My guest today is author Antonia Aquilante with the 5th book of her Chronicles of Tournai, titled The Dragon’s Devotion. I’ve been catching glimpses of this story in our Saturday Rainbow Snippet group over on Facebook – and each has left me just a little more intrigued. Dragons aren’t my usual fare, but I love the sensuality in the snippets Antonia Aquilante posted, and the quiet affection that seems to bind her two main characters like a gossamer thread. I’m going to read this despite the dragon. Or maybe because of him.
Keep reading to find out how patient Antonia Aquilante really is, especially when it comes to the dragons. And don’t miss the excerpt from the story!
Thank you for having me here today, Jackie! The Dragon’s Devotion, the latest book in my Chronicles of Tournai series, released on September 4th, and I’m so excited for everyone to meet Bastien and Corentin. Though this is the fifth book in the series, each book stands alone, so you can absolutely jump in right here (of course, I hope you’ll like it and go back to the other books…). If you have read some of the other Tournai books, you’ll recognize some familiar faces in The Dragon’s Devotion.
I’m mostly a pantser when I write—no detailed outlines, no major plotting. I’m discovering new facets of Tournai’s world all the time (and enjoying losing myself in it since the real world isn’t so great these days), and stories reveal themselves to me bit by bit. But before I ever wrote the first word of the first book in this series, I knew dragon shifters existed in this world. I hinted at dragons briefly here and there in other books, but I’ve been waiting—it seems like for ages—to write a story introducing them, the right story. It was killing me a little bit to wait too, because I love dragons, and I kept thinking of more about the dragons and making notes about it for that story (stories, really—this is not the only time I’ll be writing about dragons in this series!). At some point I realized that I would tell Corentin and Bastien’s story—Corentin, the scholar keeping the secret of the magic that allows him, and others of his people, to change into a dragon, and Bastien, the earl trying so hard to live up to his title and care for his family as his father would. The father he thought died in an accident, but who was actually murdered. Neither one of them is a place to fall in love, so of course they’re going to.
The Dragon’s Devotion
Corentin is a scholar with a secret—his magical Talent allows him to turn into a dragon, and he isn’t alone in that ability. Long ago, dragons were hunted fiercely, until they went into hiding, becoming things of legend. Corentin has traveled the world with one aim—to protect his people and keep their secret safe. Drawn to the principality of Tournai by news of someone close to discovering that secret, he hopes to avert suspicion. His attraction to the too-serious Bastien isn’t convenient for his purpose, but it isn’t something he can ignore either.
Lord Bastien, Earl of Ardesia, inherited his title unexpectedly when his parents were killed in a sailing accident along with the parents of his cousin, Prince Philip. Since then, Bastien has devoted his life to the obligations of his family and estate—so much so, that it has caused tension between him and his siblings. His world is further shaken when he receives an anonymous letter informing him that the tragic boating accident may, in fact, have been murder. Bastien throws himself into investigating whether the allegations are true and finding out who killed his parents.
As Corentin and Bastien become closer, the mystery of Bastien’s parents’ death draws him further into danger. Corentin feels compelled to protect Bastien, but the threat is closer than they know. Now, Corentin must decide whether preserving his secret—and potentially his people’s safety—is more important than saving the man he loves.
Excerpt from The Dragon’s Devotion
Corentin wanted to see Bastien again. He’d forced himself not to go to Bastien’s house, for fear of scaring the man off. Bastien seemed even more skittish about beginning something with Corentin than Corentin himself was. He did send a short note, telling Bastien he’d had a lovely time at their dinner and expressing his hope of seeing him again soon.
And he waited.
He paced around his small sitting room. Certainly his restlessness was not entirely caused by his desire to see Bastien again, though that was part of it. The edginess, the itch under his skin, also stemmed from not having used his Talent in so long. Oh, he used some aspects of it. He lit fires and generated heat all the time. But he hadn’t transformed in far too long, and he wanted to, craved the feeling of flying high on the wind.
While he was away from home, he had to be careful about where and how often he transformed. No one could see him do so; no one could be allowed to see a dragon in the sky. But he missed it, more than anything about home maybe. There, he could have transformed and flown whenever the urge struck him. Not so in Tournai.
He stalked to the window and jerked open the curtains. He stared out into the night, the street quiet below. It was late enough that few people were out and about, but not so late for the entertainment districts or even the streets of the university quarter to be completely deserted.
Thick clouds covered the sky, lingering after the day’s rain and blotting out the stars and the nearly full moon. The city would have been black without the steady glow of the streetlights, and outside its limits and over the water, the dark would be almost absolute.
Did he dare?
He considered the idea for far less time than he should have.
Before common sense could reassert itself, he was out of his rooms and out of the house on his way to retrieve his horse. Once mounted up, he rode through the city to the closest gate open at this time of night. He’d quickly learned which gates remained open throughout the night and which were closed to those coming in or going out. He never knew when the information might be useful.
Outside the walls of Jumelle, the world was pitch-black—exactly what he needed to use his Talent but not helpful for traveling. Once he was away from the gleam of the guard’s light at the gate, he used his magic to light the small lantern hanging from his saddle. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep him from crashing into a tree or falling off a cliff.
He’d found the spot not long after arriving in Jumelle. The area was far enough outside the city to avoid notice but not so far that he couldn’t reach it and return easily. It was a sheltered place with trees to hide his horse and a large enough open space at the cliff top for him to change. He dismounted from his horse and placed the small lantern on the ground where it would be visible from the air but hopefully not from the sea. The little wood that ran along the cliff top just back from the edge was enough to shield its light from the road. Corentin could only ever hope that no one came out for a midnight stroll on a dark night. He patted the horse’s neck and moved out into the grassy area closer to the edge of the cliff. Brigand was used to this routine by now and had been bred back at home, so he wouldn’t bolt at the sight of a dragon.
Closing his eyes, Corentin let out a long, slow breath and smiled as he reached for his magic. The change was immediate and glorious. He grew and changed under the cover of silvery purple light. When he opened his eyes again he looked out on the world from a far different perspective. He stretched his long neck, his back, even his tail, working out all the kinks and relaxing into this body. His wings came last, large and strong and the thing he’d thrilled to when he came into his power years ago.
With another smile, which he had on good authority looked quite different from his human one, he launched himself over the cliff.
About Antonia Aquilante
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats, which she shares with friends and family, and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.
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