A warm welcome to authors Liv Rancourt & Irene Preston who are joining her to talk about their new release “Vespers”, Book 1 in the brand new Hours of the Night series!
Liv & Irene talk about Religion in Romance, share an exclusive excerpt and there is a giveaway to participate in!
Welcome Liv & Irene 🙂
Religion in Romance: Why go there?
I’d like to start off by thanking Dani and the other kind folks at Love Bytes for having us on for a guest post. Vespers is the first project Irene and I have co-written, and we’re excited to be sharing it with readers.
While vampire stories don’t have the white-hot popularity they did ten or so years ago, there’s still a core group of readers – and writers – who love them. For an author, though, putting a different spin on the genre is the tricky part. Irene and I are both pretty well grounded in vampire fiction, so when it came to creating a unique character, we figured a vampire-monk was something that hadn’t been done before, or at least not very often.
Our character Thaddeus Dupont never took final vows, though he was studying at a monastery when he ran across the vampire who turned him. For his first ten undead years, he lived the sort of sexy-blood-and-violence lifestyle most people associate with vampires. Then he was recruited by a representative of the White Monks, an order dedicated to fighting demons.
The White Monks promised to provide Thaddeus with a daytime representative, a consistent food-source, and the possibility of redeeming his immortal soul, and in return, he agreed to fight demons for them. Now, the contract was signed in 1935, so Thaddeus has had decades to ponder the agreement, and he’s spent much of that time praying and chanting the monastic Hours.
So yeah, one of our heroes is a vampire-monk. And he’s gay. And this is a romance, which means, you know, romantic scenes. The challenges we faced writing this story ranged from ‘how do you make religion part of the story without getting preachy?’, and ‘how do you get a 115 year old monk to break his vow of celibacy in a believable way?’, to ‘what about the adversarial relationship between the church and people with alternative lifestyles?’.
So far the feedback we’ve had from readers has been pretty good, so I think (hope?) we did okay addressing all of those issues. While I could probably write an essay on each of the questions in the last paragraph, this is a blog post, so I’ll practice restraint…
In answer to the question of how we worked religion into the story without getting preachy, I think the key has to do with our attitude. Neither of us knows the answers (lol!) so we’re really not trying to convince anyone of anything. Thaddeus has a set of beliefs, and as a long-time church choir geek I’m familiar with the repertoire of chants, Psalms, and prayers that he would have drawn from. Rather than converting our readers to a philosophy, our focus was on telling a good story and incorporating beautiful, historic elements from the Church to help us do that.
So…the vow of celibacy thing. Poor Thaddeus. He – or at least his beliefs – get kinda beat up in this story. I mean, he’s been celibate for something like 80 years. We had to treat his vow seriously, and make sure that when he breaks it (and that’s not a spoiler…I mean, come on…romance J ) the scene has some depth to it. That also means our other hero Sarasija had to be a fully realized character, someone worthy of Thaddeus’s love. You’ll have to give it a read and report back on whether we were successful.
In all honesty, I think the third question is our biggest gamble in this story. For all that some people who make up the LGBTQ spectrum have followed traditional religious doctrines and have worshipped in a variety of churches, they haven’t always been welcome. They’ve been asked to keep their true selves hidden, and been told the way they express love is a sin. So where do a couple of cis-het married women get off writing about a gay man’s relationship to the church?
The answer has to do with my years as a church choir geek, at least in part. I knew men who felt like they couldn’t be “out” at church, or who identified as same-sex attracted, acknowledging their orientation though their beliefs kept them from acting on it. I think Thaddeus is my attempt to give the men I knew in real life an HEA, even if it’s only an imaginary one. And Irene’s job with Sarasija is to be the impartial observer, pointing out the places where Church doctrine is craziest.
Some readers aren’t going to like our secular take on religion, but I hope there are more who will. As I said at the beginning, Irene and I are thrilled to be setting Vespers loose in the wild. I hope you give it a read – it’s 25% off for the first week – and that you enter our giveaway for a $25 gift card plus 7 (SEVEN!) paranormal romances. Good luck!
By Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Thaddeus Dupont has had over eighty years to forget…
The vampire spends his nights chanting the Liturgy of the Hours and ruthlessly disciplines those unnatural urges he’s vowed never again to indulge. He is at the command of the White Monks, who summon him at will to destroy demons. In return, the monks provide for his sustenance and promise the return of his immortal soul.
