Set within the fabled city of Nevaharday, the story begins with Jaycent Connor, a reluctant prince who refuses to assume his father's title after a mysterious illness took his parents lives. The lords of the land couldn't sway the prince to ascend the throne and assume his rightful place as ruler. The harder they tried, the farther the prince seemed to drift into a realm of apathy and solitude.
Then the nightmares began. Terrible, brutal dreams that crossed the threshold into reality as the prince found himself waking up to the wounds he had sustained in his sleep.
Rest became impossible as the life of Nevaharday's only heir teetered in the balance. Healers were baffled, their remedies useless, so Prince Connor took matters into his own hands. He sought the help of an outlawed band of horse folk known as "the gypsies."
More specifically, a green-eyed beauty named Levee Tensley.
Together they unravel the truth. The prince was never ill. Neither were his parents. It all led back the magic and lies of an illusionist bent on seizing his kingdom and extinguishing the Connor line.
However, the more they uncover, the more they wonder: can they stop him? Or are their efforts too little, too late?
Whether you're a fantasy connoisseur, horse lover, or casual reader, Carlton's debut novel will have you enchanted from the first paragraph to the very last page. Her race of "horse folk" is original, charming, and so believable they will pull you right into the story.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Royal Rogue
By ELIZABETH CARLTON
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Elizabeth Carlton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneInside palace walls, nobility and common folk joined together as one to indulge luxuriously in liquor as Nevaharday celebrated its newest accomplishment. It was the first time the allied races had agreed to host the annual trade faire on rahenyan grounds, providing their city the opportunity to move up in the ranks of trade and foreign relations. The prospect had every rahee from farmer and artisan to nobility's finest feeling giddy.
Except for one. Guests had expected Prince Jaycent Connor's smile alone to light up the marble hall at the opportunity for his kingdom to rise in stature. Instead, their honored host slumped at a long table observing the mingling guests; a mix of nobles and commoners who, for one night, sat amongst one another like equals. In front of him, couples danced in synch with one another while others milled about the room, moving from table to table where they partook in small talk with newfound acquaintances. Rolling his eyes, His Highness took another long sip of wine. It was his fourth chalice of the evening, and he had yet to leave his seat.
"Slow down, cousin. One more glass of that and you won't be able to tell the beauties from the beasts in this lavish party." General Mendeley took a seat beside the prince and motioned for a servant to pour him a drink.
Jaycent downed the rest of his share before raising his glass to the general. "Even the ugliest of ladies deserve flattery every once and awhile."
"Perhaps," his cousin chuckled. Eldest of the two, Rayhan Mendeley was broad shouldered and in his mid-thirties. A young age for a general, though he was no novice to the sword. Sworn in as a soldier when he was barely fifteen, Rayhan's fate had been set at an early age by his father, former general Siren Mendeley. The leather skinned warrior taught his son everything he knew, and when old Siren took the inevitable walk from this life to the next, he made Rayhan swear to carry on his legacy.
Tonight, Rayhan Mendeley wore that title with pride. A dark silk tunic hugged his solid figure, its ornate silver buttons trailing from belt to collar. Upon his neck a brooch shaped like the bust of a unicorn secured the decorative blue cloak draped over his right arm. As always, his belt flaunted the battle weary sword that never left his side. However, tonight it masked its many notches beneath a diamond-crested scabbard that matched the general's regal ensemble. The elaborately jeweled piece had been a gift from Jaycent, in honor of his cousin and his blade, both well recognized during their twenty-one years of service.
"You are dressed particularly well tonight," Jaycent tugged the sleeve of Rayhan's uniform, causing the five distinguished medals on his breast to jingle against each other. "Who is the lucky lady?"
Rayhan tossed him a humored glance. "You wouldn't believe it if I told you."
The general nodded toward a petite young woman in the middle of a heated discussion with one of Jaycent's leading advisors. Her long black curls bobbed up and down as she filled the elder's ears with her own theories on royal politics. The prince choked mid-swallow.
