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Book 5: The Concubine

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Royalty requires sacrifice.

As King Camden’s health declines, the need for an heir becomes crucial, impossible to ignore. With no other viable choice, Alexandra must stand stoically by when Hadley comes to the court of Silverhelm as Branford’s concubine. The queen’s edict of duty echoes through Alexandra’s mind as she accepts the loathsome conditions for the sake of the kingdom. The only person more devastated by the circumstances is Branford himself.

As Branford spurns Alexandra’s affections and King Edgar continues to press his post-war advantage, all seems lost to the young couple. Treachery still lies deep within the castle of Silverhelm, and the revelation of the traitor will come from the least likely of sources.

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I went into book 5 with a whole lot of trepidation. I didn’t want it to be true, but based on the title alone, I knew that there was no way that Branford and Alexandra could escape what needed to be done so that they could protect their kingdom and their people.

After 1 1/2 years without a pregnancy, Branford and Alexandra are out of options and because King Camden is in poor health, they’re out of time. I completely understand a King and Queen’s duty to their kingdom; during this time period, there’s a certain protocol to follow in order to keep the lineage going, which is exactly what must be done due to Alexandra’s inability to get pregnant. But, the swiftness of the concubine’s introduction into their lives is due to King Edgar’s need for revenge and his instigations are what leads to the strain in Branford and Alexandra’s relationship more so than Branford’s duty to produce an heir by other means.

While readers will no doubt have a hard time with Branford’s need/use of Hadley as his concubine, Shay Savage does illustrate his disgust and rage with what must be done, and even though Branford does not handle this circumstance well and both neglects and ignores Alexandra as he performs his “duty,” his actions hold true to the kind of man he’s been in the series. Branford doesn’t know how to emotionally handle everything that has occurred since his abrupt marriage to Alexandra and now that there are genuine feelings between them, he’s completely out of sorts with how to manage his duties to his kingdom and his duties to his wife.

Alexandra seems to constantly be the sacrificial lamb in Branford’s war with King Edgar, and it’s reached the point where she feels wholly inadequate and unfit to be Queen of Silverhelm. But Alexandra’s pure heart and love for her husband, I believe, will see them through this dark time and hopefully, their relationship as well as their kingdom will be all the better because they decided to weather the storm together.

A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

4 Poison Apples

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“I am a coward,” he whispered.

“Branford…no.”  I took a step toward him.

“I am,” he said.  “I’m a coward and an idiot.  Alexandra, please…hear me out.”

I closed my eyes for a moment and nodded.

“I have hurt you,” he stated.  “It was not my intent, yet it happened anyway.

“You barely spoke to me,” I replied as I turned my head and closed my eyes tightly.

“You would not have wanted me here,” he said quietly.  “I have been…”

He stopped and sighed heavily, approached me, and dropped back to his knees.  I looked down to see him once again and reached out to touch his rough cheek.

“I wanted you here,” I said.  He shook his head.

“I am…”  Branford paused, and when my fingers brushed his face, I could feel his jaw clenched tightly.  “I am afraid.  Afraid for you.  I brought you into my world to insult King Edgar, and insult him I have, but he does not intend to take the insult out on me and my army.  He plans to take it out on you.  I have put you in terrible danger out of arrogance and lust for revenge.”

He grasped his thighs as he looked up into my eyes.

“I never should have brought you here,” he whispered vehemently.  “You are in peril, and it is my fault!  I am to blame!  How can you look at me, knowing I did this to you?  Now that you know what he will do if I do not have an heir soon or if I refuse Whitney next month—he will not just…just kill you.”

He stopped speaking abruptly, and I could sense the pounding of his heart in his chest and see the panic in his eyes.

“I did not want you to hear him speak such things,” he said.

“He has said worse,” I said, presuming.

“He has.”  I saw and felt his anger blaze in his eyes.  “I will not allow you to be touched, my wife.  I would…I would sacrifice my kingdom before I would allow that to happen.”

