Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Fairytales Slashed Volume 7

Fairytales Slashed: Volume 7 is an anthology featuring reimagined LGBTQIA fairytale romances. This volume contains:

After Ever After by Nicole Field
Bearskin by Andrea Speed
No Witch's Brew by Helena Maeve
Lovers at the Lake by Asta Idonea
The Mercenary's Wedding by Keelan Ellis
The Thief's Daughter by Tess Amram
Dance Away by K.M. Penemue
In the Land of the Damned by Camillia Quinn

After Ever After by Nicole Field
After her fairytale wedding to Prince Phillip, Lotte comes to realize the ending she always imagined isn't what she expected. Then she meets Meg, a chambermaid in the palace, and begins to wonder if she'd been imagining the wrong happy ending all along.

Bearskin by Andrea Speed
A soldier returned from war, instead of a warm welcome Arron finds himself homeless, alone, and dying of illness alone in a cave. When a strange man makes a bet, Arron takes it: for three years he must live as an outcast, telling no one the truth. If he succeeds, he'll get a life of warmth and comfort. If he fails, he loses his soul.

No Witch's Brew by Helena Maeve
After the trenches of the Somme and a brief affair with a man well below his rank, Alistair traded the soldier's uniform for an earl's suit. Now widowed, all that stands between him and prosperity is his late wife's meddlesome boy, who has gone missing. If finding him means rekindling ties with Colm D'Arsy, avowed half-goblin and one-time flame, so be it.

Lovers at the Lake by Asta Idonea
When Prince Vladimir stumbles upon a lake and goes for a swim, he encounters Dušan. The two fall in love, but Vladimir's father wishes to marry him to a foreign princess, and when Dušan seeks help from a wood dryad, he discovers a happy ending always comes with a heavy price.

The Mercenary's Wedding by Keelan Ellis
Princess Adeline is a princess in misery, turned by magic into something she was never meant to be—magic that also affects the rest of her family by way of a terrible malady. Determined to make her a princess once and for all, a royal decree is issued: whosoever can tame the wild princess shall marry her and become king.

The Thief's Daughter by Tess Amram
When a thief steals from B's garden, taking a handful of roses and vanishing into the night, she doesn't think much of it. Petty vandalism is par for the course when your entire town hates you. What she doesn't expect is for the thief's daughter to show up on her doorstep, ready to pay a debt B never asked for...

Dance Away by K.M. Penemue
Queen Saffron arrives in the kingdom of Vosetis for Princess Kimberline's birthday, but there's no celebration in the air. Kimberline has fallen into a deep sleep and nothing can wake her. Even stranger, her elder sister and Saffron's beloved, the Crown Princess Aderes, disappears every night and returns with ruined shoes...

In the Land of the Damned by Camillia Quinn
Once upon a time Aldo proved his worth by going into hell and bringing back three golden hairs from the Devil, only to find himself in a marriage both he and his queen despise. Desperate to regain his freedom, Aldo goes in search of his missing father-in-law—and right back to the Devil he's never forgotten. 

After Ever After by Nicole Field
The first night in the palace wasn’t all bad. Nothing about her first night in the palace was what she’d been brought up to expect. Servants serving dinner. Servants helping her to undress. Servants nearby just in case she and the charming prince should need anything on their first night together as newly-weds.

Lotte was beyond relieved when the bedroom contained just herself and Phillip.

Her relief must have shown on her face because, the next thing she knew, Phillip closed the gap between them and took her hands in his. “I promise you, it gets easier with time,” he said.

“How much time?” Lotte asked, hearing the plaintive tone in her own voice.

With a small chuckle, Phillip leaned in close, his lips touching hers, causing tingles to her toes. And thus, their wedding night began.

There was a quiet knock at her bedroom door.

Lotte didn’t waken to it immediately. When the knocking came again, Lotte rolled over beneath crisp white covers. Her arm reached out, expecting to find Prince Phillip lying in the bed beside her. She woke up more as her hand came up empty of anything but a cold bed sheet.

“Huh?” Lotte said, blinking out her confusion.

The door opened a crack. “Miss?” came a small voice from the other side of the door.

Rather than dwelling on it, her upset at finding herself alone apparent to all, Lotte tried to pull herself together in time for the servant to come around the door.

“Yes, come in,” Lotte said, exhibiting a hand movement that she’d seen the prince’s mother demonstrate during dinner the night before. There’d been talk of etiquette lessons over dessert, but Lotte supposed she might as well get a head start.

This was another servant Lotte had never seen before. She wondered how on earth she was going to remember all of them. Surely there would be some few who looked after just her? Wasn’t that the way this sort of thing was supposed to go?

