Politics and magic make dangerous bedfellows.Deep within the Order, the seeds of corruption have taken root. While younger generations of the Gifted have embraced modern democratic values, a secret society of old-guard zealots seek a return to the past, when only European men of distinguished bloodlines held power.Now, three venerable European families and a maverick American each plot to seize control of the Order and shape it to their will. A cutthroat game of political intrigue will decide the winner; and the stakes couldn't be higher, for ruling the Order carries with it the power to grant—or deny—an afterlife.What begins as a battle of wills could turn into an all-out war. And magic could prove deadlier than any missile.
Jenna Black is your typical writer. Which means she's an "experience junkie." She got her BA in physical anthropology and French from Duke University.
Once upon a time, she dreamed she would be the next Jane Goodall, camping in the bush making fabulous discoveries about primate behavior. Then, during her senior year at Duke, she did some actual research in the field and made this shocking discovery: primates spend something like eighty percent of their time doing such exciting things as sleeping and eating.
Concluding that this discovery was her life's work in the field of primatology, she then moved on to such varied pastimes as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation. She is now a full-time author of fantasy, young adult, and romance novels.
When Jonas Farraday’s grandmother paid him a visit at his London townhouse, he seriously considered pretending not to be home, as undignified as that might be. However, as his butler had already let her in before coming to the library to inform Jonas she was here, he supposed the ruse wouldn’t be terribly convincing. He gave Nash an unpleasant glower.
“Couldn’t you have told her I was on holiday in Timbuktu?” he griped.
Nash grinned at him in the way his grandmother informed him was overly familiar. Then again, in her youth, employing an unGifted servant had been a serious faux pas, and she was inclined to view anything Nash said or did through that lens. “I presumed she would have been on the next plane to Timbuktu if I did.”
Jonas pinched the bridge of his nose. “And that would be a bad thing?”
“I could try to send her away if you’d like,” Nash offered, but apparently Rosemary Farraday had already tired of waiting, for she appeared at his elbow and fixed him with a withering scowl. Nash flushed to the roots of his graying hair and seemed to shrink in size despite being a full head taller than the old woman.
“I beg your pardon, ma’am,” he choked, and Rosemary curled her lip.
“I should hope so!” she said, emphasizing her outrage with a steady thump of her cane.
“That will be all, Nash,” Jonas said with a sigh of resignation.
“Very good, sir.” Nash turned tail and practically ran from the room.
Rosemary pursed her lips and shook her head as she looked after his retreating figure. “Really, Jonas, you let that man get away with far too much.”
“I suppose in the good old days you would have had him flogged for his impertinence,” Jonas replied drily.
Rosemary took a seat in front of his desk uninvited, her posture so rigid and arrow-straight his bones ached just to look at her. Her white and gray hair was shellacked into a schoolmarm bun, and she wore a no-nonsense navy blue skirt suit with sensible but expensive shoes. Other people’s grandmas were warm and comfortable and supportive; not so Jonas’s. She’d never baked a cookie in her life. “I’m sure you find yourself witty and amusing, but I assure you I do not share your opinion.”
How the woman could simultaneously hold such high expectations of him and hold him in such complete contempt, he wasn’t sure.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” he inquired. Maybe if they could just get on with it, he’d get her out of his hair faster. She was the only one more skillful than his father at letting him know what an abysmal disappointment he was, no matter what he achieved. And yet of all the members of his family, she was the most determined to see that he somehow succeeded his father as Patriarch.
“Really, Jonas, must you make being a wanker such a point of pride?”
He gaped at her, amazed that she would let such a crude word out of her mouth. “Who are you, and what have you done with my grandmother?”
Her lips pinched together in a sour frown. “Once again you strike at me with your rapier wit. But enough. I’ve heard a rumor that you are seeing someone. Naturally, I assume that this rumor is false, because you know better than to be caught ‘seeing someone’ while we’re in the midst of trying to arrange your marriage. Surely you wouldn’t dream of insulting your future bride and her family that way.”
Jonas didn’t even try to suppress his groan. He should have known he couldn’t afford to take Rebecca to a restaurant, even a tiny hole in the wall where no one who was anyone would be caught dead. His grandmother might not have any bona fide Gifts, but she could sniff out an “inappropriate” romance before he’d even thought to start one. And Rebecca was the pinnacle of inappropriateness. Which he feared might be one of the reasons he got on with her so well. He wondered what the free-spirited half-breed would think of his rigidly unyielding grandmother, and the idea made him smile.
“I fail to see what you find humorous,” Rosemary snapped. “If I’ve heard of this tawdry little affair of yours, then you can be sure I’m not the only one. What can you be thinking?”
“There’s nothing tawdry about going on a date,” he growled. “And I was thinking that she’s a beautiful, sweet, sexy woman I’d like to get to know better.”
“Oh grow up, Jonas! You are the son of the Patriarch. You cannot be seen making a fool of yourself in public with some half-breed tart who’s looking for a sugar daddy.”
