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.

Knights: Code of Chivalry

The Knights of Valor are a prominent part of my fantasy romance novels. Why? Because I like the good boy, the knight in shining armor, so to speak. While I don’t feel the need to be rescued, thank you very much, I’ve always been drawn to the white knight.

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While the Knights in my stories live by a moral code directly tied to the god they serve, that code wasn’t created in a vacuum. I’ve never listed the code these Knights follow, because that wouldn’t exactly keep the story moving in my novels, but their code is very much based on historical precedent.

Real knights in the days of yore had a code of chivalry that they were supposed to follow. How many did, well, that’s another post. The punishments for not following it, again another post.

While many parts of our past are lost to us, The Song of Rolland documented the code of chivalry during the time of William the Conqueror, around 1066 AD.

1066 AD Code of Chivalry

  • Fear God and maintain His Church
  • Serve the liege lord in valor and faith
  • Protect the weak and defenseless
  • Give succor to widows and orphans
  • Refrain from the wanton giving of offence
  • Live by honor and for glory
  • Despise pecuniary reward
  • Fight for the welfare of all
  • Obey those placed in authority
  • Guard the honor of fellow knights
  • Eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
  • Keep faith
  • At all times to speak the truth
  • Persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
  • Respect the honor of women
  • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
  • Never to turn the back upon a foe

Sounds a lot like what we’ve come to expect from knights that followed the code of chivalry. A few of these seem redundant to me, and a few seem too bravado for my Knights of Valor, but I did think through all of them as I was creating my own code.

The speak the truth at all times gives my Knights of Valor a great deal of trouble, and from time to time, they may have even had to interpret that a little creatively.

In my fantasy world, being chosen by the God of Justice to be one of his Knights and following the code of chivalry imbues certain holy powers, including the ability to channel the god’s power to smite evil. But that’s fantasy. I could see how some of this code could really hamper a medieval knight.

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There are other codes of chivalry, including the one espoused by the Duke of Burgundy in the 14th century, but it’s not really all that different from the list above. The code from King Arthur’s court is perhaps the most famous, though much of this is shrouded in legend. The lack of solid facts makes it fun to write about, but more subject to interpretation.

More interesting to my mind is that such a code had to be written. That many things which seem like basic values had to be spelled out. But then, it was another time and Dracor, God of Justice, has not always reigned supreme in human history.

 

How about you? What do you think of knights and codes of chivalry? Ever see any in a book you especially liked? Or maybe you think the whole thing was bunk and prefer the knight that follows no code?

Why Fantasy?

I love science. You see me quote it in my posts a lot. Part of the reason I like it is because it can actually help give us predictable outcomes, make life better for everyone, and it isn’t dependent on opinion.

Science doesn’t care that you want the Earth to be the center of the universe. It isn’t. It’s demonstrable, provable, and repeatable. Anything else is a hypothesis rather than proven science.

If it turns out to be wrong, we change. From Newton to Einstein to Hawking, our knowledge grows and changes. Then the engineers get a hold of it and make fabulous things, like the phone in my purse.

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Given this, why do I love fantasy? Why do I have a character use a teleportation spell when I could use a transporter and the theory of quantum entanglement?

Here are six reasons I write fantasy:

 

  1. Dragons. You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? No matter how hard I try to realistically wrap dragons into a science fiction world, it feels wonky at best. Even in a fantasy world, you have to be careful with how you use dragons, what limits on their power you put, and how to keep them from becoming the god-beings they already see themselves as being. Perhaps FTL dragon space travel…

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  1. The White Knight – This has always been a favorite trope of mine, so of course they feature in my work. Yet, the white knight doesn’t feel right in much of sci fi. While Star Trek, at least TNG, took the high road and showed humans in a more Utopian universe, most of my experience with science fiction doesn’t go this route. It tends to be gritty, filled with anti-heroes, and a very bleak outlook on our future.