Quizzically, Lotte looked to the servant, wondering what she was meant to do now.

The servant girl gave a low dip of a curtsey and kept her eyes on the floor as she said, “I’m supposed to dress you now, Miss.”

Of course. Lotte should have guessed that being helped to undress the night before meant that she would be helped back into her clothes this morning. No doubt the servant was staring at the floor to save Lotte the embarrassment of not knowing where her place was in all of this. Still, she couldn’t help just one quick question escaping her lips, no matter how it discomfited her.

“Where is Prince Phillip this morning?”

“With His Majesty the king, Miss,” the servant spoke, gaze still downward cast.

“Please,” Lotte said, giving in to the instinct to wipe her hand over her eyes from where she sat alone in the middle of her bed. “What is your name?” She could hardly keep calling her ‘the servant’ in her head.

“My name’s Meg, Miss,” the girl answered obediently.

With a quick nod, Lotte rose from the bed and allowed Meg to dress her, even as she inwardly sighing at the absurdity of it. “If you’re going to see me in my undergarments,” she said to Meg, “I feel like you should call me by my first name. It’s Lotte, if you don’t already know it.”

“As it pleases Miss… Lotte,” Meg amended herself.

“Thank you,” Lotte said with a small sigh.

In the Land of the Damned by Camilla Quinn
The Devil sits upon his bone-white throne, naked and unashamed. Golden curls tumble around to his shoulders. Dark eyes gleam against alabaster skin. His wings unfurl, the kaleidoscope of colors shifting in the flickering blue fire. But the Devil’s grin is sharp as an executioner’s axe as he plucks a third golden strand from his head and holds out all three.

Aldo shivers in his boots, his gut dropping in a way he has never before felt. What would the miller and his wife think of Aldo now? A low-born orphan who ran away from a life without adventure, who’s somehow betrothed to a princess and journeyed into Hell to prove his worth. He’s too young to stand at the Devil’s throne and curry favor, only fifteen. This adventure has led him farther astray than he ever imagined.

Swallowing around the lump in his throat, Aldo wills his hands not to tremble as he reaches for the hairs.

The Devil surges forward, his left hand coiling around Aldo’s slender wrist, towering over him. Aldo’s heart thumps harder, not sure if he should heed his fear or indulge his curiosity. With sure fingers, the Devil turns Aldo’s palm face up. “Clever boy,” The Devil says, his voice ancient and mirthful. “Few can boast they’ve bested me. Fewer still are brave enough to claim their prize. Do you know why angel hairs are so valued?”

Aldo shakes his head.

The Devil’s thumb strokes across Aldo’s pulse, waiting in silence. After a moment, Aldo’s heartbeat settles, and the Devil continues. “Because the pieces of an angel hold more power than any mortal can control. No angel, fallen or otherwise, would allow so precious a cargo beyond their reach. To be parted from these strands will cost me dearly.”

The nape of his neck prickles, and static shivers across his skin. Aldo’s cheeks flush. His mouth runs dry as he gapes at the Devil. “Yet you honor our bargain?”

“As did you. You answered my questions, as you vowed. And here is your prize, as I vowed.”

His cheeks burn. Aldo drops his chin to his chest, masking his shame. “Don’t answer wrong,” the Devil had said when the terms were set. Just three answers, and Aldo would hold a bounty worthy of a would-be king. The first and second he spoke truly, but the third. Aldo shudders, still tasting his lie at the back of his throat.

He shakes himself. “The Devil lies,” he whispers, a bitter solace.

“When it pleases me.”

Mouth falling open, Aldo jerks his head back up. Something in the Devil’s dark eyes softens, the fire tamped down in favor of fondness. Though he cannot make it out, Aldo wants to flee from this expression and wallow in it at the same time. Then, the Devil exhales and his shoulders slump. His eyes flit away from Aldo. “Take your boon.”

The Devil presses the hairs into Aldo’s hand. The strands are warm against his skin, whispering secrets in a language Aldo can’t understand.

For a moment, Aldo gapes at the prize in his hand. His quest is complete. He can go home, now with proof for his ever-hateful father-in-law that the midwife who cleaned the clinging afterbirth from his head and face was right, that his caul birth meant he was destined for greatness, that even a penniless wretch can be worthy of a throne.

With a huff of joyless laughter, the Devil speaks. “Now go, boy. Return to your queen and your crown.” The Devil cradles Aldo’s hand, pressing his palm closed with a lingering tough. “It does not do for mortals to dwell in the Land of the Damned.”

Aldo jolts upright in bed, shoving the blankets off him and letting the night air soothe his burning skin. Every time, the dream burns more brightly behind his eyes, the memory seared into his skin. He closes his eyes and shakes his head until the afterimage wears away.

