To Target the Heart by Aldrea Alien (Spellster Series) :: New Book :: Guest Post ::
Title: To Target the Heart
Series: Spellster Series #2
Author: Aldrea Alien
Publisher: Self Published
Published: 15 April 2020
Cover Design: Leonardo Borazio
Length: 226,000 words
Keywords : M/M, Fantasy, Romance, Hurt/Comfort, Man in Peril, Cultural Differences, Big Bottom/Little Top, Bear Bottom, Dysfunctional Family, Opposites Attract, Love, Attempted Suicide, Engagement Challenge
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How can he win with the odds stacked against him?
Prince Hamish has no interest in fulfilling his duty of marrying. Not to a woman, at least. That doesn’t stop his mother, Queen Fiona, from presenting him with every eligible noblewoman that enters their castle. He’s certain it’ll be no different with the representative of the Udynea Empire.
So when they do arrive, Hamish is relieved the imperial prince, Darshan, is not the woman everyone expected. Until the man kisses him and Hamish is confronted by the very emotions he has been forced to conceal or be punished for. Emotions he is eager to explore.
But the kiss proves to be a little too public and leads his mother to take drastic measures to ensure Hamish adheres to her family vision. The contest of arms will force Hamish to make a choice: give up his happiness for convention’s sake or send the kingdom spiralling into civil war for the right to love his own way.
Where do your inspiration for characters and story world come from?
There are, of course, influences from all over. The story is set in Tirglas, which is heavily influenced by the Scottish highlands and, with there being a competition over Hamish’s hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain Disney movie crept its way in. It certainly did via my writing playlist.
The world for this was easy enough, mainly because I had already done a lot of building for In Pain and Blood in order to ensure the different kingdoms had different feels. Those constraints did leave me with a fair bit of wriggle room, but it also meant I had to constantly check details in a behemoth of a story where I’d only listed particular details within the book itself rather than in a separate file. Fortunately, the two tales are set in different kingdoms so I’d very little overlap and a lot of room for growth.
In regards to the characters, Darshan was mentioned before I’d fully settled into the idea of using him as anything other than a distant threat. It’s not super obvious and the mention is almost a throwaway line about the vris Mhanek in the first half of In Pain and Blood that I don’t expect anyone to remember, but it’s in reference to Darshan. I added it for world building and he kind of sat in the back of my head bubbling away.
You could say part of his personality is sort of influenced by all the games and stories that have cocky princes. And he certainly plays that part well before reaching Tirglas, even describing himself as hedonistic and used to getting his way. But when that masks drops, he’s almost the opposite. He’s still a sarcastic sod that likes the finer things in life, just not as cold as I first envisioned him. And with one hell of a romantic streak.
Hamish as a character came to me after Darshan, albeit in a different fashion. Much like Dylan in In Pain and Blood, I played around with Hamish as an OC in an RPG where he started out as Max (a name that’s now attached to a whole other character and storyline). His current name and family troubles didn’t come around until I began to think where he might fit into in the spellster world. The rather rustic kingdom of Tirglas made the most sense and he made the full transition into Hamish.
The storyline didn’t finish settling until I was halfway into the story, but it came about when I was spending a lot of time in Darshan’s head just thinking how he would react to particular scenarios. I hit the idea of Darshan venturing beyond the Udynea Empire, albeit not for the reasons he eventually did leave, and what upheaval might be caused by him arriving in a place where everything that makes him him—be it his nationality, his magical prowess, or his sexuality—is considered unnatural or untrustworthy.
The world building left me with few places where he wouldn’t be slain on sight and Tirglas was one of them. After that, it was a matter of unleashing Darshan—who also gained the position of ambassador set on formally negotiating trade—into what had become a stable, if somewhat miserable, life for Hamish and letting the story unfold.
The whole pub seemed to grow still the longer Darshan stared at the man, his expression blank.
“Bill,” Hamish hissed at the dockmaster. “That’s enough.” The man must have realised it would be the grandsire of all bad ideas to piss off someone capable of setting things on fire with a thought.
