Hello everyone! Today I am really excited to welcome author Shira Glassman to Joyfully Jay. Shira is here to talk to us more about her book The Second Mango. She is also sharing an excerpt and offering a copy up for a giveaway. Shira also has lots of commissioned character art on her website if you want to check it out!
So please join me in giving her a big welcome!
In The Second Mango, my fantasy novel recently published by Prizm Books, a young lesbian is looking for love, a straight female mercenary is looking for a permanent bodyguard gig, and a dragon is looking fabulous. Together, they travel a tropical kingdom with the goals of finding the queen a girlfriend, saving a group of women who were cursed by an evil sorcerer, and trying to find meals that don’t set off the queen’s multiple food allergies.
Sound like fun? It’s a love letter to everything I like about the way I grew up, and maybe some hate mail as well. I felt so left out as a kid, seeing no sweet, happily-ever-after romance between two girls in my fairy tales the way I wanted there to be. Even my taste in men left me little fictional comfort, because I tend to like them older, more mysterious, not stereotypically young and handsome. And I always longed for the dragon to be on the side of the heroes. All these things went into my book.
When Rivka, the five-foot-eleven warrior woman who poses as a man to bypass sexism, rescues Shulamit, the lonely little queen of Perach, she’s not just rescuing her from the kidnappers who’ve gotten a hold of her on Page One. She also rescues her from the isolation she feels after losing her father, coming out to her ladies-in-waiting (who treat her as a curiosity), and not being believed that certain foods are making her sick. The image of a woman rescuing another woman has been important to me for ages, perhaps ever since I was tiny, learning the Ring Cycle on my mother’s knee, and seeing the goddess Brünnhilde protecting her mortal half-sister Sieglinde from their father’s wrath. I believe that every woman is at once Sieglinde and also Brünnhilde protecting her. Thus, Rivka and Shulamit are two sides of me (which is how they ended up straight and lesbian, respectively — I’m bisexual, although as an adult I lean gay.)
Rivka did rescue me. I started writing their story exactly a year, nearly to the day, after I lost my own father, like Shulamit did two months before the book’s opening scene. I’d like to invite you into their world — where the leading lady CAN get the girl; where the sexy older male mentor figure is also a gigantic feminist; and where there will always be someone to protect those who need it from misogyny, curses, or even stray gluten.
Next summer, Prizm will be publishing the sequel, Climbing the Date Palm, in which a male/male couple joins the cast of characters. The summary: Queen Shulamit is eager to help Kaveh, the youngest prince of a neighboring country, when his father throws his engineer boyfriend in jail for leading his workers in protest over underpaid wages. But if she can’t find a peaceful solution that will keep everybody happy, the two countries could wind up at war.
Comment to be entered in a drawing for a free copy of the eBook for The Second Mango — or just pick it up here or on Amazon 🙂
Shulamit was sitting and eating her lamb kabobs and other finds from the market, when Rivka appeared with a loaded plate. “I should have done that,” Rivka commented. “Look at this.” She glared at her food.
“I bought you a mango,” said Shulamit brightly, handing her the second mango. Until that moment, she hadn’t been entirely sure whether it was Rivka’s dessert or her own midnight snack. To her surprise, she was genuinely happy that she had decided to give it to Rivka.
“Thank you, Shula!” Rivka began to attack her plate of strangeness with gusto.
Shulamit’s face froze slightly, so Rivka reminded her in a whisper, “I can’t call you Queenling here. Too risky.” As if to illustrate her point, a group of drunk men at a nearby table had noticed them and began to heckle. “Hey! How come she’s got better food than the rest of us?” shouted one.
“They’ve got mangoes!” “What is this swill?” “I want some of that lamb.” One of the men approached the women’s table.
“That’s not fair. Why did he give you better food than everyone else?”
Shulamit looked up from her plate of food with an expression of deep anger, almost like a threatened animal, but before she could say anything, Rivka leapt to her defense. “She bought it in the market. Fowl makes her ill.”
“Yeah, well, this food would make anyone ill. Hand it over.”
Rivka stood up to her full height, towering over him. “You really don’t want to mess with me,” she growled at him, fingering the hilt of her sword. “Or I might have to buy you a drink with this steel.”
The man’s eyes opened into wide circles, and he backed away, stumbling. “My apologies, sir.” He went back to his table, and nobody bothered them again.
“A traveling comedian he’s expecting, not a warrior,” Rivka muttered, going back to her food. Shulamit was looking at her with an expression warm like the firelight that lit the room.
“Riv — thank you.”
“Oh, that was nothing! Aren’t I your — what did you say — hired muscle?”
“No, I mean — thank you for believing me.” She paused. “Back at home, I’m a queen. I used to be a princess. So many people think I made up my food problems to get attention, or that I’m just lying to get everyone to take my preferences more seriously.”
“Hey,” said Riv through a mouthful of chicken curry, “never underestimate your right to the things you like. You have a right to eat mangoes if you want to. Or chase women.”
“I guess you’re right,” said Shulamit, smiling with half her mouth. She appreciated Rivka’s support, but “chase” had made her feel awkward. There was a strong physical component to her longings, true, but she hoped Rivka knew that it went beyond that. She was looking for a woman to love, for the sweet mutual understanding of hearts that share each other’s secrets—not just a concubine. “But anyway, I really do get sick if I eat the wrong things, or even the right things prepared the wrong way — near the wrong things, I mean. And I’ll get sick whether people believe me or not. Aviva was the first person to believe me — and sometimes I feel like she’s the only person. Even though I’ve finally gotten the palace cooks to serve me food that I can eat safely, they all just think I’m being finicky.”
“No wonder you fell in love with her,” Rivka observed.
“So why did you believe me?”
Rivka smiled thoughtfully. “Because you talk to me like a human being,” she said, “and not like I’m just part of the peasant crowd beneath your feet. Because you’re not the type of person to play the game you just described. You’re interested in me and in my story — I know there are questions you’re dying to ask and just haven’t worked up the nerve. I see it in your face. It means you see me as a person.”
They continued eating in peace, their friendship growing by the firelight like a sprouting plant under the rays of the sun.
Shira is giving away a copy of The Second Mango to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment to enter. The contest closes on Saturday, November 9th at 11:59 pm EST.
- By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
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- Void where prohibited by law.