Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Laura Navarre + Giveaway!


In her other life, Laura Navarre is a diplomat who’s lived in Russia and works on weapons of mass destruction issues. In the line of duty, she’s been trapped in an elevator in a nuclear power plant and has stalked the corridors of facilities churning out nerve agent and other apocalyptic weapons. In this capacity, she meets many of the world’s most dangerous men.
Inspired by the sinister realities of her real life, Laura writes dark medieval and Renaissance romance with a dash of political intrigue. A member of Romance Writers of America’s Published Author Network (PAN) and a 2009 Golden Heart finalist, she has won the Emily Award for Excellence, the First Coast Romance Writers Beacon Award, the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award, the Golden Pen, the Duel on the Delta, Hearts through History’s Romance through the Ages, and other awards. 
Previously published with Samhain and Dorchester, Laura’s newest releases are her epic medieval romance By Royal Command (Harlequin/Carina, July 2012) and her sexy romantic intrigue The Russian Seduction (Affluent Press, August 2012, as Nikki Navarre).  She teaches writing workshops on “Sympathy for the Devil: Dark Heroes in Popular Fiction.”
Laura holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine.  Living in Seattle with her screenwriter fiance and two Siberian cats, she divides her time between her writing career and other adventures for U.S. government clients.

Where to Find Laura:
 WebsiteFacebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Desire, Duty and the Marriage Bed:  When an Arranged Marriage Heats Up
By Laura Navarre
Arranged marriage:  cute meet or annoying contrivance?  Most commonly found in historical romance, but appearing also in other genres (like the contemporary marriage-of-convenience plot or any number of “blackmailed by the boss” or “kidnapped by the sheikh” storylines in category romance), the arranged marriage is beloved by some readers and despised by others.  Admittedly, from an author’s perspective, it’s a relatively easy way to propel two reluctant or downright resistant lovers into the same house (or castle) and the same bed, and keep them there despite vehement opposition to the match.  The author’s challenge is to throw enough fuel on the fire that this coerced marriage heats up and our reluctant lovers find a lasting and believable happily-ever-after. 
I faced that challenge in spades when I wrote By Royal Command (Harlequin/Carina, July 2012), an epic medieval romance about a daughter of royalty set on the turbulent shores of Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest. 
Lady Katrin of Courtenay is an aetheling, kin to the King of England, and courageous protector of her own northern lands.  When the story opens, her first husband is dead, and she doesn’t mourn him.  He was cruel and controlling, and she’s determined never to remarry and risk being bound to another monster like the last. 
But the Vikings are surging south from the Danelaw, piercing deep into the realm with their punishing raids.  To save the English throne, the King decrees that unwilling Katrin must marry the baron of Belmaine:  a mysterious, foreign-reared nobleman with powerful connections—and a would-be bishop who harbors ambitions for the papal throne.  When a kinsman’s untimely death calls him home to embattled England to make a political marriage, Rafael le Senay is the most reluctant bridegroom.  
But he’s no sandal-clad scholar with his head in the clouds.  Instead, Rafael is a brilliant and darkly beautiful young gallant with lethal fighting prowess.  And this former student of theology is more than a little curious about the bridal bed…
You can see I gave some thought to the obstacles on both sides that will keep these two apart and the passion on several levels that will inevitably draw them together.  For an arranged marriage storyline to work, I find it indispensable to include these three elements:

Strong and Unavoidable Motivation for the Marriage
The driver for this coerced marriage needs to be more than the heroine’s tyrannical father or financial troubles at the manor.  The force that compels unwilling hero and heroine to join their lives must also provide a motivation so powerful the couple will endure any discomfort and undertake enormous sacrifices to make the marriage and keep it going.
In Katrin’s case, she’s blackmailed into her new marriage by her powerful uncle, the King of England.  If she refuses to cooperate, he vows to slay those she loves.  And the King’s motivation couldn’t be stronger.  If he doesn’t strengthen his alliances, he’ll lose his throne. 
For Rafael’s part, he interprets the marriage as God’s will, a divine judgment against him for his sins.  If he refuses, he’ll ensure his own damnation.  Furthermore, Rafael finds himself unwillingly drawn to his sensuous and strong-willed bride.

Compelling Reason for Marital Conflict
Conflict fuels every good story, and it’s the heart and soul of a good romance.  Opposing goals, motives, and character traits must kindle both internal and external conflict.  In Katrin’s case, she has the strongest possible conflict.  She believes herself in love with another man, the common-born Viking warrior of incorruptible honor whom the King commands to escort her to this arranged marriage.  Their passion once sparked a scandal that ignited the court and the very kingdom.  Only to protect him and her other loved ones is she persuaded to make the Devil’s bargain:  for the sake of love and her duty to England.
External conflict wasn’t hard to create, with the Viking hordes and their dragon-ships menacing the realm.  But Viking raiders—while undoubtedly fearsome—make a rather impersonal villain, so I added a more intimate obstacle.  When Katrin arrives at the fairytale court of Argent for her marriage, she attracts the interest of Rafael’s brother, the charismatic earl of Argent:  a cordial and charming bear of a man twisted by secret envy of the elegant Rafael.   Increasingly obsessed by the one woman he cannot have, the earl vows to win Katrin, swearing she’ll be confessing him to her priest within a month.

