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I’ve just produced my PitchWars Pimp My Bio entry and it’s made me realise that most of the info on this blog barely mentions my two newer, non-Cavaliers manuscripts, and where it does, some of the titles and descriptions are quite out of date. So to cut through any confusion, I thought I’d put both of their queries and opening few paragraphs in one place.

MY LOVE IS VENGEANCE (aka. The Vengeful Vizieress, aka. The Separation of Powers)

Sixteen-year-old Tara Moran comes from a family of Advisors, the right-hand men and women of the aristocrats who govern their world. Tara’s psychic bond with her twin, Gene, allows them to combine his strength with her intelligence – until Gene dies in a duel with the ambitious young Duke Longville.

Vowing revenge, Tara becomes Duke Longville’s Advisor, intending to manipulate him and provoke a popular uprising that will lead to his death. Tara expects to despise working with Gene’s killer. Instead, she feels a traitorous attraction towards Longville and discovers they share the same telepathic connection she once shared with her brother – a connection that only twins and soulmates are meant to possess.

Destroying the Duke she’s sworn to serve would see her cast out of the Advisors, penniless and a shame to her remaining family. Forgiving him – or worse, giving into his declarations of love – would be a betrayal of her dead twin and the solemn oath she made at his grave.

Tara treads an uneasy path, her love for Longville increasing at the same time as her schemes against him escalate and her sense of right and wrong blurs. Tara must decide which is more important: the bond she had with her brother or the one she has with the man responsible for his death – before she becomes a villain that neither of them would want to know.

THE VENGEFUL VIZIERESS is a 87 000 word YA fantasy. It combines the political scheming of RED QUEEN with the deadly romance of THE GRISHA and the dark, anti-heroine protagonist of THE YOUNG ELITES.  The world merges aspects of dark ages and seventeenth century England with modern political structures.

My history degree from Oxford University, my career working for the British Government and my love of fantasy novels and dark heroines have all come together to inspire this book.

Chapter One

The point of Gene’s blade lunged towards me. I staggered backwards, out of his reach, barely able to keep my balance on my spindly legs.

“Defend yourself!” Gene threw the whole force of his body in my direction. “For heaven’s sake, Tara. You need to repel me.”

“I’m trying,” I replied, darting to the side and forcing my sword up to meet his, while my heart shook like a ship on a storm-tossed sea. My waist-length hair swept from side to side, slowing my movement and threatening to break out of the green ribbon that restrained it.

Gene’s sword collided with mine and the impact reverberated through my bones. I tensed my stomach, held my breath and pushed back with all the strength I possessed, but he stood his ground and forced me to the floor.

“We could always do this the easy way.” Gene’s mental voice echoed in my mind.

No mind-melding. No possession. I’ll try harder,” I snapped back through our connection.

The tip of his blade touched my throat. I threw my sword to the floor. “I surrender. Gods help me, Gene, I surrender. Can’t you go easy on me, just for once?” My voice shook in sync with my muscles.

Gene raised one dark eyebrow. He withdrew his weapon, took my arm and helped me to my feet.

“Go easy? Why? Because you’re a woman? Because you’re my twin sister? The examiners won’t go easy on you. Neither will the scions of the Great Advisor Families. And the peers will exploit any hint of weakness. They all want to prove that we’re nobodies.”

“How about you go easy on me because I’m hopeless? You’ve had sixteen years to teach me to duel.” I rubbed my trembling sword arm. “I’m useless, you’re brilliant. It’s a fact of life. Just like the way I’m a thousand times better than you when it comes to rhetoric and poetry.”

Gene handed me a glass of water. I downed it in the sort of unladylike manner that would have earned me a lecture from my mother, spilling half of it over my chin in the process.

“We might have been born advisors, but you know as well as I do that birthright counts for nothing until we pass the Examination.” Gene crossed his arms. “York Place believes in merit and in good all-rounders. There’s nothing more pitiful than those who have the blood but lack the qualifications.”

I scowled at my twin, but I scooped my sword back up in my aching arms. “Fine. Give me the best you’ve got.”

