Daughter of Rage and Beauty
Berserker Academy Book 1
by Amy Pennza
Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Scribble Pretty Books
Publication Date: November 4, 2019
The sagas claim you can’t fight fate. I’m determined to prove them wrong.
They say your twenties are supposed to be the best years of your life.
Clearly, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Because right now, my life is in shambles. As the daughter of one of the most powerful berserkers in the world, I should be taking my place among the noble guild of berserker assassins. By now, I should have mastered my emotions and conquered my rage—all the better to use it as a weapon when called upon to kill.
But I’m not just Harald Berregaard’s daughter. My mother was a nymph, which makes me a magical mutt. When I was born, my father thought I might possess the best traits from both races.
He was wrong.
Now he’s shipping me off to the Berserker Academy, where the unofficial motto is “graduate or die.”
With the stakes this high, I can’t afford to get distracted. Too bad the academy’s headmaster keeps showing up at the most inconvenient moments, reminding me how much I suck at magic. And fighting. And basic conversation.
It doesn’t matter that he does it with a smile. Or that his eyes fire silver when he’s amused . . . or aroused. Hauk Sigridsson has his own problems. He’s not going to be one of mine.
On the other hand, he’s offered me a way to accelerate my studies and make it out of the academy alive. I just have to help him steal a priceless rock and defeat one of the most powerful immortals to have ever lived.
No big deal.
I’m in way over my head, but I’m determined to survive. They say you can’t fight fate. I’m going to show fate exactly what I’m made of.
“Are you sure you want to take that?” I turned at the sound of Hauk’s voice. He pointed to the staff, which I’d tucked through a loop on the side of the backpack he’d given me. “Yes.” He grunted. “What?” “Nothing.” He propped his foot on the edge of the coffee table and did up the laces on his hiking boot. I held back a sigh. Apparently, he was determined to pretend last night hadn’t happened. After Asher left, I’d gotten a few hours of fitful sleep on the sofa, my mind whirling with worries of Hauk, my unpredictable powers, and the upcoming quest. Around dawn, Hauk had emerged from his bedroom and set about making pancakes. “You should grab a shower while you can,” he’d said, his back to me while he poured batter onto a griddle. “I want to set out for Radegast’s territory as soon as possible.” Breakfast would have been a perfect opportunity to clear the air. Instead, he’d placed a heaping stack of pancakes in front of me, then started telling me what to expect once we reached the Ural Mountain region where Radegast made his home. So we hadn’t talked about it, and it was obvious he didn’t want to. Asher’s warning about the attraction between us being a dangerous distraction was foremost in my mind. But how was I supposed to bring it up when Hauk was seemingly dead set on shoving it under the rug? Worse, what if he regretted it? I looked at him now. “You don’t think I should bring the staff?” He tucked the ends of his laces in the top of his boot and lowered his foot. “I didn’t say that.” I waited for him to elaborate. When he just moved to the next boot, I gritted my teeth. “Do you think the staff is dangerous? Is that it?” “Unpredictable,” he said without looking up. Yeah, well, so was I. Maybe that’s why it liked me so much. I chewed my bottom lip as Hauk worked over his boot. I couldn’t share what Asher had said about the staff. Something told me Hauk wouldn’t like knowing I’d invited a Fae into his apartment without his knowledge. “It followed me here,” I said. “I don’t think I could leave it behind if I wanted to. It might just keep showing up.” He straightened. “It might do,” he said, his accent thick. “We’re heading into an area filled with strong magic. That kind of power can have an unforeseen effect on magical objects. I’ve worked with a sword my whole life. I haven’t handled much wood.” I bit the inside of my cheek, the ten-year-old boy in me roaring to the surface. “But,” he said, his gaze going to my pack, “I see your point. For good or ill, the staff has bonded with you, probably because it senses your dryad side. We’ll just have to hope it behaves itself.” Asher’s little show with his glamour and the phantom sun must have teased out my dryad side a little more, because Hauk’s words made a rush of protectiveness wash over me. I went to my pack and picked it up, then swung it over my shoulders. The staff fell into place alongside my thigh. “Actually,” I said, “I think it balances the weight of all this gear.” He’d left a pile of extreme weather clothing outside the bathroom door as I’d showered—long underwear, fur-lined boots, waterproof pants, and a thick jacket. Hauk snapped his fingers. “Ah, shit, I forgot something.” Muttering, he went to the kitchen and grabbed a glass from the drying rack next to the sink. I made my voice light. “You forgot to put away the dishes?” “No.” He glanced up as he filled the glass with water. “I forgot your oath. If you want this quest to count, you need to make a vow to Odin.” Oh, right. I eyed the water as it bubbled to the top of the glass. “Don’t I have to mix it with my blood?” “Just a drop or two.” I swallowed, my stomach doing a queasy flip. “Does it have to be water?” He shut off the tap. “No. Why?” “I just . . . Don’t you have anything that could, I don’t know, hide the blood or something?” He gave me a look like I’d just lost my mind. “It’s a couple drops of blood, Elin.” “I know.” Great. Now he’d think I was too much of a wimp to take my oath. “Never mind.” He dumped the water in the sink, then turned to the fridge and opened the door. “Hauk, I said never mind.” He withdrew a container of orange juice and shut the door. “Too late.” He unscrewed the cap and poured a healthy serving in the glass. Then he opened a drawer, rummaged around, and slipped something in his pocket. For some reason, my throat burned. “I wish you’d just let me drink the water.” He must have heard the tears in my voice, because he rushed over, juice in hand. He set it on the coffee table and put his hands on my arms. “Hey. It’s all right, Elin. You can drink whatever you want. I once took an oath with a strawberry smoothie and a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies.” I let out a watery laugh. “Really?” “Thin mints.” “I love those.” His eyes twinkled. “I’ll buy you some when we get back. Okay?” I nodded. Why did he have to be so kind? So wonderful? He smiled. “Okay. Now, do you want to draw your blood, or do you want me to do it?” “You.” His expression turned solemn. “Give me your hand.” It took me two tries to get my glove off. I shot him an apologetic look. “Sorry. These are tight.” “No worries,” he murmured. Free of the glove, I placed my palm in his larger one. Although I knew it was just my imagination, my hand seemed paler than usual, as if all the blood had fled to safer parts of my body. He closed his fingers over mine and gave my hand a gentle squeeze. “Close your eyes if you want.” I thought that over. “I think I’ll keep them open, but just look off to the side or something.” “That works, too.” He drew a kitchen knife from his pocket. I jerked my gaze toward the TV. My heart sped up, and the top of my head grew hot. “Steady,” he said, his voice quiet but encouraging. He gave my hand another squeeze, then pulled my fingers straight and taut. A bubble of anxiety rushed up my throat. “Hauk, I don’t think—” A tiny lick of fire shot across the base of my index finger. I sucked in a sharp breath and looked down. A line of blood welled from a shallow cut just above the spot where my finger joined my hand. “You did it,” Hauk said, pride in his voice. “I . . . did.” Relief washed over me. Hauk tugged my hand toward the waiting glass. “Quickly, before it clots.” Gross. I ignored the revulsion that swept me as he turned my palm and held my finger over the glass. One, two, three drops of bright red blood hit the surface, then sank into the juice. I looked at him. “Now what?” “Now you say the oath and drink.” “That’s it?” “That’s it.” He handed me the glass. I took it and stared down at the orange surface. There was no sign of my blood. “I thought it would be more . . . involved that that.” He shrugged. “Simple is better, I guess. Less stuff to think about. Do you remember the oath?” “Yes.” Harald had drilled it into me from the moment I could speak. I took a deep breath and spoke the ritual words. “Odin the All-Father, lord of wisdom and death, I undertake this quest in your name. May your hand guide