Hello and Welcome to this stop on the Release Day Party Hop! I'm so excited to be a part of this because I loved loved The 2nd Son which introduced these amazingly awesome Lady Knights. And you have a chance to win the first two books in the series plus a $5 amazon card! Be sure to read the excerpt below because the clues to the scavenger hunt on the are there!! And comment to let us know if you have read either book in this awesome series!! So let's get this portion of the party started!!
Three women. Three stories. One Sisterhood.
With the war in Barony at an end, peace reigns and rebuilding efforts continue beneath the steady vigilance of King Serge and Queen Isabelle. The lady knights have returned home, unchanged by new titles and lands. But with a rash of kidnappings spreading across the province, the lady knights will find themselves torn apart by the machinations of a mad man.
Ava Longley, captain of the lady knights, never expected to become the target of an obsessed murderous madman. When a kidnapper is sent to abduct her, Ava sees it as the perfect opportunity to bring the mastermind to justice. To Julian Vincent, Lady Longley is no more than the means to an end. However, when sparks fly between them, Julian is faced with an impossible decision.
After being sold into slavery by her king and washing up onto the shore of Cardenas, the friendless African Amazon, Mudiwa Akua, was taken in by Barony’s female soldier’s regiment. When her tranquil existence is disturbed and she finds herself on a ship bound for the exotic island of Martinique, Mudiwa faces certain death and possible enslavement for the second time in her life, dredging up ghosts of a past she had long thought forgotten. When planter Isaac Prideux comes upon a mysterious African woman, beaten and half-dead, he takes it upon himself to care for her. He never imagined doing so would shake up his monotonous life so completely.
After the highly honored title of onna bugeisha—the feminine equivalent of a samurai—begins to lose its power in Japan, Hanako Kiyomi sees no choice but to flee. But when her deserted husband comes searching for her, Hanako escapes him the only way she knows how: marriage in name only to a stranger. Lord Garrick Overton has always admired the cool, stoic Hanako from afar. Marriage to the woman he’s desired for years seems like a good idea; until she proposes the marriage be in name only. As he sets out to win her heart, he faces not only a tough task but a begrudged man that will stop at nothing to win back what he has lost.
Their courage will be tried. Their hearts will be put to the test. Can three headstrong women maintain their independent natures while surrendering to love?
Over an hour had passed since they’d made camp for the night and Julian hadn’t caught a single hare. Ava’s stomach rumbled hungrily, but rebelled at the thought of eating one more dry, mealy oatcake. She sat on her pallet, her ankles free but her wrists still bound with Simon standing guard.
“Does he always take this long to hunt?” she asked Simon.
The titian-haired man seemed the quiet sort, especially when Julian wasn’t around to talk to. Ava wasn’t sure if it was because she had attacked him or because he preferred to keep his victims at a distance.
Without answering, he turned toward the fire and threw some more kindling onto it. It roared beneath the makeshift spit he’d created over the fire. It, along with the fire, was all ready for a nice juicy rabbit. Unfortunately, there was none.
“Did you know that there are many edible plants in these woods?” she asked his turned back.
Simon stiffened, the back of his neck turning almost as red as his hair. Ava shrugged at his silence, but continued, determined to draw Julian’s accomplice into conversation. She wanted to know more about these men and their connection to Blake.
“How long have you and Julian been accomplices in the kidnapping of women? For that matter, how does one get into the business of kidnapping?”
Silence. The fire crackled.
“Do you always do what Julian tells you to?”
“Enough!” Simon finally bellowed. He whirled around to face her, his expression a twisted mask of annoyance. “You do not know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh?” One of her eyebrows shot up. “Explain it to me then. What kinds of men kidnap a defenseless woman and hands her over to fiend like Dorian Blake? Oh yes,” she said when Simon’s eyes widened in surprise, “I heard your conversation last night and I know who Dorian Blake is.”
Simon released a sigh that was heavy with both weariness and defeat. “It’s not what you think. Julian Vincent is an honorable man. Besides, you aren’t exactly defenseless,” he added, pointing to the fresh bandage on his arm.
“Don’t expect an apology from me,” Ava scoffed. “There is no honor in what you are doing.”
“We have our reasons, none of which need to be explained to you. When we turn you over to Blake, turn your dagger on him. I’m sure you’ll have no problem escaping once you get your hands on a weapon.”
Ava grinned at that. “You’d better believe it.”
Simon fell silent again, his dark brown eyes growing pensive as he stared into the fire. Ava could see the goodness in this man. Unlike Julian, whose eyes held that cold, dark glitter that sent chills up and down her spine, Simon’s gaze held a vulnerability that Ava knew ran deep. Her voice was soft when she spoke again.
