Shadow Prince: Chapter 22

shadowyman1bHave you had a chance to read chapter 22 of the BeastKing Chronicles? That’s right: It’s posted on FictionPress! 😱 In “Shadow Prince,” Rome has a flashback to his childhood playmate Sare, which morphs into nightmare about Bre. You gain some insight into what kinds of memories and emotions Rome might have been blocking out in order to save Bre from Lord Alonza in chapters 14-15.

Mistress Healer decides she is ready to take Rome to see Bre. But is Bre ready to see Rome? Being locked in a pitch-black dungeon cell hasn’t really made her chatty. Even if she was expecting Rome (which, she’s not), this Rome would not be the one she would expect.




The Power Cripple x2

If you didn’t see my Tweet… I posted chapter 21 on FictionPress last Sunday. Because both Rome and Mistress Healer are key in this chapter, I debated whether to name it “The Power Cripple” after Rome, or “The Silver Healer” because of Mistress Healer’s reintroduction through Rome’s eyes. In the end I named it “Power Cripple” because, used as a noun title, it could describe either Rome or (in a sense) Mistress Healer. If you’re scratching your head at saying Mistress Healer is crippled in the realm of Power, remember that she is notable among the temple wards (i.e. servants and maidens) for demonstrating political influence in lieu of magical Power.

lightning-bolts-with-laser-beamIn this chapter, Rome wakes up with temporary amnesia. He does somewhat recover from that, only to then find himself at a disadvantage of epic proportions: Powerless, within a Power fortress. Sure, Rome’s supernatural-enhanced body can take a pretty nasty beating. But Temple defenses were built to withstand the supernatural—specifically his brand. Rome was able to enter, but his supernatural component was not. Saving Bre without it could prove impossible, guarded as she is in the depths of the temple.

envelope-with-letter-clipart-free-vector-letter-envelope-clip-art_114467_letter_envelope_clip_art_hightThis chapter is epic, in my mind, because remember: Rome and Mistress Healer have never met before. Flash back to the first few chapters of Book 1, when teenage Rome is exasperated because teenage Bre wants a personal emotional response from him before she is willing to give him the note. The note is from Mistress Healer. Rome and Mistress Healer were corresponding way back then. Rome definitely wanted those notes—wanted them badly enough to admit to embarrassing-for-him emotions toward Bre. But no way was he going to clue Bre in on the contents. If your memory while reading is especially good, you might even remember that Rome thinks something about the mating rituals of humans as he’s stashing one of the notes into a tree trunk (which seems to be his favorite type of spot to hide stuff).

Well, now you get to find out what Rome really thought about Mistress Healer’s writing.

silhouette-of-couple-2785805You also may remember that later in Book 1, as Rome and Bre are walking through the forest, Rome makes a case for why Mistress Healer would make a good suspect in collaboration with Pandora. It doesn’t make sense to him why Mistress Healer has taken such an interest in teaching things to Bre that serve no purpose to her employment other than to potentially get her killed. It makes more sense to him that she is someone who knows too much without reason, and therefore should not be trusted.

Needless to say, finally meeting the “infamous Mistress Healer” is quite an event for Rome. And when something is an event for Rome, he tends to make it a memorable event for everyone involved.

The Prodigal Returns: to his friend, to her mistress

I posted chapter 20 this week! If you haven’t read “Prodigal” already, follow this link to go check it out!

Bre comes face-to-face with the judgment of her temple, with the mistress she abandoned, and with the priest she pressured Rome to set free. But she never expected to have a chance at a “free pass”! All she has to do is give up Rome, and let him take the blame…

Meanwhile, Rome is determined to storm the temple to save Bre, but he is just about the only person who thinks that is a good idea. Poisoned, and standing on the wrong side of a supernatural barrier, Rome’s rescue attempt is moving at trudge.

Bre certainly could use some saving; she’s having a pretty horrid time of it. But can Rome even make it in there? Even if he does, he has no idea what is waiting for him on the other side, he has no map of the fortress, and the only way in is a doozy…

If you’ve been trying to guess thus far as to what Rome truly is, make sure you pay close attention in this chapter! You’ll get some major hints!

