ANNOUNCEMENT/GIVEAWAY: Soulbound, by Archer Kay Leah

Soulbound

Archer Kay Leah has a new MM/MMF fantasy romance book out:

In a relationship that violates rules and expectations, Mayr and Tash have found their perfect match in each other. Despite their fears and difficult pasts, they hope for a shared future with security and a family. When Mayr’s secret first love, Arieve, proposes they create that family with her, it seems dreams could become reality.

But life is complicated, and so is the delicate balance between duty and love. While Mayr protects the Dahe family at all costs, Tash is determined to succeed as a priest. Both positions require sacrifice, forcing their relationship into painful choices. To make matters worse, criminals lurk in the shadows, seeking revenge on them and those they guard.

The life they want risks losing everything—including Arieve and each other. Even if they can have it all, keeping it may take more than they can give.

Warnings: “Soulbound” contains some explicit content, references to self-harm, suicide, and mentions of suicide-related behavior and intent. This story also contains instances of graphic violence, references to rape and domestic abuse, and depictions and mentions of depression.

About the Series:

With the right people and the right price, the Republic of Kattal can be brought to its knees. But for every line crossed, someone waits on the other side, ready to push back.
Armed and ready to defend their lives, these heroes are not afraid of the fight. They stare adversity in the eye and dance with the darkness within. But in their justice, there is wisdom. In wisdom, there is protection. In it all, there is love. Sometimes it’s a matter of saving a village; sometimes it’s a matter of saving the one they can’t live without. Sometimes it’s just about doing the right thing and learning to love oneself.

Magic may lurk in the shadows. Crime may never sleep. But love doesn’t back down.

Less Than Three Press | Amazon | Amazon CAN | Amazon UK | Amazon International | Bookstrand | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Smashwords | Goodreads


Giveaway

Archer is giving away three $10 Amazon gift cards with this tour – enter to win via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4730/?


Guest Post

Hello, everyone! I’m Archer Kay Leah, author of LGTBQA+ speculative fiction romance and a total nerd for angst-ridden stories that leave me completely gutted. Thank you so much for dropping by, and many thanks to Queeromance Ink for having me here today! <3

For this stop on the Soulbound tour, I wanted to touch on a few of the serious themes of the book and the series as a whole. When I first started The Republic, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect from it, preferring to let it develop and grow as it went, telling me what it wanted to be. One thing I knew for certain was that it wouldn’t shy away from harder, darker subjects, which is typical of my work, no matter what I’m working on. Part of it is about representing a fully-developed world, complete with real problems people can recognize, while I think a larger part of it is a means for me to process what I see in the real world, some of which requires tremendous effort to deal with emotionally. Some of it might just be because my muses like taking things into the difficult side of life, with all the angst and hair-pulling it courts.

In any event, the series involves a lot of truly lovely, happy things as well as the darker, grimier situations. Soulbound certainly fits right in and doesn’t hold back. While it’s a high fantasy (set in a realm that doesn’t really exist), the issues they face are 100% real. In the book, both Mayr and Tash are dealing with their own personal issues, which get tangled up in the middle, considering they’re a romantic couple who’ve started to share a life. Because of that, things aren’t always easy for them. Tempers flare. They freak out. One’s ongoing problem becomes the other’s nightmare. They both have duties to fulfill, but those duties don’t always overlap very well, so matters between them get derailed and rocky, testing their patience.

Much of the tension comes from Tash’s past and what it means for him and Mayr going forward, particularly since elements of that past have come in to play since Four (book 2), and definitely with a vengeance in Blood Borne (book 3). Tash might be a priest now, but not because it was his natural calling — it’s a second chance; his shot at redemption after years of committing crimes for the Shar-denn, the nastiest gang in their nation. In Four, he revealed some details about that past, though it wasn’t everything, especially since the book was written from Mayr’s perspective only. There was a lot that wasn’t said, though more of the truth came out in Blood Borne, when Tash was finally confronted by his best friend, Ress. The two of them participated in the gang together, but things fell apart and they were estranged for several years. There were grievances to be aired, frustrations to yell out, and a tentative peace to be made.

Soulbound is the first time we see anything from Tash’s perspective, and it truly shows what being in Tash’s head is like on a daily basis. Getting through each day isn’t easy for him. He’s always aware of where he’s been, how he used to think and act, and how awful life can get. Growing up, he always felt like he had to prove himself, and as an adult, he always feels like he has to prove he’s worthy of redemption. That propels him to keep striving to do better, be kinder, and exercise as much compassion and love he can offer.

He fumbles, though. He’s not perfect, and he never feels like a hero. His character comes with a lot of emotional baggage, especially since he’s rather emotional to begin with. He’s no stranger to depression or PTSD, and he has a history of self-harm and self-destructive behaviour. His mental health isn’t always in the greatest place, even though he tries to overcome the challenges the best he can, as consuming as they can be. While writing the book, I decided I didn’t want to hide what he deals with, especially since there’s a real-life need to talk about these things and a need for characters who experience them, so I wrote Tash exactly the way he is. He has it rough, even on the good days, and I wanted to capture that, while setting the tone for what’s to come. To understand why he does certain things, it’s important to know what he really thinks. Who he really is.

Though there’s more to Tash than just the emotional side: there’s the matter of his memories and what he’s done, no different than Ress, who has his own issues. They’ve committed crimes they can’t escape from, though Tash has an even rougher time forgiving himself, mostly because his role in the gang involved much more violence than Ress’s. Still, through the two of them and Adren, who was raised by a gang family, there are several serious matters brought into the series. On one hand, there’s the toxic, suffocating oppression the gang forces upon its members, which Adren’s character highlights, and the way they force people into complying through blackmail, threats, lies, discrimination, violence, and other forms of coercion

On the other hand, there’s what has been done to the citizens of the republic, which includes theft, attacks, and all forms of trafficking — including drugs, weapons, and human trafficking, which is one issue that really gets under my skin. A lot of this crept into the series while I was working on books 2 and 3, leading to an entire over-arching storyline for the series, which is headed for their version of an urban war. Soulbound explores Tash’s side of those problems, including why he secretly sees himself as a monster and why he struggles with forgiveness.

All of this bleeds into his relationship with Mayr, which poses an entirely new set of challenges, particularly when Mayr is trained to protect people — and he does so on instinct, going to whatever lengths he has to, while being so utterly stubborn. Though it’s that stubbornness that makes all the difference in their relationship, and it’s one of the reasons why I’ve loved working with them as a pair. For all of Tash’s fears and hurt, Mayr’s desire to take care of him is a powerful force on its own, righting them when things go wrong. There’s a wonderful balance between them: as soon as one starts struggling, the other steps in to help and keep them going as a couple.

The real challenge now is how long they can keep going when the gang steps up their game and makes things much more difficult. Their journey isn’t going to be easy! But will they have an HEA by the end of the series? Yeah, I can absolutely promise that. 🙂

Thank you so much for being here today! I love hearing from readers, so feel free to share your thoughts, questions, or comments. Have a great one, and happy reading!


Excerpt

Soulbound Meme 2 - Archer Kay Leah

Silence fell, deep with meaning conveyed by long gazes and soft smiles. Why had he expected Aeley to say anything different?

Three loud knocks rapped the door, scaring them both. Cursing under his breath, Mayr opened the door.

Arieve.

Every foul word tumbled back down Mayr’s throat. “Hey.” He leaned against the door, one arm sliding up the side.

In an instant, he tripped on his own feet and stumbled into the door, swinging it open further.

“You can’t possibly be drunk already.” The corners of Arieve’s eyes crinkled with her smile, her glossed lips painted pink like her cheeks. Dark curls and plaits cascaded over her shoulders, the firelight lending a golden hue to the white-blonde streaks in the fringe of hair across her forehead. She held a silver tray, presenting two glass goblets filled with a bluish-purple drink and fragments of gold leaf sprinkled on top. “Otherwise, this might be a bad idea.”

“What’s a bad idea?” Mayr grimaced, his mouth suddenly dry as if filled with pillow stuffing. Quick to recover, he smoothed his shirt, resettled his belts, and slicked back his hair, pretending he meant to be clumsy.

“Your after-dinner drinks. Lira was going to bring them, but I thought I’d save her the trip. She’s having fun trading stories with your mother.” Arieve cleared her throat. “I didn’t want to interrupt your conversation.”

The tray rattled in her hand. The drinks threatened to slosh over the rims.

Mayr steadied the tray. “Thanks for that. This. These.” He offered her an awkward smile and took the goblets. “I’ll let you get back.” So you won’t see me kick my own ass for being completely inappropriate.

“Thanks, Arieve,” Aeley called from her desk.

“You’re welcome.” Arieve hesitated as she lowered the tray. She swayed gently, the rich green layers of her tiered, ruffled skirts moving with her. “I’ll let you finish.”

Before Mayr could say anything else, Arieve hurried down the hall and around the corner.

“I wonder what the mix is this time.” Aeley snatched one goblet to sniff it. “Hint of gaffa nectar, soured pamolea extract, and a bite of fulore. Plus maybe, probably—” another sniff “—syrup from the Sailor’s Sweetheart bush.” She took a sip and nodded. Flakes of gold leaf clung to her top lip. “Not as fun as last night’s concoction, but I could get used to it.”

“That’s what you always say.” Mayr brushed the flakes from Aeley’s lips with his thumb.

Aeley wiped her mouth on her sleeve. “Not always, just a lot. Cook knows her stuff. To be fair, she’s known me since I was three, getting into her puddings and tarts anytime she turned around. I trust that when she serves up a hodgeypodgey drink, it’s got personality.” She tapped her goblet against his. “I’m heading back to our guests. You should, too, considering it’s yourparty. We can resume this conversation later.”

After a kiss to his cheek, Aeley flounced out the door and through the corridor, humming to herself.

Mayr stared into his goblet, watching the gold swirl in an abstract pattern. My stomach. My head. I can’t even…

He set the goblet on Aeley’s desk. He needed Tash’s forgiveness more than he deserved a fancy drink.

As he exited the room, questions assaulted him hard enough to drown the sound of the door latch as it caught. One question practically shouted above all the others: how much had Arieve heard of his conversation with Aeley?

His heartbeat faltered. He was mortified. The door was not impervious to sound. What would Arieve think of him had she heard…

Hey, stupid! It doesn’t matter.Mayr grumbled and hooked his thumbs around the back of his belts. It still comes out to you’re taken and happy, so shut up.Dragging his heels, he wandered through the corridor and turned into the next, towards the ballroom.

Around the corner, Arieve leaned against the wall, head bowed, with her face hidden by her hair. She twined the trailing black laces of her bright green tunic around her fingers and pulled taut, then released them only to repeat the process. The empty tray rested beside her, abandoned against the wall.

“Hey.” Mayr stopped, careful to leave two foot lengths between them. “I thought you went back?” He toyed with his marriage ring, twisting the band nervously. Memories of Tash surged forward, the airy weight of his kisses almost real enough to feel.

“I wanted to wait for you.” Arieve raised her head and offered a tender smile. “I probably won’t get a word in the rest of the night given the company, so I thought…”

She was in his arms before he could reply. Her hug stole his surprise, shredding it until all that remained was stunned.

“Congratulations,” she murmured, her forehead tucked beneath his chin. “He’s got a good heart, solid. You’ve found your match. If the Four could grant me one wish tonight, it’d be for you two to have everything you desire.”

Mayr hesitated, his hands hovering over Arieve’s back. Touching was a bad idea, especially while he kept Tash from the truth. “Thank you.” Quick as he could, he embraced Arieve and pushed her away, feeling worse than the coward he was. “Let’s go back. I need to stop my mother from revealing every baby story she has or everyone’s going to hear about my naked backside and trailing diaper crowns.”

Arieve picked up the tray and started up the hall. “I’m sure Tash is soaking them up as we speak.” She laughed, the joyous sound digging up a dozen memories.

Memories he needed to lock up and burn down.

He followed Arieve and cast his gaze to the ceiling. Please, Reverent Goddesses, get me through tonight. Then let’s talk about strength of will, because one of these days I’m going to have to confess everything and it’ll hurt more than scorching my pride.


Author Bio

Archer Kay Leah was raised in Canada, growing up in a port town at a time when it was starting to become more diverse, both visibly and vocally. Combined with the variety of interests found in Archer’s family and the never-ending need to be creative, this diversity inspired a love for toying with characters and their relationships, exploring new experiences and difficult situations.

Archer most enjoys writing speculative fiction and is engaged in a very particular love affair with fantasy, especially when it is dark and emotionally charged. When not reading and writing for work or play, Archer is a geek with too many hobbies and keeps busy with other creative endeavors, a music addiction, and whatever else comes along. Archer lives in London, Ontario with a bigender partner and rather chatty cat.

Author Website: http://archerkayleah.wordpress.com/

Author Facebook (Author Page): http://facebook.com/archerkayleah

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