Book Blitz & Excerpt: Queen of Shadows + Giveaway

Queen of Shawdows Banner

Queen of Shadows by Erin Dulin & Britt Cooper

Word Count: 85,689
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 334

GENRES:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CLEAN AND WHOLESOME
FANTASY
FANTASY AND FAIRYTALES
ROMANCE
YOUNG ADULT

Add to Goodreads

Book Description

Why be a princess when you can rule the shadows?

Rejecting the senseless demands of her wicked stepmother, Ella of Locksley shares her family’s abundance with the people of her land. Yet, the desperation of her community has only begun.

When the nation of Llundyn is brutally attacked, Princes Ric and Johan begin to fight for their right to rule, leaving the kingdom’s very heart to hang in the balance as subversive forces emerge. Taxation drives the citizenry toward hopelessness, with the absence of leadership taking its toll.

Striking out on her own, Ella takes up the nation’s cause, making a name for herself as the infamous Hood, and leads her cunning crew, stealing from the rich to provide for the poor. But the return of the rightful heir, along with a forbidden romance, changes everything—with artifice and betrayal leading to an unlikely alliance that unites prince and thieves.

The passion and true love of a king leave Ella torn between duty and loyalty when, at the stroke of midnight, her identity is exposed. She’ll face the ultimate choice—enduring as the Hood or sacrificing it all for the ones she loves.

Reader advisory: This book contains some scenes of violence, a maiming and a death.

Excerpt

Fitful cries from the Carvers’ infant son pierced the silence, cleaving away Ella’s remaining shreds of calm. Trekking through the village was a dubious task on the most temperate of evenings. Doing so in the biting gales of waning wintertide was sheer idiocy, but she had little choice.

Ella tugged the hood of her cloak, attempting to keep it in place atop her head. The wind swirling around her had other ideas, whipping her mantle with vicious ferocity and nearly knocking her onto her backside as she crouched beneath a narrow window. She gripped the rotting sill, cursing under her breath before digging her heels into the frozen earth.

“Be grateful.” Much met her gaze, his eyes alight with suppressed mirth as he observed her predicament. “The weather should provide us a little more time.”

It was true. Ella glanced skyward, where the silvery haze lingering above conveniently veiled the moonlight. “Would that it could also grant us more provisions to share,” she whispered as Much tossed a small bag of grain in her direction. She wedged it neatly between the pile of cordwood and the decaying shingles sheathing the exterior, the burlap sack catching on the splintered timbers of the ramshackle cottage. “Another?” She held out a gloved palm expectantly.

“We cannot spare it.” Much’s words were but a breath, born both of necessity as well as grief. “If we double their portion, we’ll leave another family with nothing.”

Ella rose, making her way toward Much with a muted stride. “I filched an extra sack of grain from the lovely Lady Margaret before we set out.” She loosed the pouch from her horse, Monroe, with nimble fingers. “The Carvers will put it to far better use. They have five children now, you know.”

“Indeed.” Much folded his arms across his chest for warmth. “But Lady Margaret is apt to skin you alive if she catches you.”

“Tosh.” Ella waved his concern away with a dramatic sweep of her hand. “My stepmother would never sully herself over the likes of me. Doubtless, she’ll task you with that burden in her stead.” She grinned, waggling her eyebrows in amusement.

Much groaned. “You are as delightfully morbid as ever.”

Ella ignored him as she scurried toward the shanty for a second time, pairing the modest sack of grain with its twin nestled beside the kindling. The bags were always well hidden from passersby so as not to be stolen but quickly found by the tenants seeking firewood for their hearth. “It shouldn’t make any difference,” she groused, mounting her horse as Much followed suit. “It all belongs to me.”

“Ah, if only, Lady Locksley. It shall be yet another two years, for until the age of—”

“Twenty, I know. I know.” Ella sighed. It was an inconvenient fact she wished desperately to change. Thus far, her finest efforts in evading the ill-conceived lineal law of Llundyn included skulking through her hamlet in the wee hours before dawn, distributing food from her manor.