Sarasija Mishra’s most compelling job qualification might be his type O blood…
The 22-year-old college grad just moved across the country to work for some recluse he can’t even find on the internet. Sounds sketchy, but the salary is awesome and he can’t afford to be picky. On arrival he discovers a few details his contract neglected to mention, like the alligator-infested swamp, the demon attacks, and the nature of his employer’s “special diet”. A smart guy would leave, but after one look into Dupont’s mesmerizing eyes, Sarasija can’t seem to walk away. Too bad his boss expected “Sara” to be a girl.
Falling in love is hard at any age…
The vampire can’t fight his hungers forever, especially since Sara’s brought him light, laughter and a very masculine heat. After yielding to temptation, Thaddeus must make a choice. Killing demons may save his soul, but keeping the faith will cost him his heart.
Vespers is a complete novel with no cliffhanger. It can be enjoyed as a standalone or read as the first book in the Hours of the Night series.
About Irene Preston
Irene Preston has to write romances, after all she is living one. As a starving college student, she met her dream man who whisked her away on a romantic honeymoon across Europe. Today they live in the beautiful hill country outside of Austin, Texas where Dream Man is still working hard to make sure she never has to take off her rose-colored glasses.
Where to find Irene
About Liv Rancourt I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.
Where to find Liv
He took a deep breath as he followed Dupont into the front room. His boss wore another set of shapeless, baggy clothes. Tech geek, Sara had thought earlier. But Dupont stood maybe six feet tall and Sara only a couple of inches shorter. The strength to catch a grown man out of the air didn’t come from sitting in front of a computer all day. And the way the body under the loose clothes had felt…
Keep it professional. He smoothed his damp palms down his side. And stop zoning out. He didn’t usually have trouble focusing. Maybe he needed some vitamins or something. Or maybe he was just stressed.
He tried to review all the bullet points he had practiced in his head all day. Then Dupont turned to face him. As soon as their eyes met, his arguments disintegrated into chaos. All he got out was “I’m not leaving.”
“As you wish.”
“I, uh. I mean, I have a contract.”
“And if there’s some skill I don’t have, I can learn.”
“So…” He stopped, not sure what to do since Dupont didn’t seem to be putting up any argument. “Uh. Maybe I misunderstood something last night? I was more tired than I realized. Do I have a job?”
Dupont stared at him for a few minutes and Sara tried like hell to organize the bullet points ricocheting around in his head in case they turned out to be necessary after all. It wasn’t easy with the guy’s gaze boring into his. Intense. Hard to think with someone giving you the Death Stare. Dupont seemed to expect something from him, but Sara had no idea what.
“As you say, you have a signed contract. I suppose you must stay,” Dupont finally answered. He sounded absolutely put out. Which was ridiculous. He wasn’t the one who had uprooted his life and moved across country.
Sara stared back, feeling more and more pissy himself. Even though gracefully accepting victory was obviously in his best interests, at this point, he couldn’t let it go. “Was this some kind of test?”
One side of Dupont’s mouth twitched. “Someone is definitely being tested.”
Had he just smiled? Was this Dupont’s idea of a joke? The little bump of outrage died an unmourned death as Sara replayed the twitch in his head. Not old. Dupont was definitely not old. And if he ever actually smiled, Mr. Intense would be devastating.
Yeah, he better cut off that line of thinking right now. The last thing he needed was a crush on his roommate, who also happened to be his boss. And who wasn’t old. And who absolutely did not look hot in a grim, uptight kind of way.
“So.” Better get his mind on business. “I’m here. I’m on the clock. What do you want me to do?”
Dupont gave him another hard look. “Amuse yourself. I’m busy.”
“Yeah? Well, I’m here to help. Hey, Ms. Alves didn’t give me much in the way of details. What exactly do we do?”
Dupont looked annoyed. “Did you not say you saw her last night?”
“Nah, she didn’t show. We must have gotten our wires crossed somehow. That’s why I got Bren to bring me.”
“And you haven’t seen her today?”
“No. Bren came out, but Ms. Alves wasn’t with her. She should have been here to tell me all this stuff, huh?”
Dupont responded by going to his desk and digging around in a drawer, where his phone apparently lived. He dialed, frowned at the screen, then tossed it in and slammed the drawer closed.
