Being a prince in a past life and a different world guarantees nothing in 21st century Earth. One of the best things about writing YA fiction is the exploration of a teen’s relationship with the adults surrounding him. That ends up being great fun in comedy, and in my Masks series, we have Eric pretty much driving his family crazy with his attitude and his hundred and one misadventures. For my Henning series, I wanted to reverse things and explore a relationship between a boy and his guardians (one of whom is his uncle). In this case, Henning’s the normal one (or as normal as a reincarnated prince with powers can be normal), while his guardians – “chaperones” – are the ones driving him nuts. And it turned out to be just as fun writing it because in Henning’s case, none of his guardians are married or even parents. So while they’re utterly ignorant where raising a child’s concerned, they’re still as gung-ho as ever (turning to guide books for pointers), much to Henning’s horror. The fact that they’re also reincarnated officers with their own powers bodes nothing but ill for the boy’s teen years.
Blurb: Young Henning Babkis has learned not to consider himself to be anything special. Ignored and taken for granted by his family, his education suffering as a result of their neglect, he nevertheless struggles to fit in and improve himself, though with unimpressive results. He’s also learned not to expect anything more for himself, convinced that he’s doomed to live his life in a deep closet, surrounded by people who don’t care and who’d have given him a lot of grief if they were to find out he’s gay.
Things come to a sudden head when Henning’s fifteenth birthday rolls around. An unexpected and terrifying attack by a creature from another world shakes up his quiet life, and Norbert steps forward with remarkable and shocking revelations as to Henning’s true identity. And from a boy who’s grown up to think himself as a nobody, Henning discovers a previous life in a world called Wintergrave — a world of magic, romance, and danger.
In the company of a motley bunch of former warriors, Henning must reclaim his former life and regain his powers in order to defeat an old threat. But in order to do that, he needs to convince a certain former lieutenant that the two of them were deeply bonded before and need to reform their connection now in order to get their powers back. The wrinkle? Ellery Thomas is in a happy relationship with another boy in this lifetime.
From Chapter 8
Uncle Norbert pushed his chair back and stood up. He marched back to the kitchen, dug around a cupboard, and produced three boxes of something, which he held up for me to look at from where I sat.
“A gift from Joni,” he announced.
I squinted but couldn’t read what was written on the boxes. “What’re they?”
“Chamomile tea—organic, naturally. Three boxes of twenty-five tea bags each, and they’re all for you.”
“To calm you down, of course.” Uncle Norbert returned the boxes to the cupboard and marched back to his chair, plopping himself down and carrying on with his breakfast. “Joni’s prescription for teen angst involves a minimum of five cups of chamomile tea a day. Double the dosage when reading romance novels. She said if this is still too weak, she’ll get you a bottle of l-theanine for back up. And if that fails, it’s a concentrated dose of Valerian root for you. You’ll be out for days.”
I narrowed my eyes at him and Cameron. “Adults enjoy doing this to kids, don’t they?”
“We can’t help it,” Cameron replied, wrinkling her nose at me while sipping her coffee. “Kids walk around with gigantic hormone targets on their foreheads. It’s stupid to resist.”
I could only sigh and shake my head. I guess I’d have to remember all this abuse once I came into my powers, bonded with Ellery, blasted Varian into undead oblivion, and then asserted my rights as a prince. Of course, the ongoing issue about my prince-hood and whether or not I really did have any power over them in this world kind of felt like being dunked in a tub of cold water.
Uncle Norbert wiped his mouth with his napkin and sat back. “I’m sorry we really can’t do much for you at the moment, Henning. Like I said, while we have defense and offense powers, they’re only enough to fend off Varian and his minions should they rear their decomposing heads in this world. It’s infuriating, not knowing when and how you and Ellery awaken and come together to take care of Varian’s threat once and for all.” He pursed his lips and drummed his fingers on the table. “That said, I’m also starting to feel a touch itchy on the battle front. Academia eats your soul, kiddo, especially when you’re loaded with endless papers of substandard quality to grade, and I’ll admit I wish I were out there, keeping an eye on the place for the first signs of a threat instead.”
I grinned at him. “You’re more than welcome to slack off, Uncle.” Unfortunately he wasn’t amused, so I shoveled more oatmeal into my system.
“I wish I knew when they were coming for me. It seemed so random yesterday,” I said after a moment’s pause. “So far the only thing I have to think about is to look out for dark corners, shadows, and dark puddles of water. I guess anything that doesn’t have any light turns out to be a portal to their world if they decide to use it.”
Cameron shrugged weakly. “That’s really all you can do at the moment, Henning. Until you and Ellery awaken, the only option we have is to stay alert and fight back.”
