EskieMama & Dragon Lady Reads Midweek Spotlight w/Giveaway: Desert Jewel by Natalina Reis

Welcome to EskieMama & Dragon Lady Reads
Midweek Spotlight!

Today we are spotlighting Natalina Reis's
Desert Jewel!

Enter below for a chance to win an ecopy of Desert Jewel
plus a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card from Natalina Reis

Natalina Reis's
Desert Jewel!

Rebellion brews inside Milenda’s heart as the date for the Trials approaches. As the heiress to the throne of Natale, she is forced to choose a consort from the survivors of the grueling quest across the desert.

Milenda’s heart belongs to Jaali and wants no part in the ancient and cruel ritual, but the Elders—the true rulers of Natale—will not back down.

Jaali was brought from the far North as a child slave. His only chance to be with the woman he loves is to volunteer for the Trials, no matter how dangerous or how much Milenda objects.

Together they begin their journey of discovery and rebellion against the Elders. But will their love be enough or will they lose everything they've fought for?

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Q & A with Natalina Reis about Desert Jewel!

Tell us about Desert Jewel.

As the heiress to the throne of Natale, Milenda is forced--no matter how much she rebels against it--to choose a consort from the survivors of the grueling quest across the desert, the so-called Trials.
Milenda’s heart belongs to Jaali and wants no part in the ancient and cruel ritual, but the Elders—the true rulers of Natale—are thirsty for power and very willing to sacrifice both Jaali and Milenda if necessary to get what they desire.
Jaali’s only chance to be with Milenda is to volunteer for the Trials, no matter how dangerous or how much she objects.
Milenda discovers a hidden gift that will allow her to be with Jaali  even at a distance while still being able to fight for what she believes at home.
Desert Jewel takes place in an Africa-look-alike continent where things are not at all like they are in our world and yet, they are. It is infused with quite a bit of African lore and mystique, but introduces some curve balls, some what-ifs.

What initially inspired you to write Desert Jewel?

The novel started as a piece of flash fiction for one of my local writing groups, inspired by a picture posted online of a lizard-looking eye on a tree. The picture reminded me of
Africa where I lived for many years as a young woman. I wanted to write about a world where-- even though very much like ours--things were just a bit the opposite of our world. So I created a magical world where dragon-like creatures and paradoxical realities--such as enlightenment and slavery-- existed. I liked it so much I decided to write a whole book about it. And so Desert Jewel was born.

Tell us little about the characters Desert Jewel.

Princess MIlenda has just turned eighteen and must pick a consort from a pool of eligible men who survive a grueling journey through the desert. She is young and rebellious. Having grown without a mother and a very emotionally distant father, Milenda wants nothing else but to be a regular citizen. She feels guilty that these men will risk their lives because and for her, and she struggles  with the contending pulls of responsibility versus desire.
Jaali is in his mid-twenties and has had a very different life experience from MiIenda. He was taken from his homeland up north as a child and brought to Afrika as a slave. Things took a turn to the worse when he was sold to a cruel and inhumane slaver as a young teenager. His experience at the hands of this evil man and his cronies left Jaali scarred in many ways. When he falls in love with the princess he is frightened that what he believes is his stained soul will somehow hurt her too. It is up to her to show him there is nothing to fear and everything to gain from their relationship.
There are three main side characters: Mama Nyeusi, Milenda’s iyalorixá (a spiritual advisor of sorts), Milenda’s father, the King, who goes through a major transformation by the end of the book, and Milenda’s pet, Mjusi, a flying forest lizard (aka small dragon).
Ah yes, and Yemanjá (a deity, half-goddess of African mythology, mother of creation and protector of all living creatures) who takes a special interest in Milenda and Jaali and “awakes” the princess’ hidden gift which will play a major part in the plot.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

I’m a happy-ending kind of writer and to make my characters suffer is very hard. However I had to write some difficult scenes where Jaali recalls and relives his horrific abuse in the hands of his owner. Those were very hard scenes to write, not only because of the obvious emotional burden but also because I wanted to be sensitive to the readers’ responses as well.
The story was--still is--going to be a two-part series, so I wanted it to have a satisfying ending but also leave it open for the sequel which would complete the story. That was hard as well.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

I love the KIlling Demons chapter because it is at this point in the story that Jaali realizes he does not have the evil he thought he had inside of him. Even though he has been free for a few years this is the moment when he truly frees himself from his owner.
I also loved the fact that I was able to include a lot of language (some from Swahili, some from Swedish, a lot just made-up) in the story. I’m a linguist and I love the intricacies of language. It made this imaginary Africa so much closer to me, so much more real.

What are your future project(s)?

After Desert Jewel I had another book published, a rom-com titled Loved You Always. I have written two other romantic fantasies who are both looking for a “home”.One is a dystopian/sci-fi romance called Heart’s Prey who tells the story of a group of survivors from a devastating man-made species in their quest for a safe haven. The other, Lavender Fields, chronicles the misadventures of an clumsy angel of death who falls in love with a human. This M/M paranormal romance has as much humor in it as it does drama.
I am also working on a contemporary, rom-com featuring one of the side characters in Loved You Always. By the time this is posted it should be on its way to the publisher.

Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers about this book/series?

I have a whole second book for this series in my head, lol. In this sequel, Milenda and Jaali have arrived at the northern lands and now it is Milenda’s turn to be the “outsider”. My intention is to explore their stories further, their relationship, and Mjusi’s mysterious origins. And, of course, bring a conclusion to the political upheaval of Milenda’s kingdom.

Now an exciting excerpt from Desert Jewel!

It all seemed so wasteful and useless. Milenda whispered a little prayer, “Please God, let it be that the hopefuls are all strangers.” It would be hard enough to send innocent men onto what would certainly be an extremely arduous journey; it would be heartbreaking to send someone she knew, or worse, someone she cared about. In her heart, she had already chosen her consort and nothing under their sun would sway her otherwise. The boy she loved was a peasant, a young scholar in the local university whom she had met in one of the many classes she often attended to fight the boredom of palace life. He was single, just a few years older than herself, and fertile--she had made inquiries. He was also beautiful. When he smiled, she felt as if all the planets in the universe aligned and every star in the never-ending skies shimmered just for her.
Jaali was unusual amongst her people; alabaster skin, sunny day sky-colored eyes, and hair the color of woven silver. When he walked outside, the light reflected off him in glistening rays, mesmerizing everyone who saw it. To her, he seemed to glide rather than walk, and the sound of his soft voice was all it took to melt her heart. Nothing on this earth would steer her from her decision to pick him as her royal husband.
That night, before the candidates came to be presented to her, the Elders had sat down with her to explain this year’s elimination process. With horror and disbelief in her heart, she listened attentively as they described in great detail what had to be, in her young opinion, one of the worst and most dangerous processes yet created.
The five candidates would be dropped in the Jangwa Pori, a mostly arid expanse of land that stretched for hundreds of miles in every direction, and was inhabited by some of the wildest, most dangerous creatures in the kingdom. The consort-hopefuls would be provided with a bottle of drinking water, a small blanket, and a few other meager supplies; whoever survived the journey back to the capital would then have a chance at winning favor with the princess. Only then would she be allowed to make her final decision—accept their hand in marriage or chose someone else. One way or another, she would be the reason for a lot of their misery in the next few weeks.
The first man approached the throne, fell to one knee, and said, “Your majesty, I beg for your infinite love and mercy to allow me to prove myself to you so I may deserve the joining of our bodies and souls in holy union. I am Zakia, son of Malik and Zahra.”
Taking a corner of his veil, the man uncovered himself to reveal his identity to Milenda. Her heart skipped a beat; she knew this man. She had seen him in the market many times, selling his wares and entertaining the crowd with his beautiful singing voice. A well-liked man who was about to embark on a journey from which he may never return.
Swallowing bile, Milenda rose to her feet, not sure her weak legs would hold her. “I accept your proposal and look forward to attest to your courage and strength in the trials ahead.” The ritual words were said almost unconsciously, as her hand reached to Zakia to take symbolic possession of his soul. The veil he handed her was of the purest of silk, and felt as if it would evaporate at her touch. Slowly, as she had been taught all her life, she took it to her mouth and kissed it, thus sealing both their promises. The dark-skinned man rose and moved to take his place in the Contenders’ Row.
Three more men came to stand in front of her, fell to their knees, uttered the ceremonial words, and handed her their metaphorical souls before taking their seats.
Only one man remained. As he walked down the blue carpet, Milenda felt the first pangs of recognition. Like the others, he fell to his knee and uttered the meaningless words. Except, this time they were not meaningless to her. Even before he removed his veil, her heart began bleeding.
“No, not you. Anyone but you…” she whispered in a pained voice, tears stinging the back of her eyes. Fate was a cruel lover, it seemed. For when the veil was removed, Jaali’s beautiful pale eyes were staring back at her. Her world shook and crumbled one piece at a time, like a deck of cards in an earth tremor. Her vision blurred, her pulse slowed, and her limbs went numb. The room darkened as she sagged, unconscious, back onto her throne, and slid all the way to the carpeted floor in front of it. Oblivion welcomed her in its cold arms.

Author Bio:

Natalina wrote her first romance in collaboration with her best friend at the age of 13. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes.

After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she has taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.

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Natalina Reis Spotlight Giveaway


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you :) Your comment makes me very happy.

  2. Desert Jewel sounds like a fantastic book! The cover is gorgeous.

    1. Thank you so much. I was very pleased by the cover too. The artist, Claire Smith, is awesome.

  3. Any guy who wouldn't cross the burning sands for his love isn't worth his salt.

  4. Thanks for the gret giveaway!
    The book is very intriguing! I would really like to read it!

    1. I hope you have the chance :) If you buy the ebook directly from the publisher they are currently running a 25% discount. Use the code DJ25 . Here's the page

  5. Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading the excerpt. This book sounds like a very interesting read!

    1. Thank you. I hope you get the chance to read it.

  6. Thank you Eskie Mama & Dragon Lady Reads for the opportunity to be spotlighted in your blog. It was so much fun to answer all your questions <3 Thank you.


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