Looking for Fantasy Romance Recommendations

I’m looking for recommendations for good fantasy romance novels.

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Okay, yes, I have a pile of Regency novels, but these aren’t my preferred genre. They are just easy to find.

I prefer high fantasy with elves, knights, dragons, wizards and the like. Though, at this point, I’ll take recommendations for anything.

Happily-ever-after is a must or it isn’t a romance novel.

I don’t care if it had graphic steamy scenes, but I’d prefer no graphic violence.

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This is fine. I mean, it is fantasy.

I’ll even take something that fits this as a beta-reader or advanced copy reader and give an honest review in return.

Elves?

As I mentioned in my post on dragons, the novels I write are in a fantasy world. While each novel is a standalone story, all of them take place in the same world.

So far, all four of my WIPs take place in the human country of Tamryn. I’ve established that magic is real. Vampires are real. Knights smite evil and liches haunt the living.

I have not yet brought it elves. But elves sorta have a but of a reputation…

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Given some of the writing I’ve seen, that reputation isn’t exactly unearned. And I’ve gotta admit, coming up with elven-sounding names is the bane of this fantasy romance writer.

I’ve mentioned them in passing in my work, but I haven’t yet written a story about them much less set one in their magical home of Tanalear.

Part of the lack of story writing is me trying to figure out how to add them to my world. Do I just jump right in and give readers a story in Tanalear? Or should I write a different story that brings an elf to the human city.

Bringing an elf into human lands creates all kinds of issues for me. See, I’m not entirely sure I buy into this half-elf business. If you aren’t the same species, you can’t procreate. There would be no half-elves.

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Nope, not buying it. Not even beer can change the fact species can’t procreate.

While I’m a romance writer, and I can imagine a scenario of an elf and human falling in love, I promise my reader a happily-ever-after (HEA) ending by virtue of writing a romance novel. So, I’m hard-pressed to view a HEA with a hero and heroine where one of them is going to die in seventy-five years, and the other is going to spend the next thousand mourning them.

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Basically, I’m considering if I need to craft some sort of adventure that features an elven protagonist before jumping into the elven world?

This is even harder than the challenges I face as a romance writer because the Tanalearian elves are isolationist and xenophobic, still turned inward even after their empire collapsed thousands of years ago in the Great Cataclysm.

The last remaining vestiges of their once-great empire are protected by ancient magics. Part of their story will be re-assimilating back into a world that now contains humans.

So, yeah, it sort of feels like the elves meeting the humans should be a big, climactic thing.

But I don’t want to confuse readers, either. Readers are smart, but if they’re expecting knights and dragons, I don’t want to disappoint with elves.

I also worry that lots has been written about elves. I sometimes wonder if your civilization collapsed, if the archaeologists piecing it back together would think elves were real.

Given that so much has already been written, I need to give it a fresh enough spin. I like to think I have this mapped out in my head. Besides, it’s not like many stories are truly unique. Amateurs borrow and professionals steal, as the saying goes.

I have given a lot of thought to their queen (Tanalearian elves have a matriarchal monarchy), her son, and some of the new mages. Even a major villain has been knocking around in there.

But none of them want to come to Tamryn. None of them see the point. They have yet to see beyond their crumbling cities.

Hmmm, perhaps we shall have to have an inciting incident…

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How about you? Do you like elves? Tolkien or otherwise? Read any stories that take place in an entirely elven world? Did you like it? What do you think of half-elves and half-orcs? Is my science brain thinking too much on this?

Loving a Mage Lord: 1

I received some feedback on the blog that people wanted to see little more of my fiction writing, so I thought I’d give it a try. This is supposed to be an author’s website, and I really do write. A lot, actually.

I figure I’ll post a little fiction on Fridays. Something fun before the weekend.

Let me kow what you think in the comments section. Figure if the experiment doesn’t work, it’s easy enough to return to my previous ramblings and ruminations.

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Loving a Mage Lord: 1

Aenwyn focused on her magical tome as a maid tugged on her hair. Wincing, Aenwyn tried to ignore the maid and concentrate on the arcane symbols. The young wizard didn’t much care what she looked like for the Oakenvale ball, but figuring out the nuanced spell dancing across the pages captured her complete attention as she tried to learn it.

Escadia closed Aenwyn’s book. “How do you expect to marry an earl when you won’t hold still to get your hair done?”

Aenwyn glanced up at the duchess. “I was studying that, Your Grace.”

“You’re getting ready for a ball.”

Sitting up straight, Aenwyn sucked in a breath and her lungs filled with the tang of magic and beeswax. She glanced up toward the towering ceiling with its swooping curves and large windows as massive crystal chandeliers illuminated the room with magelight so bright it made evening feel like afternoon.

Aenwyn grimaced as the maid coiled her hair. “I’m not interested in marrying an earl.”

“You should be,” Escadia said. “Then you wouldn’t have to hide from my mother.”

“Are the rumors true?”

“Don’t know, and I’m smart enough not to find out.”

Aenwyn stroked the cover of the tome. “I don’t want to marry. I want to study magic.”

Escadia took both of Aenwyn’s hands in her own, the duchess looked unusually serious. “The Empire needs more wizards like you, and I know you love spending time with those dusty old books. Caewyn Oakenvale can give you unimaginable opportunities, and his family has one of the best, one of the oldest, libraries in the Empire.”

“So do you.”

“Mine comes complete with my mother.”

Aenwyn pressed her lips together. “I don’t know him.”

“We’re going to fix that.”

“What if I don’t like him? What if I don’t fall in love with him?”

Escadia squeezed her fingers. “Marriage is not about love.”

“It should be.”

“Caewyn is smart, wealthy and capable,” Escadia said. “He’s also a decent elf, and there’s few enough of those.”

“If he’s all that, why would he want me?”

“Because you’re amazing, and you’re a mage. His family needs him to make a match with magic. That’ll smooth over any issues with you not being nobility.”

“You have a strong magical talent, Your Grace” Aenwyn said. “You’d be even better at magic if you tried a little more.”

“And you’d be better at dancing. Now stop all that ‘your grace’ nonsense. You only do it when you’re mad at me, and you should be happy I’m helping you.”

Aenwyn resisted rolling her eyes. “If Lord Caewyn is so wonderful, why don’t you marry him?”

“Because I would never give my mother the satisfaction of me making a suitable match, much less a desirable one.”

Aenwyn glanced up at her reflection as the maid twined her thick red hair into an elegant coif. She reached a hand toward a brilliant white orchid woven into a braid, but the maid stopped her.

“Miss mustn’t touch,” the maid said.

Aenwyn sighed and endured the rest of the torture the maid inflicted on her, including cinching her into one of Escadia’s silk gowns. The fine silk slid over Aenwyn’s lithe curves and made a soft shushing noise as she moved.

“How do you breathe in these?”

Escadia smiled and liked arms with Aenwyn then spun her around the room. While the duchess’s steps were graceful and fluid, Aenwyn stumbled after her. The wizard mumbled something about the cold marble floors on her slippered feet then yanked back her hands and let herself fall onto the over-stuffed silk cushions of a white chaise.

“Remember to let Caewyn lead,” Escadia said. “And ease into sitting. Think of yourself as a haughty cat rather than a farmer’s hound.”

Color crept over Aenwyn’s cheeks, and she pressed her lips together. Even after years of taking dance lessons with Escadia, Aenwyn moved like a human rather than one of her own kind. But then, she’d never much liked dancing and had only done the minimum the tutors required. Like Escadia and magic.

“You look stunning,” Escadia said as she pulled Aenwyn back to her feet and turned her towards a mirror.

Aenwyn smoothed out the emerald silk of her borrowed gown and peered into the silvered glass. While Escadia looked as stunning and regal as she always did, Aenwyn barely recognized the woman standing beside the duchess.

Her over-sized mage robes had been replaced by a gown of the latest fashion that bared her neck, shoulders, and a generous amount of décolletage. The dress made her eyes look greener, and the maid had tamed her unruly red hair into an elaborate and elegant coif.

Aenwyn could pass as one of the noble ladies that moved in Escadia’s rarified circles. As long as she remembered to say little, smile often, and ignore the servants.

Escadia dropped an ermine cloak over Aenwyn’s shoulders. “Caewyn is going to be smitten.”

“I think he already is.” Aenwyn raised a brow at the duchess.

“Stop being silly and come along. We’re already fashionably late.”

Aenwyn shook her head but followed Escadia down to the waiting carriage.

The Choice Part 3: Lost Daughter

The Choice Part 1 and the Choice Part 2 can be found here. This post was inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge.

 

Lost Daughter

Oblivious to her nana’s discomfort, Sylenea skipped along next to Jyss, Vaundryn’s hand in hers, as they walked back to the kitchens.

Sylenea stared at the long trestle tables, the massive hearth, and the rows of cabinets filled with pots and pans. Rich scents of cooking meats and baking breads filled the kitchen. Rubbing her tummy, Sylenea craned her neck upward as she looked at the high ceiling with thick wooden beams running across its length.

Her eyes saucered. “Our whole house would fit in here.”

“I could show you the rest of the castle, if you like,” Vaundryn said. “This is only a small part of it.”

“After cake.”

Sylenea let go of his hand and clambered into a chair, swinging her legs and giggling when her feet danced above the floor.

Looking down at his now empty hand, Vaundryn frowned.

She patted the chair next to her, and Vaundryn slid into it with a controlled and practiced elegance.

Sylenea’s eyes widened as Jyss brought her and Vaundryn each a large slice of chocolate cake and a glass of milk.

“M’lord, my dear,” Jyss said as she set the cake in front of them.

“Thank you, Aunt Jyss,” Sylenea said between mouthfuls. “This is the most wonderful cake ever.”

“It’s very delicious,” Vaundryn agreed.

Sylenea devoured her cake and gulped down her milk. She fidgeted as Vaundryn cut neat bites before eating them. He saw her waiting and pushed his plate away.

As if that was the magic to spring her from her prison, Sylenea slid out of her chair. “Wanna go play?”

“Play?” Vaundryn asked.

“You know, games. What kind of games do you play here?”

“Chess.”

“I don’t know that one. What else do you do for fun?”

“I have my lessons, there is the library, and I ride.”

“We could play seek and go hide, but this place is so big we’d spend the whole day searching. There’s a big oak tree out front.”

“You will not climb trees while you’re at Aunt Jyss’s,” Rhianna said, her voice sharp and brooking no argument.

“You climb trees?” Vaundryn asked.

“Sure.”

“Why?”

Sylenea shrugged. “Why not? I like to see what’s up there, and sometimes you can find bird nests with baby birds.”

Jyss knelt beside Sylenea. “Promise me that you will not take Lord Vaundryn tree climbing. His father would be very upset.”

“All right, but can we go outside and play if we promise not to climb any trees?”

“M’lord?” Jyss asked as she looked at the boy.

Vaundryn lifted his shoulders. “I can show her the horses.”

“Horses? You have more than one?”

“She would like the stables if it pleases you to show them to her, m’lord,” Jyss said.

“Horses!” Sylenea squealed.

Jyss ruffled Sylenea’s copper curls. “Or I can take her down to my quarters if you have other obligations, m’lord.”

Sylenea crossed her arms over her chest. “You can’t promise horses and then not show them to me.”

“Sylenea,” Rhianna started.

The look of sadness on the girl’s face stabbed at Vaundryn. “I will show her the stables.”

Vaundryn slid out of his chair with a practiced grace and offered his arm to Sylenea.

Grabbing his hand, Sylenea waved to Rhianna and Jyss, then skipped along beside him as he led her back through the castle and out to the stables.

“You like horses?” Vaundryn asked as they walked over the emerald carpet of grass.

“Very much.”

“Do you know how to ride?”

“Nana taught me on Solidar.”

Vaundryn frowned. “What’s a Solidar?”

“He’s a gentle creature, but so very strong. He pulls the cart and helps Papa in the fields.”

“A draft horse?”

Sylenea shrugged, but there was a fondness in her voice. “He’s Solidar. He’ll never win any races, but he’ll always get you there.”

“We have hunters, coursers, rounceys, and my father’s destrier.”

“Destrier?”

“A kind of horse. Father’s has a nasty temper.”

The entered the stables and the rich scent of fresh hay mingled with the earthy smell of horses. The walkways were swept clean, and grooms were tending to the coats of several of the animals. They stopped when Vaundryn entered, and their eyes fixed on the little girl holding his hand.

Sylenea’s eyes widened. “There are so many horses here. More than in my whole village.”

Vaundryn smiled, glad he could make her so happy. He walked up and down the rows with her, telling her about each horse. She listened, enrapt, talking and cooing at each of the animals.

“Who’s that?” she asked and pointed to a massive black stallion stabled well away from the other horses.

“Vlad,” Vaundryn said. “Nasty beast. He’ll only let my father ride him.”

Sylenea walked quietly through the dim stables and stopped outside of Vlad’s stall. The stallion snorted, kicked the stall wall behind him, and bared his teeth. She murmured to him, cooing and talking gibberish.

The destrier nudged forward, flicking his ears as he watched her. Sylenea vaulted up the side of the stable and seated herself on the high wall so she was level with the stallion’s head. She stroked his nose, and rather than biting her, Vlad nuzzled her hand and moved closer so she could stroke his ears.

“He’d like a green apple, if you have any. Not a red one. It has to be green.”

“My father always gives him green apples,” Vaundryn said as he motioned to one of the grooms.

“They’re his favorite,” Sylenea said as a groom handed her an apple.

She laid it in the palm of her hand and offered it to Vlad. He lipped it off her palm and nudged her. The gentle push almost sent her sprawling off the door.

“You don’t know your own strength, do you?” Sylenea laughed and patted his nose. “Now you be good, Vlad.”

Vaundryn watched her slide off the door and land beside him. Vlad nickered and butted the stall door.

“He really likes you,” Vaundryn said. “I didn’t think Vlad liked anyone.”

“He’s a big horse, and he learned he could get his way by throwing his weight around. He misses when he was ridden more, and he’s sad spending his days in the corner all by himself.”

“He’s there to protect the other horses,” Vaundryn said. “He can be very aggressive.”

She turned and looked at Vlad. “If you’d behave yourself, they’d let you back by the other horses. You might even get ridden more often.”

The horse snorted.

“You know you like being ridden. You just don’t want them to know.”

The horse nudged his stall door with his head.

“I’m not riding you until you can prove that you’ll behave yourself.”

Vlad bobbed his head

“What do you think, do you believe him?” Sylenea asked Vaundryn.

“You could never control him. Your feet wouldn’t even reach the stirrups.”

She frowned as she thought about that. “But it’s not about control. More a meshing of needs and wants.”

“There’s a pretty little mare over here,” Vaundryn said as he took her hand and led her away from the destrier. “If you can win over Vlad, you can win her over.”

Sylenea waved goodbye to Vlad and followed Vaundryn through the stables to a lovely grey mare. Within minutes, Sylenea had the mare eating apples and begging for ears to be scratched.

“You have a way with horses,” Vaundryn said as a groom saddled his gelding while another saddled the grey mare.

Sylenea beamed as a groom helped her up into the saddle. “Just have to know how to talk to them.”

Nudging his horse forward, Vaundryn led her out of the stables and across the wide fields surrounding the castle. He tried to set a quiet pace, but Sylenea raced past him as she gave her mare her head.

Vaundryn caught up to her, the exhilaration of the ride rushing through him and being amplified by Sylenea’s enthusiasm.

The breeze ruffled her copper curls and the sun sparkled in her emerald green eyes. “This is so much fun.”

“I suppose it is,” Vaundryn said. “Perhaps because there are two of us. It’s not this much fun to ride alone.”

“You’re not alone.”

Vaundryn glanced back at the stable hand following a safe distance behind them.

“Not what I meant.” She stroked her horse’s neck and tipped her face up to the sun. “It’s so much different to ride a horse that wants to run.”

“I can’t imagine a plow horse would have been much fun to ride.”

“Fun in a different way.” Sylenea glanced over at Vaundryn sitting erect and proper in his saddle. “Race you to the fence post!” she cried, and her mare shot off across the field.

“Hey!” Vaundryn laughed as he gave chase.

Their happiness floated across the fields, and soaked into the castle and its grounds.

Caenner looked up from his work and walked to the window in time to see his son ride past with a smile on his face as he galloped after a girl child.