“Branford, you cannot—”

“I can!”  His eyes blazed.  “I would sacrifice all of them before I would let him touch you!”

Interview Questions for Branford and Alexandra from Shay Savage’s Unexpected Circumstances Serial

Questions for Branford

  1. What were your initial thoughts about Alexandra before you chose her as your bride? I had little thought of her when I first chose her as my bride. She caught my eye only because she was sitting next to Princess Whitney.
  1. How have those thoughts changed after getting to know her? She is far more than I could have possibly hoped for if I had bothered to have any foresight at all.
  2. How do you plan to exact your revenge on those behind your parents’ deaths? King Edgar will die at my hand…someday. His family will pay for what they have done to me.
  3. How has Alexandra’s presence in your life already changed your perspective on who you are and the man you hope to be not only to your wife but also as the future King? I had never considered the lives of commoners before knowing Alexandra. She has opened my eyes to their struggles, and I wish to change how those in my kingdom are treated.
  4. Do you see your sister as a meddler or someone who wants the best for you? How would you describe your relationship with her? Ida has always meddled in my affairs. I am, quite unfortunately, used to it.  I know she only speaks to better the circumstances, but she annoys me to no end.  We are close though.  We have always been.
  5. You are a temperamental man who seems to only see the worst in people, which makes sense considering what you witnessed, but do you ever feel remorse for your rash and cruel decisions? If my behavior keeps my kingdom safe from those that desire to infiltrate and harm my family, then I have no regrets. The security of my family is more important than anything else.  
  6. Now that you’ve truly claimed Alexandra as your wife, how has your agenda changed and what do you think will be the repercussions of your choice of her as your bride for your kingdom and your enemies? There will be war with Hadebrand. It is inevitable.
  7. What will be your first official decree as King and why? I dare not think such a thing, for it would mean I no longer have Camden at my side to guide me.

Questions for Alexandra

  1. What was your greatest fear once Branford picked you as his bride? I was in so much shock, I didn’t know what to think at the time. I knew I couldn’t refuse him, but I also knew I had no idea how to be the wife of a prince.
  2. What’s the greatest change that you’ve experienced since becoming Branford’s wife? The most difficult part for me is understanding what is in my husband’s head and trying to respond appropriately. I only know how to behave as a commoner, not a royal.  I hope he will always forgive me for the times I make mistakes.
  3. Now that you’ve gotten to know Branford a bit more, how would you describe who he is to his people and who he is to you? The people of Silverhelm do not know him as I do. I see beyond the tyrant that is often presented to them. They do not understand his past—his reasons for mistrust.  I am the only one he can confide in.
  4. Do you think you’ll ever be able to see yourself as more than a Handmaid? What do you think it will take to allow that to happen? I spent most of my life as a servant, so I don’t know that I will ever be able to overcome that feeling deep inside of me. I can only hope to be able to serve my husband and the people of Silverhelm as best I can, while understanding my station as well.
  5. What do you think about the nobles’ treatment of the lower class? If you had the chance, what would you want the nobles to understand? I hope to someday make them understand what it is like to be a servant of the nobles, but I don’t know that they will ever truly grasp what it is like. At the same time, I am learning that royals often have no choice in matters set before them.
  6. Even though your marriage has been consummated and Branford has given you his word to remain faithful, do you still feel you will not be enough for him? Why/why not? I always feel inadequate as Branford’s wife. I don’t know if I will ever feel that I am worthy of my station, but I will try to do my best.
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shay savage

About the Author

Shay Savage lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her family and a variety of household pets. She is an accomplished public speaker, and holds the rank of Distinguished Toastmaster from Toastmasters International. When not writing, she enjoys science fiction movies, masquerading as a zombie, is a HUGE Star Wars fan, and member of the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers. When the geek fun runs out, she also loves soccer in any and all forms – especially the Columbus Crew, Arsenal and Bayern Munich. Savage holds a degree in psychology, and she brings a lot of that knowledge into the characters within her stories.

Stalk Shay Here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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