"Arelee Denicarli ... You are here with the horse breeder's daughter?" Rayhan smiled and nodded, though he didn't seem entirely delighted. Arelee was a childhood friend of both cousins. Notorious for her outspoken and tomboyish disposition, she never failed to wreak havoc against the nobles' sense of propriety. "I'm surprised you managed to get her here in a dress."
"Yes, well, it was a challenge," he admitted, eyeing her with amusement as he leaned back into his seat. "But I figured the royal blood needs its feathers ruffled every once and awhile. Otherwise palace life tends to become rather monotonous."
"Monotonous is putting it ever so lightly," the prince muttered. "Are you courting her?"
Rayhan cocked one eyebrow, reminding the prince how ridiculous his question truly was. There had only been one female in Rayhan's life and he had fallen for her like a struck bird. She was an elven maiden, but other than that the prince knew very little. The general spoke of her rarely, usually in passing. Yet the tone of his voice when he mentioned her told Jaycent what words could not.
"You know, Rayhan ... it's been a long time, and you aren't getting any younger. Maybe giving Arelee a chance isn't as foolish as it seems."
The elder cousin ran a finger around the rim of his glass, staring at the deep red liquid as if it held an answer. "Or maybe it is."
The prince shrugged apathetically and the two fell silent for several moments before Rayhan took the initiative.
"What about you? How come you aren't out there sweeping a lady or two off their feet?"
Jaycent snickered as he let his silver-blue eyes trail toward a couple of young damsels in the corner who in turn giggled nervously. "I know you're not talking about love, cousin. You and I both know I have little heart to speak of."
"You speak of emotions as if they're something worth chasing after," Jaycent mused.
Rayhan took a sip of his drink, offering Arelee a smile over his glass as he caught her glance in his direction. "Whoever said it wasn't?"
"What, and end up like you? Wasting life by wistfully recalling a lover from long ago? Please. Love is a fool's dream, nothing more, nothing less." The pained look on the general's face caused the prince to regret his loose tongue. Damn wine, he thought to himself as he quickly tried to smooth things over. "I spoke too boldly ..."
"You speak in ignorance," was his cousin's brisk reply. The general slid his chair out and rose from the table. "Now if you'll excuse me, there's a lady here I've neglected long enough." Calming himself, the general turned to his friend, and cousin, and said, "And for mercy's sake, Prince! Get out of your chair and mingle a bit. Try to have a bit of fun."
Jaycent sighed as the general approached Arelee and, with a sweeping bow, offered her a dance. With a smile she accepted, and the two took to the floor. Watching the pair, the prince pondered whether his cousin was truly as happy as he seemed or if it was all one great façade. Could someone really lose so much in life and still find reason to smile? Either way, you couldn't tell with General Mendeley. He hardly ever revealed such private things.
The prince grabbed Rayhan's abandoned glass and stood, granting part of his cousin's request by getting out of his seat. Weaving his way toward the door with some difficulty, he finished off the last of the wine, frowning when the few remaining drops clung stubbornly to the bottom.
"Your Highness? Highness? Your Majesty!" A masculine voice called out from the crowd just as Jaycent reached for the handle. He rolled his eyes before facing his pursuer, a false smile in place as he mentally reminded himself to be pleasant.
The young rahee shoved through a disgruntled sea of guests and bowed hastily, a nervous smile splayed across his lips as he sputtered out a greeting. He was a commoner, and from the looks of it a foreign one. Standing a hair's breadth below six foot, the stranger bore a tan that rivaled even the most weather worn of northern farmers. He couldn't have been much younger than the prince, and possessed a pair of sharp amber eyes common in horse folk born in the warmer regions. When Jaycent looked past the chin length black curls, he took note of the stranger's high collared vest, a popular piece of clothing among males of the southernmost rahenyan kingdom. A rahee from Sarrokye, the prince thought to himself. This should prove interesting.
"Let us walk and talk," he offered. With a sweep of his arm, Jaycent opened the door and motioned the commoner forward. Although peasant folk weren't usually permitted to approach him without formal introduction, the prince wasn't about to revoke that opportunity tonight. Not when this foreigner seemed eager, if not desperate.
