Arranged Marriage Meets Queer Fantasy Romance: Announcing A Strange and Stubborn Endurance

Tor Books is thrilled to announce the acquisition of World English rights for A Strange and Stubborn Endurance and an additional novel from Hugo Award-winning blogger and author Foz Meadows by Executive Editor Claire Eddy from Hannah Bowman at Liza Dawson Associates.

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a male/male epic fantasy romance about Velasin, a closeted young nobleman preparing for a political arranged marriage to a foreign noblewoman—but when his sexuality is revealed under unpleasant circumstances, it’s proposed that he marry her brother instead. With no idea of what to expect from life in a culture famously more permissive than his own, Velasin’s troubles only increase when his arrival sparks an onset of violent political intrigue. Working together with his new husband, Velasin must try to figure out who’s behind the attacks—and maybe build a real relationship in the process.

The author, Foz Meadows, said of the book:

“As well as being a romance, A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a story about queer survival and flourishing: about what it means to move from a culture of repression to one of acceptance. It’s about healing, abuse, found family, trust and secrets, and what those things mean in different contexts. Part of what I love so much about diplomatic marriage as a romance trope is how perfectly it embodies the fact that the personal is political and the political personal: the map of Velasin and Caethari’s relationship is also the territory, and that’s something they have to navigate together, all while battling culture shock and deadly machinations. I’m beyond thrilled by the enthusiasm both Claire and Hannah have shown for this book: it’s in the best possible hands, and I can’t wait to see it published by Tor.”

Of the acquisition, editor Claire Eddy remarked:

“You know the real deal when you see it. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is that book and Foz Meadow is that author. I haven’t gobbled up a book so fast in years and in one sitting I knew that we have an author who has the potential to be a big deal for us. It’s an amazing fantasy with incredible characters and a male/male romance that is by turns sweet and sultry. It’s an unflinching exploration of trauma and healing, of gender and identity, and of how one comes to terms with self-worth, and on top of it all, a delicious mystery plotline that I didn’t solve until the big reveal—and THAT hasn’t happened to me in a very long time. I am so proud and excited to bring this author to our list!”

Agent Hannah Bowman said, “I couldn’t imagine a better artistic fit of author and editor than Foz and Claire, and we’re delighted to have found such a perfect home for this book.”

Read on for an exclusive excerpt from A Strange and Stubborn Endurance!


 

 

Just as Cae steered the palfrey back into the road, a fourth rider came barrelling around the corner, and only the quick reflexes of both their mounts prevented a collision. Cae’s palfrey shied, dancing sideways with her ears laid back as the other rider tried to continue straight past.

“Which way?” he shouted, waving a frantic hand at the nearby crossroads. “Which way did the riders go?” He was disheveled and sweating, black hair coming loose from its tie to frame a fine-boned face, a week’s growth of stubble accentuating the pleasing lines of his lips and jaw. His flushed skin was a warm, appealing olive shade, but there were dark circles beneath his hooded eyes, and despite the day’s heat, he was visibly shaking.

Velasin vin Aaro.

After Kita’s report, Cae had worked out several potential ways to approach his betrothed, but none of them had included Velasin being in distraught pursuit of his injured servant. Cae swallowed, momentarily struggling with the question of whether to identify himself before answering. Thankfully, the habit of command kicked in, priorities realigning in response to the situation. Wheeling his borrowed palfrey up alongside Velasin’s bay, he nodded back the way he’d come and said, “Follow me, tiern!”

“Thank you!” Velasin gasped, and then they were riding together, horses snorting as they cantered up the slope.

Passing back through the upper gates and into the courtyard, Cae almost laughed to find that the groom was just where he’d left her, staring about with an anxiousness that melted away the second they drew to a halt.

“My thanks for the loan,” he said, thrusting the reins at her. “Returned with interest.”

She gaped at him. “You want me to take both horses, tiern?”

“If you’d be so kind, Ren—?”

“Vaia, tiern. Ren Vaia Skai.”

“—Ren Vaia. This is the new Tiern Velasin vin Aaro, and this –” he looped the bay’s reins over its head as Velasin dismounted, “—is his faithful steed. He’s just arrived from Ralia, so treat him kindly, you understand?”

The girl nodded rapidly, eyes wide. “Yes, tiern!” she said, and hurried to comply, clicking her tongue as she chivvied both beasts along.

Which, thanks to the unusual emptiness of the courtyard, left Cae alone with Velasin. The injured tiern took a step forward, paled and almost fell over, remaining upright seemingly through sheer stubbornness. Only then did Cae realise the extent of the problem: Velasin’s left thigh was wet with blood, the dark stain spreading across his breeches. Most likely, he’d pulled his stitches open. Hissing in dismay, Cae moved to help him.

“Here,” he said, extending an arm, “you can lean on me—”

“No!”

Cae jerked back, startled. Velasin just stared at him, wide-eyed and tense as a wire.

After a moment, Cae nodded at his leg. “You can’t walk on that unsupported, tiern. I don’t mean to importune you, but under the circumstances—”

“You keep calling me tiern,” said Velasin, cutting him off. “You know my full name, even.” He eyed Cae with visible unease. “Who are you?”

Inwardly, Cae sighed; outwardly, he straightened. “Tiern Caethari Aeduria,” he said, softly. “Or Cae, if you like.”

