Book Title: Luck of the Draw
Author: Addison Albright
Publisher: JMS Books, LLC
Cover Artist: Written Ink Designs
Release Date: July 22, 2023
Genres: M/M Light Fantasy Romance, Gay/Bisexual
Tropes: Peace Treaty, Arranged Marriage
Themes: Accepting Fate, Dark Secrets, Forgiveness
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 25 700 words
It is a standalone book and does not end on a cliffhanger.
Drawing the short straw is bad luck…isn’t it?
Drawing the short straw is bad luck…isn’t it?
A treaty between three warring realms calls for a mass wedding ceremony amongst their eligible princes and princesses to solidify the peace. But since the number of males and females differ, one of the marriages must be between two of the princes.
Prince Obren of Canna draws the short straw, sealing his fate, and Prince Dukan of Butari volunteers to be the other half of the nontraditional marriage. The two princes fought nobly in the years-long war and are willing to do whatever it takes to finalize the treaty, ending the conflict that took the lives of their loved ones…Obren’s brother and Dukan’s lover.
Each harbors a dark secret, and King Rogan of Canna has long nurtured a deep hatred of Obren, blaming him for bringing home the deadly virus responsible for the untimely death of his much-adored wife. Obren and Dukan can’t deny their chemistry, but can they overcome the ugly truths complicating their path to a friendly, respectful, and—dare they hope—loving relationship? Will King Rogan stop at nothing to dash Obren’s chance at happiness, or does that short straw represent good luck, after all?
Chapter 1: Drawing Straws
Obren, a prince of Canna, had drawn straws many times in the past, but never had the stakes been so high. This time it was not about who would go first or last either in childhood games of years gone by, or in sexual liaisons from more recent years. It was not about who would help pitch the army tents versus dig the holes for the latrine. Or fill them in, later, when breaking camp.
This time, the rest of his life was at stake. Not life or death itself, but the direction his life would follow and its potential to bring him happiness.
Obren’s stomach twisted into a knot as his father, King Rogan of Canna, offered his closed fist. Obren drew in a deep breath, understanding, to the marrow of his bones, that any plea to avoid this choice was pointless. A straw must be drawn, and as the older of the two brothers, he would draw first.
Not that the order of drawing mattered. Whether or not he drew the short straw would be down to luck. The luck of the draw would decide his life’s path. His hand twitched as he checked a nervous impulse to smooth down his already neatly styled blond hair.
Obren closed his eyes, shut out the sounds of his father’s heavy breathing, and focused on preventing the quiver building in his gut from reaching his hand as he lifted it. He paused and opened his eyes. Was there any possible stratagem he could employ to boost his chances?
“Just pick one,” Lale hissed. “Let’s get this over with.” Lale, being Obren’s younger brother, was as invested in the outcome as was Obren.
Obren swallowed, squared his shoulders, and snatched one of the two straws sticking up from Father’s fist. He stepped back and stared at the stick, but it gave him no information.
No useful information, anyway. Length could be both absolute and relative. He could see that the absolute length of his straw was about six knuckles long. But it was the length relative to the straw remaining in Father’s hand that would give the answer.
Lale strode swiftly forward and grabbed the remaining straw. The brothers stood staring at one another for ten solid beats before slowly raising their hands to compare straws.
Obren stared blankly at them, but it was the slow grin spreading across Lale’s face that came into focus first. Lale held the longer of the two.
Heat suffused Obren’s face as he snapped his straw in half and let the two pieces drop to the floor.
“Enough of that.” The king used his regal tone, usually reserved for court. “You will do your duty, and you will do it without displays that should have been left behind when you graduated out of the nursery.”
Obren clenched his jaw. He shouldn’t say anything more, but his mouth ran on unheeded. “I’m older. It wouldn’t have been out of order for you to have decided based upon our ages.”
“Your sisters are older still. You’re not even the spare, let alone the heir. You don’t matter.”
Lale snorted, and Obren shot a glare in his direction. But Lale was looking at their father with an unwise expression of disgust. The snort hadn’t been directed at Obren; it had been in response to Father’s unkind remark about both of their worth.
Obren softened his own expression, and when Lale returned his gaze to Obren, Lale swallowed, and said, “Obren’s right. Neither of us wants this, of course, but it should be me.”
The two brothers had never been the best of friends. Their personalities didn’t align well for that. But they’d always felt the bond of brotherhood, and here, Lale probably felt a sense of duty to repay Obren for saving his life amidst a fierce battle in the final year of the war.
Obren wasn’t entirely sure if his conscience would have allowed him to let Lale take this burden upon himself after winning the draw—probably not, impulsive comment notwithstanding—but that option wasn’t on the table. “Nonsense. The selection was fairly made,” the king said with a glare of his own directed at Obren. “I expect you to behave like a rational adult at both the reunion dinner this evening and the ball tomorrow night.”
Obren held in his retort and gave a curt nod before turning on his heel and striding, with as much dignity as he could muster, from the room.
Anger roiled through his belly as he raced through the castle hallways to his suite of rooms. His footsteps clicked on the stone floor and echoed through the empty passages. A lingering whiff of the sausages they’d eaten at breakfast still hung in the air.
It was an understatement to say that Father preferred Lale. Had done since Obren had been a schoolboy. In fact, Obren wouldn’t be surprised to learn if Father had somehow manipulated the straws to ensure Obren picked the shorter of the two.
Father had never forgiven him for his mother’s death. As if Obren had deliberately caught the jumping spotty fever. He certainly hadn’t been aware enough during the height of his illness to influence his mother to stay away from him. She’d nursed him, as a loving mother would do, and she’d become ill herself, succumbing to the disease whereas Obren had recovered.
