When I was in high school, I read three books a day. I would check them out from the school library before the first bell, read during class, between classes, and during lunch, and when the last bell rang I’d go back to the library and return them all. If there was one I hadn’t quite finished, I would read it while walking to my after-school job at the daycare center down the road.
Looking back, I can’t comprehend how I managed to fit that much reading in. But I do remember that the reading kept me on task with everything else. I tore through my homework assignments, got very efficient at picking out the “important” parts of my teachers’ lectures and tuning the rest out, all so I could get to the next precious minute where I could squeeze in another page, even just a paragraph, of the book-of-the-moment.
I devoured books so fast that honestly most are a blur now, but one particular series I remember well. They were called “Sunfire” romances, a series of historical YA romance novels with a very specific formula: Each book’s title was the name of the protagonist, the setting could be any place in the United States with a time period pre-1950’s, and the plot focused on a teenage girl who draws the interest of two different boys and must choose between them by the end of the book. There were thirty-two books in all, and when I’d read everything my school library had, I hopped on the city bus and went downtown to the public library to find the rest.
Every book was mostly the same – only the sub-plots and settings differed – but I couldn’t get enough of them. I still remember my favorites: Danielle, who’s courted by a pirate in New Orleans; Caroline, who dresses as a boy and joins a wagon train; Cassie, a white girl raised in a Iroquois family; and Josie, kidnapped by a band of outlaws led by a woman. The love triangle in each book was the primary draw for me – most of the time I could tell from the beginning which of the guys our heroine was going to end up with, but every now and then there would be a plot twist that would surprise me. (Sadly, none ever ended up with another girl, though I thought many had more promising relationships with female side characters than with their male admirers.)
When I started writing Prayer of the Handmaiden, the second book in the Ithyria series, I knew that it was going to tell the love story that had taken a back seat in Sword of the Guardian . It was going to explore the relationship between Erinda, sassy chambermaid to the royal family, and Kadrian, her childhood sweetheart, who had entered the priestesshood when they were teens. What I had not planned was for the book to turn into a love triangle, much less that the third player would be the Goddess Herself. Yet as the story started to gain momentum, and especially during the scenes when Kade goes through the ceremony to become shaa’din – a holy warrior – it became increasingly clear that this was not just going to be a sweethearts-reunited kind of romance. One of the characters would have to compete with a Goddess for the heart of her beloved.
The world of Ithyria, and in particular, the Ithyrian religion, expands by leaps and bounds over the course of this story. The love between Ithyris and Kade is a very different kind of love than the one between Kade and Erinda, and yet it takes a novel’s worth of adventure and tragedy for Kade to realize which is the kind of love she can’t live without. And like the Sunfire books, readers will likely have a pretty good idea from the outset who Kade is going to choose, even if Kade herself is bumbling through it. But the thrill is never so much about the final choice as it is about the journey it takes to finally get there. And, it’s often the person who has to make the decision who’s most blind to what they really want (even though it’s plain as day to everyone around them.)
I’m really excited to get this new installment of the series out to everyone. And, if you’ve picked up the book already or plan to in the next few weeks, you should head over to my blog and check out the huge swag giveaway for everybody who buys and/or helps get the word out about the new book – there are collectible buttons! And book-themed lockets! Even a one-of-a-kind, handmade set of plushie dolls!
As always, thanks for supporting my work and the work of everyone in the Bold Strokes family. ❤