“Hey, it’s no big deal. I can get the rest of my stuff whenever. Maybe she had some kind of emergency or something. So, you know, here I am, ready to work. And I got to tell you, I’m really curious about what you do out here at night.”
Dupont did his Death Stare. “I do contract work.”
“Yeah? Cool. What kind?” Because nighttime contract work didn’t sound ominous at all. Seriously, why did the guy have to be so freaking mysterious?
Dupont stared harder, his gaze boring across the distance between them until Sara swore he could feel it drilling holes through his head. “You ask a lot of questions.”
“I do? I mean, yeah, I got a few. Like what do you expect me to do? And why do you live out here in the middle of nowhere? Wouldn’t it be easier to live someplace with, like, a driveway? And how old are you? Because you’re paying me a lot of money? Did you inherit it? Because what kind of contracting pays you enough to pay me eighty grand a year plus expenses for part-time? Are you a hit man or something? I guess you could do that in the day, couldn’t you? And why would a hit man need an assistant? And why do you work at night? And seriously are you ever going to answer any questions? Because how am I supposed to be your assistant if I don’t know what you do? And—”
The single word brought the word vomit to an abrupt halt. He snapped his mouth shut. Fuck. What was he thinking? He stared in horror at his boss. He was fired for sure now.
Dupont looked pissed as hell, but…his lip twitched again before he replied. “Of course you are confused. I don’t know why…” He shook his head. “I’m not used to having to answer all these questions. My apologies.”
“Ms. Alves does it, huh? And she’s not here. I’m sorry. We’re kinda getting off to a bad start, but I’m sure it will sort itself out soon. All I really want to know is what you do and what you want me to do. I’m supposed to be here to help you.”
Dupont stopped staring at him and wandered over to a window. “I’m a very specialized consultant,” he finally said, over his shoulder. “In fact, I only have one client. They are headquartered in Rome. It’s more convenient for my business hours to correspond with theirs.”
“Mr. Dupont, are you telling me you work for the Church?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“Oh, okay.” Well, that was…interesting. Something rather horrible occurred to him. “Uh, you aren’t a priest or anything, are you?”
“No.” The word sounded heavier than it should, as if there was more to it. Then, twitch, “Or I suppose it depends on your definition of or anything.”
Sara took a chance and grinned at him. “You couldn’t resist being mysterious at the end, could you?” To his relief, Dupont didn’t look mad. Encouraged, Sara started to ask again exactly what his duties would be, but Dupont raised a hand, indicating silence. He frowned at the window, then walked across the room and opened the door, where he stood staring into the night.
“Is something out there?”
Dupont didn’t respond.
Sara didn’t hear anything. They were isolated out here. Used to the noises of the city, at first he didn’t understand. It was too quiet. Last night he had been scared out of his mind with all the noises out in the swamp. Tonight it sounded…dead.
He didn’t like the word his brain supplied. Whatever was going on out there wouldn’t bother them in here. The logic didn’t stop the goose bumps breaking out along his skin or the knot forming in his stomach.
Dupont responded by slamming the door and heading upstairs, taking the steep stairs faster than could possibly be safe. He came down even faster carrying…
“Is that a crossbow?”
“Stay inside, please.”
Sara stood in the middle of the room and stared at the door, ears straining for any sound outside. What the hell required a crossbow? He didn’t know how long he stood there, listening to the silence, before he managed to unglue his feet and make his way to the window next to the door.
Outside, Dupont stood on the edge of the porch, staring off into the trees. Sara pressed his face against the glass, trying to see across the lawn. Some kind of animal, maybe. But what animal would be so dangerous Dupont needed to go out after it? They were safe as long as they were inside.
Beyond the glow of the porch lights, the night was impenetrable. Sara switched his gaze to Dupont, who must have way better night vision, because his head turned slowly as though tracking something through the trees.
He moved in a blur, bringing the bow up and firing in one smooth motion. In the darkness, something screamed.
Prize pack includes $25 Gift Card to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or AllRomanceEbooks.com plus seven free books from top LGBT paranormal romance authors (Alexis Hall, Claire Cray, Jax Garren, Jordan Castillo Price, Kelly Jensen, Santino Hassell, Tal Bauer)
The giveaway will open be thru 09/24/2016.