Assassins are not uncommon in romance novels, but usually the assassin is the hero.
What if the assassin was the heroine?
The romance genre is full of stories about women falling in love with dangerous men, but I wanted to write the opposite, about a man who falls for a dangerous woman. And while femme fatales are not uncommon in literature either, usually such stories are cautionary tales, where the man who falls for the powerful woman ends up punished for it, either coming to a bad end or learning his lesson and finding another, tamer woman.
What if instead the man who falls for the dangerous woman realizes there are advantages to being allied with her?
Vitala Salonius, my assassin heroine, was born for a simple reason: I needed a character strong enough to stand up to my hero. I’d established Emperor Lucien in a previous book, in which he’d played a supporting role and stolen every scene he was in. He’s a brilliant young military strategist who can no longer take the field because of a disability: he’s an amputee. Hated by his father, who can’t stand having a disabled son, Lucien developed an obsession with the war game Caturanga (similar to chess), which served as an outlet for his prodigious intelligence.
What sort of heroine could I pair him with? I figured she needed to be great at Caturanga, maybe even better than Lucien. That would spark their initial attraction. And then I came up with the idea of having her be an assassin sent to kill him. At first I thought the idea was hilarious. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I gave it a serious treatment, I had the makings of a special book.
So often, accomplished women today are told to downplay or even hide their strengths—otherwise (so the stereotype goes) they’ll never find a man. I wanted to challenge that assumption. I wanted to write about a woman who was strong and never apologized for it, and a man who felt secure enough in himself to respect that—indeed, he’s attracted to her because of it. Neither of them can accomplish their goals separately. But by working together and pooling their strengths, they can achieve a great deal.
About Assassin's Gambit
Hearts and Thrones 1
Signet, April 2, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
Vitala Salonius, champion of the warlike game of Caturanga, is as deadly as she is beautiful. She’s a trained assassin for the resistance, and her true play is for ultimate power. Using her charm and wit, she plans to seduce her way into the emperor’s bed and deal him one final, fatal blow, sparking a battle of succession that could change the face of the empire.
As the ruler of a country on the brink of war and the son of a deposed emperor, Lucien must constantly be wary of an attempt on his life. But he’s drawn to the stunning Caturanga player visiting the palace. Vitala may be able to distract him from his woes for a while—and fulfill other needs, as well.
Lucien’s quick mind and considerable skills awaken unexpected desires in Vitala, weakening her resolve to finish her mission. An assassin cannot fall for her prey, but Vitala’s gut is telling her to protect this sexy, sensitive man. Now she must decide where her heart and loyalties lie and navigate the dangerous war of politics before her gambit causes her to lose both Lucien and her heart for good.…
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