Review: Return to Shanhasson

Mea culpa, Sherri actually won the “first review kae’don” but I totally missed it!  I’ve fallen behind on my blog feeds and google alert failed me.  Read her entire review here:

Where Joely shines is her characters. Not a two-dimensional person among them. These characters are so real. (I think I said it best in my review of Road when I said, “I lived a lifetime between these pages!”) I love with them. I laugh with them. I hurt with them. I cry and scream with them. Even with the hints peppered on Joely’s blog I came apart completely at one point. And yes, I screamed, scaring the dog, LOL. There were more than a few tears, not just sad but happy ones too, during this story.

Aw, poor Roxy!  Thank you so much, Sherri!  You’re absolutely right about Shannari being a little exhausted.  *winks*

P.S. Don’t forget – TODAY is the last day to enter the giveaway!

Review: Return to Shanhasson

Many thanks to Soleil for not just reviewing all the Shanhasson books — but for also helping me beta read an early copy of Return before submission.  Here’s her review with a snippet:

Shannari has come along way since Rhaekhar, Khul of the Nine Camps of the Sha’Kae al’Dan, decimated her army and won her heart. She’s become such an iconic heroine for me. I have watched her love, hate, fight, win ….and lose. I have watched her suffer, truly suffer some horrific events and come out all the stronger for it. Because Shannari dal’Dainnari never ran from anything. Not for long. Her truly epic capacity for love puts all other heroines to shame. None of them can hold a candle to her passion.If there was one thing Joely managed to get through to this cynic, it’s that love can save you, no matter how Shadowed you are.

*wipes away a happy tear*  That’s exactly what I hoped this series would say.  Thank you so much, Soleil!

Return to Shanhasson – Spicy Excerpt

 

Return to Shanhasson, book 3 of The Shanhasson Trilogy, a Blood and Shadows book available at Drollerie Press.  For more of my free reads, check out this page.

“I thought your Green Land baths very strange after our steamtents, but I enjoy a long soak, especially when you’re at my side.”

She stirred and stretched her arms over her head, arching her back in blatant invitation. “Why don’t you lie down on the edge and let me begin my massage?”

Eyes heavy lidded, he ran his gaze down her body, but he complied, his mighty arms levering his big body out of the water. “I thought you wanted to give me such a bath that I would lose control.”

“I am. On your stomach, please.”

Laughing, he stretched out as she wished, carefully shifting his weight so he didn’t lie completely flat on his belly. “I can’t fully comply for obvious reasons.”

“Well, let’s see what I can do about that,” she purred.

Dunking her head beneath the water, she surged up out of the pool and straddled his lower back.

Na’lanna.” His voice was rather strained. “I don’t believe this is a very good starting position. One of us is backwards and it is not you.”

“Patience, my heart. I want to give you a massage first.”

“I don’t want a massage.” Heat rumbled through his voice that had nothing to do with anger. “I want you. Preferably this very moment.”

Selecting the smoky amber vial, she popped off the cork and sniffed it carefully. Exotic scents washed over her: roasted sticks nearly burnt, dark, sultry sandalwood, and beneath, a feral musk that she couldn’t identify.

According to Benton, the desert dwellers of Keldar threw sticks and seeds onto a stone, let the natural heat of the sun roast them, and then they tossed the burnt spices into both their tea and oil. Since their drink of choice was called “Fire Tea,” the oil had captured her imagination, for obvious reasons.

She poured a small amount into her hands and rubbed it into her skin, testing it on herself. The oil heated immediately, releasing a mouth-watering aroma of exotic sandalwood. Whether the oil heated her skin or her skin heated the oil, she didn’t know, but the spreading fire was unmistakable. It didn’t hurt, though, so she smoothed her palms from the small of Rhaekhar’s back up the slabs of muscle to his shoulders. Kneading her way across his shoulders, she said nothing, waiting to see his reaction.

“Great Vulkar, woman, what is that?”

“Fire Oil,” she replied innocently. She didn’t know what the Keldari called it. “Doesn’t it smell delicious?”

“Forget how it smells.” He sucked in his breath and shifted beneath her, his back humping like a horse getting ready to buck her off. “No wonder it’s called Fire Oil; my flesh is on fire.”

“You don’t like it?”

He shuddered, his big hands fisted in the soft mat. “If I were inside you, I’d like it much better.”

Stretching out on top of him, she rubbed her breasts against his back, spreading the oil into her skin. Deliberately, she moaned, tormenting him with her own sounds of desire. It did feel like fire spread across her skin. The scent burrowed deeper in her body, twisting and stirring her hunger. She gripped his shoulder in her jaws and slowly sank her teeth into the heavy muscle until he growled and moved beneath her, his hands sliding back to tug at her ankles and calves.

Her lips and tongue heated with the oil, buzzing and tingling as she rubbed her mouth across the broad expanse of his back. “You smell good enough to eat.”

Wriggling lower on his thighs, she licked a path down his spine, smoothing her palms up and down his flanks. She bit him again, hard enough he groaned so loudly the Blood must surely hear it. “Remember our challenge. You’re not going to lose control, are you?”

“That depends.” Panting, he raised his head enough to glare at her over his shoulder. Sweat dripped into his eyes, and his hair was dark and heavy with steam. “Are you finally going to mark my arse?”

She’d marked Gregar’s ass years ago on the night of their claiming, and Rhaekhar had long regretted that he’d lost that competition, even though he wore many other marks on his throat and chest. “That was my general intention.”

He buried his face in his forearm and cursed, muttering beneath his breath so she couldn’t make out his words. She took that as permission. But first…

She poured more oil into her hands and kneaded it into both cheeks and down his hamstrings. Lady above, she’d never seen a finer warrior. Hot velvet skin stretched tight over sculpted granite, he was a complex mixture of explosive power and incredible gentleness. Although there was nothing gentle about his hoarse growl when she reached under his raised hip to wrap her oiled hand around him.

“I’m going…” He arched his back, lifting his rump so he could thrust in her hand. “To pour…that cursed oil…all over you…while I hold you down…and let your Blood…lick it off.”

Lady, he might as well have doused her head to toe in the sizzling oil. Immediately, her mind pictured it: Rhaekhar lying at her head, pinning her arms against him, while auburn and golden brown heads moved eagerly down her body.

Using his own challenge words, she retorted, “You’re welcome to try.”

She struck, biting deep, gripping his cheek in a punishing bite until blood filled her mouth. Rich with strength, spiced with love, his blood stoked a fire in her that had nothing to do with Keldari oil.

Whatever he meant to say was lost on a roar.

He rolled over so hard she tumbled off to the side and nearly spilled the oil. “Come here.”

“The challenge.” She couldn’t seem to catch her breath. “Do I win?”

He slammed his arms down to the mat, fists at his side. Eyes blazing, he ground out, “Continue.”

“Are you sure?”

He shot her a dark look. “Be wary with that oil, na’lanna. When I come inside you, it’ll spread like wildfire on your tender flesh, too.”

Holding his gaze, she tipped the vial over his chest. “I’m counting on it.”

Return to Shanhasson is Live!

Blessed Lady above, thank you for your bountiful blessings of love.

The final book in the Shanhasson trilogy, Return to Shanhasson, is now available at Drollerie Press here.  In the next few days it should also pop up on Amazon, B&N, etc.  I’ll add buy links as they’re available.

Reviewers:  please contact me (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) for a review copy!

What George RR Martin Taught Me

For my early formative years of writing (early 2000s), there were only a handful of authors I read heavily:  Robert Jordan, Laurell K. Hamilton, Amanda Quick, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsay, and George RR Martin.  Since the Shanhasson trilogy was my first project, you’ll probably see a lot of those influences.

I tried to take everything I loved from epic fantasy… the lushness of romance…and the sultry romps of LKH (before the arduer took over)…and create a world that contained it all.  Political intrigue, worldbuilding, large character casts, sweeping story arcs, epic journeys mixed with emotional relationships and complex erotic situations.  If LKH taught me that one heroine could have many lovers, then George RR Martin taught me…

To kill characters.

I’m so in love with Game of Thrones on HBO and I’m absolutely thrilled that it’s generating such excitement for people who might not have read the series, but seriously, I’m worried about people’s reactions as those beloved characters start dropping like flies. 

Okay, I don’t quite kill as many characters as Martin, but major characters DO die in the Shanhasson series.  If you already read Road, you know that.  But killing characters is a huge no-no in Romancelandia, and since I write a lot of romance and romance-like work, I want to be clear up front.

Return to Shanhasson is NOT a romance.

However, if your heart isn’t singing with joy at the end…and yes, a few tears might spill from your eyes (I cry every time I read it)…then I’ve failed utterly and completely.

To be completely fair, characters might be DEAD but they’re not GONE.  e.g. there are still scenes with the characters who were killed and they’re still important to the story.  They’re simply bound to appear only in Dreams.  So here’s a little twist for you:  if I bring back the beloved characters, then it’s only fair that I bring back the hated ones too, right?  *wicked grin*

Anyway, if you take a look at the Return to Shanhasson page, you’ll seen the following warning:

THIS TRILOGY IS NOT ROMANCE. Bad things happen. Significant characters die. Love is the greatest gift of all, and sometimes requires the greatest sacrifice. However, love shines in the darkest night. The road is long and hard, but when Shannari reaches her destination, she’ll reunite with all her loved ones she’s lost over the years and find more love and happiness than she’s ever known.

Thank you, Mr. Martin.

Review: The Bloodgate Guardian

Nancy reviews THE BLOODGATE GUARDIAN at My Odd Little World:

This has an edge of your seat tension, and you spend much of the book holding your breath. The secondary characters are mostly demons and are unbelievably evil, but she uses her imagination to bring these beings to chilling reality. Yes, the loves scenes are few in number, but Ms. Burkhart uses her words to best advantage, with passion and touching emotions.

Thank you so much, Nancy!

Don’t forget the Break 20 Giveaway, as well as the two giveaways celebrating HURT ME SO GOOD’s release.

Review: The Road to Shanhasson

Susi from The Geeky Bookworm says:

The Road to Shanhasson is a wonderful Fantasy Romance which does everything right. I loved the story, the characters and the wonderful narration. This book broke my heart and put the pieces back together and left me with a warm feeling deep inside. I can’t say often enough how wonderful Joely’s books are and again I’m sitting here craving more. Highly recommended to all romance readers.

The Road to Shanhasson is a wonderful and unique Fantasy Romance with wicked warriors, a heartbreaking lovestory and an engaging plot.

Read the whole review here.  Thank you so much, Susi!  Plans for the print release of Road are in the works now, and Return to Shanhasson (the final book in Shannari’s trilogy) will release in electronic format this fall!

Gregar is Coming…Again

I’ve been thinking about another short read before Return to Shanhasson, the final book in the trilogy, comes out in October.  Last night, Gregar walked in my dreams and gave me this, below, the opening to a new short project I’m working on.  Depending on its length, it’ll either be a standalone or combined with my other Blood & Shadows short stories for Kindle in the next month or two. 

I sure wish I had his image for the cover of Shadowed.  *hint hint*

Some men tremble in the face of death.

Others bare their teeth and fight to the very end.

While I’m the cold Shadow that glides forth from darkness to slit your throat before you even know I’m there. 

My name is Gregar and I’m the deadliest, most honored assassin on the Sha’Kae al’Dan’s Sea of Grass.  They call us Death Riders, for we ride death like the wind across the rolling Plains.  My hair is heavy with red kae’als, each bead a life that I have snuffed out in the Great Wind Stallion’s name.  Vulkar, may He sire many foals.  

My ivory rahke is silent and swift.  When I draw it, I will not sheathe my blade until it is red with blood, whether yours or mine.

Nothing short of death will stop me, but you cannot kill me.

For I am already dead.

Friday Snippet: The Bloodgate Guardian

Since I’m not writing new material this month and June is not that far away, I decided to start teasing you with snippets of The Bloodgate Guardian, coming this June from Carina Press

You’ve been seeing bits of this story under several different names for quite some time.  The original first draft was my first NaNoWriMo project in 2007, then titled Night Sun Rising.  Over a year went by before I got around to the first round of Revision Xibalba.  I spent a lot of time expanding the book, adding subplots and tons of characters.  However, I kinda went overboard, and ended up cutting those subplots out.  Can you say too many characters? 

Now the story is leaner, tighter, and concentrates only on Jaid and Ruin (yes, he got to keep his name!!).  Ironically, exactly the story I ended up with in 2007, just revised, polished, researched, etc.  Not to worry, though — those subplots I spent so much time on will become the fertile soil for the next book.  *winks*

So, here’s part of the opening scene of The Bloodgate Guardian, Chapter One. 

He never hated his magic until it compelled him to kill.

From the broken shadows of his temple, the priest watched the encroacher attempt to work his doomed magic.  Brilliant ruby pooled in the pocked basin of the altar and overflowed, streaming across the hand-carved stone in vibrant filigree.  The blood glowed like molten rock hot from the earth’s heart, releasing magic into the night.

The once all-powerful priest shuddered, his skin crawling with the caress of power.  His nostrils flared to catch the tantalizing scent of sweet copper.  Such temptation.  He tightened his grip on the starved jaguar pacing within him.  Such power.

The city once known as the Mouth of Creation had kept his secrets for a thousand years.  Now he must kill this man to protect that forbidden knowledge.  Keeping to the shadows, the priest called out, “As Gatekeeper of Chi’Ch’ul, I command you to leave my city or die.”