“And for you to have a strict curfew,” Uncle Norbert cut in. “Five o’clock in the afternoon. That’s a good time for you to make sure you’re back here, safe and sound.”
I made a face at him. Five o’clock? Seriously? “Even with Ernie out there, Uncle?” I asked.
“What if I have a date?”
“I’ll have to consult my guide regarding that. In the meantime, hold off on dating anyone. In fact, hold off on meeting anyone who’s a potential date or, worse, boyfriend. I want to make sure I’m well-informed first before I deal with the smug interloper.”
I turned to Cameron and pled with my eyes. She only agreed with Uncle Norbert, nodding her head, sipping her coffee, and raising her brows at me. “You think that’s bad? Wait till you turn eighteen.”
I swear my heart just stopped beating. “Why? What’ll happen?”
“He won’t let you turn eighteen.”
“Eighteen was a bit of a traumatic year for me,” Uncle Norbert said. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, especially a child I’m rearing.”
“But—but I won’t be getting drunk and licking toads! I know better than to get high on amphibians!”
Uncle Norbert just gave me that “nice try, kid” sort of look. “I’ll have to admit, Henning, with me acquiring a child to raise without experiencing fatherhood beforehand, I’m turning into quite the disciplinarian—much better than real parents, in fact.”
Oh, my freaking-ass God. I looked at Cameron again, practically whining her name. She just ignored me and looked thoughtful. “Honey, you’ve got powers, and the rest of the teenage world doesn’t. Freedom and curfew issues aside, you’re at a way bigger advantage than everyone else. Some strictness from us won’t hurt, and it develops character.”
“And speaking of hurt, Henning, remember that this hurts us more than it hurts you,” Uncle Norbert piped up, and I blinked at him.
“Did you just memorize that line from that guide book, Uncle?”
“Ayup. One of the easiest lines to remember. Your exgrandparents were also unnaturally fond of that, if you’d like to know.”
“I don’t like the sound of that. And speaking of hurt, I’m sure I’m headed for a world of butt hurt, being raised by, one, other parents with kids…” I looked pointedly at Cameron here “…and, two, a guide book on teenagers,” I groused, turning to Uncle Norbert this time. “It’s totally normal for me to meet someone and go out on dates at fifteen. I can’t imagine being kept from doing something like that. I’d be overflowing with so much angst and self-destructive stuff that I’m sure I’ll end up crushing this city with my powers and burying myself in the process.”
Cameron rested her chin on a hand, and I was tempted to tell her to take her elbow off the table because, you know, bad manners and all that.
“Norbert,” she said. No, more like cooed. “Remember what it felt like being fifteen? I sure do. Epic levels of drama with the psychology pedal glued to the floor and the brakes nonfunctional.” If she had her way, she’d have sparkles appear around her head, along with mists of happy memories about a seriously twisted phase in a person’s development.
“Hmm, yes. It’d be church, guns, and liquor for me,” Uncle Norbert said. “Fun times.”
I pressed my mouth into a thin line. Then I shrugged, my shoulders drooping as I turned my attention back to my breakfast. “Okay, then. Stress-caused murder-suicide it is. I’m totally washing my hands of the fallout, and don’t say you weren’t warned.”
I finished my oatmeal in sulky silence. When I’d done, I looked up to find them both still watching me with sparkly, nostalgic smiles plastered on their faces. Tough crowd, I swear. So I tried to aim a little low.
“Since I’m a prince, I should be getting my way,” I said after a gulp of milk.
“You’re still three years short of official adulthood,” Uncle Norbert replied without missing a beat. I think he expected me to say that. “That trumps your prince status, which, really, is a murky issue in this world since you don’t have a kingdom to rule. And that reminds me—I hope you’re not hiding your vegetables, young man, when we serve them for lunch and dinner. Your biological parents might not be here to look after you, but I’m blood in this world, too, and I swore on my last breath to make sure you ate your veggies.”
I stared at him dully. “Really, Uncle?”
“Your poor parents’ orders, kiddo. When I said they knew you were going to be trouble, I wasn’t kidding around.”
I just rolled my eyes and then asked for money for something to eat later while I was out, chilling with Ernie and learning how to work my powers. I was told to dig around in the cookie jar, of all places. I’d have to say that, for a bunch of people who were crazy smart in their own ways, they sure fell short in the imagination department when it came to loose change. Then again, I guess the cookie jar was way better than feeling around under the sofa cushions, which was how I collected loose change in my ex-parents’ house if I wanted a bag of candy or chips and soda from the liquor store.
Hayden Thorne’s Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED