Today I’m offering readers here a free sample. If you’d like to read a short story set in the same universe as my new release, Embracing the Dragon, drop me an email (Kathryn.firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send you a copy. The title is Leap of Faith. It takes place about a year before the events in Embracing the Dragon, and features two minor characters who appear in Embracing the Dragon. It’s a M/M romance, and includes an explicit M/M sex scene with knife play and BDSM, so if those things would make you uncomfortable, you should not read this story. Embracing the Dragon does not include any BDSM scenes – Danny is depressingly vanilla.
Danny O’Riordan, the main character of Embracing the Dragon, is near and dear to my heart. I’ve grown very fond of him, but one of my beta readers made a comment while I was working on this book that made me stop and think. He commented, based on this book and on some other stories involving this character that haven’t seen publication yet, that he would not want Danny to live next door to him because he decided far too easily to solve problems by killing someone. I see it a little differently – I wouldn’t be worried about having him as a next door neighbor (other than the possibility of getting caught in the line of fire when someone tried to shoot at him).
Yes, he kills when he needs to. But it’s never without looking at whether there are other options. Killing is not something he wants to do, but he sees a lot of situations where that’s the only acceptable option. This story is an interlude of a few weeks snatched from the middle of a war. He’s been through enough that he takes a very professional attitude toward violence – once you’ve decided you need to do it, you do it as efficiently and with as little risk to yourself, your people, and bystanders as you can manage. That’s an attitude that puts him outside most people’s comfort zone. There are times when he sets aside a lot of our fundamental rules for dealing with other human beings, and that scares people when they run into someone who does it.
At the same time, he has what I see as redeeming features that balance that violence. He’s tremendously loyal to his friends. When he takes responsibility for leading people, he cares deeply about their interests. He loves his family. It doesn’t come into play in a large way in the book, but he has a huge soft spot for kids. Outside those situations where violence is required, he’s really a pretty nice guy.
But that leaves me with a question. Lots of romance readers like a darker hero. We love out bad boys. But how dark is too dark? Do you draw a line somewhere? Is there a magic number where the body count is just too high to find a hero appealing anymore? If he gets into a situation where he needs information to keep his friends safe and gets it by beating it out of someone, is that crossing the line? Or does it not matter as long as the author doesn’t describe it too graphically?
Is that line different depending on the subgenre? Is a body count for the hero acceptable if it’s a historical romance, but not if it’s a contemporary?
Finally, does the ending matter in answering that question? Is it okay for the hero to have done unacceptable things in his past, or even at the beginning of the book, as long as he’s redeemed by the love of a good woman/man and intends not to do those things again? What if he *isn’t* changed by the relationship? How dark is it OK for him to be at the end of the book? And, since hero is an ambiguous term when you’re talking about M/M romance, what about the love interest?
These are serious questions for me, and for Danny, because not only is Danny fairly dark by many standards, but Emperor Mordellir, one of the people in the story who wants him as a lover, is a far darker character. Mordellir is pretty far beyond the pale in terms of both his past and what he’s likely to do in the future. This is one of the issues Danny has to wrestle with – how can you justify to yourself loving someone who commits terrible acts, even if they are committed in the name of the greater good? What’s your answer?
Embracing the Dragon is available in various electronic formats from Torquere Press:
Danny O’Riordan’s life was complicated before he had the vision of a past life that forced him to admit to himself that he was bisexual. There’s a war going on, and being Liegeman to Aran, the Elven King of Avalon puts Danny squarely in the middle of the politics of two worlds, Earth and Avalon. Adding a romantic relationship to the mix could be explosive.
His lover from that previous life has been reborn as Mordellir, the ruler of the Tengri Empire. The Dragon of Heaven is the most powerful person in his world. Will he want Danny back once he knows he’s been reborn? If he does, how far will he go to get his way?
[This excerpt is several chapters into the story. Danny has just found himself needing to entertain Emperor Mordellir very unexpectedly. His reactions are complicated by the fact that he’s an empath, and thus he knows more of what Mordellir is feeling than is reasonable.]
Looking at him now, in this mood it was easy to see the resemblance to Demeth. Certainly there were differences. Demeth had been only part Tengri. He'd been shorter and a bit heavier built. Demeth's hair had reddish highlights, which hinted at demon in his family somewhere. But there was still something in the body language, and the aura which reminded Danny achingly of those memories of Demeth. It wouldn't be hard to put this man in place of the image of Demeth in those memories...
Thinking that had not been a good idea. Danny realized his mistake when he felt his cock start to swell. Just remembering the damned dreams he'd been having was enough to get him hard again, and the bathrobe he was wearing was not going to hide it. He could see a telltale bulge already. He shifted to cross his legs, hoping to keep things under control, but it just didn't work.
Mordellir had noticed, too. His gaze followed that moving bulge, and he gave off a mix of amusement and interest. All the extra blood that wasn't already in Danny's cock rose promptly to his face as he realized that.
Mordellir grew even more amused as Danny turned bright red. "I didn't think you were interested, Daniel. It's certainly nothing to be embarrassed about. You're a handsome young man. I'm not intimate with all my Favorites, but it's certainly an option."
Danny cursed inwardly. This was rapidly becoming a disaster. "No! I'm not-- I mean I don't-- Oh Hell." He ground to a halt. Doing anything would be stupid, and guaranteed to make settling the problem of those old memories worse, not better, but how did he say no without insulting the Emperor? Especially when his cock was obviously saying yes.
"Slowly, Daniel," Mordellir said gently. "If I read that wrong, I'm sorry. Will you tell me why you’re so confused and embarrassed? It can't be just having an erection in front of someone else, not after living among the Elves and the Kennakriz. What is it?" He looked probingly at Danny out of his good eye.
Danny took a deep breath to try to calm himself. "No. This isn't simple to explain. You didn't misread my reaction, but it would be a terrible idea to act on it."
"Why?" Mordellir sounded genuinely puzzled.
"Because you're the Emperor of the Tengri, and I'm the senior Liegeman to the King of Avalon, who happens to hate Tengri in general, and you in particular. That gives whole new levels of meaning to conflict of interest," Danny said, wondering why he was explaining the obvious to someone this experienced in politics.