"Thank ya, M'lord. I won't be wastin' your time, I promise."
Jaycent struggled not to wince at the southerner's peculiar drawl. "Well for once in my life I actually have time to waste," he replied. "Speak. You seem distressed."
"Yes M'lord, ya could say that." Following the prince to the balcony, the commoner proceeded with an uninspiring story of how he had moved to Nevaharday from the south several years ago to begin a new life as a farmer. He loved the city, and the seasons that brought life to Jaycent's beautiful kingdom. But all that he had founded here seemed in peril now. "Ya see, a week ago we common folk were shown the blueprint you approved for the new trade route, and I happened t'notice the new road cut through the middle of my fields ..." Jaycent tried his best to look attentive as the curly haired farmer rambled on, but it wasn't easy. Drunkenness moved like a fog across his mind.
"What did you say your name was?" the prince asked.
"I didn't, M'lord. It's Milo. Milo Kasateno. I live in a village called New Haven, just outside of the city."
"Well then, Milo, how about we set up a hearing where we can discuss this at length?" Jaycent turned, motioning for a guard to join them. "Escort this rahee to General Mendeley and inform him that I granted Milo Kasateno an audience at noon tomorrow."
With a sigh of relief, the commoner thanked him and bowed profusely as he departed with the guard in search of Rayhan among the fray of guests. Jaycent gave a polite nod in return and rested his weight on the balustrade, thankful for a taste of solitude.
Night had fallen, casting the sky under a navy backdrop. Captured in its starry net, the full moon illuminated the rolling hills that stretched beyond the horizon. To his right he could see the pastures lined in silver light, their grassy canvas dotted with the shadows of resting horses. To his left, dense forests skirted the untamed mountain range that stood as stone faced sentries over his growing kingdom.
A pride swelled inside his chest as Jaycent embraced the breathless landscape with silent admiration. Not so long ago, this land had been marred by bloodshed and sorrow as the rahee and elves warred over unclaimed land and broken promises. Yet one would never know it now. Although rocky, the relationship between rahee and elves remained civil since peace had been established eighteen years ago. Jaycent's kingdom prospered, its land expanding from Nevaharday's neighboring peaks and across the rolling foothills that brushed the eastern elven forests.
Now his city was growing into a thriving hub for trade, leading other races to view Jaycent as a rising leader among the allied kingdoms. From a political standpoint, the prince had every reason to be rejoicing in his realm's success.
But he wasn't.
In the distance, the thrum of heavy hoof beats shook away the silence. Jaycent's ears flicked toward the sound and he scanned the area for a familiar figure. Across the main pasture a silhouette broke the serenity as it charged across the enclosure, muffling the prince's thoughts beneath the sound of his thunderous gait.
"Diego," Jaycent whispered. "Just as restless as I am tonight, aren't you friend?"
The unicorn gave a piercing whinny as he bucked with wild abandon. Diego's displays often kindled fear in the hearts of royal servants, but the prince understood the stallion's outbursts for what they were. His spirit spurred him to run, releasing the pent up energy twitching within each honed muscle.
Jaycent also craved release. Most days, the dictation of his royal duties left him feeling caged. Amidst the demands of politics and his continuous role as the face of his kingdom, there was no time allotted for personal moments ... not even for something as intimate as mourning.
The prince clinched his jaw, his eyes pressed shut as he remembered that ill-fated day. His equine ears drooped low beneath his mahogany locks and he instinctively gripped the cold metallic bands that hugged his wrists. Last week marked the second year of his parents passing. Both the king and queen had fallen ill shortly after a visit to the eastern region. The malady was deemed 'frighteningly contagious' by the priests and healers, and the royal couple was quickly quarantined.
Jaycent never saw his parents during that time. Not even in their final hours due to the healer's fear for his own health. At first, he had stood sentry at their chamber door, speaking to his parents through the thick wood that stood between them. But as things grew worse the healers shooed him away. It was too dangerous, they explained. Nevaharday couldn't risk the life of the only heir to the throne.