 

  1. Aesthetics. – This is tougher to define, but there’s something more fun to me about horses, silk dresses, and castles. Yes, I know the smell was horrible, hygiene lacking, and the castles drafty. I know how women were treated since the advent of the plow. But that’s not what I’m writing about. This is a fantasy world with a different pantheon of gods and a different history. Once we add in magic, the benefit of brawn over brains diminishes. It allows me to experiment with good and evil in different ways.Which leads me to…

 

  1. Good Always Wins – I find this is easier to realistically achieve in fantasy world. Unless…

 

  1. Space Opera – Unless I am looking at writing Space Opera. Which, I have considered. I’ve had a few ideas floating around for alien words on the edge of the galaxy. I’d got he space opera route partially because a big portion of what interests me in Sci Fi is alien worlds, colonization, etc. That means FTL travel, and FTL travel doesn’t mesh with science as we know it. And yes, I do like space opera. Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly. Westerns aren’t my thing, but wow, I loved Firefly. Still mad as anything that they canceled that show.

 

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How about you? Do like sci fi or fantasy? Which do you prefer to read or write? Why?

Why Books?

Why do I choose to spend my time reading and writing with everything else in this world that competes for my attention?

Television. Movies. Games. Twitter. Facebook.

Whatever is your choice of diversion. But I’ve chosen books. Why?

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For one, I read romance novels, fantasy, and then Sci Fi. I dislike most romantic comedies, so once you exclude those, you’re really not left with much to choose from in the romance category. I can only watch Pride & Prejudice so many times.

Only recently has fantasy and sci fi really gotten any Hollywood love. Even then, there’s only a handful of movies and unless they have huge budgets, they look awful.

At least compared to my imagination.

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Looks like these astronauts are on Triton. There’s a story here…

And then there are the characters. Books, good books, do characters right. I am ecstatic when the bad guy goes down, and I love it when the hero wins because I’m invested in them. It’s much easier to invest me in a character via a book than a movie. That’s just the nature of the genres. I can actually see what the character is thinking and feeling. A good actor can get some of that across, but not like a good author.

TV shows,far more than movies, have a lot of potential for character development, but oftentimes, networks beat their shows to death rather than giving them a graceful ending. I can think of several right now, but X-Files always comes to mind first.

While I love an immersive video game RPGs, so many of them do wrong by the characters. *cough* Danse in Fallout 4 *cough* I feel like video games could be so much more, but they’re not there yet. Maybe they’ll never be. But I can hope. They feel like the closest to books to me, and I love the interactive aspect.

My favorite past time other than reading and writing is playing table top RPGs run by a competent DM. For those not familiar, this means games likes Dungeons & Dragons. Sure, they’ve gotten a bad rap, but our group of friends are all quite respectable and many hold very highly-paid day jobs. No basement dwellers among us, and no one lives at home.

But tabletop RPGs gets back to characters again. A good DM sets up the world and then turns the characters you’ve made loose in it. Yes, they keep the story going, but they never railroad you or force you to do dumb things to keep their plot going. They improvise to keep the players happy and interested. To keep them focused on what’s going on and engaged in the world.

Characters are what keeps me reading and writing.

How about you? What makes you read when you could be doing something else?

 

Mysterious Fireball Streaks Across the Night Sky

A fireball in the night sky would at least draw me to my window, if not outside. I have a bit of self-preservation in me (some might call it cowardice).

But then I live in a world where fireballs at night are not the norm.

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But I’ve often wondered if people in a fantasy world where there’s magic would respond in the same way. Would they be startled and intrigued, or would they respond much as we do to an airplane passing overhead?

I suppose it would depend. Simply because magic is possible, doesn’t mean it’s everywhere. And it’s possible that some cultures would’ve adopted it more readily than others.

Long ago, back before I had kids, I played World if Warcraft for awhile. I remember when they first came out with Blood Elves and it was intriguing to play a character whose whole race depended on magic, especially after having played a Tauren in Thunder Bluff.

I imagine a fireball in Thunder Bluff would’ve been met with a lot more interest than one in Silvermoon City.

In the novels I’ve written or am working on so far, there is magic, but it’s the exception. While magic exists, it’s unusual for someone to know how to use it. It makes them special. Unique. Dangerous. So far, all of these works take place in roughly the same kingdom.

As I contemplate another story in the same world, I am considering setting it in a very different kingdom the revolves around the imperial elves of T’analear. This would involve creating a very different culture. One that not only has embraced magic, but takes it for granted.