Irresistible and Multifaceted Attraction or Affinity
This element seems like a no-brainer.  Obviously our lovers should be drawn to each other, both physically and emotionally.  An intellectual and/or spiritual connection doesn’t hurt.  A shared experience (for example, both survivors of violence or hardship, both orphaned by the same villain, etc.) can certainly help.  It’s impossible to understate the importance of this shared connection on a deeper than physical level.  How many romances have frustrated you because the couple is always fighting, and you can’t see why they’re together beyond the obvious sexual attraction?  
For Katrin and Rafael, an alliance of political expediency becomes the desperate union of two deeply solitary and distrustful souls, and an unexpected passion ignites between them.  Both intellectual, both tortured by the dictates of a medieval Christian conscience, well-matched in sensuality and subtlety, their love is multifaceted and deep enough to weather the storms that will shake their marriage.  And isn’t that what we want in romance?
I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief reflections on desire, duty and arranged marriage in romance.  If By Royal Command piques your interest, here’s how you can find more, including an exclusive excerpt from my publisher with a free download of the first five chapters:
I love hearing from readers!  Please keep in touch here:
Happy reading!

~Laura Navarre

TBQ: Here's my question for you, dear readers:
What are your thoughts on "arranged marriages"? Are you a fan of these books or do you push them aside? Do you prefer your arranged marriages in historical only or are you into the contemporary versions Laura mentioned as well? :)

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By Royal Command by Laura Navarre
Publisher: Carina Press (July 2, 2012)
Genre: Historical Romance

Two brothers. One woman. Three hearts at war.

Katrin of Courtenay's husband is dead—and she doesn't mourn him. He was cruel and controlling, and she doesn't need a husband to hold her northern keep. But her vengeful uncle, the King of England, has other ideas: intent on marrying her off, he's ordered his Viking-bred warrior to return her to court.

On the journey, the Viking captures her interest, and for the first time Katrin understands passion. But her guard is honor-bound to deliver her to the king, and so it is settled—she must wed the mysterious Rafael le Senay, the Baron of Belmaine.

A forced marriage to a stranger slowly becomes something more, and Katrin realizes she is in love with Rafael. But with the shadow of her former lover hanging over her, and Rafael's powerful brother making dangerous plans, can Katrin negotiate the delicate balance between survival and happiness?

Where to Buy*:
 Kindle | NOOK

By Royal Command by Laura Navarre

When a step sounded on the stair, Katrin turned swiftly. Apprehension snatched her breath.

The sword-theyn filled her doorway, eyes sweeping the colorful spill of faded tapestries draping her walls, the clutter of scrolls and parchments among racks of burning candles, the great curtained bed. Harsh and forbidding, he could have been a Viking invading her home, tawny hair blazing with firelight.

When his gaze lit on her, she braced for an explosion of wrath.

“You have a facile tongue, Lady Katrin,” he said, low and dangerous.

In the gathering dusk that pressed against her window, his presence strung her nerves tight. Yet his expression was inscrutable. Impossible to tell if her lies had angered him. Still, her knowledge of men told her to step quietly.

Trying to pacify, she strove to flatter him. “I dare swear you were not long taken in.”

“By the time we reached this hunting lodge, I had my doubts,” he said grimly. “You revealed yourself by your ease of command.”

Perhaps she need not endure a thundering tirade, or summon her housecarls to restrain him. Still, she didn’t make the mistake of thinking this formidable warrior would easily forgive her deception.

Well, reduced in fortune and desperate she might be, but let him recall her rank. She was no serving wench to cower before him, no matter how shabby her estate.

“I pray you’ll pardon my small deceit.” Gracefully she sank into a chair, the table standing safely between them. “You and I were alone in the ruins, far from any assistance, and I couldn’t be certain of you. Do be seated.”

Frowning, he lowered himself into the opposite chair. Despite her gnawing worry, she was forced to concede he drew the eye: broad-shouldered and larger than life, even without his armor. Tonight he wore a tunic of ocher cloth bordered with knotwork, a dragon gripping the bronze buckle of his belt. He was certainly not handsome, his features too harsh for it: his nose too prominent, cheekbones slanting too sharply, skin chafed by sun and wind—a man who spent too much time frowning into the weather. His eyes seemed to penetrate the flimsy veil of her deceptions, to seek out her hidden truths.

He would be perilous to oppose. But oppose him she would.

When Gwyneth bustled in with the winecups, relief surged through her.