me as I seek to bring justice to one who deserves it.” I tipped the glass back and drank. “The whole thing,” Hauk murmured. Still drinking, I gave him a look over the rim. Why did he have to fill the whole damn glass? I didn’t necessarily mind orange juice, but he’d given me half the container. As I breathed through my nose so I could keep chugging, Hauk gave an approving growl and said, “Skol.” Juice leaked from the corners of my lips, but I finished every drop. I lowered the glass, breathless. Hauk grinned. “Welcome to the guild, berserker.” “I don’t feel any different. Maybe we didn’t add enough blood.” “No, that’s normal. I never feel anything, either. That comes after the kill.” Juice sloshed in my stomach. I handed him the empty glass. “At least I won’t get a cold now.” I couldn’t catch human illnesses, but I needed something to distract me from the devastating effects of his smile. Going without it all morning had made me realize just how much I’d come to rely on it. The awful tension between us had lifted, thanks in part to my squeamishness at drinking my own blood. So at least something good had come from me being a subpar berserker. Hauk took the glass to the kitchen. Then he went to his pack and swung it around his shoulders. He walked toward me as he tightened the straps. “You okay to go?” “Absolutely.” I pulled my gloves on. He looked me over, gaze critical. “Cut feel all right?” I lifted my hand and wiggled my fingers. “Fine.” I couldn’t ask him to heal it. The wound was part of the ritual. To spill blood, a berserker first had to be willing to spill his own. “Boots fit okay?” “Yep.” His eyes moved to my pack. “You sure you’re okay to carry that?” “I’m fine.” “The pack is as big as you are.” “It’s not that heavy.” “I could transfer some supplies to mine—” “Hauk.” I met his gaze. “I’m fine. Really. I’m still half-berserker, even if I suck at fighting.” His voice was gruff. “You don’t suck at fighting. You got in more than a few good hits on the Dragon Tower.” The memory of him playing Led Zeppelin rose in my mind, and I smiled. “I kind of assumed you took it easy on me.” One side of his mouth lifted. “Maybe a little.” We stood there, smiling at each other in front of his living room window, the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Morning sunlight crept over the balcony and stretched toward our feet. He reached out and raised my zipper to my chin. “I hope you’ll be warm enough.” “I’ll be all right.” Warmth spread over my chest, and it wasn’t from the North Face jacket he’d given me. “Thanks for all the stuff.” “You’re welcome.” He was back to staring at me, his eyes several shades darker than the sky outside. “Where did you get it all?” He swallowed. “I got it earlier in the week. I wasn’t sure you’d agree to come with me, but I . . . hoped.” Because he’d needed a nymph, and I fit the description. But he’d also said he’d gotten to know me better. And if last night was any indication, he liked what he saw. Was I ready to take him at his word? To stop wondering and start feeling? Asher’s voice ran though my head. “Raw, wild energy—the kind that makes blood and passion pump through your veins.” He’d told me to embrace it. Hauk cleared his throat. “Well, um. We should get going.” “Right.” He continued staring, and for a second I thought he might finally address what had passed between us while he showered. But then he stepped back and lifted his hands. A portal grew between them, the edges glowing white. He caught my eye. “Ready?” “We can use a portal?” He quirked a brow. “Of course. Why not?” “Harald said . . .” I shook my head. “Just something Harald said.” Hauk’s expression softened. “You’re not a bad berserker, Elin. Forgive me, but your father can be a right dick when he wants to be.” That made me smile. “Well, he usually wants to be.” “Get over here, shieldmaiden. We’ve got a portal to catch.” I moved to his side and grasped his arm. Between the pack and my warm weather clothing, I felt a little like an expensively dressed snowman. “I’m ready.” “This one shouldn’t be as bad as yesterday.” He widened the portal more, then dropped his voice to a smooth cadence. “Please return all backpacks and bo staffs to their upright position and remember to fasten your seat belt whenever the fasten seat belt sign is on.” He moved us forward a step, and the portal took us.
Amy Pennza has been a lawyer, a soldier, and a copywriter. She's worn combat boots and high heels in the same 24-hour period--and she definitely prefers flip flops. Actually, she prefers going barefoot while writing steamy romances about strong women and alpha men with hearts of gold. After years in Tornado Alley, she now makes her home in the Great Lakes region with her husband, kids, and more baskets than any one person should own. (You can never have enough.)
Keep up with new releases, news, and giveaways by visiting www.amypennza.com
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10 Fascinating Facts About the Romance Novel Industry
If you love romance books, you should know that you’re part of the single largest genre in all of literature. Romance novels outsell every other type of book out there, and romance authors are always coming up with new titles for readers to enjoy.
This is good news for romance fans, who are known to be voracious consumers of their favorite genre. In fact, 15 percent of romance readers buy a new book (or two) at least once a week. Here are 10 other facts about the romance novel industry that might surprise you.
1. One-third of All Mass Market Fiction Books Sold Are Romance Novels
Romance book sales exceed $1 billion every year, selling more than many other genres combined. Annually, one-third of all mass market fiction books sold are romance novels.
2. Romance Readers Are Not “Crazy Cat Ladies”
Despite numerous studies and surveys that prove the contrary, the stereotype of the average romance reader as a solitary woman with a houseful of cats persists.
However, the reality is far different from this caricature. The average age for romance readers is 42, and most romance books (44 percent) are purchased by readers between the ages of 18 and 44.
3. Men Read Romance Too
Romance is strongly associated with the ladies, but men are discovering the power of romance, too. According to Nielson BookScan data, 16 percent of romance readers are men.
4. Romance Has Something for Everyone
Love historicals? Or is contemporary fiction more your style? Maybe you like suspenseful thrillers or sweeping epics that span multiple generations. Love the Regency period? Or are you a sucker for a good Western?
Whatever your tastes, there’s a good chance romance has something to offer. Whether you like sweet, chaste romances or erotic books with open-door intimate scenes, romance can deliver.
There is also paranormal romance, Amish romance, inspirational romance, romantic suspense, LGBTQ+ romance, and just about anything else you can think of.
5. Romance Novels Helped Spur the Ebook Boom
Considering how many ebooks are sold, it’s hard to believe that digital books have only been around a relatively short period of time.
The ebook industry has the romance genre to thank for its success. Nielson data reports that 39 percent of all ebooks sold in 2014 were romance novels—a number that has continued to grow year after year.
6. Romance Readers Are Loyal
Once a romance reader, always a romance reader. According to data from the Romance Writers of America, 35 percent of romance readers have been fans for 20 years or more.
7. Romance Novels Are Part of College Courses
If you love romance, why not study it as part of your university coursework? Now, you can. Professors have incorporated the romance genre into their classes at prestigious schools like Yale and Duke University.
8. Most of Your Favorite Romantic Movies Were Romance Novels First
Think of your most beloved romantic movie, and there’s a good chance it started out as a romance novel.
Moreover, this isn’t a new trend. Gone with the Wind was a novel by Margaret Mitchell. Leo Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina in 1878.
In more modern times, The English Patient was written by Michael Ondaatje. Before it was a popular series of movies, Bridget Jones’s Diary was a novel by Helen Fielding.
9. The Publishing Industry Is Overwhelming Female
Okay, so this fact isn’t necessarily limited to the romance genre. However, it is pretty fascinating. Across all genres, publishing is dominated by women. In fact, 78 percent of people in the publishing industry are female, making it one of the few businesses run almost exclusively by women.
10. Romance Audiobook Sales Are on the Rise
Audiobooks have exploded in popularity in recent years, with romance leading the way. According to Publishers Weekly, audiobook sales grew by 22.7 percent in 2017, earning about $2.5 billion. The most popular genres for audiobooks include romance, science fiction, and suspense.
So there you have it. Not only is the romance genre a market leader, it’s much more diverse than critics give it credit for. If you’re an avid romance reader, you already know how much the genre has to offer. So grab your favorite romance book and indulge in the exciting escape only romance can offer.
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