“You’re not so bad you know,” she said. “I can tell. I heard the doubt you expressed to Julian over my abduction. Why don’t you—“
“Are you always this annoying?” he snapped impatiently. “Christ above, woman!”
“You call it annoying, I call it persistent. When I want something—“
“For the love of God tell me what you want,” he muttered, “and put me out of my misery.”
Ava’s smile was smug. “I want to know how one goes about becoming a hired kidnapper. Is one born with a talent for it? Does Julian only kidnap people, or is he also a common thief?”
“If his father had done right by him, none of this would be necessary.”
Ava could tell by Simon’s expression that he’d said something he shouldn’t have. His eyes were suddenly clouded and he looked away as if refusing to say anything more. Ava wasn’t letting him off that easily.
“His father, eh? A nobleman?”
Simon refused to meet her gaze, but his face and neck were beet red, a characteristic of embarrassment that she’d noticed in him.
“What about you? Are you an illegitimate son as well?”
“We prefer the term bastard,” Julian’s voice interrupted.
Ava’s back stiffened and her eyes widened. She heard the crunch of his boots over dry brush and leaves as he approached from behind her. When he appeared in her line of vision, holding two dead hares by the neck, her stomach quivered with relief. As she noticed the anger flaring in his eyes, though, the relief quickly turned to dread.
“Well,” she said, raising her chin imperiously, “it certainly is fitting; at least in your case, Julian.”
If at all possible his eyes grew even darker. The obsidian shimmer was both mesmerizing and unnerving.
“You will remember to keep your beak of a nose out of my affairs unless you want to find yourself gagged again.”
He moved toward the fire where Simon sat, his back to them both, his head lowered.
“I think she’s heard enough, don’t you?” he asked Simon accusingly. “Help me skin and clean these?”
Simon silently accepted one of the hares and the two set to work. Ava began to feel the stirrings of guilt in her chest. She hadn’t meant to stir up Julian’s ire toward Simon. Her inquisitiveness had simply gotten the best of her. If she were being honest with herself, at this point her curiosity was at its peak.
When dinner was done, Ava began to wonder if Julian would come through on his promise to allow her a bath. After a full day of travel, she was feeling even grimier than she had at the start of the day. As she watched the two men clean up after their meal, she hoped she hadn’t crushed all possibility of a bath with her big mouth.
When Julian came and released her bonds, she sighed with relief. He’d disappeared into the woods at least half an hour ago. Judging by the water droplets still clinging to his wavy dark hair and neck, he’d just come from the small pond that lay just beyond the line of trees circling camp. A fresh shirt clung to his chest, still slightly damp from being thrown on over his un-dried body. Ava tried not to stare, but that was nearly impossible when his pectoral muscles were pressed so prominently against the white linen.
After releasing her ankles and leaving her wrists still bound, he grabbed her by the arm and silently led her back the way he’d come. He held what looked like a bundle of clothing in his other hand.
Shock rippled through her as they neared the cool, inviting water.
“Surely you don’t mean to stay and watch me bathe.”
“Surely you don’t expect me to leave my captive alone for even one moment,” he answered, his voice thick with sarcasm.
“I can’t very well run away from you naked, now can I?”
Julian snorted. “I wouldn’t put it past you.”
In any other circumstance, he’d be right. Ava would do whatever it took to free herself from her kidnapper, even run naked through the woods until she found a weapon, clothes, or help; whichever came first. She couldn’t very well tell Julian that his taking her to Blake was exactly what she wanted. Ava must continue to play the role of helpless prisoner if she wanted to find him. No one knew where Blake was hiding besides Julian; no one that she knew of, anyway.
“It’s indecent,” she argued as they neared the lake. Julian released her arm and turned to her, unfolding the bundle in his other hand.
“These are Simon’s,” he said as he laid out a pair of breeches, a man’s shirt and a belt on a nearby rock. “They might be a bit big but they’d fit you better than mine. It’ll do, at least for you to sleep in, while you wash that sack you’re wearing and lay it out to dry.”
While she knew she didn’t resemble a lady of Barony in her work clothes, his candor stung. She huffed angrily and stomped her foot.
“Well you didn’t exactly give me a chance to change into my best ball gown when you snatched me from in front of my shop, did you?”
“Not that it would make much of a difference,” he muttered as he circled behind her to untie her wrists. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she heard the word ‘hag’ in the midst of his mumbled tirade. Her hands curled into fists at her side and for a moment she wondered what the consequences would be if she were to hit him. Just once would be enough to soothe her ire and restore her pride. His constant jabs at her looks and integrity had long since begun to grate on her nerves.
