Shadows of Valor by Elsie Park
On the surface, Graywall is content and booming. Lord Shaufton, who presides over the city, is a fine ruler. The poor are well-cared for, the area is popular, and morale is high—but within Graywall’s roots, something dark is stirring. This darkness threatens to overpower the once-peaceful town, until a mysterious figure appears: The Shadow.
As much a figure of fear to the unruly as legend to the innocent, The Shadow is an enforcer of justice and aid to the King. Due to an outrageous export tax set by King Edward, smuggling has tainted the kingdom, so The Shadow is sent to hunt the smugglers down. Contrary to legend, The Shadow is simply a man known as Sir Calan who, although talented and just, struggles to keep his dark thoughts of revenge from becoming ruthless action.
Due to sheer coincidence, The Shadow learns of a deadly plot against Lord Shaufton on a journey to Graywall. Now, he must enter a pseudo courtship with Lord Shaufton’s daughter under his original guise of Sir Calan, all while old emotions are stirred by the lovely Elsbeth, Lord Shaufton’s niece. Elsbeth, it seems, is the only woman who can heal his troubled soul, but she has a story of her own. What transpires is a glorious tale full of deceit, greed, inner struggles, betrayal, and most of all—love.
Open Topic by Elsie Park
Open topics are hard to come up with because there are a myriad of avenues one can take, making it quite difficult to decide. But something kept coming to my mind, a subject set off by a question asked by another blogger in an interview (Erleen Alvarez – http://bookforya.blogspot.co.uk ). Her question was, “Do you have any similarities with your female heroine Elsbeth?”
I answered this question, mentioning my blue eyes and brown hair, and how that was the fun part of writing my own story. Being able to put a little piece of myself into it. I also talked about giving my heroine physical scars, and her having to overcome a low self-image because of it. I don’t have scars, but growing up, I struggled with low-self esteem due to what I considered a lack of physical beauty by the world’s standards. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror because it didn’t fit what the world said was beautiful. You know . . . skinny figure, perfect hair, flawless face, no pimples. Many children, teens and adults struggle with their self-image everyday due to society’s idea of what’s attractive and what’s not.
Though my sweet parents consistently told me what a good-looking girl I was, that only went so far when I realized I didn’t look like the gorgeous girls all the boys were looking at, or the stunning females I saw in movies and magazines. It didn’t help that boys didn’t look my way or never asked me out. I was simply a “plain Jane” who was easily forgotten in a crowd. It was especially hard to feel my true self-worth in high school. Women, especially, try to live up the world’s standard of beauty in cosmetics, hair styles, clothing, diets and weight loss. This is particularly true with sweet mothers whose bellies have been stretched beyond elasticity because of numerous pregnancies. This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t always strive for good heath through smart eating and exercise, but if they are currently not at their healthy weight goal, the awful truth is that it’s really hard for them to feel good about themselves.
When I read a book, I like to feel connected with the character in some way, but I realized that as an overweight woman, I didn’t really connect to the characters in physical appearance. In fact, I often read books KNOWING I’m like them and WISHING I could be. Reading about a perfect heroine allows me to become that character for a little while. That’s the fun of reading. We not only get pulled into the story as an observer, but we can also picture ourselves as one of the characters. This is normal. This is fun. This can also be damaging to our self-image if we allow our self-worth to be undermined by a fictional character who doesn’t really exist.
That’s why I gave my heroine scars. Having a good self-image is a difficult issue for Elsbeth because of them. By society’s standards, she’s physically imperfect, as many people feel they are, and though she tries to live up to her high values, she still falls short at times. But despite her imperfections in body or living up to her standards, the important thing is that she TRIES to be a better person and that she LEARNS to love herself as she is.
I’m not the first person to give my main character a physical abnormality. When the imperfection is coupled with a romantic tale, the story becomes more about true love than a simple physical attraction. Some classics tales that embody this concept are: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, CYRANO DE BERGERAC, JANE EYRE and PERSUASION by Jan Austen where the females are described as plain, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. And there are contemporary novels I’ve read that have atypical main characters, but that I love all the more because of their scars or weight issues: SEEKING PERSEPHONE by Sarah M. Eden and BIG IN JAPAN by Jennifer Griffith are both wonderful stories that I’ve kept on my shelf of favorites.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a good book with perfectly shaped characters who have chiseled features and great personalities (in fact, I made my hero in SHADOWS OF VALOR physically perfect *smile* – LOVE THAT MAN). Those kind of characters will always make my heart flutter *smile*. But I must be secure with my own self-image so I can read about these perfect people and not succumb to the danger of depression because I don’t “measure up.” That being said, I hope my “flawed” heroine trying to overcome her low self-esteem, connects with readers who are struggling to conquer the same in some way.
Thanks for letting me ramble on your blog, Dani. It’s been a pleasure being here.
SHADOWS OF VALOR releases September 7, 2013.
Overview: Taking place in 1300 A.D. England, The Shadow (aka Sir Calan), a knight-spy working under the direction of King Edward I, hunts down and arrests smugglers who defy the law and evade paying their taxes. The Shadow’s duty is fueled by vengeance from a childhood experience against smugglers. Dealing with society at its worst, The Shadow becomes cynical and struggles to rein in his desire to execute lethal justice before turning the perpetrators over to local authorities. He feels his soul turning black with hate in his continual fight against evil. A childhood acquaintance, Lady Elsbeth, enters his life years later, bringing light to his soul once again, but she has a story of her own, accompanied by physical and emotional scars. Calan feel he needs Elsbeth in his life, but in an effort to keep his identity and duty secret, he must deceive her. This creates distrust and uncertainty between them, as she accepts another man as her suitor. But Calan must ask the question: What’s worth fighting for more? His long-standing desire to avenge a childhood friend or the woman who may be his salvation? What entails is a glorious tale full of deceit, greed, inner struggles, betrayal, and most of all—love.
Books like this that have such a captivating, hard to stop reading plot will turn me into a historical romance book reader! I am telling you this is one of the best stories I have read so far this year! There is so much mystery, suspense and of course romance that takes place in this wonderful stand alone novel.
Lady Elspeth lives with her uncle the Lord Shaufton as well as his wife and cousin. When she was young her parents were killed in a fire that scarred both of her arms. She was rescued by the young man she had a huge crush on, Sir Calan. Now years later Sir Calan has come to visit her uncle’s keep and has made it apparent he is interested in Elspeth’s cousin…
Sir Calan has many secrets including that he is the mysterious man called The Shadow. And while he is pretending to enter into a courtship with Elspeth’s cousin he is actually seeking out some smugglers intent on murder…
The way Ms. Parks weaves this story is wonderful. The plot moves along at a comfortable pace and the descriptions of the time period makes you feel like you are right there. I was very impressed with how well this was written and how fast I was able to connect with the characters. I look forward to the next novel written by this gifted author.
(This book was received as an ARC from the author/publisher in exchanged for an honest review.)
About the Author:
From a wildland ﬁreﬁghter to a security guard, police ofﬁcer, and student
of botany and zoology, ELSIE PARK has done it all. It was only a matter
of time before she wrote her ﬁrst novel. While on a hiatus to Italy, Park
was inspired by the thick presence of ancient and medieval history. She
felt it in its walls, and slowly, yet surely, a story was born.
You can find Elsie Park online here: