Medieval fantasy. A scullery maid fears magic, but falls in love with a warlock.
A young girl, Kara, flees her mother, an evil witch. Acquiring a job as a scullery maid at the castle, Kara finds a new home. A childhood friendship develops with Machias, Lord Tanner's son. Before their feelings blossom fully, Machias' father sends him away for training. During the intervening six years, Kara harbors a secret love for Machias, tending it carefully until his return. Will her hope be enough to reunite with him in this world of enchantment? In all his years of training, Machias never forgets his childhood friend. Nevertheless, to his consternation, upon his return his father insists he follow his duty and choose a royal-blooded wife by All Hallows Eve. It is Machias' responsibility to fend off encroaching evil and bring back a balance between good and evil power by continuing the family line, infusing it with fresh magic. Can Machias' find a way to save everything and still have Kara?
Excerpt for Basket of Hope
The thump of Thaddeus’s sword faded as Kara’s gaze traveled from him to Machias. Coveting his body, she perused it until she reached his buttocks, resting her gaze upon the curve and firmness, and following down to where it met his legs. Leather breeches accented his form, caressing his lean muscles like a lover and pronouncing his sinewy limbs with each of his movements. The way the sun glistened against Machias made her wish she could conjure magic, if only to make his clothes fall away. Kara squinted, trying to imagine Machias naked while she slipped another berry in her mouth. Naught could possibly compare to his beauty…in her imagination, anyway. Her heart ached with love, and her body seemed to vibrate with the want of him. Each morn, the memory of his stolen kiss so many years ago still remained her first waking thought.
Kara dabbed her brow with Stella’s apron, feeling her cheeks heat at the reminder of her solitary attentions while fantasizing about Machias. Though she prayed for forgiveness, Kara could not help but touch herself as soon as she woke from her wanton dreams, her body still trembling with need. Stella caught her once and told her she needed to offer a village boy a good rut to ease her tension. Kara found the suggestion disgusting.
"I shall die a virgin," she whispered. Ah, if he but knew how I love him.
The men seemed to be done with practice. Machias rested his arm on the top of the pell, talking to his brother. Her heart skittered when Machias’s gaze met hers from over Thaddeus’s shoulder, seeming to feel her scrutiny.
Hoping her expression belied her thoughts, Kara quickly turned her back to him and resumed picking berries. She concentrated on each tiny orb within the fruit, forcing innocent thoughts in the stead of reckless ones.
She glanced at the checked pattern on the apron, spurring a childhood memory of a game called Queek. Though his father, Lord Tanner, discouraged their play, Machias would meet her in the meadow, hiding the checkered cloth underneath his tunic. Out of sight, they would spread it onto the ground and collect small stones. After guessing whether the stone would land on dark or light, they would toss it upon the cloth. She suspected Machias peeked, especially if she began to call Queek too often, but he never admitted it. She did not care if she won or lost. She simply relished the time spent with him. Over the years, Kara began to love him more than the game.
When Machias reached ten and five, bordering on the verge of manhood, he departed for training. He kissed her, among the first rays of sunrise, whispering his fare thee well. Be it innocent, ’twas a true kiss, and though her heart was young, it knew of her love for him even then.
Adrift with loneliness, Kara awaited his return for six years. She would inconspicuously lean closer while serving the evening meal, hoping to hear snippets of Machias’s life through his parents’ conversation, but they did not say much in her presence.
She bordered on giddiness when Machias returned. Although she had grown into womanhood, Kara was ill prepared to see the difference in him. Ah, what a true shock when naught of the lad she knew entered the gates, but a man. Muscles, perfectly sculpted as the marble statues in the gardens, seemed to flex with the smallest of movement. His angular jaw, sporting a hint of a beard under his dark complexion, only accented his rugged looks. Moreover, his voice…his voice, deep and tender at the same time, defined a grown man. Had it not been for the single dimple on his left cheek when he smiled, Kara often wondered if she would have recognized him at all.
At first, Kara believed he had the same issue with her, for the most attention he paid was discreet thanks when she served his meals or a request for a refill of sweet mead for his female guests. However, one day, he whispered a childhood endearment as he passed her in the garden. G’day, Kay-Kay. Oh how those words made her swoon, though she did a fair job of hiding her joy at the discovery that Machias did recognize her. He just saw her differently—beneath him. As did she, but in a sinful way.
