Looking for your next hot read? Look no further than Rituals & Runes, a limited-time anthology featuring the HOTTEST bestselling authors in paranormal romance, urban fantasy, reverse harem, and MORE!
And today, you can find out about one of the stories exclusive to Rituals and Runes Anthology. Let's welcome author Melissa MacKinnon who will chat with us about Crown of Crows.
Author: Melissa MacKinnon
Book: Crown of Crows
R&R: This book cover is amazing. I'm getting Snow White vibes. Was that intentional? Can you tell us why or why not, and explain?
Melissa: My cover is seriously amazing. I gave her the story, and she came up with THAT. No, it wasn’t intentional, but I love writing kick-butt female characters.
Elowen is next in line to be the Queen of elves, but she’s hiding a secret. She was born with the old magic, particularly shadow magic. It comes in the shape of crows, and her shadows do her bidding, which isn’t always on the good side of things. Where Snow White might be pure, Elowen is quite the opposite. But, she is looking for her prince! She finds him in Balen, the human who saves her life.
R&R: Juicy! And at least we hit on the queen who might be a bit naughty vibe. Lol!
If you were in your story, what do you think you would do in the world and what role would you have in your world?
Melissa: Honestly, I’d probably just be trying to survive. The humans have been after Elven land for decades, and the wars just keep on raging. Being a human myself, surviving would be my greatest task. The Elven women are the greatest warriors in the land, and pretty much take what they want. I don’t think I’d live past my teens!
R&R: Wicked as in very cool and a bit evil, both of which we like.
Without sharing spoilers, tell us about the book's conflict. What is your main character's goal and what's in their way?
Melissa: Elowen has been betrayed by her own eleven sisters. They are afraid of her, of her magic. She’s saved by an unlikely hero - a human, no less. While Elowen has been trying to negotiate a peace, her sisters have had other plans. Elowen has no choice but to form a wavering alliance with her human savior… In order to stay alive. And, now that her magic is out there, both sides- Elven and human-want her head.
R&R: Wow. The description of this story gets worse and worse in a very intriguing and appealing way. Captivating!
How did you right-size the research you did for this book? Did you ever find yourself getting lost in the research or stopping too soon?
Melissa: I have ADHD, which means I get lost in the research quite often. My google search history is filled with searches like, “what color is elven blood”? And “how is leather armor reinforced”? But also… “at what angle is the best for a sword to enter between ribs”? I have to laugh. I love the fantasy world I’ve created, and I’ve tried to keep it as accurate as possible. And sometimes, that includes some pretty crazy research.
R&R: Being neurodiverse can sometimes be a challenge but also can open some fascinating doors. And you’re like, I swear, I’m an author, I can explain…lol!
How about your bookish experiences. Have you ever gone on a literary journey? Tell us about it.
Melissa: I decided to take a trip to Scotland in order to know the history and the people while writing a book. But, who am I kidding? The book was my excuse to get on a plane in the name of “research”. I fell in love with the country, its people, and its dangerous history of war, epic battles, and love stories for the ages. I spent almost a month traveling the countryside of the UK and I can’t wait to get back for inspiration.
R&R: Epic! Truly sounds incredible. We're glad you did that.
What has been your favorite book to write to date?
Melissa: I’d have to say, my sweet romcom, THE DO-OVER, has been my favorite so far. I set it in my hometown in Maine, and also included some of my favorite people, my grandparents, and the absolutely hard-to-understand Maine accent. Ha! I put my heart and my childhood into that book. Some of the childhood memories of the hero, Finn, were taken straight from my own.
R&R: Swoony and fun!
What books do you have coming out that are not involved in the anthology?
Melissa: So, so many! 2022 and 2023 are loaded with books from me! I have one I’m super excited to share with readers called STAR STRUCK and it’s about an up-and-coming country singer who falls in love with the waitress at his favorite hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. And of course, when he finally gets noticed and ends up the opening act for a famous singer, he forgets all about the woman who helped get him there. Can you say, “drama”?
I also have the second book in my Finding Home Series debuting! It’s the second book after The Do-Over, starring Finn’s sister, Tess. She’s had a hard life as a single mom, but when she meets Brody, an Army Veteran who gave his all-including his leg for his country, they heal each other in ways they couldn’t imagine. It’s also a sweet romcom that will have readers swooning!
R&R: We have such talented authors in this group who have so many wonderful books to offer, including you!
Would you rather know the history of objects you touched or talk to animals?
Melissa: Oh my gosh. You know me too well. I am a history ADDICT. I have an obsession with doors. When I was in Europe, I took more pictures of doors than I did my husband or kids. I love running my fingers along the worn wood, just imagining all the great people who have touched it before me. The same goes for stone walls in castles. I’ve stood in the same spot where Mary, Queen of Scots waited for her execution. It brought me to tears.
R&R: Honestly, we had no idea we would hit such a great note with that last question. So glad it hit home and that you connected with it.
We hope you connected with her interview. To find out more about Crown of Crows, read on!
A forbidden love. A kingdom inherited. Without him, she’ll burn it to the ground.
Magic hasn’t been seen in centuries. Once, it ruled the land along with the elven warriors, keeping the peace and the enemy at bay. Magic faded, and now there is nothing but war.
Elowen took her duty seriously. She is next in line to the elven throne, and she’s dedicated her life to the task. Reigning over a kingdom will be no small feat, especially when she finds a sword in her belly with elven sisters holding the hilt.
Balen was bred for war. He’s a number, until the fateful day he’s cut down on the battlefield. When he sees a beautiful elf ambushed by her own kind during battle, he acts without thinking—cutting the traitors down in a bout of honor. He is set to offer her a mercy killing, until she rips the blade from her belly and the gaping wound disappears under a glow of purple light. Unable to explain what he’s seen, Balen rushes into the protection of the forest.
With betrayal lingering in the mist and war raging around them, Elowen and Balen must join forces in order to stay alive. Elowen owes him her life, and there’s something about this handsome warrior she cannot place. She’s drawn to him like no other. He’s seen her magic that both, elf and human, want. There’s a reason she’s kept it a secret—she’s the weapon they need to win the war.
The saddest part about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.
Elowen could not decide which was worse: that her Elven sisters had so easily betrayed her, or the Elven steel protruding from her gut. She pulled her palm back from the wound to assess it—but who was she trying to fool? If they wanted her dead enough to corner her amid a raging battle, they would find other ways to bring their future queen down if this steel didn’t
If she had any chance for survival, time was of the essence, but, by her calculations, her sisters were not going to leave her death up to fate. No, they would linger in the trees until she slowly bled out until death was imminent. She moaned slightly while propping herself against
the decaying log they’d backed her into—legs splayed before her, and shoulders
slumped forward slightly to ease her breathing.
Although her forest was thick and littered with snares, the humans continued to wage war on her kind. It was futile behavior, but Elowen chose to honor her mother’s wishes and continue to broach peace with treaties that never endured. Humans were habitually men of war and the desire to have what they couldn’t—power—always won.
And so, the battles raged, and endless lives were cut short, and the cycle repeated itself each season. The humans would retreat, a peace would be struck, and the quiet would last only if the humans remained satiated.
Elowen grew tired of it, honestly, just as tired as she grew of the sword slowly killing her.
allow herself to die, either.
“Come and finish what you started!” She baited. Seeing no movement, she sighed slouching a bit onto her side. “Cowards,” she muttered.
Elowen closed her eyes to listen. Elves sliced through the forest, their only sounds being the displacement of air and the gurgling of the men whose lives they took. The whistle and thunk
of arrows as they found their intended targets—the chests of men who did not stand a chance of surviving Elven steel in her forest.
Light footsteps fell close. Too close. The time had come where her sisters had lost their patience with her dying. A bowstring was pulled. An arrow knocked.
Elowen opened her eyes.
Three of her sisters scowled down at her; their blood-stained faces glowing in the fractured moonlight parting through the trees. Their silvery hair whipped around their faces as a wicked wind tunneled around them. Calen, the meeker of the three, stepped forward.
“I’m sorry it has to be this way,” she spoke softly against the wind.
Elowen’s mouth formed a tight line. “No lies, Calen.”
Calen’s fingers tightened on the bowstring. “Close your eyes.”
Elowen shook her head. “I will not. You will remember your treachery with every pair of Elven eyes you see.”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. She’d never feared death, exactly, nor the pain. Only the life she left behind, unfinished.
Melissa spent her childhood exploring the coast of down east Maine without parental supervision and immersing herself in any book she could get her scrappy little hands on. Although she pursued a career in theater, the written word is her true calling. She leads a full life with her husband and six children traveling the country to wherever the Army sends them in her very large twelve-passenger van, in what she lovingly deems “organized chaos”. She finds time to write in her “spare time”, somewhere in between soccer practices and nap time with coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. She loves creating unforgettable romance, and enjoys writing and reading everything from sexy, sword-toting heroes to spit-out-your-coffee funny romantic comedies… as long as she doesn’t get the book wet. She leaves that up to the characters.
Where to find her:
Get more magical & paranormal-themed stories like this in Rituals & Runes!