed are ‘her people.’ The entire area would be heavily guarded so that if any Lashed got out of line, they could be dealt with immediately.” The old dukes scoffed at her.

One of the military advisers stepped forward. “Our numbers are not as large as they once were. Our troop sizes have been modest in the past fifty years. I’ve got to keep men patrolling the seas and borders, and we’ve lost many in the past months. I worry that a large-scale showing of the Lashed will bring crowds.”

The room broke out into fervent debate. Those who were against Aerity’s idea were adamant, passionate in their fears. Those in favor seemed on weak, shaky ground.

“Given permission to put their hands on innocent people, it could be a massacre!”

“What if the Lashed overwhelm our guards?”


“They’ll rise up throughout the lands!”


“. . . commoner revolts . . . war . . .”


Aerity felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Harrison, his light brown eyes showing the never-faltering respect he seemed to hold for her. She gave his hand a quick squeeze of gratitude before he released her. Aerity caught Lord Alvi watching the exchange with curiosity, so she turned her gaze forward again—she would let him think what he wanted.

“Enough!” King Charles’s voice silenced the room. “I will think on it. I must put safety first. I’m not ready to overturn our laws—” Aerity opened her mouth to argue that she wasn’t suggesting a complete overturn, but a one-time, enclosed, secure circumstance. Her father held up a hand to stop her. “This blasted parchment from Rozaria Rocato is bound to have our people in terror. If I take the stability of our rules away, it will cause chaos. Tonight on the lawn we will burn whatever pages my scribes have managed to copy, to keep Rozaria satisfied, but the original lists remain with us. I pray to the sea this works.”

He looked at the hunters. “Lord Alvi. Lieutenant Gillfin. Gather as many hunters as you can and begin hunting this new beast immediately.” They nodded and took their leave. Aerity watched them go, swallowing a dry lump in her throat. The king looked to his military advisers. “I want every soldier on duty, and round-the-clock patrolling of royal lands. I want Rozaria Rocato, dead or alive.” He turned to his top castle guard. “Send messengers to the other four lands to let them know of our new foe and to find out their circumstances.”

Without another word, the king swept from the room with Queen Leighlane and a line of advisers close behind.

Aerity felt the brush of velvet on her arm and peered

down at the old man beside her. It was Duke Gulfton, his eyes glistening. “I mean no disrespect, Princess, only a piece of advice. In times of fear and upheaval, absolute routine and stability in the law are called for. Any slight change can set the people off.”

“As I recall,” Aerity said steadily, “Mrs. Rathbrook healed your ailing heart last year.” Mrs. Rathbrook was the royal healer—the only Lashed allowed to work magic.

He grasped the top of his cane with both hands. “Aye.”

“Should we not allow the people of this land to benefit from magic as you have?”

He looked down at his hands, nodding solemnly. “Not all Lashed are as trustworthy as Mrs. Rathbrook. You saw the Rocato woman face-to-face. You know the evil of which she is capable.”

“I suppose everyone is capable of evil, Duke Gulfton. None of us is immune, Lashed or not. But I choose to believe the best in people until they show me otherwise.”

Duke Streamson, waiting in the doorway, cleared his throat. Duke Gulfton peered up at Aerity and patted her hand. “Once they show you otherwise, it is often too late. As a rule it is not safe to take such chances. Seas help Lochlanach in our time of need.”

As Duke Gulfton shuffled away, Aerity whispered in return. “Seas help us, indeed.”

Wendy Higgins is the USA Today and NYT bestselling author of the Sweet Evil series from HarperTeen, the high fantasy duology The Great Hunt, and her independently published Irish fantasy, See Me. She is a former high school English teacher who now writes full time, and lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her veterinarian
husband, daughter, son, and doggie Rue.
 
Wendy earned a bachelor’s in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University. She is represented by Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.
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Adventurous reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz: Soar by Sloane Murphy

 syn

There is only so much one person can endure before they break.

There was nothing I ever wanted less than to be Princess at the Royal Court. After devastation rocked my whole world, the return of my mother doesn’t seem like the dream it was supposed to be.

I know how to be a warrior. I have no idea how to be a princess…

With her whole world turned upside down, and her heart still broken, who will Addie be at the end of it all?

Hearts can break, faith can plummet, but souls can Soar.


Excerpt
They murmur their agreement before leaving me with Addie. I know what thoughts are running through their mind, but I don’t care. Here in the dim light, I brush a strand of hair from her face and take a moment of self-indulgent gazing before gathering her in my arms and carrying her back to her room. As we travel, she sleepily wraps her arms around my neck, snuggling into me. I still so as not to wake her. Once arrived at her room, I settle her in bed, pulling the duvet over her. Dimitri was right, I don’t want to let her go but I must.
“I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe and to be worthy of you. Even if that means letting you go,” I whisper before gently kissing her forehead. I make my way to the door as quietly as I can, trying not to wake her but she stirs.
“Kaden, is that you?” she asks sleepily.
“Yeah, you fell asleep earlier, I thought I’d bring you back.”
“You always do,” she says, falling back into a heavy sleep.



author

Hi everyone! I’m Sloane *waves*. I’m 27, a total book nerd with a penchant for travel and I probably use the words Dude & Awesomesauce far too often in real life.! I write mainly Paranormal Romance NA & YA, but I’ll be branching out into other Romance genres too.

I was born and raised in Peterborough, England along with 2 sisters, 2 brothers and a plethora of cousins, I come from a REALLY big family! I’m one of the clumsiest people you’ll ever meet, but I try to stay on my feet *haha*. I still live here with Mr M & our fur baby Arya.

Please don’t be afraid to come and say hi! I don’t bite I swear 🙂

 LIMITED EDITION COVER

Only Available Direct from the Author 
Fantastic reading, 
Jordan