Book Publication Day: PROMISE DREAM

Today the third book in my PROMISE SERIES has been published! Which feels extremely exciting for me 🙂

Promise Dream Blurb

In old Korea, a gisaeng slave girl is sold to a nobleman against her will. Left with no choice, she must trust a vicious bodyguard with a dangerous secret.

JOSEON KOREA

Rain hisses across the rooftops of the Pavilion, Hanyang’s greatest entertainment house. Within its stifling walls, a lonely gisaeng slave girl strives to hold together the scattering pieces of her life and protect a dangerous secret.

When a mysterious lord buys her as his unwilling concubine, Jan-sil must decide if she has the courage to deceive him. Her very survival hangs in the balance.

Yet as they journey together through a perilous world of rain and mist, Jan-sil’s loyalties begin to waver. To protect her secret, she turns to a vicious bodyguard, who might be her last chance at freedom.

A dark, romantic story of old Korea.

The Promise series focuses on strong women and has a heavy dose of danger and romance. Each book features a new couple, who must face many trials and tribulations before earning their HEA. The novels can be read as a stand-alone (or connected series), and readers can begin at any book.

I worked really hard on this book and I really hope people enjoy reading this story.

To celebrate the release day of PROMISE DREAM, I have provided a sneak peak of the first chapter as follows. I am very excited to share it 🙂

Here is a sneak peak at chapter one 🙂

PROMISE DREAM: CHAPTER ONE – The Pavilion

The night is deep, and the rains of a summer storm slam heavy against the tiled roof of the Pavilion. A lingering rumble of thunder crawls through our hallways, shaking the walls until everything is damp; the polished floor, the hanji paper shutters, even my skin feels as if water clings to it. The scent of rain rises from the earth, and the soft lights in the courtyard are swept away by the wild winds, lanterns blinked out one by one.

The patron is collapsed in the dirt, his body soaked and shivering, with blood pooling between his knees. I step from the shelter of the maru terrace, rain slicking my body until my veils hang heavy and dripping. I push them from my face, trembling. The patron is old and his fingers sink deep into the wet mud, stained dark red.

“Bodyguard,” I call for the attention of the man who stands over him. Black eyes flick to mine, deep as night.

 Other girls cluster along the terrace, watching from beneath swathes of coloured silk and coiled braids, gisaeng like me. My voice wavers, heart thudding in my chest. “Bodyguard, the headmistress commands you to lock the patron in the storage shed. The police will be here soon.”

The bodyguard nods curtly, water streaming down his skin. He stares a moment longer than he should and my spine prickles. Blood is smeared across the bones of his hand, splattered over his cheeks beneath dripping hair. Mixing with the rain.

The patron is barely conscious now, heaving in the mud. I am not sure if he will survive it. The bodyguard drags him away. Limp heels carve hollows in the mud as they disappear into the dark, leaving only glimmers of blood to show they were ever there at all.

I stand shivering.

It is the early hours of morning, still dark. The night was long and slow, like any other. We entertained men in the halls with dancing and music and delicacies, our rooms filled with whispered secrets and laughter. Until it all ended in this sudden burst of bright violence and blood.  

The bodyguard is gone now into the gloom, but still that shiver steals across my skin, the tingle of crawling fear that emerges whenever he is near. I have always felt this way, since I was a little girl and he first arrived at the Pavilion. A wild street boy he was back then, kicking and biting like an animal.

I glance one last time at the churned mud, stained dark with blood. A twinge of pity flares inside my heart for the patron who was beaten. True, it was not his right to come to our gates without money enough to cover his time, to want more than he should, but still…

Sometimes the Pavilion is a cruel place.

I sigh.

The headmistress is waiting in the banquet hall, calming the remaining patrons who linger even so close to dawn. She does not need to try so very hard. They are drunk and flushed, with liquor in their hands and sweet desserts at their fingertips. Beautiful women sit by the sides of rich men. All that could be desired is laid out before them.

It is what we offer at the Pavilion. Everything the heart could need—if a man has enough money to pay.

Gliding across the vast room, I smooth my expression into calm, kneeling by the headmistress. She sits at the head of the table beside the richest and most powerful man in the room, Minister Im. I whisper, “It is done, Headmistress. Your bodyguard awaits the police. They will take the thief away.”

The creases at the corners of her mouth stretch tight. Our headmistress was once a beauty, yet these days her elegant grace has worn thin. I lower my lashes. Perhaps it is something to do with the bottles of empty liquor I find outside her door each morning.

As she leans in, I catch the heavy waft of alcohol clinging to her breath. Tonight she is already well toward being drunk. “Will he die, Jan-sil?”