Ignoring Hamish, Billy continued to give the spellster a smarmy smile.
Darshan returned the grin, his tongue snaking out to run along the underside of his teeth. He calmly unhooked his glasses from behind his ears. “Hold these, will you?” he asked, waving the frames in Hamish’s general direction.
Hamish took a cautious step backwards. He couldn’t be certain if Darshan was merely posturing or actually planned to attack the man, but it would be better if he stayed out of it. After all, he couldn’t haul Darshan back to the castle if they were both unconscious.
He delicately reached for the glasses.
Darshan barely waited for Hamish to properly grasp them before he swung at Billy, clearly aiming for the man’s head.
Billy jerked back, too late in mounting a defence against the attack.
The spellster’s fist—heavily bedecked in jewelled rings—connected with Billy’s face like a hammer. The definite snap of breaking bone was almost an exhalation.
The dockmaster fell back, howling. Blood poured from beneath the man’s fingers, staining his blonde beard. At first, Hamish thought the ambassador had only broken Billy’s nose, until he caught sight of the dockmaster’s jaw. One side bulged alarmingly, whilst the right, the side Darshan had hit, was caved in.
The two men flanking Billy lunged at the spellster.
Sneering, Darshan flicked both his hands as if brushing the dust from his outfit. The men went flying, smashing into the walls. Neither one got up.
More men jumped up from their seats, agog. One ran out the door screaming. Not a one of them seemed to know what to do about the spellster who had made short work of three men; a foreigner who still stood over Billy without a care as to the bleeding state of his hand. Hamish wasn’t entirely certain it was even Darshan’s blood. Surely, with the force he’d hit the dockmaster, he must’ve broken something.
Darshan turned. He squinted at Hamish, then held out his bloodied hand. The fingers and knuckles seemed normal enough. No twists or swelling that suggested any harm had come to them. “My glasses, if you please?”
Hamish returned the item in question back to their owner. “I think this might be the best time to leave.” There’d be trouble once word of this got out—and a lot of questions Hamish wasn’t looking forward to answering. But if they returned to the castle now, then Gordon might be able to help him wrangle a more palatable version of events for his mother.
With the glasses once more firmly in place on his face, Darshan glared at Billy. “One moment.” He strode over to the howling man and grabbed his head. “Do not move or I will leave you injured. And I would advise against trying to talk.”
Billy stilled. Panic and fear flashed in his tear-redden eyes.
It had been some years since Hamish had last been in the presence of healing magic. But he’d been in no position to objectively watch either. Seeing the man’s face slowly reform to its previous state was something he’d never thought he would witness.
Billy’s cheeks shifted alarmingly, like a bubbling pot of porridge. The skin constantly changed colour, from the pinkish-red of freshly-struck to the bruised rainbow hues of blue, purple and green, then fading to trout-brown before regaining its natural wrinkled and heavily-tanned state.
Throughout it all, Billy’s eyes grew wider. He whimpered and fisted at his trousers. If Darshan hadn’t already stipulated stillness, he likely would’ve bolted from the spellster’s grip.
When Darshan was done, he released Billy’s head and let the man tumble onto the floor. “Call me that again and I shall do the same,” he snarled as he bent over the dockmaster. “Only next time, you can keep the broken jaw. Understood?”
Billy nodded. “Aye, your lordship.” He back-crawled across the flagstones, pausing only to rub his jaw and standing once Darshan was well beyond physical reach.
Dusting his hands, the ambassador returned to Hamish’s side. “As entertaining as that was, I think you are right, we should return to the castle.”
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Aldrea Alien is an award-winning, bisexual author of fantasy romance with varying heat levels. Born and raised in New Zealand, she lives on a small farm with her family, including a menagerie of animals, who are all convinced they’re just as human as the next person. Especially the cats. Since discovering a love of writing at the age of twelve, she hasn’t found an ounce of peace from the characters plaguing her mind with all of them clamouring for her to tell their story first.