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Devon Lee Soifer
Bride of the Aldar
In a land where female purity is prized, Bel has always had with a rebellious streak. Breaking the rules takes a dire turn when she accidentally speaks to a handsome red-haired Aldar in her father’s tavern. Tall, elf-like beings from the north, the Aldar are considered vile sorcerers and seducers. The prejudices of Bel’s village forbid her from even making eye-contact with them. Bel’s slip-up is overlooked, and before she can think more of it, she’s preparing for the Fete of Choosing, a ball that debuts the village’s single maidens. To her horror, she is betrothed to a newly minted soldier with whom she has a nasty history. As she sees her future narrow, Bel’s thoughts turn to the red-haired Aldar. When the Aldar visits the tavern again, Bel takes her fate into her own hands. She learns his name is Penn—and at his invitation—sneaks up to his room. They have an immediate connection, and Bel chooses to have one night for herself before her marriage. But their dalliance turns into a dire secret as Bel falls mysteriously ill in the days that follow. Penn visits again weeks later and she confronts him. He misconstrues her questions as prejudice, and leaves without another word. Bel is weak and heartbroken by the time of her Sacred Initiation, the confirmation ceremony that will make her eligible to marry. The ceremony goes awry when Bel refuses the oath of purity, and her dismayed parents lock her away. Rescue comes in the form of Penn, disguised as a member of the town guard. He too has been ill in the weeks since they parted. An incantation reveals that they have inadvertently created a soul bond, a magical joining that will kill them if they are kept apart. They flee, knowing that their union will only be met with hatred. They escape to the coast and find help in the form of Bel’s estranged cousin. But they are pursued and end up having to stare down death, fighting for their love and each other. In the end, Bel decides that a life lived on her own terms, with Penn by her side, is the only choice she has.