I falter. “I am … uncertain, Headmistress. Your bodyguard hurt him. Badly.”

“Good. If the old fool dies, good.” She nods, satisfied, and then sways toward the minister at her side with a coy smile. “Minister Im, what do you think of my latest apprentice?”

She sweeps her arm toward me and I force a smile as the minister’s attention is drawn to my face. His skin is blotchy beneath a scratchy short beard, robes of pale silk clinging to his small round body. If I was to compare him to the romantic heroes I read about in my leisure time, Minister Im must be the opposite in all ways.

I swallow the thought back as soon as it arrives. Lately, I am too far lost in dreams. It only makes the daylight harsher when it arrives.

“Ahh, you have chosen Jan-sil, then?” The minister’s dark gaze crawls across my skin. “I am certain she will do a fine job, though I must make one request.” He reaches over the empty liquor bottles to brush my face, his fingers leaving burning trails.

I turn utterly still. Made of stone.

“Whatever may that be, Minister Im?” The headmistress smiles knowingly, waiting. It occurs to me that she has steered us here, and whatever words drop from the minister’s lips next will be at her design.

Oblivious, the man lifts a glazed cup to his lips. His own eyes are clear, though he has been drinking all night long with everyone else. I hold my breath, suddenly afraid.

“I shouldn’t like being unable to visit Jan-sil because of her new duties as your apprentice, Headmistress. Although I understand she will no longer entertain as she used to, I believe an exception should be made for me. Would you not agree?”

My heart sinks. I admit I had hoped…

But no matter. I force a bright smile and attempt to appear pleased.

The headmistress does not need to pretend, it is written on her face. “Oh, Minister Im, of course anything is possible, if you are willing to negotiate. Lately you have taken all of our Jan-sil’s time. If you want her, of course she is yours. Though we are unworthy, you honour our humble establishment. I am certain we can reach a new agreement. For a little extra, of course.”

She sends me a hidden look, blinking slowly in the candlelight, and I quickly unclench my hands to pour the minister another cup of rice wine. As I do, a thought stabs into my mind.

Did the headmistress choose me as her new apprentice for this very reason? To demand more payment from Minister Im should he wish to continue his current arrangement of visiting me? After all, I have heard the whispers. The Pavilion is deep in debt and I know I was not the headmistress’s first choice to succeed her. I bite back an overwhelming urge to laugh, my cheeks burning. I was not even her second choice, it is true.

Of course, I am used to being overlooked. Childish, naïve Jan-sil, I have no worth beyond my face and body. I know it all already.

It stings nonetheless.

Slowly I lift my lashes, smiling warmly at Minister Im because the headmistress watches our exchange closely. I remind myself that, despite the circumstances of my appointment, being an apprentice is still something to be dreamed of—an opportunity I never expected to find within my grasp.

It is just like the tales I tell the other girls during the long languid daylight hours. I whisper to them of romance and escape, of hope, and yet now my far-fetched stories have become truth. Never once did I contemplate the future, I lost myself in dreaming instead. Yet even so, I will become the next headmistress of this place. And I will have the luxury of seeing only one man, instead of many.

Minister Im shifts across the table. His cheeks are flushed red and his skin is damp with sweat, despite the pounding rain, which rolls cool air to our doors from the mountains. The muscles in my neck pull tight as water slides from my wet veils. It is true that Minister Im is no romantic hero, yet it is a good path that has been placed before me, nonetheless. And the headmistress has chosen me.

I blink at her through the candlelight. The older woman’s features are cut from jade, cool and distant. She stares back and I know she takes my measure. Every movement or word I speak, she is assessing and calculating, deciding whether I am up to this task she has set me.

My stomach twists. I will not do a good job. The headmistress will surely change her mind about me. Already, she believes me weak and foolish.

I smile wider. Blood hums in my ears and, as I watch Minister Im’s greedy hands reaching for me, my heart slowly sinks.

It is not something to be dreamed of. Not truly. It is too far from my stories. Despite what I attempt to tell myself.

“Humble?” A rumble of laugher erupts within the minister’s chest. “You call this a humble establishment?” His gaze flicks across the vast space of the banquet hall. The intricately carved screens and hanji papered walls, the cloth lanterns flickering above our heads. Beyond the shutters the rain pounds, as if we are at the very centre of the storm. “This is hardly a humble gibang, Headmistress.”

 “You are too generous, Minister Im.” The headmistress turns to me. “What do you say to the minister about his offer, Jan-sil?”

