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.
Ursula’s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warrior’s 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 other—that 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…
Worldbuilding: The fantasy world of The Twelve Kingdoms is rich, beautiful, uber well put together. I loved Annfwn beyond measure, its shape-shifting citizens and magic, but the other kingdoms were nothing to scoff at either. Beautiful landscapes, gorgeous castles, all kinds of interesting people – like the very Viking-like delicious Dasnarians xDDD -. Much, much awesome!!
Characters: I will confess Ursula was my favorite of the three sisters, from the very beginning of the series. Her fierce loyalty and sense of right and wrong, of duty, of self-sacrifice in the name of caring for and protecting her loved ones…and now, through this read, getting a better grip on her self-imposed solitude and lack of trust in her (and other people’s) emotions/feelings endeared her all the more to me. I loved Ursula already as I started reading this novel, but by the end of it, I loved her fiercely. I was aching for her happy ending, for her to get what she deserved. And she did get it, by taking it herself, yet another thing I loved about her. She got things done, kicked ass and had an astute strategic mind. I’m so in love with her character I can’t even begin to describe it.
Harlan was beyond awesome, loyal, dedicated, strong yet aware he was second seat in this show. The man knew how to support and have Ursula’s back, and I loved and admired him for it. He loved her tenderly, sweetly, passionately – and they had scorching hot chemistry 😀 Yum!!
I also loved seeing the three sisters reunited, and I’m thrilled about the end of the story for them and the Thirteen Kingdoms 😀
Plot: The romantic arc of Ursula and Harlan’s HEA was awesome, a slow burn kind of romance with a lot of passion, and uber hot one on one – yet another one of Jeffe Kennedy’s strengths. The story had an alert pace, with cool action – battle scenes, chases -, but never in the detriment of character development. It’s not an agitated read, as we go through all of Ursula’s doubts and fears until we reach an ending I was personally rooting for ever since reading the first novel in this fabulous series.
Writing: First person, past narrative, Ursula’s POV. Her voice was what I expected from her, somewhat bound to protocol and being all proper, with subtle humor and a lot of heart. Loved it. Jeffe Kennedy’s usual kickass writing skills showed again in any and all departments: worldbuilding, tension-building, romance-building, character-building.
Curb Appeal: Cool cover, hooking blurb, instant buy author name – ever the impulsive buy material.
All in all, I highly recommend both the novel and the whole Twelve Kingdoms series to any fantasy romance lovers. It’s a sturdy read, it’s fun, exciting, imaginative, evokes loooots of feels, and it’s an awesome, frolicking fun ride! Take a chance on the series if you haven’t already. Super awesome writing, diverse characters, delicious and hot romance, power struggles, treason, murder, chases, fights, lots of ass-kicking, hearts breaking and mending… the best of all worlds.
I will for sure keep reading the series, and can’t wait for Dafne’s story!! xDDDD
Uorsin definitely deserved what happened to him in this novel, but if you’re curious about reading about him and Salena, the mother of the three sisters we’re read about so far, the prequel Negotiation novella is free on Amazon / Smashwords / Kobo for the release of The Talon of the Hawk, so grab it 😀 It’s short, but I read it real quick and loved it!
His all-over golden tan hinted that he often went unclothed outdoors, and his fair hair barely showed, leaving the rippling cuts of his muscle plainly defined. He seemed more lithe, more like a male animal, without the hardened leather armor he typically wore. Fortunately he and the other man retained strips of cloth over their groins, though their buttocks were bared.
Unfortunately, they commenced applying some sort of oil, the morning light catching it and making Harlan’s golden skin gleam over taut muscles. I resheathed my sword when I came close to slicing off a finger, Danu take him.
“Now, that,” Jepp said, coming to straddle the bench next to me, “is a fine way to start the day.”
“I thought you were teaching those mercs the Midnight form.”
“This is much more interesting. Everybody is coming to watch.”
Indeed, the other female Hawks had drawn quite close, expressions avid with more than casual interest. Marskal circulated, taking more bets, no doubt, but everyone else watched Harlan and his man. At the far end of the practice yard, Madeline and some of the maids and kitchen ladies gathered, their giggles carrying on the air like birdsong. The castle ladies would likely be sorry that they were not early risers and had missed the spectacle.
“Nice of you to grab us a ringside seat,” Jepp continued, sounding entirely too casual, “but then, this is staged for your benefit, isn’t it?”
I was sorry I’d put my sword away, as I had nothing to do with my hands now and seemed to be unable to look away from the glistening display of Harlan’s masculine form. “Yes. Marskal knows I’m keen to learn more about how these Dasnarians train and fight.”