Kinda like my kids do with iPads. Of course there are iPads and they have access to all of the information in all of the world. And cat memes. Those too.

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I imagine Prince Celadrius would be more annoyed than curious about a fireball streaking across the night sky, whereas Sir Marcus would be grabbing his sword and shield.

How about you? What’s your response to a mysterious fireball in the sky?

 

 

 

 

Loving a Mage Lord: Part 5

Continued from Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 should you wish to catch up on the story. Or just jump right in.

Not sure if you all are enjoying this. Let me know in the comments below. I can either keep posting pieces of the story, or go back to my regular writer ramblings on Friday.

 

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Post 5

Aenwyn studied the deep red blooms, thinking through the spells she knew and how she could repurpose them.

Reaching for her magic, she teased off a strand and wrapped it around the blossom, coaxing it to change color.

The flower stayed red.

She tried again, taking a different approach and modifying a different spell.

“Closer,” Dryden said.

He linked his fingers with hers so her bare palm pressed against his, and she felt the rush of his magic. Strong. Powerful. Controlled. He could overwhelm her if he chose, sweep her away with the sheer intensity of his magic.

Instead, he guided her, nudging her closer to the correct answer without showing her how to do it. The touch of his magic and the quiet gentleness of his guidance revealed more about him than words ever could.

Her wards offered only a whisper of protection, and she felt as if he could see all she was, all she’d ever been.

Tamping down the fear and vulnerability, she started to pull back.

He allowed her to ease away, but he also lowered his wards for her, wards that were far stronger than any she could hope to breach. By letting her through, Dryden gave her a glimpse of the man who shared her magic.

With both of their wards cast aside, the magic mingled more freely between them. A deeper and more intimate joining that both terrified and delighted her.

Swallowing hard, she forced herself to focus on the flower. She wove the spell, accepting his guidance, and watched the bloom turn yellow.

Excitement swelled through her. She touched another flower and turned it yellow. This time without his help.

“Yes, just like that,” he said. He reached up and caught an escaped strand of her flame-red hair, then trailed his fingers over the exposed flesh of her shoulder.

She closed her eyes as a delicious shiver of pleasure coursed through her.

She felt him strong and powerful beside her, felt his magic flowing through the gardens and around her. The heady fragrance of flowers filled the air, but she barely noticed them over the rich almost electrical scent of him. Like the air after a storm.

He leaned closer, the planes of his chest brushing against her, teasing over the skin her dress left exposed.

Her breath hitched as desire snaked through her. Tightening her hold on his hand, she pressed closer to him, enjoying the sensual contrast of his heavy mage robes against her bare flesh.

Dryden’s hand slid down her back and held her tightly against him as he touched his lips to hers.

Loving a Mage Lord: Part 4

Continued from Part 1Part 2, Part 3, should you wish to catch up on the story. Or just jump right in.

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Post 4

His words weren’t a request. Aenwyn sucked in a breath. While she and most of the Empire knew of Mage Lord Dryden, what was said about him wasn’t complimentary. She almost regretted letting Caewyn go.

Almost. She wanted to see her friend happy more than anything.

Gathering up her courage, she walked to the edge of the dance floor then turned to face Dryden. “My apprenticeship? I’m the duchess’s companion, nothing more.”

“I can protect you from Lady Melisandra better than a half-trained wizard can, duchess or not.”

Aenwyn swallowed, and her eyes darted to the crowd.

“Come, let’s talk. I promised to be a gentleman, and I will be.” Dryden offered her his arm, and Aenwyn bit her lip but took it, forcing her hand to remain still despite the fluttering in her stomach.

The sea of guests parted before the mage lord, and he swept her outside and along the paths of the garden.

She could feel the change in him, feel him relax under her fingers as a whisper of his magic seeped through his wards. Sky magic, she was almost certain of it. Sky mages were some of the most powerful, though the title of archmage meant he’d mastered all schools of magic.

No small feat, and it was a testament to his tenacity as well as his intelligence and skill.

They were deep in the gardens when he took a deep breath and let it out. His magic flowed over her like the quiet blanket of night.

“You don’t like the crowds.”

Dryden lifted his shoulders. “Do you?”

“I’ve learned to deal with them.”

“To be Lady Escadia’s companion?”

