A Spell for Susannah

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A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH, 2nd ed
by Jody Wallace
Release Date: November 2015
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Length: Novel (108K)
Rating: PG-13/R
From: Meankitty Publishing
Buy Links: Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, B&N
Temporarily on sale for only 99 cents!

About the book:

A not-so-Grimm tale about a not-so-obedient princess and the kingdom she’s determined to save

NO BOYS ALLOWED…Twelve bored royal daughters in a kingdom where the nobility has been cursed to bear no male children. One sly detective who’s been tasked to find out where the ladies disappear to at night. What’s a princess to do?

FORBIDDEN MAGIC…If you’re Princess Susannah, the eldest of the twelve princesses, you research inheritance laws and curse-breaking magic until you develop the ability to work fairy magic yourself—which is completely forbidden. You might use that magic to discover an enchanted land beneath your palace where hundreds of amnesiac princes dance and cavort all night long.

DESPERATE TIMES CALL FOR DESPERATE MEASURES…If you’re the King and Queen, you hire a professional to find out how your daughters are ruining their dancing shoes on a regular basis, despite all the measures you’ve taken to keep them secure. For that delicate job, you choose the handsome detective who instantly gets under your eldest daughter’s skin.

But enchantments and dancing won’t modernize the patriarchal laws in time to prevent the Middle Kingdoms from falling into anarchy. Can Susannah outwit the detective, the patriarchy, the curse, and the fairies in time to save her kingdom—and herself?

Notes: A Wintertide Spell is a prequel to this book but does not have to be read first. This novel was originally published by Samhain Publishing in 2008. This edition has been reedited, reformatted, and updated with a new cover but has not been substantially altered.

A Spell for Susannah was a first Place Winner of the Faerie Tale Romance category in the Fantasm Awards, which are chosen entirely by readers.


***** Excerpt from A Spell for Susannah *****

Chapter One

And so it came to pass that the noble inhabitants of the Middle Kingdoms bore no more male children. Ten, twenty, thirty years, and still no male children were delivered to swell their ranks and inherit their lands. The aristocracy tried, how they tried, but daughters alone did they have. Daughters who had fewer and fewer men to marry each year. Daughters trapped by the Kingdom Laws, which decreed women could hold no property nor titles independent of men. Daughters who must remain at home until married. Daughters who grew restless.

Susannah groaned when the Queen slammed open the closely guarded door to her bedchamber and punched the button that made the wrought-iron oil lamps pop on. Their penetrating light joined with the bang of the door and squeak of the hinges to wake her from some much-needed slumber.

“Mother,” Susannah said, “do you have to be so loud?” All twelve sisters, from oldest to youngest, shared a room so they could be guarded more efficiently.

The Queen clanged her toad-headed cane on the closest iron footboard in the two rows of beds. “Yes, I do.” The cane bounced off the footboard and into Susannah’s toes.

Susannah curled her legs up and sighed. Tendrils of a pleasant dream about waltzing with the enchanted princes in the secret land below the castle unraveled before her tightly closed eyes.

As usual on the mornings when the twelve princesses lay abed, Susannah’s mother was not pleased. “I don’t suppose any of you ladies will tell me why you’re so tired this morning?”

Several of her sisters stuck their pillows over their heads. Eyes gummy from lack of sleep, Susannah rolled out of bed, but none of the rest moved.

The Queen whacked her cane on the next footboard in the row. “Get your royal bottoms out of bed!” She rapped out their responsibilities for the day. “Calypso, Peter, Hortense—shopkeeper visits. Fay, Esme, Annabelle—library. Lilly, Nina, Temple—castle accounts. Ella, Rosa—herb gardens.”

No one budged.

The Queen stalked to the middle of the long room. The square stones and wooden beams of the ceiling echoed her words with chill precision. “If you persist with this disobedience, I’m going to start giving you away to the first men who ask for you, commoners or no.”

At that, Hortense sat up. “Kingdom Law Number 333 states that those of noble blood cannot be wedded to those of common blood unless that individual performs some quest or feat which earns him or her elevation to the ranks of nobility.”

“Besides, Papa won’t let you,” Susannah reminded her mother. “You’ve been trying that for years.”

“You devious girls haven’t been sneaking off in the middle of the night to exhaust yourselves into a stupor until recently. Your dear Papa is getting extremely frustrated.”

“It’s not our fault Malady cast the Female Curse,” Ella said. Susannah cast the teenage troublemaker a “shut up” glance behind her mother’s back, but Ella ignored her. “You and the other kings and queens brought it on yourselves when you banished her from attending any more christenings.”

