QSFer Antonia Aquilante has a new gay fantasy book out: in the Chronicles of Tournai series: “The Spymaster’s Secret.”
Alexander is doing his best to settle into life in Tournai’s royal palace after years living outside the country due to his father’s diplomatic work. The sense of belonging and home he feels is overwhelming, but none of his plans are going as he imagined. Many see him as only a lovely, charming adornment of the royal court and underestimate both his intelligence and abilities. His attraction to Marcus, a mysterious older man who does work for the prince, Alexander’s cousin, is unexpected but not unwelcome…if Marcus could possibly see who Alexander really is.
Lord Marcus is the second son of a minor noble family, a widower raising two children…and the prince’s spymaster. He knows his work is necessary for the security of the kingdom and its royal family, but he also knows it can be distasteful and dangerous to him and those around him. Marcus has vowed never to fall in love again, never to put anyone else at risk—a promise threatened for the first time by the vibrant, flirtatious Alexander. The attraction is unwelcome and entirely undeniable. He can’t believe someone like Alexander would want someone like him, but he also can’t stay away.
As they become ever more entangled, Marcus is investigating rumors of spies at work in Tournai’s university. As he gets closer to uncovering their plot, Alexander is drawn deeper into danger. Can their love survive when Alexander is put in peril by the very spies Marcus is hunting for?
Antonia is giving away a backlist title with this post – comment below for a chance to win!
“WHAT DO YOU have to tell us, Lord Marcus?”Marcus sat in one of the chairs across from the pair of desks in the princes’ private office and contemplated Prince Philip. The crown prince had the look of his father and something of his manner, a commanding presence he had probably cultivated since birth. He had the dark hair and classically handsome features of the men in the royal family and the bred-in-the-bone care for this country. Which Marcus had a feeling he might have thrown over in a heartbeat for the man beside him. Prince Consort Amory was shorter and fair with large dark eyes and curling auburn hair. He hadn’t been born into royalty or even nobility, but he’d adapted to his role far better than most of Tournai’s nobility had anticipated. Marcus knew quite well what each noble family thought of the marriage, just past its third anniversary, although the princes had never asked him for the information.
“First, Your Highnesses, the prisoner taken into custody at the border hasn’t answered any questions posed to him. I was asked to try.”
The army had brought the man in from the border several days ago.
Tournai was protected from magical attack by a barrier created by a web of spells. Almost no one knew of the spells in Tournai, but someone outside had apparently discovered their protection and was determined to find its weaknesses. The man had been testing the barrier, and somehow the spells had caught and held him until the army could get there. Marcus had to speak with Savarin about how he’d been caught and what weaknesses they should guard against.
Philip frowned. “We need answers from him. I can’t believe the threat has disappeared because we’ve apprehended one man at the border.”
“With all respect, Your Highness, we don’t know what the threat is yet.” Marcus glanced between the princes but returned his attention to Philip. “I’ll do everything I can to find out and quickly, but there is more than one possibility.”
“I think the possibility at the top of our minds is this man was sent by Ardunn,” Amory said in his quiet tone. “I doubt anyone will rest easy until we can rule that out. If we can.”
“It is a possibility, Your Highness, and a strong one.” The Ardunn empire was located far to their east, separated from Tournai by an impassable mountain range and the kingdom of Elleri, but Ardunn’s emperor was obsessed with conquest and seemingly interested in using Tournai as a foothold for gaining control of this half of the continent. The geographical barriers were too great to march an army in, and Ardunn had no naval power to speak of. But they routinely sent their agents into Tournai searching for weaknesses.
“However, with the bandit attacks along the border over the last several months, it isn’t the only one. He might have been with the bandits. Or he could’ve been sent from Ardunn or hired by them to test the barriers. The attacks could’ve been orchestrated by Ardunn as well. Or they might be completely unrelated. For all we know, the prisoner was working on his own, unrelated to either the bandits or Ardunn.”
Marcus didn’t much care for that option, as it meant they probably had another enemy lurking, but he also didn’t think it was the most likely either.
Philip’s frown deepened, not even lightening when Amory laid a hand on his arm. “You’re not giving me much helpful information, Lord Marcus.”
“I apologize, Your Highness. All I can do at this point is present you with theories.” He spread his hands in a helpless gesture. He wished he had more for the princes—he took the lack as a personal failure despite the short time he’d had this problem on his desk. “I will do everything I can to get information from our prisoner, and I have people searching for the bandits he was likely traveling with as well.”
“The army has been chasing them for months.” Amory’s remark was said without judgment for either Marcus’s people or the army.
“I’m aware, Your Highness, but my people can go unnoticed in a way the army can’t.”
Amory nodded, thoughtful, but Philip spoke. “Coordinate with Captain Loriot if you need further information, though I can’t imagine you ever lacking information.”
Marcus smiled slightly at Philip’s dry statement. “Far be it from me to ever claim I know everything, Your Highness. That would be the heights of arrogance.”
“If you say so.”
Philip didn’t explain why Marcus should see Loriot if he needed information about a situation the army was overseeing. Loriot’s power ended at the city gates when he wasn’t traveling with the princes. But Marcus could surmise.
“Is there anything else we need to know? Not only about our prisoner, of course.” Philip always phrased the question that way when he asked. Marcus didn’t blame him—there were certain things the princes didn’t need to know, which was why they had Marcus.
“Not at this time, Your Highness.” There were a dozen things Marcus could have told them, but none needed their immediate attention. If any of the rumors his people were chasing down at the university became more substantial, then he’d bring them to the princes.
Philip sat back. “All right, Lord Marcus. Keep us informed about the questioning.”
“Of course, Your Highness.”
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.