Release day tomorrow!

THE LOST SWALLOW (Book #2: Light and Darkness) is about to leave the nest! Until then … here’s another excerpt to enjoy!


Eventually, sure both Asher and Ninia now slept deeply, the copse silent around them, Mira stood up.

She’d always been quick on her feet as a mudlark; it was the only way she’d survived in a city full of dangers. Her Swallow training had also taught her how to move noiselessly. The life of one of the members of the royal family might have depended on her ability to sneak up behind an assassin.

She moved quietly now, padding across the damp ground and out of the clearing. Mira took care to keep her breathing slow and steady, her senses straining.

Just a few more yards, and she’d be out of earshot. Then she would lengthen her stride.

Mira walked on, the darkness enclosing her in a shroud that turned her blind on this moonless night. She reached out a hand before her, feeling her way so that she didn’t collide with the trees.

The glade where Asher and Ninia slept now lay behind her. Mira smiled into the night and quickened her pace.

Almost there.

She’d only traveled a yard or two farther when a man’s voice split the silence behind her.

“Where are you going?”

Mira whipped around, reaching for her sword. Her fingers tightened around the hilt, as her gaze alighted upon a tall, broad shouldered figure following her. Even in the darkness she could see the long pale hair spilling over his shoulders.

Curse him. Asher had followed her.


 

Get your copy now!
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D7JGT92
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07D7JGT92
AUS: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07D7JGT92

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I’m looking for ARC readers!

Just under two weeks until THE LOST SWALLOW is released: August 14, 2018!

This novel has been so much fun to write … even the editing process (which can be like sporking out one’s eyeballs, to be honest) was enjoyable. Each time I finish reading the book—and it’s been a few times now—I don’t want to leave the world, or the three main characters: Mira, Asher, and Ninia.

The novel is an Epic Fantasy Romance—so romance is hugely important to the plot—but it’s also an adventure story about duty, trust, and how the most important choices we make are often the most difficult.

Read THE LOST SWALLOW before anyone else!

Did you read RULED BY SHADOWS (it’s still currently free on Amazon, so grab yourself a copy) and love it? Are you a fan of Epic Fantasy Romance? Make sure you get on my Epic Fantasy Review crew list for THE LOST SWALLOW. All I ask in return is an honest review of the novel on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Book #2 in the Light and Darkness series will be released on August 14, and ARCs are going out soon!

To ensure you get your ARC, please:

  1. Sign up to my Epic Fantasy Romance mailing list (I send out monthly emails. No spam, I promise!)
  2. Then email me at: contact@jaynecastel.com, and put THE LOST SWALLOW REVIEW COPY PLEASE in the subject line.

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Read an excerpt from THE LOST SWALLOW

Not sure you want an ARC yet? Read this scene, where our main characters—Asher and Mira—meet, and decide if the story’s right for you.

***

He was about to move on when a woman on the other side of the market caught his eye.

Cloaked and hooded, her face partially obscured by the cowl of her cloak, she was talking to a crone selling fresh cheeses.

Another gust of wind raced across the walk—and this one tore the woman’s hood back off her face. She had long, black hair, a shade one rarely saw this far north, but it was her eyes he really noticed. Large, slightly slanted, and fringed in dark lashes, they were grey-blue. Dark, finely arched eyebrows slanted up from them, giving her an intense look. The rest of her features: a stubborn jaw, straight nose, and full lips were too strong to make this woman a classic beauty—yet she was striking.

An instant later the woman reached back and yanked her hood into place. Yet as she did, Asher saw the look of panic that flitted across her face. And then—even from yards away—she must have felt the weight of his stare.

Her gaze swiveled and met his over the busy crowd of shoppers and vendors going about their business. Their eyes met, and she froze.

The woman tore her gaze away and said something to the crone who’d been chattering away to her, oblivious. Then she turned and fled into the crowd.

A heartbeat later, Asher was after her.

She moved with the fluidity of a fox across the busy walk. Despite his height, Asher was lithe and quick on his feet—yet he almost lost her in the crowd. Up ahead he saw a flash of black from her cloak as she disappeared up Broad Walk. A moment later she turned onto one of the many walks leading off the thoroughfare.

Asher broke into a run. He hadn’t imagined the panic on her face earlier—this woman wanted to remain inconspicuous. She could be the Swallow he was looking for.

He entered Minnow Walk and spotted his quarry up ahead. She was walking briskly, her cloak flapping behind her. He saw she was dressed in leather breeches and boots, and as the wind raced down the narrow walk and snagged at her cloak, making it billow behind her, he saw that she carried a sword at her side.

His pulse quickened. This must be her.

She glanced over her shoulder then, her features shadowed by her hood. The sight of him in pursuit made her break into a run, and then she turned right down a side-alley.
Asher lengthened his stride. She’d increased her speed, her feet flying over the pitted planks. This alley was foul; someone had just emptied their chamber pot out the window. The walk and walls were splattered with excrement. The stench made Asher’s gorge rise. His boots slipped on something, and he nearly went over. Yet he managed to right himself and plow on. And all the while he kept his gaze fixed upon the woman who sprinted away from him.

Shadows, she’s fast.

At the end of the alley, a swing-bridge linked this wharf with the next one. The woman crossed it in long strides. By the time Asher was halfway across, she had disappeared into another alley up ahead.

Asher followed, crossing a walkway and entering an alley so narrow he could have reached out and touched the walls either side. A wall reared up before him, and he drew to an abrupt halt. He’d run into a dead end, and the woman had disappeared.

He stepped forward a few paces and glanced around, frowning. Then he looked up at the blue sky filled with fast moving clouds above. There were no doorways or windows in this alley, just a high timber palisade at one end.

Where did she go?

Asher turned around, planning to retrace his steps, and found himself facing a cloaked and hooded figure.

It took barely an instant to realize that she’d somehow managed to get behind him. Then she struck out, hitting him hard in the solar plexus.

The force of her punch knocked Asher back against the wall. A heartbeat later, she had a cold blade pressed to his throat.

The woman was shorter than him and had to look up to meet his gaze, but she didn’t appear remotely cowed by his greater size or strength. She pressed the blade close to his windpipe. Her hood had fallen back, her dark hair whipping around her, and her eyes were narrowed and dangerous.

“What do you want?” she asked, her voice a low growl.

Asher held her gaze and inhaled slowly and carefully. She had a murderous glint in her eye.

“To speak to you,” he wheezed, still recovering from her punch. “I’m a friend.”

Liar. If the woman knew what was good for her, she’d end him now.

Her mouth twisted, and the pressure on his throat increased. Asher felt a sting as the tip of the blade dug into his flesh.

“Try another answer.”

***


The Lost Swallow_Cover5Sounds exciting but I’d rather buy a copy

THE LOST SWALLOW is currently available on preorder so if you’d prefer to buy yourself a copy, follow one of the links below to your Amazon store.

Book Review: Blade and Rose by Miranda Honfleur

515gDyrTZ8L._SY346_Blade and Rose (Blade and Rose series, Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur

An excellent start to an exciting Epic Fantasy Romance series. It’s often hard to find good Fantasy Romances which aren’t Young Adult or Paranormal. But there’s nothing better than a sword and sorcery adventure with an emotional love story woven through it!

Definitely a five-star read. Here’s what I loved about it:

Blade and Rose is an epic novel – both in size (it’s over 700 pages long!) and in scope. Miranda Honfleur builds a credible world built on European civilisations and an exciting magic system. The characters are well-drawn and with enough flaws to make them seem real. Rielle is a complicated heroine, a mix of strong kick-ass sorceress and painful insecurity. She doesn’t have any trouble attracting men into her life, only she has been terribly hurt by them. When she meets Jon, a man she has sworn to protect, she struggles between her attraction to someone she can’t have, and her own fears of being hurt or hurting those she loves.

My favourite character in the book though (and I’m not sure if the author intended this) is the werewolf, Brennan. He’s a really mixed-up guy, and does some dispicable things during the story, yet we never totally lose sympathy for him. He is conflicted and as the story progresses starts to gain a little self-knowledge. As the series progresses, I imagine he will have a pivotal role … well, I hope so.

The writing flows smoothly and is highly readable. The author doesn’t get bogged down in lengthy description but at the same time manages to create a richly-drawn world that fantasy readers expect!

Any niggles? Only a couple of tiny ones that didn’t detract from my rating. The book was very long … and could have been trimmed in a couple of places without affecting the story. Rielle and Jon’s relationship sometimes felt a little bit like ‘instalove’. I would have liked to have seen a bit more angst and conflict between them in the beginning. However, their emotional journey was depicted well and leaves plenty of scope for the next book in the series.

An engrossing Epic Fantasy Romance read!

Check out this book on Amazon.com.

Exciting Epic Fantasy Romance authors to watch

A few years ago fantasy romance was dominated by vampires, werewolves, and shifters—and that’s fine if you’re into that. However, for readers who want an Epic Fantasy tale, with a strong romance element, there just wasn’t anything out there. That’s changing … fast.

Just over the last year they’ve been popping up like mushrooms! High Fantasy, rollicking Epic Fantasy adventures, with a fully developed romance plots. There are now many novels to try. Some of them cross over into the Young Adult/New Adult domain, as the protagonists are often in their late teens to mid-twenties, but most of them are written for adults as well.

