Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles book 1)

Princess Arabella Celestine Idris Jezella is the First Daughter of the House of Morrighan. She is expected, like all First Daughters, to have the gift of sight. She does not. Her father, the King, has signed a marriage agreement with the elderly King of Dalbreck to marry his son. The two kingdoms would be joined in a political alliance to better defend against the Barbarians. Lia, as she likes to called, is unhappy at the prospects of being forced into a marriage to a prince she has never seen. Based on the age of his father, he is likely much older than herself. She just wants to be with someone who loves her. On her wedding day, Lia and her maid, Pauline, flee the kingdom as they were leaving to join the processional. The two girls are heading to Terravin, a town Lia has never been to and Pauline hasn't visited since she was a young girl. Lia knows that by running away she has disgraced her father. Even though she is the king's daughter, she knows that she will be hunted and punished for treason.

After almost two weeks, the girls arrive in the bayside town of Terravin. They go to see an "aunt" who helped look after Pauline as an infant when her father died. Knocking on the door of the inn, Berdi hugs Pauline when she realizes who she is. She is willing to help the girls, especially when she finds out who Lia really is. After a few days, she begins to put both of them to work. Since no one has come to Terravin looking for them, Lia begins to relax and dream of what her life will now be like as a normal person instead of royalty. 

The prince of Dalbreck is leaving to find Princess Arabella. He is not angry at being stood up but angrier at himself for not having thought of it first. A trained, but untried soldier, his father, the King has no idea that his son and only heir is leaving. More than capable of finding her, he has no plans to talk with her. Princess Arabella sent him a note a month before their wedding. It stated that she "would like to inspect" him before their wedding day. The prince has decided that she can do just that.

The assassin has been sent after Princess Arabella by the Komizar, the ruler of Venda. An alliance between Morrighan and Dalbreck would make all of Venda's efforts futile. Rumors have it that the Princess is sighted and while they don't believe in such magic, others do. Her flight is Venda's good fortune. If the assassin can make the princess's death look like Dalbreck did it, even better.

The assassin arrives at the inn after weeks of following dead ends in an attempt to find the princess. He struck pay dirt along the way when lips loosened after a few drinks. After questioning the stable hand about some donkeys for hire, he surmises that he has finally caught up with her. Walking towards the inn, he sees a young man his age cleaning up. Knowing if he goes in alone that he will draw more suspicion, he strikes up a conversation with the man, who turns out to be the jilted prince but neither know who the other one is. They enter the inn’s tavern together and sit in the corner at the last empty table. Berdi thinks they are soldiers and doesn't want Lia to wait on anyone but she relents when Lia doesn't feel the need to hide. Gwyneth, a barmaid, tells Lia to wait on the two men since they are close to her age. She also guesses that one is a fisherman and the other a trader. Gwyneth also tells Lia that they will both want a dark cider. She saves Pauline from being groped by a soldier and the former maid runs off. Lia heads to the table and begins to strike up a conversation. She finds put that their names are Kaden and Rafe. Gwyneth comes over and tells Lia that she is needed in the kitchen. Berdi berates her for what she said to the soldier. She needs to keep a low profile. At the end of the night, Berdi tells her that she said what needed to be said and sends her to the cottage behind the inn.

Walking up the hill, Lia is surprised to find Kaden waiting for her. He tells her that he wanted to make sure she got back safely after the incident with the soldier. She realizes that he isn't a trader and discovers that he is staying in the barn loft since the inn is full. He goes to accompany her home when Rafe appears. He has come to let Kaden know that his horse is spooked in the stable. Kaden leaves. Lia turns to go when Rafe hands Lia her hat that she dropped. He comments on her hidden dagger and she assures him at she knows how to use it. Lia realizes that she has unsettled him and goes to the cottage. Lia has confused both the assassin and the prince after seeing her in the tavern. She is not quite what they expected.

The next morning, the girls help one another with their hair. Pauline begins to gently tease Lia and the two boys from the night before. She tells Lia that neither one could keep their eyes off of her and looked hurt when Berdi banished her to the kitchen. Lia tells her that she knows their names. Pauline asks about the third man. He came in after the first two. He didn't even finish his cider when she left the floor. Lia never saw him. Pauline tells her that she needs to stop being afraid; she is no longer under her father's thumb. Give the boys a chance; she knows one of them has haunted Lia's dreams. She finally admits that one of them did visit her dreams. 

Who are Kaden and Rafe? Who was the third man to enter the inn that night? Is Kaden the Prince and Rafe the assassin or vice versa? Can Lia remain hidden from her father? What was the reason the prince went looking for the girl who left him at the altar? Can the prince keep his identity a secret? Why did Pauline flee with Lia? Will the assassin be able to kill Lia? Does she have the gift of sight? Which boy caught Lia's attention and does he reciprocate? What happens when her true identity is discovered?

Readers will be left hanging to see what happens to Lia, Kaden and Rafe in the next installment of the Remnant Chronicles, The Heart of Betrayal, coming in 2015.

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