“A companion is of little use if she never leaves her rooms.”

“And a mage of great potential is of little use if she spends her time as a companion.”

Straightening her spine, Aenwyn glared up at the haughty archmage. “How can someone as offensive as you have such serene magic?”

“The truth is seldom flattering.”  He paused then looked at her. “You can feel my magic even through my wards.”

“It leaks. Less so inside than out here. Probably because you’re back under the sky.”

“Gifted and observant. You’re squandering your potential.”

“Not all of us have the birthright to get to do as we choose.”

“A failing of a crumbling empire.”

“I do what I must.”

“Which is why you’re hiding behind Escadia. Listening to her tutors and doing her work for her.”

“You can’t prove that.”

“I don’t have to.” Dryden paused beside a flowering shrub. “Can you turn the blossoms yellow?”

“Why?”

“Because I want to know if you can.”

“I never learned that spell.”

“You are an elven wizard. Can you do it anyway?”

Aenwyn frowned, but she accepted his challenge.

Loving a Mage Lord: 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2.

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Dryden ignored the stares as he charged into the ballroom only to find Lord Caewyn leading the red-haired woman to the dance floor.

Perhaps the young elf lord wasn’t a fool, or he recognized the benefits of Lady Escadia’s title, wealth, and connections.

The archmage doubted Caewyn could appreciate her magic.

Even now, Dryden felt the whisper of it across his flesh. More seductive than the finest courtesan and more alluring than a book of arcane secrets.

Jealousy pricked him as the red-haired elf smiled up at Caewyn. Dryden frowned. Such emotion was unworthy of an archmage, especially in response to someone he was considering as an apprentice.

Yet, there it was. Foolish to deny it, but more foolish to embrace it.

He had to tread carefully. Escadia’s mother was an archmage in her own right, and while she’d married into the Lockheart line, it was well known that she had plans for her daughter. Plans many suspected that included a royal marriage.

Dryden paid little attention to politics, but he knew the woman dancing with Caewyn deserved better than anything Melisandre had planned.

He had to learn more, to gauge if her magic was as strong as it felt.

The archmage crossed his arms and waited until the music ended before approaching Caewyn and his dance partner.

“Mage Lord Dryden,” Caewyn said and dipped his head. “My family is honored you’ve joined us this evening.”

“I thank you for the invitation.” Dryden barely glanced at Caewyn as his gaze fixed on the young woman beside the elven lord.

“Allow me to present Aenwyn Dawnsky.”

A frown creased Dryden’s brow. “Aenwyn Dawnsky? You’re not Lady Escadia?”

“She’s up there,” Aenwyn said, motioning towards a beautiful raven-haired elf that had a large circle of gentlemen around her. “Would you like me to introduce you to her?”

Caewyn stiffened, but Dryden waved away the offer. “I will leave her to Lord Caewyn and his ilk. It’s you I wish to see.”

Her hand trembled on Caewyn’s sleeve, and the young lord laid his over top of hers. “Aenwyn is needed to chaperone Lady Escadia.”

“Lady Escadia is quite capable of chaperoning herself. But if you insist, than you can introduce me to the duchess. I’m sure she’ll be less-than-pleased to spend the evening with me, but I’ll tolerate her for Aenwyn’s company.”

Aenwyn smiled up at Lord Oakenvale. “Go see Escadia, and remember what I told you.”

“I can’t leave you alone with him.”

“You can, and you will.”

“He’s an archmage.”

“I’m Escadia’s companion.” She squeezed Caewyn’s hand. “I’ve dealt with worse than him. Besides, you need to work on what we discussed.”

Caewyn frowned. “If you’re sure…”

“I am. Now please, before he draws any more attention to us.”

Caewyn glared at Dryden. “You will, of course, be a gentleman. I’ll consider it a personal offense if you’re anything less.”

Dryden’s brows winged up, but he nodded once.

Caewyn sucked in a breath, squeezed Aenwyn’s hand, then disappeared into the crowd.

Dryden stared after the elven lord a moment then up at Escadia. “Fool’s in love with her.”

“He’s not a fool,” Aenwyn said.

“I suppose she’s beautiful, wealthy, and has a modicum of magic. Not entirely a poor choice.”

