Excerpt of Mission to Mahjundar by Veronica Scott

Thanks for having me as your guest! Always fun to come and talk books with you.

MissionToM2-FJM_Mid_Res_1000x1500_2I’ve recently published a new science fiction romance, Mission to Mahjundar, and in this one the heroine, Princess Shalira, is blind. One of my best friends in college was an amazing woman who had been blind since birth. I’d never known anyone who was blind, prior to meeting her, and Cheryl was awe- inspiring in her refusal to accept any limits. She taught me many things, and particularly how to use the other senses when one sense is denied. I always wanted to honor Cheryl by imbuing a character with her spirit and determination, but it had to be just the right story.

Two photographs provided me with the spark of ideas about where my princess lived and what she would have to accomplish during the novel. The first was a vintage perfume ad, with a woman in a gorgeous hooded cape, holding a bottle that glowed golden, and from that came an entire sequence of events in my mind where Shalira must retrieve sacred items from her mother’s tomb. Who would be standing at her side to help her? Sectors Special Forces soldier Mike Varone, of course. But as the military mission briefers warned him before he ever set foot on the planet: Nothing is simple on Mahjundar.

His real mission has absolutely nothing to do with Shalira and he knows he should avoid any entanglement with the details of her already arranged marriage. But he gets drawn into the situation nonetheless.

An old calendar photo was the second inspiration – a windswept temple on a barren plateau. Something about the photo told me this was the planet Mahjundar, and gave me an underlying feel for what the human civilization on the planet might be like.

This is the excerpt from the novel where Shalira tries to talk Mike into diverting from his assignment, to accompany her.

A little silence fell between them. Mike had the distinct impression the princess’s thoughts were elsewhere. Finally, she sighed. “At the presentation ceremony, did the minister ask if you’d be willing to ride in my caravan?”

“Ask? More of a threat.” Mike knew his frustration was showing. He sipped at the sweet drink. “Ride with you or have my own mission cancelled.”

“And you don’t sound pleased. I wish I could have made the request myself.” She nibbled on a cracker, brushing crumbs from her lap.

“Forgive me, Your Highness, but why do you want us to go with you?” He leaned forward. “I’m on an urgent mission. Your route causes me quite a delay, which I can’t afford without good reason.”

“You’re searching in the mountains for a lost military ship, aren’t you? To give those who died the proper burial, set their spirits free?”

“Well, yes.” Mike was aware Command had used those terms to explain the request for access to this closed world. The Mahjundans, with their various beliefs about spirits, death, and proper conveyance to the afterlife, understood and had consented to a burial detail. Of course there’s another, more important strategic reason for me to delay my hard-earned retirement and accept this last mission. He wasn’t about to explain the classified background to anyone, not even this beautiful, solemn woman whose proximity was definitely having an effect on him.

“But the dead have infinite patience, Major. Surely you can spare a few days for the living?” Leaning forward, she set her glass on the table, perilously close to the edge.

He shifted the glass to a safer location. “Your Highness—”

“You may call me Shalira, if you like.” Scooting slightly toward him, smiling, she raised her elegantly curved eyebrows. “One who has saved the life of a princess is entitled to the use of her name.”

“Thank you, I’m honored, Shalira, but—”

“Would you let the life you saved be lost so soon?” Tears shimmered in the depths of her unseeing brown eyes as she turned her face directly to him. Mike could¬n’t look away, even though he knew she wasn’t actually seeing him, or his reactions. He put his glass on the table too hard, cracking the base.

“There are those who don’t want me to reach my wedding. The palace rustles with rumors of plots, schemes in motion to take advantage of this final opportunity to kill me. Once I’m safe with my bridegroom-to-be, I’ll be beyond the schemers’ reach, but I have to get to him.” Shalira rubbed her elegant fingers across the pendant as if it were an amulet giving her strength. “I hope that if you ride with me, those who plan my murder will be afraid to proceed under the attention of outworlders.”

What do I say to this? He hadn’t anticipated an appeal along these dramatic lines. “Do you think the bomb yesterday was an attempt to assassinate you?”

“No, assuredly Maralika was the target.” Shalira shook her head. “The empress is pursuing a host of unpopular actions—forbidding the older forms of worship, tearing down temples, forcing the people to pay taxes to her new gods, consolidating power for herself and her son. My father is not a well man, Major. Everyone knows he doesn’t have long to live, and she plans to rule when he’s gone.”

“But there’s opposition to her?” Mike was aware there was. Planetary politics had been a prominent part of his briefing, but he was curious how much Shalira might add.

“Her son is the heir since my brother was murdered, but the throne of Mahjundar has often been claimed by bloodshed rather than by rule of law. I have to get away from here, before the emperor dies.” She laughed, the sound bitter. “Playing the Princess of Shadows won’t protect me after his death.”

“Princess of Shadows?” Nothing about that in our briefing. He remembered the empress had also used the term to refer to Shalira.

“It’s an old folktale about a girl of royal blood who hid from her enemies in the shadows of the palace walls, disguised as a beggar, until her true love rescued her.” Gesturing to her eyes, Shalira said, “It’s meant as an insult to me, since I can’t see, not even shadows, and I’ve lived the past fifteen years on the fringes of the court, out of the ‘sun.’

Here’s the book blurb:

An attempted assassination left Princess Shalira blind as a child and, now that she’s of marriageable age, her prospects are not good because of her disability. She’s resigned herself to an arranged marriage rather than face life under the thumb of her cold stepmother. But then she meets Mike Varone, a Sectors Special Forces officer sent to Mahjundar by the intergalactic government to retrieve a ship lost in her planet’s mountains. After Mike saves Shalira from another assassination attempt, she arranges for him to escort her across the planet to her future husband. She’s already falling hard for the deadly offworlder and knows she should deny herself the temptation he represents, but taking Mike along to protect her is the only way she’ll live long enough to escape her ruthless stepmother.

But what should have been an easy trek through Mahjundar’s peaceful lands swiftly turns into an ambush with danger around every turn. Shalira’s marriage begins to seem less like an arranged union and more like yet another planned assassination. The more they work together to survive, the harder it becomes to stop themselves from falling in love. Caught in a race against time, can they escape the hostile forces hunting them and make it off the planet?

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Veronica_Scott_square_photo_2Best-selling author Veronica Scott is a two-time recipient of the SFR Galaxy Award and has written a number of science-fiction and paranormal romances. Her novel Escape From Zulaire recently received the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award for Paranormal and Futuristic Romance. You can find out more about her and her books at

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