Today I am so pleased to welcome Lee Welch to Joyfully Jay. Lee has come to talk to us about her latest release, Seducing the Sorcerer. She has also brought along a copy to give away. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Seducing the Sorcerer is a story about magic and hope, humiliation and desire, kindness and lies, and how all those things can intersect. But it’s mainly about two grumpy middle-aged cynics—Fenn and Morgrim—who never expected to find love, least of all with each other.
Fenn and Morgrim both have chequered pasts and Morgrim (the sorcerer) also has a fearsome reputation. As the court sorcerer, he’s in a position of great power, but people don’t trust him. They say he’s brought drought to the land by stealing all the rainclouds and that he’ll force his country’s young queen into marriage so he can steal political power too. He’s grim and sharp-eyed and nobody’s fool; a frightening man. Not one to be trifled with.
Fenn’s a different kettle of fish. He’s big and tough and barely went to school because he took a job as a stable lad at a young age. Now, he’s a working-class man who’s out of work, brought low by developments in magic that mean hardly anyone uses horse-power any more. And Fenn loves horses. He adores them. At the beginning of the story that’s all he wants—to find a job in a stable. He’s certainly not expecting to cross paths with Morgrim the court sorcerer. He’s certainly not expecting to fall in love with him.
I’d always wanted to write a book where the love interest might really be the villain. Or might also be a villain. Because Morgrim isn’t perfect, that’s for sure. His reputation didn’t come from nowhere. He’s ruthless and scheming and not above using people for his own ends. But he may have a softer side. He can be charming: courteous, graceful, generous, insightful. And he likes horses. He owns a horse. He keeps treats for her in the pocket of his long black robe. A man who does that can’t be all bad, surely?
Well, Fenn’s about to find out—I hope you’ll join him for the ride!
Morgrim began circling him and the horse, examining them from all directions, seemingly impervious to the rain. Fenn stood still, eyes front, determined not to show his discomfort, glancing at Morgrim only when he thought the sorcerer wouldn’t notice. But the horse’s charcoal pupil rolled around like a marble in a bowl, following the sorcerer’s every move.
What would the horse do if Fenn was thrown in a dungeon? It might already be losing whatever magic had brought him here. But if not, it might wander away. Or wait outside like a dog. Or perhaps the sorcerer would keep it—though it was impossible to imagine a man like Morgrim wanting such a gormless creature.
Fenn wasn’t at all sure what he wanted for himself. Part of him wanted to keep the horse—after all, it could fly. Well, maybe it could fly again. But he’d be relieved to see the back of it too. He hardly wanted it bobbing about in front of him, making walking down the road a bloody obstacle course. He’d rather be dead than endure that humiliation the rest of his life.
Although it seemed unfair that the sorcerer might take the horse and give Fenn nothing in exchange. Because even if it turned back into a pile of old sacking, it would still be Fenn’s pile of old sacking. Anyway, it would be best to be as civil as he knew how.
But Morgrim’s next question was clearly not for him.
“Jasper, where did you get that ridiculous sword?”
Fenn glanced around to see the young blond lad’s eyes widen in alarm at being addressed. The tip of his sword drooped. His hair now hung limp around his face. They were all of them getting wet through.
“The old chest in the gatehouse attic, sir,” Jasper said.
“I see. You realise, Jasper, that weapon is in fact an umbrella, cunningly fashioned by one of my predecessors to resemble a sword.”
Was that a note of relief in the sorcerer’s voice? Surely not. What could Morgrim have to fear from the sword of his own page boy? Also, the correct address for a court sorcerer was, apparently, “sir”.
“I didn’t know that, sir,” Jasper said, humbly.
“No.” It was nearly a sigh. “There are many things you don’t know, Jasper.”
“No, sir. I mean, yes, sir.”
“But you do know that weapons are forbidden beyond the gatehouse. Do you not?”
“Yes, sir. But—the screaming—I thought we were under attack.”
“The intruder alarm is working as you so astutely point out. But do you suppose, if we were under attack, that I would require the assistance of a boy wielding an umbrella?”
Bit of a low blow. It looked near as damn it to a sword. And you’d think Morgrim would be glad to know his man would run to his defence.
But there was a—well, Fenn would hardly call it an atmosphere—but there was something odd in the way Morgrim looked at Jasper that Fenn couldn’t put his finger on. It wasn’t exactly unpleasant; it was more that Morgrim’s expression of weary school-masterly disdain didn’t quite match his body language. Watching the sorcerer, Fenn was put in mind of a very fine horse that has been stabled for too long. It was as if desperation to move, to act, to do something was pulsing from every fibre of the sorcerer’s being—and yet he was forever holding himself in check.
“Er, no, sir. Sorry, sir. Of course, you wouldn’t need any help, sir,” Jasper was saying in a cowed voice. The lad shifted his bare feet. They were very wet and looked as if they might be getting cold.
“Very good.” Morgrim now sounded almost bored. “And Jasper?”
“You may notice there is a small button on the base of the hilt of the umbrella. Now, what do you suppose that does?”
Jasper held the umbrella higher so he could peer at the button. “It…opens the umbrella, sir?”
“It does. But—” Morgrim raised a long finger. The nail seemed to be painted black. Or was it dried blood? “I strongly recommend you do not press it.”
“Oh.” A pause, then Jasper added, timidly, “Why’s that, sir?”
“My predecessor had an unusual sense of humour.” Morgrim paused in his pacing, tilted his head as if an idea had occurred to him. He looked like a falcon noticing a coney. “Of course, I suppose you may share it. Perhaps I spoke too hastily. By all means, press the button if you wish.”