“And she doesn’t care a whit what society thinks of her, can be generous to a fault, and would stand up for someone she cares about, even against an archmage.”

“Love has no place in noble marriages.”

“You sound like Escadia.”

“Perhaps she’s more intelligent than I thought.”

Aenwyn’s eyes narrowed. “Or you’re both wrong.”

“You believe in love?”

“The twin goddesses of love are just real as Ionex or Dracor. Perhaps if more elves believed in Them, we wouldn’t be faced with a rapidly declining population.”

Dryden arched a brow at her, and a smile curved his lips, one that reached his eyes. “Walk with me in the gardens. We need to discuss your apprenticeship.”

 

Loving a Mage Lord: 2

It’s Friday!  As promised, here’s the next post of the story started here.

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Dryden cursed as he pushed through the crush of silk-clad guests. What had convinced him to study Duchess Escadia Lockheart in her “natural” environment?

While possession by a demon of Rashallee seemed the most logical reason, the truth was he didn’t believe Escadia was nearly as gifted in magic as the Mage Council thought. Before he accepted her as an apprentice, he needed to see her true capabilities when she didn’t know he was looking for them.

He wasn’t about to be saddled with another politically connected but unskilled apprentice. Not when the Night of Ursius was within two solar cycles.

The archmage couldn’t waste any more time with idiots and dabblers. He had to find a true wizard. Not just capable, but gifted. Someone that could help him channel and mold the raw power they’d need to complete the spell. And he had to find them soon.

Two nobles pranced past wearing ridiculous mage robes strewn with jewels and embroidery. He doubted either could cast more than a rudimentary spell, and their personal wards were lackadaisical.

Snorting in disgust, Dryden had no doubt why the Elven empire was crumbling. They were too busy playing wizard to train as one. They spent their time longing for what was lost rather than doing the hard things that were needed.

Might be heresy to even think such a thing, but Dryden knew the humans could teach his people a lot about getting things done.

He sucked in a breath, and the archmage grimaced and buried his nose in his sleeve. The thick scent of too much perfume, poorly crafted magical wards, and sweet wine was amplified by the heat of a thousand bodies.

At least Lord Oakenvale’s cavernous ballroom accommodated the crowd. From the gilded crystal chandeliers, to the rare orchids in jeweled vases, and the heavy marble floors, it was designed for ostentation and massive gatherings.

Good thing, as it appeared half the elven nobility was at the ball.

Dryden reinforced his personal wards. Even at the edge of gathering, he felt exposed.

By Ionex’s third eye, how he longed for the quiet of his tower. The birdsong. The wind. The rising and setting of the sun and moon. He couldn’t even see the stars from within the ballroom.

Elven homes looked more and more like dwarven dwellings, or even human ones, as they walled themselves off with brick and stone.

Perhaps that’s why wizards were increasingly rare. The elves were losing their connection to the flow of magic and replacing it with false promises of security after the Great Cataclysm.

A giggle to his left focused him on a debutante and her mother. One scowl had them backing away, but several other elves stared at him and started to approach. A quick teleportation spell saw him across the room and beside the wide doors that led out to the expansive gardens.

Such a raw display of magical power was gouache, perhaps, but he no longer cared. He was there for one thing, and being married off to a nitwit wasn’t it. Dryden was again reminded why he hadn’t attended a social function in decades.

Glancing back towards the receiving line, he didn’t yet see the duchess. Escadia Lockheart was known for many things, but punctuality wasn’t one of them. She was proving the rumors correct on that account, at least.

Having enough of the heat and crowds, Dryden excused himself to the gardens. None were foolish enough to stand in an archmage’s way, and he was left alone to prowl the pathways.

As he rounded an exotic tree heavy with crystalline flowers, he caught sight of the line of carriages waiting to drop off yet more guests. Dryden almost turned and walked away when he saw two women disembark from an especially elaborate conveyance. Looking closer, he realized it bore the Lockheart crest.

Pausing, he studied the young women. Their magical wards were impeccable, but even through them, he felt the thrum of her magic. It’s faint whisper a heady concoction that had his own heart beating faster.

His derision at her tardiness fell away. She was everything the Mage Council had said. Everything and more.

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.