I’ve been a huge fan of Tali Spencer for nearly as long as I’ve been reading and writing gay romance. Her writing is beautiful and has a poetic touch that reminds me of one of my all-time favorites, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Her worlds, whether contemporary, fantasy, sci fi, or historical, are beautifully drawn, with wonderful world-building. And her characters… What can I say but that they capture my heart, hang on for dear life, and won’t let go!
Did I mention hot sex? My favorite sex scene ever in gay romance is from another book in her Uttor series, Dangerous Beauty. *swoons and fans self*
So when she asked me to beta read the latest Uttor book, I jumped at the chance. Victory Portrait is as wonderful and wonderfully sensual as the other series books. I highly recommend all of them. Two are heterosexual romance (Captive Heart and Adored), the other two are gay romance (Dangerous Beauty and Victory Portrait). Although the storylines are intertwined, if you don’t read het romance, you can skip those, although I loved them in spite of my lack of interest in het. Whatever you do, don’t skip the other two!
So with that recommendation, please welcome my good friend Tali! I can’t wait to read what she has coming up next. -Shira
Thanks so much to Shira for hosting me and letting me talk about how hero-worship is at the core of my new book, Victory Portrait.
hero-worship: a feeling of extreme admiration for someone, imagining that they have qualities or abilities that are better than anyone else’s.
Idolizing an older, successful man—sight unseen—might seem foolish, but a young gay male otherwise lacking for role models can be excused for creating one. The fourth Pride of Uttor book, Victory Portrait, tells the story of the youngest captive Sebboyan prince, Peta, and what happens when he encounters his dream man, the Uttoran general Darius Arrento.
Both characters have appeared in the previous Uttor books. In the opening chapter of the first book, Captive Heart, Peta declares his admiration for Arrento. Soon after, readers meet the great general for the first time. But he’s not a main character in that book and we mostly glimpse him through Peta’s infatuation. Peta has followed Arrento’s career and mapped every battle. After Sebboy’s royals are taken to Uttor to be imperial captives, Peta bemoans to his sister that he alone of his family has not met Darius Arrento. To which she answers:
“I saw him. He’s tall and built like a castle wall.”
That description only serves to anchor Peta’s impression of Arrento as bigger than life.
In Victory Portrait, Peta at last gets a chance to see his hero face to face, although he must do so as a slave serving the artist who is painting the great man’s portrait. Although he has misgivings about how this is happening, Peta leaps at the opportunity. Can Arrento possibly live up to Peta’s expectations?
Even the greatest heroes are just men. They get cranky. They make mistakes in judgment. They get ill, tired, hungry, sentimental, fixated, stubborn, proud, and a hundred other human frailties. Even so, great men are thought great for a reason and they bring those virtues to the table.
As moralist Thomas Carlyle so eloquently put it: “We all love great men; love, venerate and bow down submissive before great men: nay can we honestly bow down to anything else? Ah, does not every true man feel that he is himself made higher by doing reverence to what is really above him?”
Peta reveres Arrento for being what he himself wants to be: loyal, respected, and fearless. Their meeting will decide whether he can accept that his hero possesses other, less heroic qualities—and also reveal Peta’s own best qualities as well.
Blurb: Imperial captive and former Sebboyan prince Peta Kordeun has one great wish: to meet Darius Arrento, conqueror of his country and a man he has idolized since childhood. That wish comes true the day the Uttoran emperor assigns Peta to assist the artist who will be painting the great general’s official portrait.
General Darius Arrento would rather take a crossbow bolt through his flesh than sit for a portrait, until his friend the emperor forces his hand. The notorious artist, Brazzi, uses semen and other sexual fluids to bind his colors—and Arrento is captivated by the artist’s pretty helper. Before long he is driven to possess the gorgeous young man who draws battle maps and whose naïve charm has won more hearts in Uttor than Arrento has won battles.
When Arrento learns that Peta, the slave he covets and wants for his own, is one of the despised Kordeun princes, he storms from Uttor toward a far corner of the empire—where he quickly finds himself embroiled in a plot to tear Uttor’s empire apart. His emotions and loyalties frayed, the great Arrento is in the battle of his life…and Peta may hold the key to his survival.
“The emperor has given General Arrento permission to use you. I received word. The message bore the emperor’s seal.”
Though his skin goose-pimpled, Peta nodded. That the news was not being delivered in person did not surprise him. He and Gaspar had agreed their contact would by necessity be minimal, and they had already discussed the issue of his consent.
“I understand. I did say I would agree to it.”
The furrow on Brazzi’s brow brought his bushy eyebrows down a few notches. “Yes, well, my contract with the emperor pre-dates the general’s oral one, and mine states you must be returned to His Imperial Majesty in good condition. Which means I have a legal interest in how this matter will be conducted. My first term is that any using happens here, in my work room, and nowhere else. I’ve fucked slaves in this room and so can he.” Brazzi pointed across the room to a silk and pillow-covered couch. Its four golden lion paws crouched upon a costly rug. Draping of gold, red, blue and green velvet hung as backdrops. The artist had props for every occasion.
Peta flushed at the sight of the bed. “Shouldn’t you be telling Arrento this?”
“I will. Letting you know what I will allow won’t hurt anything.” Brazzi pulled over a rough-hewn stool and sat upon it. His long face looked grim. “I’m not convinced by this decision—yours or the emperor’s. Teasing a man with a little hands-off foreplay is a mild provocation, yes, but it isn’t personal, not truly…and if my process feels personal in any way, it’s more so for you than it is for him.” The artist’s jaw clenched. “Fucking, though…there is nothing more personal. Even for the great Arrento. I’ve made love to countless women, slaves and royalty and everything female in between, and what was beautiful about those trysts…what was sublime…was that all parties were of the same mind. We knew what we were doing.”
Peta swallowed against the dryness tugging his throat. What he wanted from Arrento, and what Arrento wanted from him, was pretty clear. “I agreed.”
“To a notion. To an idea.”
“To having sex with another man. To having sex with him. Do I have to tell you how much I want…Brazzi, I’ve dreamed of that.”
“I believe you, yes, but I’m not convinced you want the man…not yet. The gods know you don’t even see him. At least you know who he is. But Arrento doesn’t have that same consideration, does he? Blind, both of you. All you see is a war hero and all he sees is a beautiful boy.”
Peta sought to deny this, even though he knew what Brazzi said was true. “Maybe that’s changed. Maybe Gaspar told him about me.”
Brazzi considered. “He didn’t say he had, but if he did I’m sure we will know the moment the general shows up for his session tomorrow…if he shows up at all.”
Peta wasn’t sure whether to hope for that or not. If Arrento knew who he was, and hated him because of it, and fucked him anyway…he’d not thought of that possibility. “If he doesn’t know, don’t tell him. I beg you.”
“I won’t have to tell him. He’s bound to find out.”
But not right away. Not until after. Not until Peta had fulfilled the greatest fantasy he’d ever held secret. A fantasy that—since seeing the man and feeling his touch—had grown into a firestorm of hope. If Arrento would only see him and learn to know him, who knew what might be possible.
After a long moment, Brazzi conceded. “If General Arrento comes for the sitting, I will paint him. Only that. After all, you and I are the emperor’s servants. I promised the emperor a portrait and I foresee a masterpiece. So paint I will. Do whatever you and the emperor have worked out between you. It’s not my place to interfere. I’m just pointing out that you are young and haven’t thought this thing through. I must trust that our emperor has. One way or another we will all play out our parts.”
They would…and if Arrento didn’t know by now that Peta was not just any slave, he would find out one day—and soon. He would see Peta at Gaspar’s wedding to Julissa. Or Arrento would spy him one day in the Imperial Villa or elsewhere in town and ask about him—and when he did, someone who had no reason to hide the truth would reveal all…
What was he thinking? That Arrento would forgive all?
I’ll have to go away, Peta realized. Now that he thought of it, the solution to the problem was clear as day. He was the least of King Lukacz’s heirs, the youngest of three surviving brothers and known to be a lover of men. He could never be king of Sebboy or any Koth land. In political terms he was practically worthless. Once the sittings were finished and the portrait certain to be finished, Gaspar could easily send him elsewhere to serve out his captivity, someplace Arrento would never visit. He could not imagine a more terrible sentence.
About the Author:
Tali Spencer delights in erotic fantasy and adventure, creating worlds where she can explore the heights and shadows of sexual passion. A hopeful romantic and lover of all things exotic, she also writes high fantasy and science fiction. If you would like to see inspiration pictures for her characters, or glimpse how she envisions her worlds, check out her Pinterest boards.
When not writing, Tali reads everything from sweet goofy romances to medical research, manages her fantasy football team—go Gekkos!—and takes long walks with her loving, if slightly neurotic, poodle.
Tali’s other books include the three preceding Uttor books: Captive Heart, Dangerous Beauty, and Adored, all with Resplendence. Her gay male high fantasy stories, Thick as Thieves, Sorcerer’s Knot, and The Prince of Winds, are published by Dreamspinner Press. She often posts free stories and excerpts on her blog.