Jasper winced away from the umbrella as if it had suddenly grown teeth and bared them at him. It was clear he wanted to drop it but did not quite dare to.
“I think it best.” Morgrim resumed his pacing. Rain was now dripping from his face and from the tip of his very pointy black beard. He wiped the wet away impatiently.
“I…very well, sir. Should I go then, sir?” Jasper asked.
“Have I given you leave to go?”
“No. Then perhaps you can make that decision without asking silly questions.” Morgrim stopped again and turned to face Fenn. “Mr. Todd.”
Fenn started. “Aye? What?”
Morgrim gave him a long look. “You are asleep on your feet, Mr. Todd.”
Fenn blinked. That a man like Morgrim would deign to notice that he was tired seemed unlikely to say the least.
“Been a long day,” Fenn said uncertainly.
“Then I’ll make this brief. Do you know what you’ve done by crashing in here like this?”
“Disturbed you. I know. And I’m right sorry, but I didn’t mean—”
“Yes. But what you have also done is to rip a hole in a very expensive boundary spell.”
“Now, I didn’t mean—” Fenn began.
“I have heard your story, which is all very well. But I would like you to stay here at the tower for a while. If it will not inconvenience you, that is.”
Fenn peered up into the clouds. The rain was easing to a light drizzle, but it was still impossible to see the upper parts of the tower. “Can’t see nothing broken.”
“Can you not? Then you will have to take my word for it. Have you an occupation, may I ask, apart from introducing worple horses into other people’s courtyards in the middle of the night?”
There was a sarcastic note to the sorcerer’s voice that made Fenn bristle. Mustn’t let it show.
“Can turn my hand to most things,” he said, evenly. “Outdoors work, mind. Used to be a groom.”
“Did you? And have you worked for any gentlemen? Ladies? Houses of repute?”
Should Fenn tell the truth? But he’d already given his real name, so best not. He stuck to the usual half-truth. “Worked the posting inn at Crielli Pass for a few years, until they finished the tunnel and there weren’t no need for horses anymore.”
“And do you have letters of recommendation?”
Fenn stiffened, as that was still a sore point, but kept his voice level. “No.”
“No.” Morgrim echoed, as if he’d been expecting just that answer. “And your accent? Crielli’s in the north, but you’re from the south, are you not? Duchy of Parsa? Maybe a little further east? Abbacy of Salmo?”
But before Fenn could say “Mandillo,” to his utter surprise Morgrim made him a small bow.
“But these are trifles. I apologise, Mr. Todd, for keeping you on your feet.” Morgrim turned his head. “Jasper, prepare a room for Mr. Todd. The tapestry room in the gatehouse, perhaps. If the moths have not overrun it.”
If Fenn had been surprised by the bow and the apology and the “Mr. Todd,” the offer of a room simply floored him. A room? As if he were a guest? Whatever was the sorcerer playing at? Or was “guest” polite code for “prisoner”?
Homeless and jobless, Fenn Todd has nearly run out of hope. All he has left is his longing for horses and the strength of his own two hands. But when he’s cheated into accepting a very ugly sackcloth horse, he’s catapulted into a world of magic, politics and desire.
Fenn’s invited to stay at the black tower, home of the most terrifying man in the realm: Morgrim, the court sorcerer. Morgrim has a reputation as a scheming villain, but he seems surprisingly charming—and sexy—and Fenn falls hard for him.
However, nothing is as it seems and everyone at the tower is lying about something. Beset by evil hexes, violent political intrigue and a horse that eats eiderdowns, Fenn must make the hardest choices of his life.
Can a plain man like Fenn ever find true love with a scheming sorcerer?
“Seducing the Sorcerer is a book that wears its heart on its sleeve, and I loved every minute of it. Beyond being a beautifully written romance, this is a story about kindness, compassion, and what we owe one another as human beings, that will stay with you long after the last page. Outstanding.” – Jordan L. Hawk, author of the Whyborne & Griffin series.
“If you’re looking for fainting pretty boys, this book is not for you. Fenn and Morgrim are grown men: worn, world weary, stronger than they know, and scared to reach for what they want—for a while. The world is tangible, often beautiful, the story complex and engrossing, by turns dark, gritty, humorous, tragic, and rough. It’s the kind of story that stays with you after you’ve devoured the final page.” – Lynn Flewelling, author of the Nightrunner Series and the Tamír Triad.
“Seducing the Sorcerer is tender, sharp, and funny all at once. I was immediately drawn into the magical world that Lee Welch deftly creates and happily stayed up well into the night reading.” – Cat Sebastian, author of The Queer Principles of Kit Webb and the Seducing the Sedgwicks series.
“Seducing the Sorcerer is a classic ‘grumpy one falls for…extremely grumpy one’ romance, featuring two middle-aged cynics who might just be each other’s sunshine. Throw in some magical mysteries, a gothic tower, and a healthy dose of skullduggery. Add libraries, kittens and magical horses. It all adds up to a bracing hug of a book that’s full of heart.” – Dr Sam Hirst, Romancing the Gothic.
Lee Welch lives in a house on a hill in the windiest city in the world, Wellington, New Zealand. She shares the house with her family, two cats, a dog and quite a lot of spiders. Lee studied ancient history at Auckland University and creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London. By day, she works as an editor and business communications adviser for a large government department. By night, she writes escapist romances, usually with magic in them.
Lee has brought a copy of Seducing the Sorcerer to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Wednesday, September 29th at 11:59 pm ET.
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