Jonas pushed back his chair and glared down at his grandmother, sure his face was flushing red with outrage. His bum knee protested the sudden movement, and he fought to keep the pain from showing on his face. Reminding her of his old rugby injury was a sure way to ratchet up the tension another notch. As a teenager, he’d permanently damaged the knee when he’d used his Gift for suppressing pain to keep himself in a game when he was injured. Rosemary saw that as a misuse of the Anima’s Gift and a sign of his general unworthiness.
“How dare you? You’ve never even met Rebecca, and you’ve already decided she’s after my money?”
“I don’t have to meet her!” she snapped back. “She knows you’re never going to marry a half-breed, so the only thing she can possibly get out of you is money and maybe a little fame. If the press gets wind of this, you will be humiliated, and it will all but destroy your marriage prospects.”
Jonas doubted his grandmother had any idea how appealing ruining his marriage prospects sounded to him. He had no interest in any of the women his family had proposed as potential brides. Women with impeccable pedigree, who dreamed of being the wife of the Patriarch someday. The idea that the aristocracy of the Gifted still practiced arranged marriages without apology was almost embarrassing, but try telling that to his family!
“If I want to date a half-breed, then I’ll date a half-breed. And hard though you may find this to believe, I do have some qualities about me other than money and power that women find attractive. I had a good time with Rebecca, and I plan to do so again. This is my life, and I’m going to live it the way I choose.”
Which was a ludicrous thing to say, of course. He’d been doing the job of the dutiful son ever since he was sixteen and his older brother had been killed in a senseless act of violence, shot by some unknown assailant in a parking lot. It was then that the Farraday family’s expectations had landed on Jonas’s shoulders, and he’d been lugging them around like a millstone for fifteen years. He grumbled and complained at times, but here he was, the Lord of the English South and likely candidate for the Council of Elders despite his distaste for politics. His life had not been his own for a very long time now.
“You are thirty-one years old, and it’s past time you got married,” Rosemary said, ignoring his outburst. “Have your little fling if you must, but don’t you dare let it become public knowledge. And know this: we will be announcing your engagement at your father’s birthday gala.”
Jonas wasn’t sure if the buzzing in his veins was anger or panic. The gala was only two weeks away, and he wasn’t ready to be shackled yet. “What do you want me to do, Grandmother: pick a name out of a hat? They’re all the same.” All rich, privileged, spoiled social climbers who didn’t give a damn about Jonas personally. He was nothing but a status symbol to any of them. There wasn’t one he could imagine growing to love.
His grandmother missed—or more likely ignored—his sarcasm. “If you don’t have a favorite, then I recommend you choose Catherine Almeida.”
The suggestion surprised Jonas. Catherine was thirty-six years old and had never been married. There were no scandalous rumors about her that he knew of, but Jonas suspected there had to be something off about her if she wasn’t married yet at her mature age.
“Really?” he asked. “You don’t find her situation … suspicious?”
Rosemary sniffed. “I believe she’s something of a harpy, but what’s more important is that she’s an Almeida. An alliance with the Almeidas should get you onto the Council of Elders within a year or two despite your youth.” Her eyes softened, and she smiled at him in a way he could almost believe was genuine, if he didn’t know her better. “It would make your father so happy. And your mother, too. You are all they have, and they want to see you settled.”
Any moment now, she was going to trot out some story about how his sainted brother would have been married to the perfect woman and provided his parents with grandchildren by now. There was nothing Jonas could do that his dead brother couldn’t have done better.
There was no use fighting it, and Jonas didn’t know why he bothered. He couldn’t have Rebecca, not unless he was willing to alienate his entire family and be shunned by all of Gifted society. Continuing to date her when she was someone he suspected he could fall in love with would only bring them both more heartache. His future had been mapped out for him since the moment his brother had died, and maybe it was time he just accept it.
“Fine,” he heard himself saying, a little piece of his soul dying. “I’ll marry Catherine Almeida and make everyone happy.” Except himself, of course. Making a snap decision to marry a woman older than he whom his gram described as “something of a harpy” was a damn stupid thing to do, but he’d never been much good at standing up to Rosemary. Besides, if he was going to marry a woman for purely political reasons, he might as well choose the best-connected.
His grandmother’s eyes gleamed with triumph, and her smug smile made him want to snatch the words back.
“Splendid,” she said. “You’ll call your father tonight with the happy news, yes?”
He nodded, wondering if the Patriarch would mind if he drank an entire bottle of whiskey before he made that call.
Rosemary stood up, looking entirely too pleased with herself. “I will see myself out.”
I will see you out headfirst through the window, Jonas thought to himself. But he stoically kept his teeth gritted and said nothing.
Monday, September 8th Fiktshun
Tuesday, September 9th Books and Things
Wednesday, September 10th Xpresso Reads
Thursday, September 11th Addicted 2 Heroines
Friday, September 12th Gizmos Reviews
Monday, September 15th The Book Swarm
Tuesday, September 16th Jessabella Reads
Wednesday, September 17th Romancing the Dark Side
Thursday, September 18th Literary Escapism
Friday, September 19th Bookish