Please note that I have specified in the title of Volume 2 that it is specifically entitled “Ignoble,” as it was once before. If you have bookmarked it as only “Volume 2,” unfortunately because of the way that FictionPress does its web addressing the bookmark link will no longer work. However, a simple search on FictionPress should do the trick! The title on FictionPress is “The BeastKing Chronicles Vol 2: Ignoble.” If it doesn’t pop up, try taking out the semicolon.

If my updates haven’t been moving fast enough for you, or if you’re a Paranormal or Fantasy-Romance author looking to connect, be sure to follow me on Twitter! I realize blog posts can be far between, especially when I’m holed up writing the BeastKing Chronicles! Twitter should provide a quicker connection point. I plan to post some memes with quotes from whatever chapter I am working on, so if you want to get sneak peeks, go ahead and find me as SeriahBlackShp! The link is provided on the righthand side panel.

Cruel Beauty: Pure Love or Wicked Love?

Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Summary:
Nyx is trained from childhood to take down her future husband, the Demon Lord of Bargains, who holds the kingdom of Arcadia captive and offered the bargain that stole her mother’s life. Knowing the mission will cost her own life, she grows to resent the people around her, who are allowed to be happy. Nyx faces her fate squarely, but neither her husband, nor his servant, nor the house they live in are what they appear to be. She starts to fall for her husband’s tranquil servant, a shadow who desires to help her but is unable to lend much assistance. The lines between hate and love blur as Nyx realizes that the resentment and selfishness in her own heart are not so different from the quick-witted wickedness of her doomed husband, and that he may be the only person who does not ask anything of her. In the end, the fate of the world rests upon the choice of embracing pure love or wicked love, who to betray, and whether once-in-a-lifetime love is worth sacrificing the rest of the world.

This is a paranormal/occult Beauty and the Beast novel, set in Greco-Roman times, in the kingdom of Arcadia. Multiple Greek gods and myths are referenced throughout the book, as the belief system of the majority of the characters.

My Thoughts:
The book started off pretty redundant and slow, with the recurring theme of Nyx’s hurt from her father’s inaffection, disgust toward her aunt’s affair, and internal battle against hating her sister Astraia (who was not chosen to wed the Gentle Lord because of her resemblance to their dead mother) and hating her mother (whose death began Nyx’s life of revenge). I felt like I really didn’t need these themes hammered home as many times as they were within the first couple chapters.

Once I figured out that this story was not about an epic take-down, but about solving riddles, I was able to sit back and enjoy it. The fact of the matter is, nobody really knows that much about the Gentle Lord, a.k.a. the Demon Lord. And certainly nobody but his wives and the doomed people he’s bargained with know much of anything about his house. The only person who seems to know stuff is Shade, who is bound not to tell, and the Kindly Ones (who aren’t so kind, and aren’t so available). Everybody else is trying to figure stuff out. Once you see the story as one big puzzle, it makes a heck of a lot more sense.

What really threw me was that Nyx’s original tactic for taking down the Gentle Lord’s house (with him, and probably herself, inside it) was almost irrelevant. She needed to find the rooms, yes. And they had massive significance. But it felt like there was virtually no point to all that world-building about Hermetic sigils and workings, except to give context for her father’s position. I think Nyx only used a sigil once in the entire book (turning off her bedroom lamp once to show how it works doesn’t count). And her “virgin knife” never made an emphatic comeback. Not to mention, throwing away her only true trump card—her virginity—didn’t make that big of a splash. Not only was it not played up after all those nervous warning bells in the beginning, but it didn’t make any difference to the outcome. She drops her dress, and then *bam* next scene. I thought, Wow, that could have happened a lot sooner, with virtually no ripples.

It was about halfway through the book that my mind started doing gymnastics, attempting to guess the answers to all the riddles and how they all tie together. It got super fun from there, though not a lot more emotional until nearer to the end. I won’t tell you the ending, but I will tell you that it’s worth getting to. And, DON’T SKIP AHEAD!!! Seriously, you’ll be soooo confused, because at one point the chronology becomes super important. If you read the book in order, you’re already getting pieces from all different parts of the chronology, so skippers beware. I didn’t skip, but if you do, you’ll just jumble the brain-bending ending.