In the simplest of terms, she was stealing from herself, though with great care so as not to be discovered by her insufferable stepmother—the rightful heir of her lands and fortunes until she was finally of age.

Ella was discreet in her thieving endeavors, pinching items that would not be missed. It didn’t hurt that Cooke willingly turned a blind eye. And, as luck would have it, Lady Margaret wasn’t much for kitchen duty. It was a task she viewed as too menial for a woman of her stratum, even if she had only managed to achieve her status via a wholly undeserved union with Ella’s father.

Heavens, how she missed him, God rest his soul.

“Where’s the good in my title if I’m unable to use my station? I’m a member of the gentry with no more authority than that of an entitled rat.” Ella urged her mount toward their next destination, gritting her teeth against the brisk air as her horse picked up speed. Plucking an arrow from the quiver on her shoulder, she turned, aiming at the weather-worn door behind her, her drawn bow taut. Her bolt found its mark, despite Monroe’s bounding gait, announcing the presence of a delivery—the handmade arrow a telltale sign of her brief visit.

Much scoffed. “Nonsense. A rat would never share the spoils of its domain as you have. Neither would it have your impeccable aim.”

Ella glanced at Much, expecting to see him smiling as he often did when he teased her, but his handsome face was surprisingly austere.

No. There was no humor to be found in these circumstances.

Two years of poor, drought-riddled harvests had taken their toll on the kingdom of Llundyn. The dearth of crops had failed to significantly affect the nobility, of course, with many a lord and lady inclined to take advantage of the bountiful imports from neighboring realms. But the paltry yield was nothing short of devastating for the commoners who had little coin to spare. Many had begun to exhibit its brutality outwardly, the sharp planes of their faces and bone-thin frames a startling illustration of the land’s insufficiency.

Yet wealth poured into Locksley in the form of generous taxes, collected by Lady Margaret from the tenants surrounding the estate. As residents of the Locksley lands, they paid their due and worked the countryside in addition to their regular employment in the borough of Coventry, some five miles south of the manor.

Shame grieved Ella’s conscience as she observed the growing disparity, convicting her of something far worse than her newly established hobby of larceny.

Abundance.

Attempting to shed her sense of guilt was worthless. It merely required action. Thievery paled in comparison to the atrocity of starvation and poverty. And, as far as Ella was concerned, it wasn’t truly theft if she were merely pilfering from herself.

Much’s eagerness to be complicit in her scheming had been all the sanction she’d needed. She’d considered him the more reasonable of the two of them for as long as she’d known him. If he could rationalize the madness in her subterfuge…well, then perhaps it wasn’t madness at all.

As an orphan of some four years now, Much was far from his natural element. His father had been a man of the sea, captain of the king’s navy, his young son serving as a boatswain under his command and following in his footsteps. But his untimely demise had left his widow and son at the beneficence of the kingdom.

Ella’s father, Robin, had taken them on, providing steady work until fever had suddenly taken him away, with Much’s mother following quickly behind. The staggering loss had left Much and Ella reeling, grappling for some fragment of hope, an element of security—qualities that they’d had the great fortune of discovering in one another, bonding them at once in heartache as well as mercy.

Then, in a startling turn of events, tragedy had taken a turn for the positive. Lady Margaret had deigned to agree with Ella, who’d insisted that Much be permitted to continue his employment assisting the manor’s only carpenter. Whether due to genuine benevolence on her stepmother’s part or some peculiar sense of duty, Ella was never certain. Still, it was a small victory that she and Much readily welcomed.

“Blast this wretched wind,” Much grumbled, his complaint a swell of haze in the frigid air. “Remind me to wear several more layers of clothing for our next outing.”

“And you dare to deem me the foul-mouthed one between us?” Ella demanded, bringing about a reluctant smile from her surly partner in crime. “Perhaps you should reconsider.”