I blink, a smile frozen in place. My body is like stone, as if my heart is slowing and will soon stop beating. As if I am closing down and curling inward. I whisper, “I am endlessly grateful for your generosity, Minister Im.”

I am not grateful. A stab of panic erupts within my belly. I clench my fingers to keep them still.

The headmistress stands with a look of satisfaction etched across her face, and the minister reaches for my arm as if to pull me closer. I cannot help it, I flinch away.

Both of them stare at me.

“I am damp with rain,” I mumble in explanation. Pushing my veils aside, I show them how the material drips water. “I will retreat to our private quarters to change.”

The headmistress’s voice snaps, “Quick, now.”

I nod, rising gracefully from my cushion and stepping lightly across the polished banquet hall floor. My heart beats fast. At the entrance to the vast space, the headmistress’s bodyguard appears. Black hair falls loose in his face, dripping water. Blood stains his knuckles. He stares down in the same way he always does, turning his body to the side so I may slide by him through the open door.

Yet I am the headmistress’s apprentice now, and so I do not slip away in silence as I usually do. I force myself to perform my duty. I know what everyone thinks of me. I am too soft. Too weak. Not made for power or cunning. Not made for this position. I lift my chin to meet his gaze, desperate to prove otherwise. Prove I am not afraid. “Did the police guards take the patron?”

The bodyguard shakes his head, expression hard like stone. Only his eyes seem alive, burning like coals. I can never tell what he is thinking. All I truly know, even after all these years, is that no matter what the headmistress asks of him, he will do.

And she asks much.

He watches me in his silent way, and I force myself to push for more. “You mean, the police have not yet come?”

The bodyguard’s voice is low, like gravel crunching underfoot in the courtyard. “They will not come, Agassi. The patron is dead.”

I hesitate, daring a quick glance upward. His face is wiped clean of expression. Unreadable. I nod and lower my gaze, stepping from his looming body into the pressing darkness of the outside walkway. My fingers grasp my silk skirt, though I say nothing. What is there left to say?

I don’t know why he calls me that.

Agassi.

It doesn’t feel right. Too delicate a title. It would better suit a young noble daughter in a grand residence, not a lowly gisaeng like me. The word creeps beneath my skin, strange and tingling.

Hurriedly I walk the open-air corridor, roaring rain slapping the painted roof and water streaming from the awnings.

So, the old patron is dead.

It is the way of the world, of course. He came here and took too much without money to pay, so it is only right that it should end this way. Yet my heart aches all the same.

Because I am soft.

***

The inner hallways of the Pavilion are humid, heat pressing from the terrace as I slowly change, peeling wet silk from my body in the dark. So much has changed in the turning of just half a year. My friends are gone. Seorin, who was clever and kind. Chungjo, who was all fire and ambition.

Both risked everything they had for a chance at something different, for a better life. Their stories were larger than life, more exciting and dangerous than the tales I read in my books. They lived courageously, while I stayed half-lost in the fantasy I found within my pages, reading tales about faraway places and grand adventures.

None of it was real.

I know now that I am not like Seorin or Chungjo. I could never be brave like them.

This place, these halls and courtyards, they are all I have ever known. I was born in these rooms, I learned to walk and speak here, learned from my mother how to stitch a wound and treat a fever. Learned other arts too. How to please a man and smile when his hands touched my skin. My body shakes despite the heat of summer.

It seems my destiny is different to that of my friends. I am to become headmistress of this place, a gibang drowning in debt. And I am to become the favoured gisaeng of one of the most powerful men in Hanyang, for everyone knows that Minister Im holds the ear of the king.

It all feels so different to what I imagined. Tales of romance and happiness, love and freedom. All just fantasy.

Slowly the walls of my room creep closer, suffocating me. The roar of rain grows as thunder crackles and bright light illuminates my shutters. I have never felt so small, so alone. Not since my mother walked from the gates of the Pavilion and never came back.

I stand in the dark empty room, naked, rain on my skin and my unbound hair dripping. Jewelled hairpins and carved jade clips lie scattered across the floor on piles of wet silk.

My friends are gone and I am alone.

Softly I touch my belly, fingers tracing the shape of my stomach. No signs. No difference. No changes.

At least, for now.

I cannot breathe.

Thank you for reading the first chapter of PROMISE DREAM. If you’d like to purchase the book, you can use the links below, or visit my PROMISE SERIES page to learn more about this series.

Buying your ebook direct from me is the best way to support me 🙂

But you can also buy ebooks and paperbacks from any of these online retail stores, or you can order paperbacks via your local bookshop, library, Amazon or other online retail stores.

Happy reading!

Lee Evie.


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