22 Oct 2014
I write paranormal romances, which are full of supernatural activity, but I’m not exactly the Queen of Terror. You know when you’re reading a romance, everything’s going to turn out all right in the end. Frightening things may happen, there may be near-death experiences, and secondary characters may even perish, but you know the hero(es) and heroine(s) will get their HEA. It’s a law of the genre.
Fantasy’s a different game. Really awful things can happen in fantasy, and there’s nothing that says you can’t inflict these horrors on your main characters. (Anyone who watches Game of Thrones or has read the wonderful, but incredibly dark books by George R.R. Martin on which it’s based knows this to be true.)
I’m a romance writer at heart, and as a fantasy fan, I was raised on Tolkein, where destruction is balanced by tremendous personal heroism. In the long run, I can’t write something something as downright tragic and horrifying as Mr. Martin. Yet. But there was something tremendously liberating about writing Blood and Lotuses, where I felt free to have bad things happen to good people and to get as explicit with violence as I usually am with sex.
And yet in the long run, this book is about the redeeming power of love, which makes a perfect Halloween read. Like the holiday itself, it’s frightening, but with a healthy side order of hope. (Halloween, after all, derives from All Souls’ Day, which is all about life after death and our connection to our dead ancestors.)
When love is outlawed, only the bravest lovers can defeat an inhuman foe.
A demon in the guise of a goddess is “purifying” the great city of Dakura by killing off its stores of love, desire, and beauty. Once the city is void of color and passion, the demon can claim the city for its base to conquer the whole mortal world.
Anchali, a priestess of the goddess of love and desire, infiltrates the temple of the false goddess, along with her reluctant guardian Thanom, a soldier whose wife was murdered in a demon-inspired purge. They’re hoping to get information to pass on to a rebel general who hopes to roust the cult from Dakura. What they find, though, tells them this isn’t a job for warriors.
It’s a job for lovers, using the power of passion to enact an ancient ritual.
Anchali can perform the ritual. But first she has to convince a broken-hearted man to love again.
Compared to that, defeating a demon is child’s play.
Warning: Contains more explicit violence and less explicit sex than usual in a Teresa Noelle Roberts novel, along with all the magic and romance you’ve come to expect.
Excerpt (showing some of that explicit violence):
In an almost-cool hour of the night, when the heat of one day had finally faded and the swelter of the next had not yet struck, the demon Nshlic’s first victim woke with a start in the child-brothel.
For the time it took to draw a breath, the dockworker Beyun felt about as good as a man could possibly feel, aglow with the memory of the night’s near-perfect combination of scamming money, drinking, and whoring, and the possibility, based on the warm, sticky little forms curled up next to him, of the last of the three starting all over again.
Then his dreams slammed back into him and he realized that everything in his life was wrong.
The boy and girl Beyun had rented for the night, sensing his movements, began cooing and stroking at him even before they were fully awake. He shook them roughly off.
“Sinners!” Beyun cried, his voice rough from drink and barbed with dreams. Then he looked down at his own naked body. “As I am, too.” He grabbed his knife from the bedside table. “Sinners, do you repent?”
The two young whores looked at one another, then nodded, wide-eyed. They had grown up in the brothels of Dakura, and placating the customers, however odd their desires, was second nature. “Oh, we repent.” The girl, perhaps thirteen or so with the start of a woman’s curves, subtly gestured at the somewhat younger boy, but not so subtly that Beyun didn’t pick up on it. He’d learned when he was younger than these whores to pay attention to his surroundings, because you never knew when someone might be sneaking up on you.
“We’re due for some praying, I’m sure,” the girl continued, her voice high and frantic. “We’ll go ’round to the temple of Pichitra with you, soon as you let us grab our clothes.” As she spoke, the boy slithered down between the wall and the bed and began crawling for the door to get the bouncer.
“Not that whore-goddess Pichitra,” Beyun said, although some part of his brain wondered why. He’d always been partial to the temples of Pichitra. Pichitra’s Chosen were sweet-smelling and pretty and brightly colored as birds, and their charity meals came with a nice hot chili sauce and even a bit of mango or green papaya, not just rice and bland vegetables like the gray-clad, quiet Chosen of Jananya dished out. Still, he said, “we go to the temple of Jananya.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the boy had almost reached the door. Beyun wheeled around, threw his knife, aiming for the door just above the boy’s head.
Since Beyun had made the money he’d spent for the evening’s extravagant entertainment in a knife-throwing contest, using that very knife, he should have done what he intended: scare the boy into staying put while he gave the oration that was filling his soul.
The knife swerved and struck the boy through the heart.
The girl opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out. Soundlessly, she dropped to her knees and pressed her face against her dead friend.
Beyun started to panic. He hadn’t meant to kill anyone. He was supposed to be repenting, changing his life for the better. And now this… He’d done plenty of wicked things and he knew it was bad he liked to go to the child-brothels sometimes instead of the brothels with grown women and men, which were bad enough. But killing someone who wasn’t trying to hurt him was worse than anything he’d done before.
Then a great calm filled him, the kind he’d heard pious people saying came with meditation and jhang addicts say came with smoking just the right amount.
The boy’s death wasn’t his fault. It couldn’t have been his fault.
Beyun knew knives. Beyun knew all about knives, and how they behaved, and what could go wrong if you played with them carelessly. What had just happened was impossible.
Therefore, it was the will of Jananya—a sign, a lesson.
And he knew what he had to do to fix the child and in the process, fix his own messed-up, sinful life.
Beyun knelt down beside the two young whores, the living one and the dead. “Do you repent?” he asked the girl, putting his hand gently on her head. She nodded mutely, her almond eyes terrified but her young face otherwise expressionless, frozen with shock.
She probably didn’t repent, not yet. She was just scared, more scared than he’d wanted her to be.
“You don’t have too much to repent, I suppose,” he said, as softly as he could. “I mean, you and your friend were whores and all, but that’s because the world’s an awful place and it dragged you down before you had a chance to do better, just because you needed a way to put rice in your belly. The goddess understands that. But me, I’m a sinner, an evil man. Bear witness for me.” He retrieved the knife from the still-twitching corpse. “I repent my sins, Jananya, and sever myself from temptation!”
He knew what he had to do. The goddess told him in his dreams, but he’d forgotten until just now.
With one blow, without hesitation or flinching, he sliced off his own genitals.
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