Wicked Lovely (The Black Blade Chronicles, Book 1) by J.K. Hogan #kindleunlimited #giveaway

BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Wicked Lovely (The Black Blade Chronicles, Book 1)

Author: J.K. Hogan

Publisher:  Euphoria Press

Cover Artist: J.K. Hogan @ www.wickedpixeldesigns.com

Release Date: October 12, 2021

Genre: M/M Fantasy Romance

Tropes: Enemies to lovers

Themes: Adventure/quest (kind of Game of Thrones-esque but queer)

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 90 000 words

It is the first book in the series and not a standalone story. There will be an HEA over a three-book arc. The first book isn’t quite a cliffhanger, more of a to be continued ending.

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A new series that combines the adventure and magic of epic fantasy with the enchantment of romance

Blurb

Darkness grows in the realm of Taleth. To the west, a power-hungry despot schemes to conquer kingdoms and territories alike by chasing an ancient elven prophecy that could give him the power to rule all. In the east, after a prince’s murder goes years unanswered, a princess learns there was much more to her brother’s death—and to her life—than she realized.

The House of Kjenelach is shaken to its foundation when Princess Sigrid is stolen away. Her faithful guardian, Sir Senne Clayward, reluctantly accepts help from his nemesis, a notorious halfling mercenary of questionable morals—but indispensable tracking skills—called Kasimir vas Hjardar.

Kasimir makes his living hunting monsters, both creatures and men. While he exists outside the law, he lives by his own unassailable code of honor. At the top of that list: never harm a child. When he turns down a contract to kidnap Sigrid and later finds out she was taken by someone else, he offers his help to the prickly knight tasked with protecting her.

Together, they embark upon a journey across the continent to save Sigrid and foil King Prosper’s plans to conquer Taleth. The way is fraught with dangers and pitfalls, from supernatural beasts to Senne’s deathly fear of magic, but they must not fail, for Sigrid may very well be the savior of the realm: the long prophesied Aisnellach Fuil. Somehow, the two men must set their differences aside and work together to rescue Sigrid, and possibly find love along the way.

Excerpt

Senne awoke to a skull-shattering headache. What the devil had happened to him? Surely he was dead. But shouldn’t one’s pain end after death? No, not dead, then. He was lying on something. He felt it, lumpy and scratchy beneath him. He attempted to blink his eyes open past the thick, drugging pain in his skull. He glimpsed a dark, empty room, a fire blazing merrily in front of him.

Senne must have lost consciousness, for it seemed like he blinked only once and a man appeared, sitting in a chair next to the fire and stropping the blade of…a small ax.

The next time Senne blinked, the man was still by the fire, but he wore nothing but loose, black trews. He was no longer stropping, but braiding his long sable-colored hair. For each braid, he would start at the hairline at his forehead and plait backward halfway down his skull, leaving the lower part of his hair loose.

Senne couldn’t help but notice the way the muscles in his broad back and thick arms bunched and rolled as he worked. But as some of the fog in Senne’s head began to clear, he realized what he was seeing: five braids in the elven style. An elf? Except this man was much too large, not willowy and slender like elves tended to be. His ears were slightly peaked rather than long and pointed. A halfling then. Wait, surely he couldn’t be that halfling, could he?

“I know you’re awake,” the halfling said as he finished his last braid. “Are you planning my death while you lie there pretending to be unconscious? You’ve already failed once, and you’re in no condition to be more successful this time.”

“I…” Gods, his head hurt. Senne could barely hang on to a single thought. His gut was telling him this man was an enemy but when he’d been at his most vulnerable, the halfling hadn’t hurt him. In fact, he was possibly…helping him?

“Who are you?”

“I am called Kasimir vas Hjardar, the Black Blade of Andrahar. Though your young maid insists upon calling me Kas.”

“Sigrid!” Senne gasped, bolting upright, then whimpering as the room spun and his head pounded. He had to pinch his lips together to keep from vomiting.

Kasimir swore and stood. “Lie down, you bloody idiot.” His words were harsh but his hands were gentle as he eased Senne back down on the lumpy cot.

“Sigrid,” Senne said again, slightly calmer but no less anxious. “I was with her. We were riding back to the Keep…”

“After you shot me.”

Senne cleared his throat and his gaze involuntarily sought out Kasimir’s right leg. He was surprised to see some sort of splinting device strapped to it. “Yes, well… I apologize for that. I was beside myself with worry when she ran away, and I…misread the situation.”

