Today on the site, I’m thrilled to have Stephanie Burgis, whose upcoming f/f fantasy romance novella, Moontangled, releases February 3rd from Five Fathoms Press and is set in her Harwood Spellbook series! We’ve got an exclusive excerpt from the story, so come see what it’s all about and then enjoy a sneak peek!
Take one ambitious politician and one determined magician with wildly different aims for their next meeting.
Add a secret betrothal, a family scandal, and a heaping of dangerous fey magic in an enchanted wood…and watch the sparks fly!
For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.
Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!
Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.
Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.
And here’s the excerpt!
Golden lights glimmered across the grass, lighting a sparkling path through the moonlight. Juliana, waiting with the others in the enspelled blackness of the garden beyond, held her breath as she watched Thornfell’s great doors open wide. Light streamed out from the foyer, and guests streamed out with it in a chattering, glittering crowd.
Of course she’d never glimpse Caroline among so many others and from this distance—
She’d know that haughty head-tilt anywhere—and oh, that easy, confident glide, like a panther prowling across the grass. There was only one thing missing: the usual laughing, vibrant circle of friends and admirers that followed Caroline Fennell to every social event of note.
Her breath escaped in a sigh of pure relief. It would be so much easier to tempt her fiancée discreetly into the shadows without any close observers keeping watch on them. Was that—could that be why Caroline had come alone to a party, for once? If she, too, was hoping for convenient privacy…
Warmth blossomed in Juliana’s chest.
Behind her, Sujana whispered, “Ready…and…now!”
Magical fireworks showered above the grass beyond as the garden blazed into triumphant, golden life at the end of their path, a brightly-lit stage before the vast, dark woods that hulked beyond. An invisible symphony of strings, flutes, and drums filled the warm air, while victorious scenes from the nation’s past stretched across the night sky, flashing from one famous triumph to another in dazzling succession.
The crowd came to a gasping, breathless halt, every head tipping back to take in each glittering, vivid detail…
Every head except for one.
Caroline’s gaze fixed on Juliana across all the space between them—and held, as if no one and nothing else existed.
It was exactly the way she had looked at her that very first evening years ago, when the famous Miss Fennell had arrived as an invited guest to one of Juliana’s aunt’s crowded Winter Solstice house parties…and had looked straight through all the rising politicians and hopeful gentleman mages to where Juliana had stood in the shadows, hiding every passionate truth about herself for her own safety.
Caroline had seen her from the very beginning…and when Caroline looked at her like that, Juliana could almost believe that she really was as strong and as beautiful as Caroline claimed, no matter what her own aunt and father had always told her to the contrary.
She had vowed never to think about them again. She was free now, she was surrounded by friends, and Caroline still wanted her after all. The joy and relief of that was inexpressible.
She barely held herself back as the fireworks ended and Miss Harwood stepped into place between the visitors and the brightly-lit garden.
“Welcome to Thornfell College of Magic,” said their headmistress. “You are all invited to walk the garden paths—and, of course, join the dance!”
The lighted path across the grass shot outward at her words, until it formed a massive, golden dancefloor. Glasses of elven wine floated in mid-air at the sidelines, waiting.
The music shifted into a jaunty new tune. Miss Harwood reached for her tall, lean husband to lead the dance. Juliana’s fellow students surged forwards to join them—
And Juliana held Caroline’s gaze as she shifted, deliberately, out from among all of her friends to slip into the shadows.
She didn’t have to wait for long.
“Is it safe to steal a moment in private?” Caroline’s words ghosted through the darkness, sending shivers down the back of Juliana’s neck.
“This way,” Juliana whispered, and led Caroline into the woods.
Stephanie Burgis grew up in Michigan but now lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffeeshops. She writes wildly romantic historical fantasy for adults and fun adventure fantasy novels for kids, including Snowspelled and Thornbound (also in the Harwood Spellbook series) and The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. You can find out more and read excerpts from all of her books on her website.