If you’re intrigued by the book’s cover blurb about an unconventional Belle and a not-so-charming lord, this is definitely the book for you. If, however, you are waiting to see that there’s a lovely Prince Charming beneath that gruff, scarred male exterior…go find another book. Part of this book’s charm is that it doesn’t conform to that old-school/Disney pop-culture transformation; it’s more realistic.

I really enjoyed this book, as a story full of puzzles and riddles and mysteries and unconventional romance. The heroine is smart (but not too smart), and doesn’t give up easily, and she doesn’t change all that radically. This book is very much about loving people as they are, and loving within your capacity to love.

So, don’t read this book for the assassination action. Read this book to get to know Ignifex and Shade, the two juxtaposed, troubled men that Nyx is not sure she can save.

In all honesty, I would have liked some more details in the narration—more narrative coddling and in-depth, in-their-head emotional action. I felt a bit distanced from the characters, like I was watching the story unfold rather than feeling my heart race when I looked at one guy or the other, or almost drowned in a supernatural pool, etc. But I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint exactly how this should have been incorporated, because I feel like all of the characters were intentionally distant; they all had secrets. And the secrets were what made the book interesting.

View all my reviews

Beasts, Alphas, Doms, and the BDSM Line

First, I’d like to thank my anonymous reviewer for their compliment, in saying that my story was well-written. But second, I would like to address some concerns that this reviewer brought up.

For those of you who haven’t read the review, the subject is the mentality behind alphas and dominants, and what that tendency actually says about the person in question. This begs the question of whether an alpha can ever be considered a well-rounded character. Since one of my two main characters is a beast character, and he is the focal point, this tension is makes up the crux of my story.

“I have always found over-the-top ‘alphas’ or ‘doms’ to be more than a little repugnant…”

Alphas and dominants certainly cater to a particular taste. The stories that revolve around them often center around the issue of control. This is because being an alpha means being at the top of the food chain, and therefore usually at the top of a societal structure. Think “natural leader” who’s got the fate of his clan or community or business in his hands. (Note that when most fantasy or paranormal readers see the word “alpha,” they typically think “werewolf pack leader.”)

Control for an alpha is a double-edged sword. On the one edge, he has to keep control of his pack—settling squabbles, administering justice, appeasing offended parties, protecting against outside forces. He’s the politician and the ranking military commander at the same time. On the other edge, he has to keep control of himself; he’s the most powerful member of his community, and he’s accountable for how he handles that power. Theoretically, he has the ability to bring down the whole pack with him. Not to mention every life he is responsible for is on his conscience.

Now, let’s move on to beasts. If you’ve snooped around Beauty and the Beast stories and TV shows, you’ve probably noticed that there are two types of beast characters that writers present: the man who is beastly on the outside, and the man who is beastly on the inside. Often beastly characters end up ugly on the outside as a reflection of being ugly on the inside (i.e. by a curse or a spell). But there are exceptions where a kindly man is unfortunate enough to end up with a repulsive appearance by no fault of his own. The woman who can see through that guise is richly rewarded—either by the amazing character of the man underneath it all, or by a more material peeling back of the ugliness to grant the heroine a physical representation of the beautiful man she knew him to be all along.

Now let’s look at my alpha beast character specifically.

My reviewer is right: Rome is incomplete, and he is damaged. His parents were murdered when he was a child, leaving him orphaned, and he didn’t cope well. Then he got a beast persona shoved into his already-existing personality. And then his best friend and crush dumped him, and he doesn’t know the whole story of why. He’s been abandoned most of his life, he’s in a constant psychological battle for his sanity, and he doesn’t understand love.

What he does understand, is that he has issues—the kind that make him unsafe for people to be around. He feels a very strong connection to Labriella, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. He doesn’t trust himself to do the right thing, but he can’t bring himself to stay away from her either.

Labriella, for her part, does not stick around for the pain and pleasure of the experience. She sticks around because she feels the deep connection too. She sticks around because she wants Rome himself—even if that is impossible for him to comprehend. And she’s willing to demonstrate that by putting up with a lot.

If you think Labriella is the type to just “roll over” once she’s comfortable, though, you’re greatly mistaken. Rome has a way of bringing out the adventurous side of her. You’ve only had snippets of it so far. Remember, she’s used to that spark inside her being extinguished by the temple. Once she learns that Rome’s baiting her (rather than just trying to push her buttons)…well, let’s just say things’ll get a little steamy. Just give the tables time to turn.