“Egregiously,” the halfling added in a bland tone.

“Yes, well…” Senne sighed. Fair enough. “After she and I talked about, ah, other things, she explained what happened. You were long gone by then, I’m afraid. Again, my sincerest apologies.”

Kasimir said nothing. He simply pulled his chair from the hearth to Senne’s bedside and sat. And waited, arched eyebrows raised.

“I don’t remember anything after that. What happened? H-how did I get here? Where’s Sigrid? D-did you do something to her?”

Kasimir sneered, his half-elven nature evident in his pointy eye teeth. “‘What happened’ is someone nearly smashed in your melon, didn’t they? I don’t bloody know who it was, and I certainly didn’t do anything to the maid.”

Senne glared at him, disbelieving. “Then why have our paths crossed again, eh? Black Blade indeed.”

“Oh, I was instrumental in our paths crossing again. After my mate patched the old leg up, I tracked you. I was going to kill you for that arrow.”

Senne growled, which only made the halfling grin. Senne couldn’t blame him. A growl from a man as weak as kitten wasn’t exactly threatening.

“I was on my way when your horse came stampeding through the woods. ‘Course I didn’t know it was your horse at the time. I caught him, and he wanted to go north so that’s what we did—”

“The horse wanted to go north?” The halfling lowered his eyes, and Senne could’ve sworn he blushed. “Elven witchery,” Senne spat.

“Oi, if that’s what it is, then elven witchery saved your useless hide.”

Senne couldn’t think of anything to say to that.

“When I found you, you were unconscious and leaking blood from your noggin like a sieve. There was no sign of the girl.”

“You set out to kill me, so why am I here…and where is here?”

“You might not believe I have any honor, but I’m not a murderer. I wasn’t going to kill someone who was defenseless, and I wasn’t about to leave a man to slowly bleed to death or get picked apart by forest predators. There are few I’d wish that kind of death on. So I slung you over your Dagfinn and led him to my mate’s cabin.”

The halfling watched Senne with his unsettling blue eyes, so blue as to be almost colorless, slightly tipped up and ringed in inky black lashes. He was waiting for something, but Senne had no idea what.

Senne licked his dry, cracked lips. “Why? Why bring me to this hovel instead of dumping me in the village and letting someone else take the burden?”

A muscle twitched in Kasimir’s jaw. “First of all, this hovel belongs to my oldest friend, and it’s thanks to him that you’re lying comfortably in a bed right now instead of in a shallow grave, so have some respect.” He paused to calm his ire before speaking again. “As to your question, I don’t much like the village. Each time I go somehow results in almost losing my life. Besides, I’m still healing from my own injury…” He glared at Senne. “And the cottage was closer. I have a small amount of healing magic in my ‘elven witchery’ quiver, and it’s kept you alive so far. I want you to heal so that when I kill you, it will have been a fair fight.”

Senne snorted. He might quite enjoy sparring with the halfling when they were both at full strength. The amusing thought gave way to worry, however, then panic over Sigrid. Where was she? Was she even alive? He tried to sit up again, this time fighting through the dizziness and nausea that swamped him.

“Oi!” Kasimir rubbed a hand over his face in a mark of clear exasperation. “I’m still not entirely sure you’re not going to die of that cracked skull of yours. I’m not that good a healer, only a halfling after all,” he said with derision.

Senne winced. “Yes, I know, but I have to take that chance. I have to find Sigrid. I can’t even go to the Guard for help, because if what you said is true, we still have traitors in our midst. No one can be trusted. I’ve got to go after her.

Kasimir looked toward the precarious ceiling of the shack and swore. “Can’t believe I’m gonna say this…but if you’ll just stay here one more day or so, get some food in you and let the magic do its work… I’ll help you bloody track her.”

“Why?” Senne asked suspiciously. “Why would you do that for me, someone you’d intended to kill?”

Kasimir looked horrified. “You? I’ll not be doin’ it for you. I’m fond of the girl, all right? She saved me from being garroted when she felled the third highwayman. And besides, I think I might…have an idea who took her.”

Senne sucked in a sharp breath through his nose and stared at the halfling for long moments. “What?

About the Author 

J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, she found her true passion. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them.

J.K. resides in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and their pets. If she isn’t writing, J.K. can be found designing book covers at Wicked Pixel Designs, creating fiber art and supplies at Earthbound Fiber Arts watching Hurricanes Hockey and, of course, reading!

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