“Your words are well received, milady.” He raised his brows in satisfaction, well aware that his use of the highborn term was profane to Ella’s sensibilities. While he knew his place in Llundynien society, Ella had never treated him as lesser than an equal and always took his ribbing in good humor.

“Well, you’re a fiend, James Much. Cease your peevishness at once so we may complete the task at hand,” Ella intoned in a haughty impersonation of Lady Margaret, giggling with pleasure as his features crumpled in annoyance.

“Oh, but you do that too well, my friend.” Much laughed, shoving her playfully in the shoulder. “How many more deliveries?”

“Only two.” Ella patted the satchel that had been replete with various dried meats, grains and hard cheeses only hours ago. Now it was close to empty, bringing about a sobering reality. “How does it go so quickly? What we have will never suffice.”

“You’re doing your best. Your father would be proud,” Much said with reverence, warming Ella’s aching heart. “I don’t know of many nobles who give one thought to the peasants occupying their lands, and here you are, feeding yours from your own stores. It’s far better than doing nothing.”

“Yes, but also not nearly enough,” Ella agreed. “And besides, I thought the food didn’t belong to me yet.” Recalling Much’s previous assertions, she couldn’t help elbowing him in the ribs, nearly tumbling from her horse in the process.

“Careful!” Much hissed, grasping her arm and righting her before she slipped too far. “What good can you do for your hamlet if you meet your end beneath your horse’s hooves?”

“Worry not.” Ella resettled into her saddle as she adjusted her grip on the leather reins. “I do believe I’d live forever, simply to spite the lovely Lady Margaret.”

Buy Links

Choose Your Store
First For Romance

About the Authors

Britt Cooper

Brittany has been a cosmetologist for over a decade, an occupation that continuously explores fresh avenues of creativity and beauty. She is a new mother, learning to balance the reality of what it means to be a mom, wife, stylist, and author. Reading has always been one of her passions and writing an endeavor she refuses to leave behind.

Follow Britt on Instagram and check out her website.

Erin Dulin

Erin is a wife and mother who loves spending time with family. She’s an enthusiastic fan of all things sports, experimental baker/chef, and amateur gamer in her free time. Writing has been a passion since her childhood, and while finding peace and quiet in which to write never comes easily, she knows it worth every ounce of chaos when the stories take shape.

Follow Erin on Instagram and check out her website.


Giveaway

Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Illusion + Giveaway

illusion banner

Illusion by Aurelia T. Evans

Book 11 in the Arcanium series

Word Count: 85,949
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 304

Genres:

ANGELS AND DEMONS
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
FANTASY AND FAIRYTALES
HORROR
PARANORMAL

Add to Goodreads

Book Description

Arcanium’s greatest illusion is that there’s any illusion at all…

When an old flame returns to Arcanium in the company of her own magical circus, Illumina, offering an alliance, Bell initially considers the merger an opportunity for much-needed change.

However, with Illumina comes Maya, who has lost her memories not just of Locke’s Arcanium but all her time with Bell—love, guilt, wishes, everything. Having her memories removed leaves Maya with too large a gap in her mind that she’s desperate to fill, and she knows that Bell, of all the people in Arcanium, can give her the information she’s missing.

Bell still loves Maya and spends every day trying to atone for the pain he caused her and the rest of his cast. In spite of her frustration, she’s happiest without him, without the memories that once nearly destroyed her. If Illumina is to become part of Arcanium, he has no choice. He has to keep his distance, because she doesn’t know why she should run as far away as she can from Arcanium—and from Bell.

Even so, resisting Maya is almost too much for him to bear.

Reader advisory: This book contains references to past torture, PTSD, consensual torture, self-harm through cutting and bloodplay.

Excerpt

Bell closed his eyes in the golden lantern light backstage.