Beside him, the sheets are cold. Hilde hasn’t come to his bed in weeks. She rarely does these days, only when the moon is right and the alchemists say she is ripe for conception. Their mechanical couplings leave him drained and restive. Such is the way of things, he’s been told. Maybe high-borns have perfected the marriage process, but Aldo doesn’t remember Hilde grinning half as merrily as the miller’s wife would smile. Even if he tried his hardest, Hilde smiles for no one. Not anymore.

Aldo recalls the day he set out from the miller’s home at the foot of the river to seek his fortune, or rather the day his fortune found him. Midway through the woods, Aldo came upon a party of knights, among them a broad man with a scar across his throat, King Ewald. The king studied Aldo for a moment before revealing he and his men were searching out a caul-born boy, born fifteen years prior in a mountain village at the headwaters of the local river but had not found him within the village.

Eager to aid his king, Aldo explained he was now fifteen, and his adoptive parents, the miller and his wife, had found him floating downriver in a basket. The king stood wide-eyed before an eerie smile crossed his face. He told Aldo, then, that midwives said caul-birthed children were special, destined to marry royalty, and that Aldo should camp with the king and in the morning, they would journey to the gray keep and Aldo would marry the king’s daughter.

Nicole Field
Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with one of her partners, two cats, a whole lot of books and a bottomless cup of tea.

Co-creator of Queer Writers Chat and reviewer for Just Love: Queer Book Reviews. Also likes tea, crochet and Gilmore Girls.

Andrea Speed
Andrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!)

In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men. Viva la revolution!

Helena Maeve
Helena Maeve has always been a globe trotter with a fondness for adventure, but only recently has she started putting to paper the many stories she's collected in her excursions. When she isn't writing erotic romance novels, she can usually be found in an airport or on a plane, furiously penning in her trusty little notebook.
Asta Idonea
Asta Idonea is an alternate pen name of author Nicki J Markus.

Nicki was born in England in 1982, but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia with her husband. She has loved both reading and writing from a young age and is also a keen linguist, having studied several foreign languages.

Nicki launched her writing career in 2011 when she released several short stories with Wicked Nights Publishing. She then had two novellas published with Silver Publishing, prior to the company’s closure.

At present, she has several new projects on the go. As well as branching out into the exciting world of M/M under the pen name Asta Idonea, Nicki is working on the first book in a fantasy-mythology trilogy and hopes to find a publisher for it in 2015.

Nicki currently works as a freelance editor and proofreader, and in her spare time she enjoys completing MOOCs and pursuing other interests, including: reading; music; theatre; cinema; photography; sketching; and cross stitch. She also loves history, folklore and mythology, pen-palling and travel.

Keelan Ellis
Keelan Ellis is a true crime enthusiast, a political junkie, and a comedy fan. Despite a compulsion to sometimes wallow in the depths of humanity’s corruption and sadness, she considers herself a romantic at heart. The stories she really connects with are about love that’s been twisted into hatred, and she believes that with honesty and forgiveness, love can overcome. Keelan loves good bourbon and classic country music, great television and well-prepared food, especially shared with like-minded people. She’s not a fan of parties and large groups of people, but there’s nothing she loves more than a long conversation with friends. Her favorite part of the writing process is the collaborative stage, hashing out plot and characters with smart and talented friends. It’s where she truly comes to understand the people she’s writing about, and often falls in love with them. With the support and encouragement--as well as some serious editing help--Keelan has found the writing niche she’s always searched for. Sometimes she gets blocked, and when that happens, there’s only one thing she knows to do. Just like Inigo Montoya, she goes back to the beginning, writing about the characters who inspired her so much in the past.

Tess Amram
Tess Amram is a Philadelphian Millennial trying to make her way in the world. By day she works towards her goal of becoming a librarian; by night, towards her goal of becoming a Writer Surrounded By Cats.

K.M. Penemue
The altar ego of K.M. Cambion, K.M. Penemue has been dreaming up stories for as long as they can remember, but didn’t start putting them to paper until they were sixteen. A Detroit-based office-worker by day, by night K is a word ninja who loves to romp around in different genres.

Camilla Quinn
Camilla Quinn is an English major from South Texas. When she isn’t saving the world one insurance policy at a time or scribbling scenes between phone calls, she’s tending to a hyperactive corgi or referencing obscure movie quotes.

Samantha M. Derr (Editor)

Nicole Field

Andrea Speed

Helena Maeve

Asta Idonea

Keelan Ellis

Tess Amram

K.M. Penemue

Camilla Quinn