Perhaps this long-traveled nuisance will drink himself insensate. They await my word outside. We can leave him somewhere, lost in the wood, and bar the door against him. In any event, she would find some way to be rid of him.

She smiled. “Will you take wine?”

After a token swallow, he lowered his cup to the table. Dismayed, she realized he intended to spill out his business. Thus far, drink had not forestalled him.

She said the first thing that came into her head.

“Pray tell, how fares my uncle?”

He checked himself on the edge of speaking. Impatience drew his brows together. “That tale’s long in the telling.”

Praise God for that. She slid the flagon toward him.

Glancing around with a courtier’s caution, he propped his elbows on the table and hunkered forward. Firelight glowed on the bronze-hammered torques that banded his forearms, sinuous with a warrior’s strength.

“The king mourns the loss of another son. Edward died of a hunting accident on Lammas Day. All of England grieves for him.”

“God’s mercy! It’s the second son he’s lost, in as many years.”

“Aye, and he needed Edward badly for alliance. That marriage will never be made now. Five sons, four daughters, and all spoken for, with the king himself wedded to Normandy’s sister.” He leaned forward. “The Danes are overrunning these shores. Every summer the Forkbeard and his dragon-ships bring more of them. Ethelred’s spread thin as oil over famine bread—he needs more allies.”

Need them he may, but he can find them elsewhere. I’ve done my duty.

“Aren’t you eager to hear his bidding, lady?”

Nay, he would have sensed by now she was anything but. Dread constricted her chest.

“To the contrary, sword-theyn. I’d prefer to hear nothing at all and be forgotten utterly. But I see ’tis too much to hope for.”

“The man’s your king, and you his sworn vassal.”

“The man is the Devil, and my husband was his sworn vassal! I swore nothing, nor was asked to.”

“He’s your kinsman.” Eomond frowned. “I thought your relations must be cordial.”

“When last I saw him, I was a pawn to be placed where it suited him, no matter my wishes or my grieving mother, my father barely cold in his grave.” Simmering, she thrust to her feet. “And here you find me. I assure you cordial is the last word to describe our relations.”

Restless, she strode to the casement and struggled to regain her composure. “I suppose you’ll relate what he sent you to say, whether I wish to hear it or nay.”

“So I’ve sworn.” He studied her through narrowed gaze, as though she spoke a foreign language.

Mercy, she could burn in those eyes of his—dark embers, no Viking blue at all. And he stared at her as though he saw nothing else.

She swallowed against the dryness in her throat. “I would hear it straight out, without softening.”

“My charge is to bring you to court,” Eomond said flatly. “You’re summoned to appear by Midwinter.”

Whatever she’d expected, it was never this. Her stomach sank with dismay. Her gaze flew to Gwyneth, who clearly shared her alarm.

Blindly, Katrin gripped the casement behind her, and anchored herself against the sweeping tide of fear. Still she felt small and helpless—a condition she despised—before this redoubtable warrior whose presence in her chamber was an unmistakable threat.

“So he’d end my exile at last,” she whispered. “To what purpose?”

“Ethelred seeks another great alliance, and all his kin are spoken for, save the babes in arms. He’ll seal it with your marriage.”

She felt as though she were falling from a vast height. Her blood hammered painfully in her chest. She couldn’t seem to catch her breath. Try though she might to think, her thoughts swirled like a rising river.

“Another marriage?” she breathed. “To whom?”

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Giveaway Details:

Laura is giving away one $25 eGC to either or Barnes and Noble to one randomly drawn commenter from the tour!

How to Enter:

Please leave a comment along with your broken up email addy.

The contest is open the duration of the tour from June 18 – July 6, 2012. The more chances a person follows and comments on the tour, the greater their chances of winning.

Follow the rest of the tour!

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Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura! I hear that you've been busy with wedding plans as well as book releases--Congrats! :) I hope everything turns out beautifully!

And don't forget my discussion question:
What are your thoughts on "arranged marriages"? Are you a fan of these books or do you push them aside? Do you prefer your arranged marriages in historical only or are you into the contemporary versions Laura mentioned as well? :)


Until Next Time,
*TBQ's Book Palace is a member of both the Amazon and Barnes and Nobles affiliates program. By using the links provided to buy products from either website, I receive a very small percentage of the order. To read my full disclosure on the matter, please see this post!


Lit Connect said...

Thanks for hosting Laura today! :)

Chelsea B. said...

I really like arranged marriage stories. Two people who are forced together and think they could never work, find themselves with the person they could never live without :-)
The more I read about your book, Laura, the more I can't wait to read it!


bn100 said...

I like to read these books in any genre.


April Alvey said...

I Love Arranged Marriages In Any Genre I Would Defiantly Read Them.

Mary Preston said...

I do enjoy reading stories of arranged marriage, but I've never read a contemporary, only Historicals. I'm certainly up for it though.


Unknown said...

I love reading and watching movies with arranged marriages. I've always been interested in them.