Monday, July 06, 2015

JEFFE KENNEDY RUDC AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT

The Talon of the Hawk
The Twelve Kingdoms
Book 3
Jeffe Kennedy

Genre: Fantasy, Fantasy Romance

Publisher: Kensington

Date of Publication: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 13: 978-0-7582-9447-0
ISBN: 10: 0-7582-9447-6
ASIN: B00ONTR57A

Number of pages: 438
Word Count: ~130K

Cover Artist: Design by Kristine Mills,
Illustration by Don Sipley

Book Description:

A HEAVY CROWN

Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place of the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership, not beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king.

Ursulas loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warriors spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near. And she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never imagined her loyalty would become an open question on palace grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign witch at one side and a hireling captain at the otherthat soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior. She also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters, of her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth. Not with her father still on the throne and war in the air. But the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead

Available at Amazon   BN


Excerpt:

The bright pennants of Ordnung, High King Uorsins rampant bear topping them all, snapped in the cool breezes from the high mountain peaks. Those pristine white towers, the banners of the Twelve Kingdoms gathered under one, all symbolized my father and Kings greatest triumph. One I believed in with all my being.
            Or had once believed in.
            From the ravages of internecine wars and crippling enmities, Uorsin had united the kingdoms, bringing them together in lasting peace, capped by the shining castle he built on the ruins of the past. Always, no matter in what condition I returned home, Id felt a surge of elation at the sight, pride in my legacy and sacred duty.
            Not this sick dread.
            As we rode closer, the formidable grandeur of Ordnung only mocked me for my many failures of the past months. Soon I would stand before my King, and I had no idea how I would explain myself and my actions. Or what price he would exact.
            Nervous? Dafne, riding on her gentle palfrey, studied me with serious eyes. A scholarly woman with a quiet manner, she asked with complete sincerity what might sound like a taunt from another.
            Being nervous would imply that Im uncertain about the confrontation to come, I told her. I amreadying myself for King Uorsins sure disappointment. And his rage. Never forget the bears towering fury. As if I could.
            You dont need me to tell you, but you did the right thing, Your Highness. I wasnt sure which you would chooselove or duty.
            Think you I could have ripped a newborn from my baby sisters arms, with her barely recovered from thinking her daughter dead, hard upon the heels of her husbands murder?
            Dafne considered the question with due gravity. Which made her interesting. No court sycophant she, with ready answers to most please the people who governed her fate.
            Before I answer, Id like to make clear that I dont agree with the word murder. You did not kill Prince Hugh in cold blood, but rather in the heat of battle. More self-defense than anything.
            Remembering the sickening feel of my sword cutting through Hughs neck, realizing Id killed my sisters husband, I knew better. All of it had happened so fastHugh lunging to kill Rayfe, my other sister Andi thrusting herself between them. Id acted without thought, though hardly without consequence.
            Self-defense means defending ones own self. I was in no danger. He was my ally and did not deserve to die by my blade. Nor for me to compound my guilt by fobbing off responsibility for it onto Andi and the Tala.
            Queen Andromeda was right to insist on taking the blame. If Princess Amelia hadnt taken it as a reason to incite Avonlidgh to civil war, Old King Erich would have.
            Which is happening anyway. Warring over an infant heir. The disgust and frustration that had ridden me these past months leaked into my tone. Speaking to Dafne, though, and surrounded by my loyal Hawks, I could say what I normally would not. Ami and Hughs son belonged neither to Uorsin nor to Old Erich, though you wouldnt know it from the way the two kings behaved, both claiming him as heir. If I hadnt killed Hugh, we wouldnt be in this particular battle. One the Twelve, already plagued with problems, could ill afford.
            Thats on Erich, not you. As for the question of murder, Id put forth that defending your sister is the same for you as defending yourself. Both of your sisters are part of you on a profound level. In a way that even Queen Andromeda and Princess Amelia dont fully appreciate.
            A legal scholars mind, there. Always useful in a companion for someone in my position. And the answer to my question?
            Yes, Dafne decided. I think you would and could do anything. Youre certainly capable. If you believed it to be the right thing to do.