When Bell let go, spread himself wide over the web of Arcanium, he was its omnipresent god and omnipotent voyeur, from the thoughts of his cast backstage with him to the audience anticipating the performances, the guests putting in their last efforts in the midway and the Skeletons settling in for their evening meal. He could see what they’d done yesterday and what they would do tomorrow. Even when he didn’t try, he had a finger on every pulse within the borders of Arcanium.

There had been nothing since Locke that had come close to taking Arcanium again. The fae hadn’t even constituted a threat. They would have left with far more chagrin if they had known how distant they had been from taking Arcanium by force. And Locke was now a red diamond on Neve’s finger, waiting for the day she was ready to kill him slowly.

Bell’s opiate of choice had always been pleasure, but his taste for violence went in and out with the seasons. He hadn’t the heart anymore for the punishment of man. He had enough of that to contend with in his cast’s memories and nightmares—but he’d rediscovered the old joy in punishing the immortals who had exploited his Arcanium, even if he had to experience the act of punishment secondhand.

Man swallowed against the apple every second they breathed, and Bell burned with the same sadistic sickness as his fireborn brethren. He kept the Ringmaster in Arcanium as much to remind himself of the line he couldn’t cross as to do the things he shouldn’t.

No one had ever told him what he could and couldn’t do. He was neither angel nor demon nor creation from dust. He had determined his own lines, chiseled his own moral code into his skin before Hammurabi had commissioned his scribes. He was free will incarnate, an agent of chaos to cast awry best-laid plans. He was his own, and so he made his world in his own image, populated it with free wills of all shapes and sizes to shape to his liking—which was often to theirs, because it pleased him to manipulate but not necessarily to control. Manipulation meant nothing without will. If he’d wanted slaves, he would have filled the circus with more convincing golems—like a flea circus of mechanical illusion but with zombies.

But where would be the fun in that?

Bell opened his eyes again, returning himself to the moment, although a blink could send him back out into the circus, forward or backward. All Arcanium and beyond was as accessible to him as the palace of his memories, but although grasping the world in his hands became easy when he made himself more of the god he was, he didn’t see much fun in that either. He made things easier for his cast and for himself, imparting skills that they hadn’t or couldn’t have learned before, gifting talent, but even the demons preferred to work for their performances. Without effort, there could be no achievement, and without achievement, no satisfaction. Pleasure, as with pain, had to be earned.

Selena wrapped her arms around his shoulders from behind, her sharp smile against his cheek. She kissed him lightly. “Ready, darling?”

As a demon, Selena could twist her body into shapes that Valorie couldn’t have hoped to create. In Valorie’s case, Bell had wanted a contortionist human enough to be both awe-inspiring and credible. When Selena had offered her services as a demon, he no longer had to keep the contortions credible. He didn’t need her to inspire awe. She preferred to inspire fear.

With her black eyes, dead blue skin and blood-stained hair, she was beautiful, but she was still a demon and plied most of her contortionist trade in the Haunted Funhouse rather than in the big top. For the big top performances, she’d taken over Maya’s role as his magician’s assistant and damsel in distress—at least, Arcanium’s version of a damsel in distress, which rarely followed a traditional plot.

Selena retrieved one of the steel knives, gleaming silver as new for every performance, from the bandolier around his torso and brought it to his throat. He lifted his chin, threaded his fingers through her locked hair, breathed in her craving for impure blood. When she shifted her kiss to his mouth, he met that craving with his tongue, hissing as her sharp teeth caught him and she slid the blade over his chin. Then she kissed down to the trickle of blood and drank from the wound until he healed it under her mouth.

She fed from his corruption instead of feeding from his people or too many of his guests, and in return, she made him numb. She could render men into oblivion, but the best she could do for Bell was take both the pleasure and the pain away for a time.

Most of the human cast believed he was sleeping with Selena. Kitty knew better. Neve and Elizabeth had guessed otherwise. And, to his annoyance, Vivian suspected, although because she didn’t know, she hadn’t shared that information with Dom or Delilah. The demons and the faerie could tell just by looking at him, but they wouldn’t share that information one way or the other. A jinni’s business, like that of a demon’s, was his own.