While Susannah agreed with her sister, she did so in silence. Antagonizing their mother in the morning was unwise. Antagonizing her at other times was foolish, as well, but not so much as after one of their prolonged snoozes.

The Queen shook her cane at Ella. “Curse or no curse, you are going to put your lazy selves to work doing something constructive. Idleness will turn you even more wicked than you already are.”

Susannah took her corset off the hook on the tall cedar armoire beside her bed and began snapping it over her night rail that doubled as a chemise. The Queen hadn’t yet assigned her a task, which struck her as ominous. “Mother, what am I to do today?”

The Queen, ignoring her comment, bent down to the cool, gray floor and snatched up a pair of ruined silk slippers. “Look at this rag. Do you girls think shoes grow on trees?”

Susannah gave her mother a mild look. “We keep the shoemaking elves in business. Otherwise, they’d be haunting the unemployment office.”

“That doesn’t stop you from putting many guards out of a job. You know good and well your father fires every one who lets you wicked girls keep doing…whatever it is you’re doing. I should have you all put in the stocks in the public square.”

Hortense, voice muffled through her workaday dress as she slid it over her head, cleared her throat. “Kingdom Law Number 432 states that no one of noble blood shall be stocked, hided, whipped, tortured or imprisoned in the lesser dungeons at any time. They also cannot be disowned, denounced or otherwise demoralized without indisputable proof of treason, immorality or misallocation of kingdom funds.”

“Shut up, Hortense.” The Queen turned to Susannah. “Today, Miss, you’ll be helping me select the next batch of sentries. The guards shall know it is you personally, Susannah, who causes them to be thrown from the castle in disgrace. Your father has agreed when more guards lose their jobs, you’ll be responsible for apologizing to their families and finding them employment outside the castle.”

Temple, one of Susannah’s youngest sisters, lay down on the floor and scrabbled under her bed. A pair of tattered silk dancing slippers skidded into the middle of the room, then another, and then a red croquet ball. Her head under the dust ruffle, she asked, “Couldn’t Father just quit firing the guards? None of them succeed. It’s not fair to make them suffer.”

At Temple’s naive comment, Susannah froze in the middle of her hasty ablutions. So did her sisters. Their shoulders hunched as they prepared for an onslaught from their aggrieved mother.

Temple leapt up and knocked her shins into her bed frame. “I mean, there’s nothing for them to be guarding us from, after all, so how could they succeed?”

More frightening to Susannah than the harangues, more painful than the whacks and smacks, was the calculating expression that crossed the Queen’s face. Her bright blue eyes narrowed and her thin lips curled up in a sneer.

“I wasn’t going to tell you this, but your father has decided enough is enough.”

The Queen had such a look about her today that an ill-omened pressure built in Susannah’s stomach. She and her siblings had always thwarted their mother’s attempts to catch them when they crept off at night to dance with the enchanted princes. She knew how dreadful it would be if the King and Queen discovered what their daughters had been doing at night, and how they managed to get there. So far, they’d been lucky. But luck always ran out.

The Queen strode down the bed-lined, narrow chamber and tested the iron bars on the sunny windows at the end of the room. She stamped the iron heating vents, covered for the warm season the past fortnight, while Susannah and her sisters stood in silence. Despite the fact she never found anything, the Queen often turned the room upside down in a search for secret doors or magic items. She used her cane to flick aside the brightly colored velvet tapestries adorning the outer walls, sniffed and stalked back to the middle of the room. Her skirts brushed against the pale stones of the floor with a faint shushing.

“Too many pairs of ruined slippers. Too many torn chemises and spilled bottles of cosmetics.” She struck her cane against a footboard to emphasize each point, the sharp clang making Susannah flinch. “Too many guards dismissed for failure to perform and too many mornings twelve perfectly healthy young women slumber abed. Most especially, there have been too many episodes of disregard for the commands of your parents!”

Tendrils of the Queen’s smooth blonde hair escaped its careful twist as she paced. “Your father and I are not monsters, my dears. We realize your position entitles you to certain luxuries. We realize that, unwed as you are, cloistered as you are, as old as some of you are, it was inevitable you get up to mischief. In fact, we consider ourselves lucky we had thirty-five years of relative harmony, unlike some of our neighbors.

“But this ends now. Whatever it is you’re doing, we’re going to find out, put a stop to it and punish you accordingly.”

The Queen stopped pacing in front of her eldest daughter. “Susannah, be in my office in fifteen minutes. I have breakfast waiting, so no dawdling in the kitchen.” With that, the Queen swept majestically out of the room, reminding Susannah her mother was, indeed, a force to be reckoned with. She tended to forget that fact in her obsession with the enchanted princes.

© 2008, 2015 Jody Wallace

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