“Of course,” said Velasin, shutting his eyes. “Of course you are.” He laughed, the sound cracked and humourless. In Ralian, he said, “The moons are mocking me.”

In the same language, Cae replied, “I didn’t know your moons had a sense of humour.”

“It depends on who you ask,” said Velasin, switching back to Tithenai. As Kita had said, his accent was lilting—pleasantly so, as though he were from a prosperous clan in Irae-Tai; a university family, perhaps.

“I saw what happened,” Cae said, into the silence. “From the parapets of the Aida. I was coming to help.”

Velasin’s face crumpled. “That blow was meant for me. If Markel dies—”

“I pray he won’t.”

“My thanks,” he whispered. And then, as though he feared the answer, “Can you take me to him? I know there are other things to discuss, but Markel’s mute—he won’t be able to speak if I’m not there, and Tar Raeki might not think to tell the healers.”

“Of course,” said Cae. “But you’ll have to trust me at least enough to lean on, tiern. That leg won’t hold your weight.”

Velasin looked away, considering. Cae frowned: whatever his objection to public touching, the tiern clearly needed help, and it was an effort to keep from saying as much. After a moment, however, Velasin nodded. Cae approached him carefully, wondering if he was hiding an additional injury—cracked ribs, perhaps, or a shallow cut, something that a supportive arm could easily make worse. Some people were secretive about their hurts that way, whether soldiers or civilians, and while Cae wasn’t one of them, he understood the impulse. As such, he tried to be gentle, fingertips grazing Velasin’s side in search of any tender spots, and it was only when Velasin inhaled sharply, tensing again, that Cae realised such a lingering touch conveyed some very different implications.

“Sorry,” he muttered, flushing at the error, and promptly snugged his arm around Velasin’s ribs. “There. You can lean on me, now.”

Velasin shuddered and complied, letting Cae take his weight as they started forwards. He was limping badly, breath hissing with each step, and Cae couldn’t decide which he was more: frustrated with Velasin’s stubbornness, or impressed by his tenacity.

Working on the not unreasonable assumption that Raeki had taken Markel straight to the infirmary, Cae headed there, silently grateful for the fact that they didn’t have to tackle any stairs. In fact, it was becoming increasingly clear that, regardless of the state of his servant, Velasin himself needed medical attention: he was breathing hard and, pressed as close as they were, Cae could feel his heart pounding.

“Is it much farther?” Velasin grit out.

“Don’t tell me you can’t keep up,” said Cae, shifting to get a better grip on him.

“Why should I struggle? You’re practically carrying me.”

“What, so you think I can’t manage?”

“You said it, not me.”

“Funny,” Cae huffed, mouth twitching despite himself. “Such a singular wit, you Ralians possess.”

“You Tithenai set a low bar.”

“Hah!”

“See?” said Velasin, panting a little. “You laugh, but it isn’t funny.”

“What can I say? I’m starved for good entertainment.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, then, but I’m terrible company.”

“I won’t argue that point. We’ve only just met, and you’re already bleeding on me.”

“In my defence, you sent my horse away.”

“I don’t know how you do things in Ralia,” Cae said, taking the final corner, “but here, it’s generally frowned upon to ride indoors.”

Velasin chuckled weakly. “And you call us backwards?”

“Yes, but to your faces. We’re polite like that.”

“This marriage is off to a terrible start,” said Velasin—and just like that, the humour between them vanished. Cae swallowed hard and brought them to a halt, nodding awkwardly at the infirmary door.

“Through here,” he said, and didn’t look at Velasin as he steered them both inside.

Cae paused at the threshold, taking in the scene. Markel was laid out on a nearby bed, his shirt pulled up to reveal a deep wound in the vulnerable flesh below his ribs. The two guards stood back from him, engaged in a hissing argument about whose fault it all was, while Raeki hovered and swore under his breath, watching as the healer, Ru Zairin Ciras, issued sharp instructions to thir underlings.

Recognising Cae, the arguing guards snapped to attention, but before either Raeki or Ru Zairin could speak, Velasin stumbled between them, shoving his way to the bedside.

“Markel? Are you awake? Markel!”

The servant’s eyes rolled open, focussing hazily on Velasin, and with a sudden burst of effort, he raised his hands and began to sign. The gestures were alien to Cae, but Velasin clearly understood them, for he began to translate, speaking aloud in Tithenai as his gaze remained fixed on Markel.

“The man who attacked him said they acted in the name of the Wild Knife, who will not suffer Ralians to live in Qi-Katai.”

“He what?” choked Cae, aghast. “But it’s not—that doesn’t make any sense!”

Velasin turned and glared at him. “Why not? The Wild Knife rode against vin Mica for years—he’d have every reason to hate my being here! Are you honestly going to pretend otherwise?”

“I’m going to pretend nothing,” Cae snapped back, “because I’m him!”

For a pointed moment, everyone went still.

“Oh,” said Velasin, swaying slightly. He gripped the edge of Markel’s bed, trying to steady himself, and all at once, Cae realised how pale he was. “Do you want me dead, then?”

“I don’t,” said Cae, already moving towards him. “Tiern, your leg—”

“Damn,” said Velasin softly, and fainted.

 

Excerpted from A Strange and Stubborn Endurance, copyright © 2021 by Foz Meadows

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