Kara crumpled the apron in her fist, no longer finding joy in the pattern.
Ah, Machias, social standing became everything ta ye, and I became naught.
Machias waved from across the meadow. Kara looked to see who approached but saw no one. Smiling so hard her cheeks hurt, Kara slowly raised her hand. Spotting her berry-stained fingers, she snatched them down.
His smile flashed, bright and inviting. Mayhap the inviting part was simply her imagination. Just the same, Kara decided to join him and started his way.
At a poke from his brother, Machias turned away and blocked the next jab.
Kara’s grin faltered and she pretended her intention was to give her mare a few berries. She grabbed a handful from her basket and outstretched her hand to Dunny. She peered over at the sound of Machias’s voice. His broad back was to her, muffling his words to his younger brother, but she simply listened to the euphoric melody of the deep yet soft tones. Dunny snorted, seeming to ask for more of the sweet treat, but she returned back to the bushes.
"Why do I torture myself so?" she whispered, ripping berries from their hold. She did not even care that the thorns bit her fingertips. In a way, she welcomed the pain, for ’twas preferable to the ache in her heart.
A unique and captivating love story (Nicnac on Amazon review
This was a fabulous read! I was easily caught up in this paranormal historical romance. Each page drew me closer and closer to Kara and Machias, and held me captivated to the end.
Although I've read other romances containing a distressed girl pining for a man she can't have, Basket of Hope isn't your run-of-the-mill story. It is loaded with interesting twists, and fabulous imagery that draws you in and keeps you invested. A story that can do that is truly unique. (Unique is what paranormal is supposed to be, right? LOL) I love this tale and its vivid characters.
Kara is a beautiful and innocent scullery maid who secretly pines for Machias, heir to the kingdom. She feels lowly and wonders why she even entertains the thought of being with such a man of status, but a small hope still lingers within her heart.
The All Hallows Eve Ball approaches and Machias is to chose a mate from a variety of prominent ladies. Kara's hopes wane. Her dreams for love will be gone forever... unless something magical happens.
Very Intriguing (Amazon review by Jenny G.)
I began by reading the little preview they give on kindle and quickly bought as soon as the chapter ended. I did not put my phone down once from start to end. I enjoyed all of the characters, the language and the way I was able to picture everything in my mind while reading, thanks to the authors talent in really painting a vivid image. I immensely enjoyed this short read and was only disappointed by the fact that I had to leave this magical place so soon. Look forward to reading more from this author.
Review posted at Heather's Musings (amazon review)
Basket of Hope by JM Powers
* I received a copy of this book from Breathless Press in exchange for an honest review*
When Kara's mother is a Hag and hated by most of the townspeople. When the Hag tried to trade Kara to the local tavern owner for a fortnight's worth of ale, she ran away. She was found outside the castle gates by Machias, who snuck her some food and begged his mother to find her something to do at the castle.
Growing up at the castle, Kara has waited for Machias to come home from his trainings. She has been in love with him ever since he saved her. It pains her to serve the pure bred witches that are there to earn the favor of Machias but she has no choice, she is just a scullery maid. She is ignored by most at the castle because they thing her mother is evil.
She is dreading the All Hallows Eve Ball because Machias must choose a bride, a pure bred witch. She loves him too much to stick around and watch him wed another. Little does she know that Machias has been plotting with his mother and has a big surprise in store for everyone at the ball, especially his father.
Kara is a unique character. She has lived her whole life believing that she is not a witch; she doesn't want to be evil like her mother. She just basically fades into the woodwork at the castle. She loves Machias deeply and it pains her to see him with others. The closer she gets to All Hallows Eve, the more things start to happen because of her that she doesn't understand.
Machias' father is a nice addition to the mix. He is determined that his son will marry a pure blood and will do whatever it takes to make it happen. He is a man with a lot of pent up frustration and wants his son to do what he couldn't. Machias' mom doesn't want him to make a choice out of duty like she did; she wants him to marry for love and does what she can to help him accomplish this.
Overall the story was captivating story that had you cheering at the end.