 

Caenner pounded down the stairs and wheeled toward the kitchens. If anyone would know who the strange girl was, his housekeeper would. Servants scurried away from him, and he ignored them. Throwing open the kitchen door, he stormed in and loomed dark as night in the center of the room.

“Your Grace?” Jyss asked, forcing her voice not to quaver.

“There is a girl in my home that wasn’t here yesterday.”

Jyss paled. “Yes, Your Grace. She’s my niece.”

“Your niece?” Caenner echoed.

“My sister Rhianna Nightstar, Your Grace,” Jyss said as she motioned to the other woman. “She and her daughter have come to visit me on their way home.”

“Home from where?” Caenner asked as his eyes bored into Rhianna.

She swallowed and searched for her voice, but words failed her as she stared into the cold face of Duke Darkshield.

“The Temple of Thalia, Your Grace, up in Two Rivers,” Jyss said for her.

His eyes narrowed to slits, and menace poured from him. Despite the heat of the fire, the room felt cold and his breath puffed around him. “That’s the regional temple.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” Rhianna said, her words little more than a squeak.

“Why were you at Thalia’s temple? For what sin were you seeking redemption that a local priestess could not cleanse you?”

Rhianna gripped the table, but she met the duke’s stare. “No sin, Your Grace. I had thought perhaps Sylenea had the Calling.”

“The priestesses at your local temple would have known.”

Rhianna looked down at her feet. “So they told me she didn’t, but I didn’t believe them.”

“And the priestesses in Two Rivers confirmed that she didn’t have the calling,” Caenner said and started to pace. “So you’re bringing her back home.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” Rhianna whispered. “But they have agreed to teach her to heal.”

He stopped and faced her again. “They have?”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

“Why did they agree to that if she doesn’t have the Calling?”

Rhianna swallowed the ice in her throat. “They called her a life mage, told me to inform my local lord and he would see to getting her properly trained.”

Caenner arched a brow black as a raven’s wing. “Your lord doesn’t already know about her?”

“No, Your Grace,” Rhianna said.

Caenner snorted. “He’s either an idiot or . . .” Realization dawned as Rhianna’s fear clawed through the death magic hanging in the air. Caenner reigned in his temper as he looked at the small woman clasping her hands on her lap. “You’ve been hiding her.”

Rhianna looked down at her intertwined fingers. “Yes, Your Grace.”

“Who is your lord?”

“Lord Emberfall, Your Grace.”

The name balled his fists. Emberfall had not reported a life mage in his lands. He’d reported far fewer mages in his lands than any other lord, and Caenner had been assisting in an investigation into the disparity. Mages were T’analear’s greatest asset, and whether through neglect or something more nefarious, Emberfall undermined the Empire by secreting budding mages.

But only those in the Mage’s Circle would know that, and Rhianna was definitely not in that circle.

“Why are you hiding her?”

Rhianna bit her lower lip and looked toward Jyss who nodded once. “I don’t know, Your Grace, but I never wanted him near her. Was afraid he’d take her from me if he knew.”

“Good instincts.” Caenner stopped pacing. “I want to meet young Sylenea.”

“Her and the young master went out to the stables,” Jyss said. “I can send for them.”

“No need,” Caenner said.

Rhianna smiled as she thought of her daughter. “Sylenea loves horses. Loves all animals, really. Always bringing home injured birds or whatnot and tending them. That’s why I was so sure Thalia had Called her. So sure.”

Caenner nodded once, turned on his heel, and left the two women as he strode out of the castle. His long steps ate the ground to stables, and he walked over to Vlad. As he approached the destrier, he felt it. The golden stirring of life magic. Untrained, undisciplined, but life magic so strong it pulsed against his death magic and sent shivers down his spine as if a thousand ants crawled along it.

“Where is Vaundryn?” Caenner demanded of the stable hands.

A groom slunk out of a stall, bits of hay clinging to him. “He took his gelding out, Your Grace.”

“I know that. Where did he go?”

“The young master didn’t say, Your Grace. Sent a stable hand along with him.”

“Send another to bring him back. When he returns, send Vaundryn to me.”

The groom bowed his head and Caenner strode back to his office. He paced the floor, clenching and unclenching his fists as he waited for his son.