At the moment Reverse Harem Fantasy Romance is huge, and fantasy romance with fae heroes isn’t showing any sign of slowing in popularity. But if neither of these sub-genres interest you don’t despair … there are plenty of sword and sorcery fantasy romances out there. As for what’s trending in the Epic Fantasy Romance genre—it appears that witches and wizards are really hot at the moment.

Here’s a list (not exhaustive) of exciting new Epic Fantasy Romance authors to watch, with links to their Amazon author pages:

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Amber Argyle
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Shannon Meyer
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Miranda Honfleur
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Jayne Castel
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Emily R. King
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G. Bailey
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Sara C. Roethe

 

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Claire Merle
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Frost Kay
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Kelly St. Clare
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Helen Scheuerer

Do you have an author you’d like added to this list? Please get in touch!

 

Excerpt from THE LOST SWALLOW

THE LOST SWALLOW will be released on August 14 … in the meantime here’s a short preview of the novel. It’s the scene where the two main characters—Asher and Mira—meet.

The Lost Swallow_Cover5Excerpt from THE LOST SWALLOW:

Where did she go?

Asher turned around, planning to retrace his steps, and found himself facing a cloaked and hooded figure.

It took barely an instant to realize that she’d somehow managed to get behind him. Then she struck out, hitting him hard in the solar plexus.

The force of her punch knocked Asher back against the wall. A heartbeat later she had a cold blade pressed to his throat.

The woman was shorter than him, and had to look up to meet his gaze, but she didn’t appear remotely cowed by his greater size or strength. She pressed the blade close to his windpipe. Her hood had fallen back, her dark hair whipping around her, and her eyes were narrowed and dangerous.

“What do you want?” she asked, her voice a low growl.

Asher held her gaze and inhaled slowly and carefully. She had a murderous glint in her eye.

“To speak to you,” he wheezed, still recovering from her punch. “I’m a friend.”

Liar. If the woman knew what was good for her she’d end him now.

Her mouth twisted and the pressure on his throat increased. Asher felt a sting as the tip of the blade dug into his flesh.

“Try another answer,” she growled.

New covers for the LIGHT & DARKNESS series

People really do judge a book by its cover … which is why I’ve changed the covers for my Epic Fantasy Romance series.

It wasn’t an easy decision—although now I’ve done it, I wish I’d changed them earlier! As an indie-author I do get attached to my covers—but after taking a cold hard look at the original ones I have for the Light and Darkness series, I was forced to admit that they don’t look anything like the other novels in the genre.

If you’re not an author, you might think this isn’t an issue. However, over the past few years I’ve learned just how powerful a cover is. The pyschology behind cover design is fascinating. Readers will tell you they like something new, beautiful, and exciting—but instead they respond to covers that fit in with the genre. It’s the cliches and the stereotypes that win out in the end when you’re browsing looking for your next read.

Use the tropes

Most Epic Fantasy novels have hooded figures, swords and magic-wielding on the covers. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the Epic Fantasy bestsellers on Amazon, or read this blog post from Derek Murphy at Creativindie. It seems that book cover cliches exist for a reason.

Epic Fantasy Romance is a little different

In fantasy romance covers, the central figure is usually female—or though there are some covers with couples on them. You do have hooded figures, but you also have more witchy-looking women in gowns. The colours are also deeper in fantasy romance, with quite a bit of contrast, and the look is slightly more stylised.  The female figure is usually got more of a ‘romance’ feel to her as well, and the cover art takes centre stage, with the title and author font firmly at the bottom and top so not to distract from it.

Here are three examples from the genre that represent it quite well:

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So … taking all of the above I’ve had the covers for RULED BY SHADOWS and THE LOST SWALLOW redone.  I listened to a podcast recently where a cover designer was giving out tips: he said your cover should create a narrative for your story, and give a mood and tone, rather than trying to depict a scene or the plot. That’s what I’ve tried to achieve with this new look. Here they are:

Light and Darkness series_new (2)

Compare these two my old covers. These used the large face superimposed against a background. This is a look that has been popular with romance in the past, but seems to get less engagement with viewers. They’re both eye-catching, but the problem I have with them is that neither of these covers shout ‘Epic Fantasy Romance’. The font is also dominant on both … possibly too much so.

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Any hoo, we shall see if these new covers attract more readers. I will keep you posted!

 

 

THE LOST SWALLOW is available on preorder!

Woop woop!

The Lost Swallow_Cover5THE LOST SWALLOW (Book #2: Light and Darkness) is available on pre-order! Release date: August 14th!

All her life she’s trusted her instincts—but now she must follow her heart.

Mira belongs to The Swallow Guard—an elite all-female bodyguard who protect the royal family. She resents her role, and has been planning her escape for years. But when her city comes under attack she finds herself on the run, and the unlikely protector of a spoiled and wilful princess. Despite her desire to look after herself, she finds she can’t abandon the girl.

Meanwhile, far to the north, an enchanter receives a chilling mission.

Asher belongs to the Order of Light and Darkness and spends his days healing the sick and injured. Yet when the head of his order commands him to track down the last survivor of a slaughtered royal family—and kill the girl and the woman protecting her—he finds himself in the role of assassin.

In an epic journey through the heart of occupied territory, Mira struggles between her instinct to flee, her urge to protect the gifted young woman who has come to depend on her—and her attraction to an enigmatic stranger who says he’s been sent to help them. Asher must also make a choice. Does he trust his instincts, follow his heart, and bring wrath down upon him … or does he follow orders and risk losing his soul.

If you like the fantasy romance of Radiance, the thrills of the Throne of Glass series, the epic adventure of Game of Thrones, and a fierce heroine, you’ll love Book #2 of the Light and Darkness series.

Preorder your copy of THE LOST SWALLOW and dive into an action-packed, emotion-filled Epic Fantasy Romance about how the most important choices are never easy.

Preorder your copy here:

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D7JGT92
UK: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D7JGT92
AUS: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07D7JGT92

More Epic Fantasy Romance novels to try

Why oh why is good Epic Fantasy Romance so hard to find?

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Haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my TBR list. Love the cover!

Personally, I’ve had enough of reading about fae/human romances—it’s been done to death, and I’m looking for something different. I’d like to read more fantasy adventure stories that have emotional love-stories. I’ve got Sarah J Maas’ latest novel on my Kindle ready to enjoy, have pre-ordered Grace Draven’s upcoming release, and have also downloaded Kushiel’s Dart—so I’ll be posting some reviews on this blog as I chew through my TBR pile.

In the meantime, here are some great blog posts to help you discover your next Epic Fantasy Romance read. There aren’t many I’ve read on these lists, so it looks like I’ve got some discovery to do.

Three Fantasy Romance Series to sweep you away!

Recommended reads: Fantasy Romance

The Epic World of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Romance

8 Fantasy Romance novels that are sure to satisfy


 Happy reading everyone!

THE LOST SWALLOW is finished!

Well the first draft is! It’s now with my editor.

I’m really excited about THE LOST SWALLOW (I know … I say that about all my books. But I really am). It’s got a lot of romance, loads of action, and is a massively character-driven story. It’s the sequel to RULED BY SHADOWS, so there’s an overarching plot which continues through the trilogy (Book #3 is already planned out). However, it’s also a romance, so there’s a stand-alone love-story.

What’s changed from Book #1?

  • Lilia and Dain (our hero and heroine from RULED BY SHADOWS) don’t appear in this story. Instead Book #2 focuses on Asher (who we meet in the first story) and Mira.
  • RULED BY SHADOWS was a coming of age story, whereas THE LOST SWALLOW is about two individuals with opposing goals, forced to work together for survival.
  • RULED BY SHADOWS is a quest story, where our heroes work toward preventing disaster (the release of a terrible dictator from an enchanted prison), whereas THE LOST SWALLOW takes place in a kingdom that has just recently fallen to the enemy. Our heroes are focused on escaping danger and fleeing to safety before it’s too late.

Introducing The Four Kingdoms of Serran

My story world is The Four Kingdoms of Serran. The kingdoms—Rithmar, Thun, Anthor and Farras—have a bloody history. We’re introduced to the conflict between Thun and Anthor in Book #1 but RULED BY SHADOWS focused more on another, darker, threat. By the time THE LOST SWALLOW begins, the situation has worsened. Thun has fallen and our characters are trapped in occupied territory.

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TheLostSwallow_COVER4What’s THE LOST SWALLOW about?

She’s entrusted with protecting a princess … but he’s been sent to kill them both.

Mira belongs to The Swallow Guard—an elite all-female bodyguard who protect the royal family. She hates her role, and has been planning her escape for years—only when her city comes under attack she finds herself on the run, and the unlikely protector of a spoiled and wilful princess.

Asher belongs to the Order of Light and Darkness. He’s an enchanter who spends his days healing the sick and injured. But when the head of his order commands him to track down the last survivor of a slaughtered royal family—and kill the girl and the woman protecting her—he finds himself in the role of assassin.

In an epic journey through the heart of occupied territory, Mira struggles between her desire to flee and start afresh, and her need to protect the gifted young woman who has come to depend on her. Asher must also make a choice. Does he trust his instincts, follow his heart, and bring wrath down upon him—or does he follow orders and risk losing his soul.

Epic adventure and romance collide in this emotional romantic fantasy. Book #2 of the Light and Darkness series, THE LOST SWALLOW is for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Grace Draven and Leigh Bardugo. If you like vibrant world-building, edge of your seat adventure, and a powerful love story, this Epic Fantasy Romance is for you.


I’ll be putting the novel on pre-order with Amazon in the next few days—so watch this space. Release date coming soon!