Days later, his parents passed on and Jaycent was forced to become the youngest leader of the allied kingdoms at the age of twenty-two. Tears still glistened in his eyes when the king's advisors placed his father's silver cuffs on his wrists; adornments that felt more like shackles with each passing day. While the public had plenty of time to grieve the passing of King Connor and his queen, Jaycent only received a few sympathetic pats on the back while his advisors muttered about how the show must go on.
And it went on. And on, and on ... and on.
His father's title sat before him as a looming reminder of his fate. Since King Connor's unexpected passing, the duties of kingship had been split between Jaycent and his advisors, each decision heavily influenced by the guidance of the elder council. They worked arduously with the young prince, attempting to instill within him the skills necessary before he could fully take up his father's crown and bear the title of a king. However, they were met with frustration as Jaycent's apathetic demeanor limited his progress.
The truth wasn't that the prince didn't care. Fear and mixed feelings drove Jaycent's emotions behind a fortified wall inside his heart. Although he would never admit it out loud, the prince didn't think he had what it took to fill his father's boots. Leading a kingdom consumed his time, his energy and much of his soul. His father before him walked a lonely path that trusted few and served many; a path that didn't sit well with Jaycent. At the end of the day all he wanted to do was run, scream and scare the living daylights out of anyone caught in his way.
Much like Diego was doing now.
"At least you don't have to pretend," he whispered as the mighty beast made another round across the pasture.
"Who are you talking to?" a curious voice jolted Jaycent from his solitude. The prince peered over his shoulder to see an auburn haired woman in a striking green dress standing between the curtains that separated the balcony from the festivities indoors. It didn't take wine to make this rahee look like a gem. He turned his attention back to the stallion in the distance to keep his eyes from trailing.
"Him," he motioned toward the black unicorn tearing across the pasture. The pretty guest approached the balustrade and the prince was thankful for the long, mahogany hair that shielded his misty eyes. Consequence for pulling the cork on bottled up memories. Damn wine.
"Is that who I think it is?" the woman leaned over the railing to get a better look at the black unicorn moving like a furious shadow through the darkness. As she did, Jaycent caught the enticing scent of lavender drift over his nose. He bit his lip as he tried to reel his mind back to the conversation.
"That is Diego, my companion."
The girl in the green dress gave a wistful sigh, her cheek perched against her hand. "I've always wanted to meet a unicorn."
Jaycent studied this curious stranger, astounded by her composure. He couldn't yet place whether she was of noble birth or common. The girl was clearly educated. It showed through her eloquent speech. Yet few—noble or not—had the courage to look him in the eye, much less stride over and strike up casual conversation.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Levee Tensley," she stepped back and attempted a curtsy, and Jaycent did well to suppress his laughter as he likened the display to a flailing bird.
"You do not do that often, do you?" he mused.
Levee blushed, and shrugged. "I'm not exactly accustomed to royal company, Your Highness."
"You don't sound like you spend much time around the common folk either." He dipped his head in a clumsy nod toward her mouth. "You have a noble's tongue."
"Pardon?" she placed her fingers tentatively over her lips, not quite understanding what he meant.
"Your dialect," he clarified. "You speak well for a peasant."
Excerpted from The Royal Rogue by ELIZABETH CARLTON Copyright © 2012 by Elizabeth Carlton. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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I felt like this book was written right out of my imagination! It had every element I could want in a fantasy novel. Love, mystery, betrayal, war, and suspense, this book has it all! This book was so well-written that I could visually see everything that I read as I was reading it, like I was watching the movie that would be made from this book. I loved how this story was so different. I have never read a book so unique! This book is far from the typical dwarves and elves and wizards that you would expect. The book introduces a whole new race that has a special bond with horses! This book is so unexpected I could hardly put this book down because it reeled me in! There are not many books in which I feel a close bond with the characters, but in this book I felt that and I still wanted to know more about them. I felt like this book was written especially for the little girl inside me with the wildest imagination.
I just absolutely love this book!!! I read it so quickly because it's just so well written. It has the perfect combination of great storyline, characters, and descriptions. I'd recommend it for anyone who loves fantasy stories or if you're just looking for something different to read.