As she pondered the advantages and disadvantages of such an action, he shoved a small cake of soap in her hand and pointed toward the pond.
“You’ve got fifteen minutes. I’d hurry up if I were you. You’re going to need every single second. You smell like a chimney.”
“No,” she said to him for the second time that day. “You’ve put me through enough.”
“As you so eloquently expressed this morning—”
“And,” she continued, punctuating the word to indicate that she would tolerate no further interruption, “I refuse to suffer the indignity of your leering at me as I wash.”
Julian’s chuckles were loud, a chest vibrating roar that echoed out over the water. Ava wondered if Simon could hear them. Was he having a little laugh himself at her misery and embarrassment? Her cheeks burned at the thought.
“Trust me, my lady, there is nothing beneath that bag of yours to tempt me. You need not worry about my pawing you.”
Ava quirked a brow and delivered her most scathing verbal blow. “Oh no? Was that not your raging prick rising up so rampantly against my bottom this afternoon? Why, I must have imagined it!”
He choked on his laughter and Ava felt a satisfied smile pulling at the corners of her mouth at his discomfort. His jaw was working furiously and his eyes were narrow slits as he closed the distance between them. For a moment, Ava wondered if he would strike her and prepared herself to fight back. His meaty fists remained at his sides, but he leaned down until they were almost nose to nose.
“I’ll turn my back,” he ground out from between clenched teeth. “Fifteen minutes. If you’re not out by then, I’m coming in after you.”
Lets take a look at the first 2 books in the series:
Rake. Rogue. Scoundrel. Each of these words has been used to describe Damien Largess, youngest prince of Cardenas, most frequently by his ridiculously somber eldest brother. Damien is perfectly content to spend his days drinking at the card tables, and his nights in the bed of his scheming mistress, especially since doing these things seems to vex his high-handed brother to no end. But when he steps into a glittering ballroom on the night of his twenty-fifth birthday, the roguish young prince’s life will be forever changed.
Beautiful. Graceful. Sensual. When Esmeralda steps into the center of the King’s ballroom to perform for his youngest son’s birthday, every eye in the room is glued to the tall, lithe Gypsy dancer. One pair of eyes seems to burn straight through her, and though she has worked endlessly to shield her heart, she finds her defenses slowly slipping away in the presence of the handsome prince. She cannot resist his devastating charm, nor is she immune to the earth shattering desire in his kiss. As she falls rapidly under his spell, Esmeralda dares to hope for a future she would never have thought possible.
With a deadly plot against the royal family surrounding him in danger and intrigue, Damien will face a decision he never thought he would have to make. Would he step up to claim a responsibility that should never have fallen to the third son? Or will he abandon it to risk all for love?
Princess Isabelle has spent her entire life bending to the will of those who have planned her life out for her. Sent into hiding when she was just an infant to protect her from the rebellion in her own homeland, Barony, she was betrothed to Prince Lionus from the neighboring province Cardenas when she was just an infant. Despite the forced engagement, Isabelle has loved Lionus all of her life. When a devious plot against the royal family results in her husband’s death, Isabelle is left with a broken heart and an uncertain future. Only one year after his brutal murder, she has no choice but to choose a new husband and return to her homeland to take her place as queen and repair the war-torn land.
Prince Serge has secretly loved Princess Isabelle his entire life. The fact that she was promised to his brother has brought him no end of pain and suffering. The second born son of the king, he has resigned himself to a life of living in his brother’s shadow. After a deadly plot against the royal family leaves Serge hovering on the edge of death, he awakens from a coma one year later to find that his older brother has died and his youngest brother has taken the throne in his stead. His future is now uncertain, but Serge is determined to find his own way in the world now that he has been given the gift of new life. When it is suggested that Princess Isabelle take him as her husband, Serge begins to hope that all of his most secret dreams will now come true.
Despite unexpected spark of desire between them, Isabelle resists the new path her heart is taking as she clings desperately to Lionus’ memory. Can Isabelle let go of her past and learn to Serge return, or is she destined to a life tied to one man as she still mourns the other?
Once united as king and queen, Isabelle and Serge face the monumental task of rebuilding her broken homeland and rescuing it from the clutches of those seeking to destroy it. Can the pampered princess find the strength to stand beside her husband and fight for her people? Will the second son of a king finally get the chance to prove his worth? Can either of them learn to let go of the ghosts of the past and find love?
Set in a world of kings and queens, palaces and royal courts, warriors and battlefields, book two of Elise Marion’s ‘Kings of Cardenas’ family saga continues with a story of love, passion, and destiny.
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Remember to tell us if you have read any of the books in the series!! Good Luck!!