Selena kept his secret, liked keeping secrets in general, because secrets so easily corrupted, improving the flavor of that which she fed upon. It was only apt that she’d chosen an actual lover among his humans who was as ingenuous as they came. The fact that she regularly drained Victor of corruption that he had done nothing to earn satisfied Bell.

Selena licked the smear of blood from the edge of the blade before returning it to the bandolier. Then she jumped onto his back, wrapping her legs and arms around him. She was taller than him by half a head without heels, over a head with the ones she wore for the performance, but although taking a human form limited him in many ways, it didn’t impede his strength. He caught her legs and tucked her against him as he carried her to the curtains. Chelsine would finish her fire dance any minute, which would cue the lights for Sera’s aerial act. After Sera, Bell and Selena would enter. Though Selena should have been getting into place, Sasha and Mikhail had worked their magic, as they always did, and both Bell and Selena were reluctant to part.

Bell had never been so frustrated for so long.

Selena would find her own satisfaction after the performance, as most of his cast did. Some didn’t even wait until they were out from backstage.

To be surrounded by the lust and love of his people, to feel it against his skin, against his teeth, to drink it like milk and honey, hum with the vibrations of their moans and screams, watch them dance around each other, caress, kiss, their pupils dilated and their cheeks flushed, the touch of their tongue to their lips… It was the torture of his own dungeon, to be surrounded by everything he wanted but not to partake himself, even when he was tempted.

Instead, he rested his head back against Selena’s chest as her hair draped on either side of his face.

Selena slid from his back and kissed his shoulder. “Hard out there for a demon with a soul. You, of all people, should know better than to resist. God, Bell, there are so many willing victims. Why do you do this to yourself?”

He didn’t have a word she would understand. Demons punished with ease, but they had little concept of self-punishment. The closest any of them came was limited self-denial.

“I’ll see you in the ring.” Bell would seem casual to anyone without an extra sense or two to detect the deception.

“Sure, handsome.” Selena broke away, scurrying up the ladder to the heavens, where the trapeze swings, spotlights and aerial silks lived.

Neve was his crown jewel—the Spider, a black diamond he would keep in a vault if he could, but Kitty, who reclined on the chaise longue, was the life’s blood, the very beating heart of his circus. Locke had understood that she was valuable but hadn’t understood how much, or else he would never have allowed the Ringmaster to take her for himself.

Without an ounce of magic in her blood, Kitty sensed his attention, opened her eyes and met Bell’s gaze across backstage. Though she couldn’t see it, the Ringmaster’s darkness seeped from under the curtains as he introduced Sera, but when it reached Kitty, it dissipated. She was a pink, floral oasis in a sea of smoke.

Bell sent her what love he could spare from a distance. She received it like a blanket warmed in sunlight, because she was his Kitty Cat and he could rest his head on her shoulder and hold her until the sun rose and set again. Even if she blamed him like the rest, she’d lost none of her love for him. If a human being could become family to jinn, they had bound themselves with something thicker than blood.

Buy Links

Choose Your Store
First For Romance

About the Author

Aurelia T. Evans

Aurelia T. Evans is an up-and-coming erotica author with a penchant for horror and the supernatural.

She’s the twisted mind behind the werewolf/shifter Sanctuary trilogy, demonic circus series Arcanium, and vampire serial Bloodbound. She’s also had short stories featured in various erotic anthologies.

Aurelia presently lives in Dallas, Texas (although she doesn’t ride horses or wear hats). She loves cats and enjoys baking as much as she dislikes cooking. She’s a walker, not a runner, and she writes outside as often as possible.

Giveaway

Enter for your chance to win a $50.00 Amazon Gift get a FREE romance book from the author!

Aurelia T. Evans Illusion Giveaway

AURELIA T. EVANS IS GIVING AWAY A $50.00 AMAZON GIFT CARD TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN AND GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 11TH May 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Scroll Up