“Oh, Captain, we are all keen to see more,” she drawled.
“No consorting,” I snapped, without thinking it through. Always a bad sign.
Jepp gave me an astonished—and terribly disappointed—look. “You can’t mean it.”
She leaned in on the pretext of drawing her knives to polish and dropped her voice. “If we’re to get out, it will be through them. I’m working on making some special friends.”
“Duly noted. But you needn’t do anything you don’t wish to.”
“Not exactly a sacrifice.” She boldly eyed the near-naked men. “I don’t mind fucking one or two. Or five. Possibly all at once.” The two men in the ring circled each other, thighs flexing in their half crouches, backs rippling, as they flexed muscles in display. “Do you think they all look that good under their clothes? I need to know. Call it scouting. Postcoital glow is excellent for extracting information from a man. Danu, I love my job.”
“You worry me, Jepp.”
“I won’t touch the captain, but say I can try a few of the others. Please?”
“Danu. Fine. Have any of them—even the captain. I don’t care. Just watch your own glow and what gets extracted from you.”
She tore her gaze away to cast me a quick, delighted grin. “You’re flustered. I’ve never seen you flustered.”
“Shut up, Jepp.”
The men connected, grappling, their hands sliding off the oiled skin of the other before catching to hold. They strained to master the strength of the other, their muscles hardened and impossibly bulging.
“I missed my workout is all,” I added. “All this waiting and wondering. It’s making me restless.”
Harlan flipped the other man and they went down in a tangle of limbs, the oil gleaming bright. The other man slipped partly free and Harlan laughed, exultant, scrambling to lock him into another hold.
“Uh-huh,” Jepp breathed. “I feel exceptionally restless this morning also.”
The maids and kitchen ladies had made bold to press through the ring of onlookers now—else they wouldn’t have been able to see through the crowd—and cheered wildly, cheeks pink and eyes bright. No one blocked our view, however, much as I wished they might.
“We’ll have a crop of Dasnarian-made babies in nine months,” I predicted. “And likely no Dasnarian fathers about to help feed the lot.”
“Mmm,” Jepp hummed, not listening to a word I said, fascinated gaze locked on the men as they tumbled over each other. Harlan had the other man pinned, facedown, locked so that he could barely struggle. Another mercenary counted in what must be Dasnarian, slapping the ground on a shout.
Thankfully that ended the match, the mercs, Hawks, and overexcited ladies cheering alike. Even Jepp leapt up from the bench, squealing in most un-warrior-like fashion. Harlan and the other man rose to their feet, now swarmed by the onlookers with much congratulating and slapping of backs.
“Not bad for a little rabbit!” The loser clapped the mercenary captain on the shoulder, shaking his head as he did.
Jepp turned on me with a stern, expectant expression. “You can count on me, Captain. I swear to extract as much as womanly possible”—she couldn’t suppress her grin at the thought—“and hands off Captain Harlan. Fair?”
“I told you, I don’t care if—”
“I’ll report!” She gave me a distracted salute and sauntered over to the man Harlan had defeated, a saucy sway to her trim hips. Harlan used her arrival to deftly extract himself from the cluster. For a big man, he moved with slick precision, and came toward me.
I stood to go, but he stepped into my path.
“Not bad for a rabbit?” I echoed his man, raising my eyebrows.
Abashed by nothing, he grinned. “‘Harlan’ means ‘rabbit’ in Dasnarian.”
“Not very auspicious.”
“I don’t know about that. What did you think?”
“An interesting sport,” I commented, keeping my eyes on his, pretending that he wasn’t standing nearly naked in front of me, glistening with oil and sweat. “As you noted, not terribly useful on the battlefield.”
“Did you like what you saw, though?” he pressed.
“Not enough to be further interested.”
He smiled easily. “You’re not tempted—not even a little?”
“Tempted?” I had gone for arch, not breathless, Danu take it.
“I think you are. We could trade lessons. You’d enjoy it.”
“You’re mistaken.” I deliberately looked at the sun, pretending to gauge the time. “I have no interest in learning a new sport; nor do I have free time to squander on pointless activities.”
“Never pointless, if done well.”
Over his shoulder, Jepp had her hands splayed on the other man’s pecs, as if measuring, gazing up at him with a bright, teasing smile. Madeline had corralled the maids into heading back to their duties, but more than one gazed back longingly. We’d be in for a bumper crop of babies, indeed.
Harlan turned, following the direction of my gaze. “Shall I order the men to keep hands off? They are accustomed to exercising that discipline.”
“As are you?” I riposted, seizing the opening and regretting it instantly.
