The Engineered Throne Unbreakable Soldiers Book 1
by Megan Derr Genre: LGBTQ Fantasy Romance
Lord Vellem is desperate to escape. His father hides from his problems in alcohol, his mother hides from her misery in drugs, and his brother fled to the relative safety of the royal palace. Vellem found solace in the Royal Army Corp of Engineers, but true escape from a life of violence remains out of reach.
Then his brother provides him with an unexpected chance: marriage to a prince of their country's oldest enemy to help bring about peace once and for all. The marriage promises Vellem not just a fresh start in a new land, but a challenge to his famed skills in building roads and bridges.
But before he can settle into his new life, tragedy strikes, and Vellem isn't certain he's up to rebuilding the ruin left in its wake.
Prince Istari has spent his life reviled: his parents wish he had never been born, the royal court of Belemere avoids him for fear of angering the king, and everyone else is kept away by his notorious reputation as a deadly sharpshooter. Now a hostage of peace in Tallideth, he is subjected to their hatred as well—even that of Regent Vellem, who once considered him a comrade in arms.
Unexpected solace comes in the form of Lord Teverem, a sad, quiet lord who assumed the title when his brother was killed in the explosion for which Istari's father is to blame. He is kind and sweet and a sorely needed bright spot in Istari's life—until Istari meets his family and learns of a dangerous family secret with unexpected ties to Istari's past, a secret that could drag Tallideth and Belemere right back into war...
Bertin is a liar and a thief. Once an orphan on the street stealing purses, his life was forever changed when he saved a boy's life—and then became that boy to the rest of the world. But one lie always leads to another, and life as a Belemeren spy planted in the Engineer Corp has led him to the role of liaison in Ruemri, a kingdom he helped Ruemri's enemies steal.
His primary duty is to watch King Sesta, which means he is himself watched by the whole of Ruemri's royal court. For a man used to being overlooked and ignored, the situation is a living nightmare. That situation is further worsened when he receives word of an unspecified terrible event that is going to take place—and then the last person he expected arrives, bringing Bertin's past and secrets with him.
Once he was dressed in the long, sedately colored clothes favored in Ruemri, nothing at all like the shorter, brightly colored clothes of Tallideth or the somber wear of Belemere, he went to the door that connected his room to Sesta's. It was an unorthodox arrangement, but Bertin was as much bodyguard as watchdog, given the unique nature of Ruemri's new king.
Sesta's private suite was the size of a house, and lavishly decorated enough for several. Bertin had once risked his life daily for enough money to buy three-day old meat, and sometimes just bones that he and his compatriots had boiled and boiled to make a pathetic soup. On particularly bad days, he could still taste that watery broth, the stale bread they'd dunked in it after ripping off the moldy parts. The first time he'd eaten real food, he'd been violently sick afterwards. It had taken days, weeks, for him to be able to eat the way wealthy people did. Even now, the rich foods of the noble classes were sometimes too much for him.
Sesta endured no such struggle, or if he did, he was careful about not showing it. As ever, he sat at the table in his front parlor, bathed in early morning sunlight that turned his red-gold hair into a brilliant flame and his eyes into sunstruck emeralds.
His hair had already been braided and pinned for the day, a crown of fire decorated with gold and diamond beads. He was dressed in dark green with accents of black and gold, in the form of a knee-length tunic split up the sides, with a lining of white and gold that flashed when he moved. His trousers were closely fitted, with black boots nearby that he hadn't yet bothered to put on.
Sesta was more beautiful than a single person had any business being. Bertin had seen a lot of beautiful people in his life, as a thief looking for promising marks, as a false son struggling desperately to fit in, as a soldier carrying out orders, and a spy looking for secrets. Sesta left them all in the dust.
He looked up from the papers he was reading as Bertin drew close. "Good morning, darling."
Bertin ignored the endearment, as he always did, because there was nothing Sesta loved more than getting a rise out of people. Especially Bertin, or at least that was how it so often felt. He'd been doing it from the very moment they'd met, when Tallidethen forces had managed to take Sesta prisoner and everything had changed.
Because Sesta wasn't really Sesta, who'd been a cold-hearted, ruthless bastard fit to put his bloodthirsty parents to shame. No, this was really Kestel Vayne, the former harem slave and whipping boy who'd been forced to live as Sesta all his life.
After Bertin's people had killed the king and real prince, Kestel could have walked away from the whole sordid ordeal, finally a free man. Instead, he'd agreed to maintain the deception, and now was King of Ruemri, married to a princess of Tallideth he'd likely never meet, at least not for years and years, and watched over by Bertin until such time as Tallideth decided Ruemri no longer required babysitting.
The only pixie in the porridge was that the former queen had gone missing. She hadn't been in the palace upon their arrival, and as yet Bertin's resources had not been able to find her. It had, unfortunately, become a waiting game of when she would appear and what move she would make. Given all the scheming that had led to the slaughter in Tallideth, and everything after, it was a good bet that when she reappeared, a great many people would die.
Hopefully, Bertin would find her before that happened, but she was smart, crafty, and slippery. If she was anything less, they wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.
Bertin took his seat at the table and thanked the woman who brought him tea and food. Like the rest of Kestel's staff, she was more naked than not, wearing clothes of red and gold that brought out the vibrant, swirling blood-red tattoos that covered nearly every stitch of her skin.
Though technically the harems of Ruemri had been outlawed by international treaty more than a hundred years ago, it was clear Ruemri had never given a damn. They just called them 'servants,' paid them little better than nothing, and treated them the same as they always had.
Save for Kestel, who'd been one of them while also serving as the real Sesta's whipping boy. So he maintained them for the sake of appearances and trusted help in maintaining the ruse.
Megan is a long-time resident of queer romance and keeps herself busy reading and writing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her wife and cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers and can be found all over the internet.
From my very first fantasy, I was determined to write books where 'queer is bad' is not an issue. Nobody is persecuted for being lesbian, or killed for being trans, or anything else like that. I strongly dislike that so often, when presented with an entire world that is theirs to shape, authors take the easy out in terms of conflict and challenge by creating a culture where it's wrong to be queer.
There are so many better ways to add conflict to a story, to keep the characters apart. I dislike using queerphobia as an easy out, and the same goes for racism and other such issues.
Additionally, the worldbuilding is far more compelling when it's fully fleshed out. If your world is queerphobic, why? This is a matter seldom covered; most of the time it comes off as a copy/paste of Christian thinking, which makes no sense. If something like that must be included, it must come from the world created, not just be slapped in with little thought.
Above all else, inclusivity makes readers feel more welcome. Queer readers (POC, etc) want to feel as welcome in fantasy worlds as everyone else, instead of being hated in fantastical places as much as they're too often hated in the real world. Does this apply to every queer reader? No. Some like to see that particular conflict, that particular victory won. Not me. I'm asexual, biromantic, married to another woman. I deal with enough bullshit in the day to day. Even within the queer community, I am treated as less, as fake, as many other horrible things, for being asexual. I've had people stop talking to me the moment I utter the words 'my wife' and there are places I don't dare utter those words at all.
So I've no desire to regurgitate that hate in my writing. I create these worlds. I can do better than that.