What kind of relationship does that make this? Is it BDSM?
Well, Rome’s an alpha beast, so we’ve already got the “D” for “Dominance.” I did consider putting some light bondage into the story—the handcuffed or tied-wrists kind, not much beyond that. I’m still undecided as to whether that’s a good idea, though, because that might give you the idea that Rome has to tie her down to make her stay. And while he may think that, it doesn’t make it true. As for SM…well, the only pain between the main characters in this story should be incidental. Hurting one another isn’t going to make them happy or satisfied. In fact, Rome is deathly afraid of hurting her. Only a few love-bites might be on purpose.

The idea is that letting one person in can change everything. (…Well, that’s one of the ideas, anyway.) So, you’re right: Aggressive posturing is not the way. But my intent is not to glorify Rome’s aggressive posturing. The intent is to introduce a new element to soften it, and bring balance to the equation. And that element is Labriella.

So I would ask you this about Rome: Is he immature because he is an alpha? Or is he an immature alpha?

Because I would say that an alpha is supposed to take care of others. He shows his maturity by fulfilling this responsibility. But living alone does not facilitate relating to people. An alpha without at least one person to depend on him…How can he possibly learn how to be a good leader? How to be a good husband? How to be a good friend?

As for the kinds of women who are attracted to this kind of male character…

I theorize that there are 4 common draws to fictional alpha characters:

  1. the quest for power
  2. the desire to not be responsible for once
  3. sympathy for the emotional plight
  4. curiosity

Quest for Power. I’m talking about that man or woman who always has to be in control, be the best there is, or come out on top. They don’t care who they have to step on to get there. In fact, stepping on certain people might make them feel more powerful. And that’s good, because it’s all about them. They want to be that alpha. They’re jealous of him, so they’re studying him. One day, they’ll have more; they’ll be better. Or one day, they’ll have someone like him, to love and control. He’s the top dog, so they’ll make him submit, to prove that they are the only one who can do it.

Desire Not to be Responsible. Some people just plain get tired of being in control. They have to make all the hard decisions all day, every day. They always have to look out for themself, because nobody else will. They have to take care of their entire family, and they want to know who’s going to take care of them. Or they realize that they’re reserved or reclusive or socially awkward, or will always say “maybe later” to the person they’re actually dying to be with. To these people, an alpha male looks like the perfect solution. Maybe they’d push back in real life. But in the safety of their own head? He brings out their repressed wild side. And maybe, just maybe, they can trust him.

Sympathy for the Emotional Plight. It’s not about control at all; it’s about the person on the other end of it. The alpha has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he may or may not know how to handle it. Who’s going to help him? Who’s going to care for his heart, when everyone else just cares about what he is or isn’t doing for them? Who’s going to hold him when he comes home exhausted and broken at the end of a long day? Who’s going to be his sidekick when nobody wants to follow his lead, or when he doesn’t believe in himself, or when the problem’s too big for him to face alone? “I’LL DO IT!” scream ten million fangirls. Because it’s not just about where he has the power and the prowess and the bravado; it’s about where he doesn’t. (Otherwise, he would be a hatable character.)

Or maybe they look at the alpha male, and say, “Hey, that reminds me weirdly of me…or how accomplished I wish I was. Where’s my sidekick love-interest?”

Curiosity. These are the outsiders looking in. They’re not really sure what’s going on, or how they feel about it, but they’re interested to see a new-to-them concept play out. “To each his/her own” is their motto. They’re just wondering what some people’s “own” looks like. They want to see something new and exciting. They can’t wait to see what happens next, because it doesn’t play according to the usual rules of engagement. They want to dip their toe into the forbidden pool. Or they just want to slake their curiosity so they can stop wondering what all the fuss is about.

Feel free to chime in with another reason to add to my theory. Or if you’re thinking, ‘Heeeey, that’s not right!’, feel free to correct. What good is a theory, if it’s not perfected?

I will end by saying that I by no means think alpha males should appeal to everyone. I myself am rather on-the-fence about it. I don’t like a character to be too strong, but I don’t like them to be too weak either. For me, it comes down to what that character does with what is given to them—them learning how to use it, what they learn from having it, and watching them grow from it.