Dear Reader Letter and Discussion Questions from Amy Raby on Spy's Honor
One of my favorite things about writing a fantasy romance series is that I have the opportunity to tell two types of stories at the same time. One is the intimate emotional drama of each individual romance—Lucien and Vitala in Assassin's Gambit, Janto and Rhianne in Spy's Honor. The other is the overarching story that takes place over the entire series. In this case, it's the story of Lucien's and Vitala's rule over the Kjallan Empire, from beginning to end.
Assassin's Gambit, which introduces the series, began with Lucien already sitting the throne as a young emperor and meeting his future empress for the first time. In Spy's Honor, I go back in time to tell the story of how Lucien came to power in the first place. It happens that Lucien's rise to power is closely linked to his cousin Rhianne's secret and scandalous relationship with an enemy spy.
At its heart, Spy's Honor is a family drama centered around four people: Rhianne, her uncle Florian, her cousin Lucien, and her secret lover Janto. Florian, the emperor at the time of this novel, was a delightful villain to write because he's not a good man, but neither is he entirely evil. He believes himself to be stern, insightful, and compassionate, when in fact he is often domineering and cruel. But he's a strong leader and sometimes clever, and in the right circumstances he can be kind and generous.
The close relationship between Lucien and Rhianne is a defensive one: they've banded together to protect themselves from Florian's iron fist. They have a pet nickname for him ("His Royal Unreasonableness"), and they go to great lengths to sneak out from under his watchful eye and quietly help the people he has harmed.
Add Janto to the mix—the foreign spy Rhianne falls in love with, when her uncle wants her to marry someone else—and this unstable family dynamic explodes.
In addition to the romance between Rhianne and Janto, and the related family drama that brings in Florian and Lucien, I really enjoyed the opportunity to go back a little in time and show some of the early influences upon Lucien. What made him the sort of man and the sort of emperor he is?
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy Spy's Honor!