Once in his suite, he flopped face down onto the bed and screamed into his pillow.
Q&A with Addison Albright
Hello, and thanks so much for having me on your wonderful blog today!
Are you Indie or Traditionally published? – Tell us how this works for you…
I’m indie (but not self) published via JMS Books, LLC. It works great for me. JM is absolutely wonderful and so easy to work with. I like not having to deal with the stress or financial responsibility for the book cover and editing. I have a top-notch editor through JMS, and though it’s best if we keep our cover concepts/ideas simple, they are solid quality. I also have the option of eventually reuploading the Amazon listing through their book aggregator so it can go into Kindle Unlimited while still remaining widely distributed.
Do you pre-plot your books, use an outline, fly by the seat of your pants or some combination of things?
On the scale from plotter to pantser I am far closer to pantser. It used to be purely pantser, but I’ve evolved to more of what I would call a “plantser.” Now, I’ll have the broad strokes in my head as far as what the drama will be, what the big point-of-no-return event will be and how it’s resolved before I start. Then, of course, it’ll all go off the rails as I write, but I’ll still have that new general plan in mind. Sometimes at the end of the doc I’m writing in, I’ll jot down some quick notes about character names/descriptions, etc., but for the most part, my process includes rereading what I’ve written so far over and over as I add to the story. That’s more to get the pacing right but has the benefit of reminding me of little details and triggering new ideas. It also allows me to tweak events I’d already written to better foreshadow or otherwise support things that have been inserted later.
Tell us about your first published gay fiction/romance.
The very first thing I published was a short story called Cow Pie Bingo at the now-defunct Torquere Press. That, along with my other early shorts have since been reworked and reedited and are now in a collection titled Snapshots at JMS Books. Cow Pie Bingo is a simple but fun little meet-cute with an HFN.
and then your most recent one…
My new release is novella length, which seems to be my wheelhouse these days. It’s a light fantasy (made up historical-like world but no magical properties) arranged marriage story with gay and bisexual MCs. Themes include accepting fate, dark secrets, and forgiveness.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I write part time when the mood or muse strikes. I usually avoid signing up for calls since they have deadlines attached, and I tend to write slowly. But Luck of the Draw was an exception. It’s for JMS Books’ luck-themed 13th anniversary (you’ll find books with the word “luck” in the title there throughout July). It did have a long enough stretch of time between when it was first announced and when it was due that I felt like I could reasonably get it done in time. I got an idea for it quickly and originally thought it would just be a meet-cute short story that might possibly stretch to novelette length. So no sweat, right? Heh. It ended up being solidly in the novella range.
Which character still pops into your mind to visit from time to time?
Oddly enough, it’s Lucas, a side character with fairly little on-page time in When Are You?, my accidental time travel novel. Except for one alternate POV scene, all of that book’s bonus scenes ended up featuring Lucas. And by the way, most of my books have bonus scenes available to read for free on my website.
What are your writing goals for the next year?
I envy the writers with their lofty book/word count goals. I feel rudderless in comparison. I have an idea for a new story brewing, so my goal is to write it. Simply that. No word count goal…it’ll be what it ends up being.
What else do you want us to know about you?
At the urging of my kids, I took an online autism test and (no surprise to anyone who knows me) fell solidly on the spectrum. It bothers me that so much of book marketing/sales seems to hinge on how friendly, social, and outgoing the author is. I’m socially awkward AF. I agonize over what to say/do but no doubt get it wrong anyway. I’m not, and never will be, one of the cool kids. None of this means my writing isn’t worth reading, though. You likely won’t see my name on the popularity contest style of book awards since relatively few read them, but my books include Rainbow Award honorable mentions, a runner up, and…a first-place winner (I burst into tears when I saw that. It was quite pathetic). Anyway, true to form, I imagine none of this was the right thing to say, but I’ll never know.
How can we connect with you?
I don’t have a FB group, so the best way is probably via my monthly newsletter. It includes a bit at the top about what I’m up to in my life and/or writing, and a cat update with pics at the bottom. In between you’ll find info on my books, books I’ve read recently, and books I’m looking forward to reading. I usually always have a fresh bonus scene or bit of flash fiction that’s exclusive to my subscribers for a month or so before it’s added to the looooong list of them on my website.
Where do you find inspiration?
It’s a bit of a mystery, really. For my current release, Luck of the Draw, there was a call at my publisher for luck-themed stories. I went to an online idiom dictionary for title possibilities including the word hoping that would spark an idea for a story. It did. My first thought was drawing straws, then wouldn’t an arranged marriage based on who drew the short straw be cool? From there, the story simply evolves, and I don’t even know myself at the end of it how I managed to weave different aspects of the story together.
What do you do if you hit a wall while writing? How do you combat writer’s block?
Since I usually don’t do deadlines, I don’t force it. If I’m not sure how to proceed with a story, it ends up taking over daydreams and what I’m pondering as I go to sleep until an idea sparks.
What is your favorite thing about writing gay romance?
The wide variety of both background story options (the sky is the limit) and the equally wide variety of relationship dynamic possibilities.
Thanks again for having me on your lovely blog today! I’ll leave you with a quick link. I’ve created a handy list on Books2Read with all my books organized by different categories for readers’ convenience: https://books2read.com/rl/AddisonAlbright
About the Author
Rainbow Award winning author Addison Albright lives smack dab in the middle of the USA. Her stories are gay romance in contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction genres. She generally adds a subtle touch of humor, a dash of drama/angst, and a sprinkle of slice-of-life to her stories. Her education includes a BS in Education with a major in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. Addison loves spending time with her family, reading, popcorn, boating, French fries, “open window weather,” cats, math, and anything chocolate. She loves to read pretty much anything and everything, anytime and anywhere.
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