The man whirled and whipped the bloody heart behind his back.  At least this one’s victim had been a goat and not human.  “Nobody else should know the name of my dig.  Who are you working for?”

The priest stepped into the moonlight, and the other man recoiled.  With the jaguar prowling the cage of his body, he knew all too well the image he made:  eyes gleaming like golden lamps, jaguar spots dotting his arms and blending with the tribal tattoos on his upper body, angular cheekbones and sharp forehead compounded by the stark topknot pulling his hair back from his face.   The man had discovered the city, unburied it stone by stone. He could not help but recognize a priest of what had once been a grand and powerful nation.  “My city has already been destroyed.  Would you destroy the world as well?”

“I have powerful, rich friends,” the man said, backing away slowly.  “Name your price.”

So be it.  Small golden lights began buzzing around the priest and his bones throbbed with magic.  “Nothing you can offer will stay my hand.  As long as I live, these sacred waters shall lie still and silent.  My curse demands your death.  The Gates must remain locked until the Return.”

Ignoring his threats, the man smiled with elation.  “We were right!  I knew it.  After all these years, I finally found the center of the world!”

The balls of light blazed brighter.  A golden swirling wave obliterated his vision.  Bones cracked and twisted.  His scream of pain rumbled bass, a jaguar’s roar piercing the night. 

Tail lashing, the jaguar crouched in a pile of torn denim.  The sharp stink of his prey’s fear burned his nose. It had been a very long time since he’d hunted. The big cat knew his purpose.  He was only called forth to kill.

The foolish man turned toward his modern equipment stationed on the nearby boulder, presenting his back to the jaguar.  “Jaid, don’t come here!  Don’t trust anybody and don’t let the codex out of your hands!  Especially don’t give it to Venus Star!” 

The jaguar growled a threat.  If this person possessed the codex, he must die too.

Whirling, the man ran up the peninsula that extended over Lake Atitlan.  He slung the goat’s heart out over the water and threw his weight off the side, angling toward the beach instead of the lake.  Effortlessly, the jaguar leaped after him.  The man gasped in pain and rolled away, narrowly escaping the slashing claws.

Wet with rain, a sudden gust of wind swept across the shore.  Clouds boiled across the sky to hide the moon and stars.  Thunder rolled through the night and the ground trembled.  Lightning split the sky, winds increasing until the trees thrashed and waves whipped the surface of the lake.

A shape formed in the darkened waters.  Thrashing, bulging outward, a hand rose from the depths.  Water broke, cascading down the sceptered arm, which was white and blotched with spots of age and disease.

The jaguar clamped his ears and tail tight to his body and terror rippled through his fur.  Oh, stupid human fool!  Why had he opened Xibalba, with no wards to lock the demons beyond?

Shuddering with horror, the man whimpered.  “Where are the golden plumes?  The jade feathers?  This isn’t Great Feathered Serpent!”

The jaguar swiped at the man’s abdomen.  Jerking away, the man screamed and fell backward into the lake.  He thrashed helplessly, then sank like a stone through the Gate as a Lord of Death crawled onto the beach with another demon right behind.

Snarling, the jaguar slammed into the first demon, trying to knock it back through the Gate.  Even weak as a newborn babe, it refused to go back to the Place of Fright.  The other Death Lord crawled out of the lake clutching a small hunk of flesh.  Cradling the now-cold heart to its mouth, the demon feasted, while the other sniffed the air.  His gaze turned unerringly to the goat carcass above.

Every drop of blood would give them power.  Power that could destroy the world. 

 

Review: The Rose of Shanhasson

Susi of The Geeky Book Worm wrote an incredible, detailed review for Rose that really touched my heart.  What makes this review so special is the way she used my own language (e.g. na’lanna) right back at me! 

Gregar is a special one- he has so much darkness, shadow inside that it sometimes broke my heart. He’s a passionate man with a really wicked grin and oh so many other good characteristics but he really can be scary from time to time. I can’t even say for sure why I loved him so much. Perhaps cuz I wanted to hug him and make it all better? I’m really not sure but Gregar is so my new book boy friend.

The Rose of Shanhasson grabbed my heart from the first sentence to the last word and I wanted to scream for the next book when I closed this one. Okay, it’s probably not for the faint of heart with all the blood and shadows in it but I felt honored with every drop. The emotional build up was heart wrenching from time to time and the sexual tension will boil your blood. The fantasy is fascinating and wonderfully developed, the storyline thrilling through the whole book. All in all a must read for all the fantasy lovers out there who love to read something hot and spicy. The Rose of Shanhasson so deserves the title na’lanna for me.

Thank you so much, Susi!  I’m so honored to have met you on Twitter!