Gene smirked. “My best would kill you. But I’ll give you enough. Raise your elbow. How many times do I have to tell you?”

I forced my elbow up, my sword behind it, concerned that my skinny wrist might snap in two.

THE DICTATOR’S WIFE (aka. Checks and Balances, and more lightheartedly known as Cuddles and Coups or The Price of my Love)

THE DICTATOR’S WIFE is an 81 000 word adult dark romantic thriller. It’s the story of an oppressive regime told from the perspective of the rulers, not the rebels.

Marianne Helmsley always believed that democracy was overrated. In 2022, Marianne and Julien, her charming but ruthless husband, led a military coup against the British Government and ruled as the autocratic First Lord and Lady. But then the resistance murdered Marianne – or so everyone believes. In reality, following a heated disagreement with her husband, Marianne faked her death and fled in disguise to the rebel group known as the Treaty.

Five years later, the leader of the Treaty needs a volunteer to infiltrate the Regime and assassinate the First Lord. Marianne – by now utterly trusted by the rebels, who have no idea of her true identity – decides it’s time to return home and atone for her sins. Trying and failing in her mission would mean torture, death, and vicious retaliation against the rebels, but success would restore democracy.

The Treaty expect their assassin will have to sneak into the Regime stronghold as a stranger. Instead, Marianne makes a triumphant return as the long-lost First Lady, claiming the rebels have held her prisoner for years. The First Lord welcomes her back with open arms and rights and wrongs no longer seem as clear cut as they did in the Treaty camps. Still in love with the man she’s meant to kill and reminded of the joys of absolute power, Marianne must choose between freeing the country and breaking her heart or ruling at Julien’s side and losing her soul – before both sides seek to execute her as a traitor.

Chapter One

I became a triple-agent on the eighth anniversary of Britain’s military coup.

That morning, I stepped out of the lift and into the Treaty’s underground control room, fighting to keep my breathing under control. It never ended well when David summoned the officers of the Treaty together.

I pushed through the ranks of stern-faced men and women dressed in combat trousers and canvas jackets until I reached our leader.

“Good of you to finally join us, Melanie.” Without another word, David set our hacked CCTV feed to show Somerset House.

I stared at the images that appeared on the huge screen behind David. The elegant arches and columns of the Regime’s London headquarters formed a stark contrast to this utilitarian network of abandoned mines that we’d repurposed as a hidden centre of operations.

I dutifully studied the armed soldiers guarding the archway and the helicopters hovering above the courtyard, but it was the larger-than-life portraits covering the front of Somerset House that caught my attention.

The painting on the left showed a striking man in replica nineteenth-century military uniform. Honour the First Lord demanded the words inscribed above the image in a huge font.

The text above the right-hand painting was more mournful: Remember the Eternal Blessed First Lady. The woman depicted in the image appeared as fragile and innocent as a rococo shepherdess, but my co-conspirators considered her a she-devil in life and their most high-profile victim in death.

“The Regime bombed Derby last week for supporting our cause. Yesterday, they wiped out an entire platoon. We need to stop the First Lord once and for all.” Years of outdoor living had given David the pronounced muscles and hearty glow he could only have dreamt of in his old life as an academic. When he spoke, people listened.

I ignored him.

My eyes lingered on the second portrait until its features blurred. Until I was content the so-called Eternal Blessed First Lady’s curves, red lips and Dior gown bore no resemblance to my soldier’s body and weather-beaten face. The Treaty camp didn’t possess a mirror, but I could well imagine the changes wrought by five years of camping in the peaks and hiding in mines, wracked by cold, hunger, and the constant fear of discovery. Besides, the dictator’s wife had been famous for her Rapunzel curls, and I’d cropped my hair to the skull five years ago when I’d fled to the Treaty.

I’d broken my nose to change the contours of my face. I’d tanned my pale, English rose skin and covered my blue eyes with brown contact lenses. I’d readapted the Birmingham accent I’d previously tried so hard to replace with cut-glass tones.

No one had recognized me before. No one would recognize me now. If there was one thing both sides agreed on, it was that the dictator’s wife was dead.

 

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