Today, we have J.Ellen Ross here to tell us about A Gift Freely Given.
Peep Rep: I love gifts freely given.
Liza: Well that's the name of her book, but you'll be happy to know she is giving away a $20 gift card from either Amazon or B&N to one lucky winner.
Peep Rep: What do I have to do to win it?
Liza: Just enter the rafflecopter below. Now let's find out more about her book. What a beautiful cover!
A Gift Freely Given
by J. Ellen Ross
Leisha’s father, the king of Tahaerin, bartered away her childhood with his failed invasion of a neighboring kingdom. She grew up a hostage, a guarantee of the king’s good behavior. At sixteen, she returns to a land and a throne she knows almost nothing about.
Her powerful and ruthless uncle plans to force her into a marriage or take her crown by violence. The nobles of her kingdom all expect her to fail spectacularly and are eager to fight over the scraps. But, Leisha has no intention of going along quietly with any of their plans.
As a boy, Zaraki watched as slavers butchered his family. Orphaned and starving, he was taken from the streets, trained to spy and kill. He finds a position with the new queen when he is forced to flee the only home he remembers. But the job is far larger than he anticipated and Leisha’s life is threatened from all sides.
Leisha will fight to hold her crown and her throne with the help of an unknown and unproven spy. Zaraki will try keep her alive and to keep the oaths he took - to be loyal to her, to keep her secrets and never, ever fall in love with her.
Aniol did not disappoint. Leisha stiffened as his hand dropped to the knife at his belt. Even as an unconscious action, it told her all she needed to know. Zaraki was right. Staval had a plan for her and this was one of the men charged with seeing it through. With her uncle giving orders here, Aniol felt invincible.
Before his hand could stray further, he landed face down on the floor. Zaraki put a knee in the man’s back and yanked Aniol’s head to one side. When he pressed a light blade against Aniol’s throat, the smaller man stopped struggling and whimpered softly.
“Her Majesty was very clear, I thought. I hope this is equally as clear,” Zaraki said in a low voice, into the other man’s ear.
“He’s planning on going straight to Cyril,” Leisha hissed, seeing the intention flash through Aniol’s mind. At the first hint that she was trying to seize control of the castle, Cyril would spring the trap and turn the guards against her. She would die and likely, Symon and Zaraki along with her. Suddenly, the threat was all too real.
Zaraki made a face, still holding Aniol’s head back. Fool. He could have walked out alive. “If you’ll excuse me a moment, Your Highness?” While he did not enjoy killing he would do it. However, murdering the man in front of a sixteen year old girl was out of the question.
A Gift Freely Given has an interesting premise and what appears to be an impossible love story.
It begins with two very different people: Leisha, a princess and Zaraki, a boy in training as a spymaster.
This takes place in Kingdoms that only exist in fantasy. However, through the environmental detail and many people, you soon become comfortable in your setting.
A battle between two kingdoms results in the exchange of royal children to ensure no further attacks occur. Two-year-old Leisha is far beyond her years, already knowing how to read books…and peoples’ mind. She doesn’t mind leaving her parents—they are terrible people. She hopes her life in Embriel will be better—It’s not.
The royal children are frightened by Leisha as are her nannies. Thus, the princess grows up guarded and untrusting, but on the bright side, she’s brilliant from all her reading. And strong and domineering.
Eventually servants arrive announcing the King and Queen (her terrible parents) are dead. At 16, Leisha become queen.
Unfortunately her uncle wishes to claim her throne, thus needs her dead.
In another part of the land, a young boy, who has trained to be a Spymaster, is deemed a danger and is to be killed. Only Zaraki is too clever for the assassins. Instead, he and a female student escape. He discovers the new queen is poorly guarded, enters her castle, and becomes her protector/spymaster.
Watching these two teenagers grow into adulthood and their challenging lives is quite interesting. The author takes her time. Nothing is rushed.
There are several growing issues through the book: The uncles continues to try to kill Leisha and the relationship between Leisha and Zaraki grows into love.
But a Queen cannot marry a commoner, and many side with the uncle who want this young but fiesty Queen dead. Those two problems keep the reader enchanted from beginning to end.
What I particularly like is the growth of the Queen. She starts out with some serious character flaws brought about due to her being raised unloved and unwanted. But over time she slowly becomes a better person, until you realize the young woman has blossomed in to a strong, considerate and kind person —at least to those who aren’t trying to kill her. To those who are: look out!
The only issue I took with the book, and this is just my issue, and probably won’t bother many, but I thought the sex scenes in the second half of the book between L & Z were too detailed and went on for too long. Given the theme of the story, I’m not convinced such detail was appropriate since a younger audience should otherwise be attracted to this book. However, I loved everything else, so it gets 4.8 stars which rounds to 5.0.
Peep Rep: Oh this sounds really good. I'll go find the sales links! Found them!
J. Ellen Ross lives in Texas with her husband and their four rescue dogs. She works in high tech, which has nothing to do with fantasy, romance or writing.
When she’s not busy chasing dogs around or rushing someone to the vet, she loves to read and play video games. She has a hobby of having hobbies, so she’s also been known to do sculpting, beadwork, and painting.