Author: Cheryl Headford
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh
Length: 328 Pages
Release Date: September 17, 2015
Blurb: Astrin Raphael wakes up in a strange place, frightened and confused. He is told to trust someone who seems to hate him, and he tries—he really tries. However, things change rapidly when he discovers his friend is actually his archenemy, Rowan Gabriel, whose abusive behavior stems from a deeply ingrained, if unwarranted, hatred over something that happened many years before, and simply wasn’t Astrin’s fault.
When Rowan’s uncle and Astrin’s father are kidnapped by Strebo Michael, the two crown princes are catapulted into an adventure that forces them to work together, and along the way their feelings for each other grow. Rowan is quick to let his hate go, but Astrin can’t release his inhibitions. It takes Astrin almost dying from a poisoned dagger before he finally accepts Rowan’s love.
When they return home, their problems continue as their Houses try to negotiate a way for the young men to be together. It soon becomes clear at least one of them will need to relinquish his throne.
Rowan looked into the sincere green eyes, which were far from clear and never would be as long as he was here. If Rowan had been thinking clearly, he would have been impressed that—even though he was drugged, hurt, and ill—Astrin was handling the situation far better than he was. Unfortunately, Rowan was not thinking clearly, and the only thing that crossed his mind was frustration. He was so determined to hate Astrin, no matter what, he’d blinded himself to anything about Astrin that was admirable or likable.
The things he couldn’t ignore—Astrin’s obvious beauty and calmness of spirit—did nothing more than irritate him enormously. Somewhere deep inside, he knew Astrin was a good person, but Rowan wouldn’t acknowledge it. He couldn’t, because if he did he’d have to stop hating Astrin, and that was simply not going to happen.
“You didn’t do anything. I just don’t like you.”
“Because you’re self-absorbed, stuck-up, and arrogant.”
Astrin’s eyes went wide. “Am I? I… I don’t feel like I am.”
Rowan snorted. “No one who’s truly arrogant ever believes they are.”
Astrin considered. “I suppose you’re right. I don’t want to be any of those things.” He considered again. “Will you help me?”
“Help me not be anymore.”
Rowan snorted again. “Yeah right.”
“No, seriously. I really don’t want to be those things you said I am— any of them. Please help me change.”
Rowan stared at him, genuinely shocked. “Um… er… okay…. Okay, I will…. At least I’ll do my best.”
Astrin treated him to a blinding smile that made him feel slightly stunned. Those eyes were powerful weapons. Thank the Gods Astrin wasn’t aware enough to know how to use them.
“Have you finished eating?” Astrin nodded, placing his half-empty plate back on the trolley. Rowan shook his head. “You have to eat it all, or Ragnor will have my guts for garters.”
“That’s an… interesting expression.”
“You think it’s just an expression?”
For the first time, the two boys genuinely smiled at each other. Astrin leaned forward to pick up the plate again and missed the expressions flowing through Rowan’s eyes. At first he was amused, then horrified, and then—cold.
“Why have you been taking care of me? I mean… you don’t like me, and you’re obviously not part of my family: we look too different. So who are you? Are you a servant? You don’t seem like one.”
“A servant?” Rowan stared at him, outraged. “No, I am not a bloody servant. I’m Crown Prince of House Gabriel.”
Astrin’s eye widened with an expression of startled shock. “Really?”
“I am not in the habit of lying.”
“No, I… I wasn’t saying you were lying, but….” Thoughtfully, Astrin chewed on a piece of food and frowned. “I don’t understand.”
“There are a lot of things you don’t understand.”
“If you’re a prince, then why…? Why are you taking care of me?”
“Because my uncle feels I need a lesson in humility.”
“Oh… so you’re arrogant, self-absorbed, and stuck-up too?”
Cheryl Headford was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was sixteen, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry, and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews, and cousin, and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.
Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a reenactment group who traveled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was there she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.
In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the Valleys with her son, dog, hamster, and two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art.
Winner’s Prize: Signed Paperback of Hostage.
Runners Up Prize: 2 E-copies of Hostage.