            Obeying the High King is the right thing to do, I replied, knowing full well I hadnt done so. The grind of guilt and failure made my bones ache. Semantic arguments aside, the High King commanded that I bring Amelias son to Ordnung. I could have and did not.
            Some truths exceed the law of man.
            But not the law of the King.
            The King is but a man.
            Dont let High King Uorsin hear you say that, librarian. You wont long keep your placeor your headspeaking that way.
            Would you report me? She cocked her head, brown eyes sparkling with curiosity. No trepidation thereonly apparent genuine interest. As if she had already gathered her information and predicted my actions. The answer I gave her would simply confirm or deny her theories.
            Have you no fear at all, Lady Mailloux? I asked, instead of feeding her the insights she sought. Let her continue to speculate.
            She transferred her gaze to the castle, imposing on its rise, framed by the snowcapped mountains. The corners of her soft mouth tightened. Its always strange to me to see it as it is, she commented. In my minds eye, I still see Castle Columba, though its been gone nigh on thirty years. I dont know if its fear or something else that digs at me now.
            And yet, you return, for a second time.
            It seems to be my fate. She gave me a wry smile. Amelia was right that Lady Dafne Mailloux often failed to observe courtesy. Not that it bothered me. So did my Hawks and the other soldiers I regularly trained, traveled, and fought with. Something about focusing on a greater purpose relegated the bowing and scraping to the negligible category. Besides, I owe you. When we thought Stella dead, you wanted to spare Princess Amelia the pain of it, to let her rejoice in having Astar happy and healthy. I expected you to be angry with me for forcing the truth into the open.
            She would be the one to lay it out there, when others would avoid the subject. Those had been dark hours, Ami near death from birthing the twins, then finding the girl, Stella, dead in her cradle. At least the boy, Astar, had stayed strong.
            I was wrong to conceal it from her. I shrugged, using the motion to loosen my shoulders. Not that it worked. Not only because she had the wit to see through the trick that I did not.
            I saw Stellas dead body, too, she reminded me. That black magic fooled us both.
            Enough that wed even buried her, giving someone enough time to abduct little Stella. Everything in me champed at the bit to be searching for my niece, to be helping Amelia instead of riding into Ordnung. Infinitely preferable to facing the High King with the news I brought. Neverthelessand though it had nearly killed meId followed my duty and returned home. Though wed traveled fast, a messenger could have caught up with us. I kept expecting one, saying theyd recovered the babe. With each passing hour that the news failed to arrive, my dread and uneasiness that Id made the wrong decision grew. Lately what had once been black and white had shaded into disturbing grays.
            I disobeyed a direct command, Dafne persisted. You would have been within rights to kill or dismiss me for it. So I owe you.
I should have given her credit for needing to know the truth, for being strong enough to stand up to the pain. You owe me nothing.
            Nevertheless, I have an idea of what youll have to deal with at Ordnung, and I couldnt live with myself if I let you face it alone. Returning with you was the least I could do.
            She meant that well, in all earnestness, so I didnt comment. Didnt say that no one and nothing could spare me my fathers wrath. Id learned that lesson early.
            Wed passed through the outlying farms and rode through the extensive township that surrounded Ordnung. People moved about busily, with the many chores of summer at hand. They acknowledged our passing with respectful bows and salutesand something else. A sense of wariness that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
            We did not travel with fanfare. Out of long familiarity with my comings and goings, the people did not dote as they might have on the rest of the royal family, so I did not expect effusive greetings. I preferred it this wayin part because it relieved me to dispense with the pomp and formalities when not necessary, but also because it gave me opportunity to take the measure of the people of Mohraya, the small kingdom that housed Ordnung.
            Uorsin saw to his own first, so the Mohrayans generally fared better than the other eleven kingdoms, regardless of the swings in harvest yields and other variable producers of wealth. No matter how severe the troubles in other parts of the Twelve Kingdomssome Id seen too much of lately, sorrows that weighed on meI could usually count on at least Mohraya to be doing well.
            Not so, it appeared. One more problem added to the precarious pile that threatened to topple over onto us all.
            No, things were not right here. The town burst at the seams, crowded with people. Overly so, despite the increased activity of the warm season. The farmers and livestock growers ought to be out on their land, tending to those concerns.
            Perhaps Id lost my count of days and theyd come into town for market or a fair. But I didnt think so.