“As well you know, Your Highness,” he returned in that smooth, deep voice, a caress in it that reminded me of the feel of his hands. “I would never press an undesired advance. Nor would my men. But yon ladies look most willing. The men will resist any and all invitations, however, if I instruct them so.”
“No need,” I sighed, thinking of Jepp’s ulterior motives and enviable enthusiasm. “I’d have every woman in Ordnung out for my blood. But make sure they behave themselves—and that they pay up for any babies they start.” That should have been in his almighty contract. Docked pay for each child left for us to raise.
“There won’t be any.”
“You’re so sure?” In my skepticism, I made the mistake of looking at him, his blond hair dark with the oil, the thick neck and corded shoulders. For some strange reason, my fingers itched to do as Jepp was even still—run my hands over the shape of those muscles, to feel that strength for myself, to discover if his skin was as smooth as it looked. I shouldn’t want that. Had never felt that desire.
He knew it, too, Danu take him, eyes glittering with answering invitation. This is staged for your benefit, isn’t it? “We have methods for preventing unplanned babies. Our women are always safe with us. No Dasnarian man would have so little care for his lover as to expose her to that danger. I should have made that clear last night. It didn’t occur to me that it was one of your concerns.”
“I have many concerns—none of them to do with you. Believe me, Captain, I haven’t given you or your… offer the least bit of thought.”
“Liar.” He leaned in close to murmur the word, so I scented his skin. Man, sweat, and sunlight. “How did you sleep? I tossed and turned myself. I kept thinking of you and the way you taste. Imagining how your hands on me would feel.”
Calling it a strategic retreat, I stepped back, removing myself from the temptation to touch him, to run my fingertips over his oiled muscles. “How unfortunate for you,” I replied. “I had far more important things to think about and still do. Excuse me, Captain.”
Satisfied at having set him back on his heels, I strode away, ignoring the fact that his amused laugh once again followed me.
1. If you were to describe your e-book/book in only one word, what would it be?
2. What would you say inspired you to write it?
This is the third book in the series, so much of the inspiration has come from the build of the connected stories of my three sisters, daughters of the High King. I wanted to write a book about a sword-wielding warrior woman, and this is her book.
3. What’s the longest time you’ve spent working on a project?
My first novel took me several years to write, counting all the revisions!
4. Would you say becoming an author has changed you? In what way?
That’s an interesting question. Maybe not being an author, but becoming a novelist has made me much more patient and able to work in a dedicated way on a long term project.
5. Was there ever a time, during your work on the e-book/book, when you felt like giving up? What made you change your mind?
Oh sure—that’s just a normal part of the process. One very good reason not to give up is the legal contract where they already gave me money, so I’m not allowed to give up! Beyond that, though, it’s the knowledge that the feeling will pass. If I let that “give up”moment get to me, I’d never finish a book.
6. What does your day-to-day life consist of? What else do you do, aside writing?
MY daily life is pretty quiet. I have a full-time career with an environmental consulting firm, too, but I work from home. I exercise first thing, then write for a few hours, then switch over to the day job. In the evenings I read and watch a movie with my husband.
7. Is this title part of a series? Without giving us spoilers, of course, what can we expect from the next e-books/books in the series?
This is the third of five I’m contracted for now. The next book is Dafne’s – the librarian, for those who are familiar with the series. She’s an orphan, a ward of the crown and has been a kingmaker, assisting the three princesses in their journeys. Now she’s going to go on a quest!
8. What do you have stored for us in the future? What are you working on/planning on next, aside this title/series?
I’m also working on a proposal for a new epic fantasy series with an erotic edge. Also, this fall, I’ll have a story in an anthology with five other authors called Dark Secrets: a Paranormal Noir Anthology.
9. Name your favorite fruit. cherries
10. Coffee or tea? Both
11. Favorite season? Autumn
12. How about fav time of 24 hours? I love the golden hour, just before sunset. The light is gorgeous
13. Were you a boyscout/girlscout? Girl Scouts for the win!
14. Favorite food for breakfast? cake
15. Latest book you’ve bought and read? Probably one of the Outlander books. Oh, funny! I read this as “longest” at first. LOL! Latest would be…The Shape of Temptation by Eleri Stone
16. Do you collect things like stamps, or key chains, or shoes? Masks
17. Favorite color, you know you want to tell us! Green!
18. Have a fav quote or personal motto? Don’t let the bastards get you down.
19. Cats or dogs? Cats
20. Dinner by candlelight or a night out clubbing? Dinner by candlelight
21. What song have you listened to most recently? Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams
22. If everyone would receive a prize for being best at something, you’d be no. 1 at...opening wine and champagne bottles
23. The one thing that always brightens your day is...my online friendships
About the Author & Links:
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.