            For a start, many of the people gathering in the squares were neither buying nor selling. Id never expect to recognize all the faces, but the citizenry teemed with unfamiliar looks. More men than usual. Tall ones, light haired, with broad, exotic features.
I called over my lieutenant. Marskal. I kept my tone easy, conversational, so he wouldnt go on alert. What am I seeing here?
            Seems the population has grown during our travels, Captain, he replied blandly. Hed been taking note, too, then. Part of why I relied on him.
            What do you put it down to?
            Weve long heard of the increasing conscription rates.
            Those are foreigners, not raw recruits and new conscripts.
            True, he agreed.
            Ive read the people of Dasnaria across the Onyx Ocean described as such, Dafne, still riding on my other side, observed. Tall, fair-haired, strongly built.
            Is that so, I replied. Both of them, knowing I did not ask a question, remained silent. I misliked it, foreboding crawling up my already aching spine. They could be here only with Uorsins knowledge, which made no sense to me. But then, so much of his behavior had become erratic. Ever since Andi rode home with the Tala on her tail. Absolute loyalty to my King and father meant I should not question him. As his heir, it fell to me to give him my unqualified faith and support.
            I hated feeling that erode, even in the quiet depths of my heart, where I harbored doubts I spoke of to no one. That I could hardly bear to examine myself.
            The nearer we drew to the castle walls, the more of these exotic men we spied. All hardened warriors to my eye, all heavily armed. Uorsin had dropped hints about having other resources beyond the somewhat questionable loyalty of the Twelve. Ordnungs guards manned the outposts and the usual positions on the wallsand then some. I counted surreptitiously, lazily turning my face to the sun. More than twice the standard posting. Looked like hed dug into those other resources after all.
            The conflict with the Tala and the overall unrest in the Twelve had made the High King wary. Understandable. But these changes edged past that into paranoia. Along with an expense we could not afford. More fears Id never give voice to.
            Jepp reported no alert, correct? I asked Marskal. I knew our scout hadnt, but it never hurt to confirm.
            Jepp, at Marskals head tilt, jogged her agile mountain pony closer. Captain. She nodded at me. I checked only at the guard gates, and they gave the all clear. No mention of this.
            Pass the word to be on alert, then.
            Jepp saluted and fell back. Not that I needed to tell my Hawks that something was awry in Ordnung. They knew it as well as or better than I did. As much as we could not be less than on alert, telling them so meant that they pulled in closer, taking long-rehearsed positions. Dafne remained placid, a pleased smile on her lips, though she had to be aware of her vulnerability.
            You might have done better to stay at Windroven, after all, I commented to her.
            Ill stick with you, if thats all right. Right with you. Ill keep up.
            Before we undertook this journey, I had doubted that. Now I felt certain she could keep up with the best of my Hawks. Unless we fled flat out, and it was frankly too late for that. Even if I hadnt been honor bound to return to Ordnung to face the King with the bad news, my instincts warned wed have to fight our way freeimpossible odds, not to mention a traitorous act.
            On that thought, guards stepped up to bar our passage into Ordnung. More of the foreigners, their helms making them look even taller.
            Who approaches Ordnung? one demanded in our Common Tongue, though his accent twisted the words.
            I stared him down, showing my great displeasure at being questioned, transforming the deep unease into righteous fury. Who dares raise a blade to a Princess of the Realm, Heir to the High Throne of the Twelve Kingdoms?
            Jepp and Marksal drew up closer, their battle readiness almost an audible buzz in my ears. For a moment, it seemed it might come to that, the foreign guard undaunted, scrutinizing me for some sign that I was who I claimed to be. I flexed my hand on the hilt of my sword, edging Dafne more behind me.
            A series of shouts in another language relayed from the walls and my challenger cocked his head, nodded, and stepped aside. Welcome home, Your Highness. He bowed but did not apologize. I ignored him and rode forward, not feeling welcome at all.
            We passed through the outer gates, the shadow of the walls passing chill over me.

I'm super excited to feather Jeffe Kennedy on my blog today as one of the feature authors at the Reading Until Dawn Convention happening in October 2015. RUDC will take place in Denver, CO from October 11 -15. I was lucky enough to get to hang out with Jeffe earlier this year and can say she is every bit as awesome as her books. Registration for RUDC is still open and promises to be a super fun time hanging out with authors and readers.






About the Author:

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. 

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. A fifth series, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, released starting with Going Under, followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract. 
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.