Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1)
They were never meant to be together. As a general’s daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then Kestrel makes an impulsive decision that binds Arin to her. Though they try to fight it, they can’t help but fall in love. In order to be together, they must betray their people… but to be loyal to their countries, they must betray each other.
Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of rebellion, duels, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
Excerpt taken from book cover.
Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking
A man drinks wine.
On a date a young man pours wine for himself and a young woman. The young woman is 17. She notes the large amount of wine for midday. He says that he hopes to make her say things she will regret.
A man intends to poison the wine at a ball.
A young woman starts to drink wine at a ball but it is hit from her hands.
A man demands wine from a slave.
Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty
A woman has a baby that is rumored to not be her husband’s.
A young woman slept with a sailor and is now shut into her rooms for presumably two seasons, pregnancy is assumed.
A Senator likes mistresses. No more details.
A man very vaguely suggests sex as a means to settle a disagreement. He has suggested such things before but she has turned him down.
A man imagines himself kissing a young woman.
A young woman kisses a man’s temple. He then kisses her brow, her eyelids, her jaw then her lips.
A man stays in a young woman’s room while she needs to undress. No details.
A man kisses a young woman, her lips part then leans into him greedily. She then slides a knee in between his legs. They kiss passionately and he lifts her onto a table.
Violence, Weapons, Crime, Blood
If someone tries to charge too much or cheat at a market they would be punished with being tied to a post and whipped.
A young woman has military training but is considered a poor fighter.
A dual between cousins is had. It used to be to the death, but now they only draw blood.
If a slave tries to run and is caught, their ears and nose are cut off.
A captain commits suicide. It is considered an “honor suicide” because he fell upon his sword. One man wonders if someone made it look like an honor suicide. It is later confirmed that two slaves held the captain and one held the sword waiting for them to push him.
One man makes weapons for a rebellion.
Many are trained in sword fighting and similar fighting for military uses. It is talked about frequently throughout the book.
Women wore daggers as accessories. Most did not intend to use them. Men also decorated their walls with weapons.
A duel challenge is issued between a man and woman. The man sends a chest of money to her house that is determined to be the “death-price.” (he is trying to intimidate her and tell her he plans to kill her.) Killing someone in a duel is forbidden but if it does happen, the killer is to send money to the person’s family as the death-price. At the duel, the young woman has six daggers on her body. She talks strategy with her father, he suggests getting him to throw all his daggers and avoid hand-to-hand combat. The man throws the first dagger and misses. He charged with another blade. The young woman pulls two daggers and runs toward him. He throws also but she dives to miss it. He then kicks her ribs. She pulls another knife but he is able to disarm her and claim it for himself. He kicks her and damages her knee. He slaps her to keep her from fainting. They both draw daggers and talk while loosely fighting. She later passes out from her injuries. When she awakes, she learns her knee is filled with blood and her father needs to drain it. She wonders if he would’ve put a blade in the man’s back if he was to kill his daughter. He starts to cut the wound and the daughter faints.
Whippings for slaves are common. They are talked about infrequently in the book.
A slave is locked up. Many men have to restrain him.
Death while watching a duel and getting one of the thrown daggers is not uncommon.
A man threatens another man with tearing him limb from limb.
A father is sent to war.
A man climbs into his friend’s window and nearly gets his throat cut before recognition sets in.
A ship has a cannon on board to ward off pirates and such.
Two explosions are heard. A young woman hits her head against a carriage window when the explosions hit. She is bleeding. Many men have died in the explosions.
A young woman holds her dagger to a slave and gives him orders. She claims she will kill herself also. When atop a horse, she kicks a slave in the brow and sends him reeling. She rides to her estate and finds the guards dead, one in particular with a short sword in his gut and eyes staring outward. While riding to the house an arrow pierces her horse. She reaches for her knife but a man steps on her hand. She drops it and he pulls her up by her hair. People with weapons are surrounding them. She is walked inside and has lost her shoes so leaves bloody footprints. She then sees her steward floating face-first in the fountain. Finding another woman, they push her against a wall and threaten her with a knife. They cut her throat as she grabs at it, choking, spilling blood on the killer. A man steps in her blood. He then requests another woman gets to be “his” and to not kill her so he can use her as his slave. They threatened to cut off her hands with any opposition. He also ties her hands and put her on a horse. They rode past many bodies. One man hits another man in the temple. A man talks strategy and about using cannons to sink ships.
A man ducks a knife swipe, beats it away with his own and punches the man in the throat. He was choking, gasping and making terrible sounds. His feet are taken out from under him and hit again. Many were fighting similarly, their opponents taken so off-guard they had no time to draw weapons. Blood filled the floor.
At a home, a young woman with her hands bound wants to rip weapons off the wall and stick a dagger through a man’s back. A woman slaps another woman across the face. One young woman, while locked in a room, breaks a plant’s pot and hides the sharp pieces for later use.
A man threatens to cut off a young woman’s fingers.
When walking into a house, the smell of decaying bodies and blood fills the air. It makes a young woman want to gag. Bodies are piled up. Hundreds are dead. The young woman goes to a friend’s body and holds his hand while tears fall. Another person she knows has been poisoned and his mouth is open and stained. He also has gashes and cuts that finally killed him. There were many still sick but not dead from the poison. The room smells of vomit and human waste. The young woman’s friend is here, her lips violet, eyes swollen and wheezing.
Two men are talking war strategy and one element involves multiple soldiers getting crushed by a rock avalanche. During the fight, one side launched a cannon at the unsuspecting other side. It “split horses and people into chunks.” There was lots of screaming. The other side fired relentlessly with arrows and crossbow quarrels. One man fell and hit his head, losing consciousness when firing the cannon. Another 3 people fall off a cliff from being shot with quarrels. A fourth woman grabbed some black powder as she fell and exploded when she hit the ground. Fire raged through the opposing army. Another man is shot in the thigh. He lights a large bag of black powder and runs. He falls when it explodes and tumbles with a rock slide. He is found, injured but not severely.
In a prison, hundreds of men had been shot through the bars or speared in their sleep. Blood covered the floor.
A man grabs a woman from behind. She stamped on his foot, punched him with her elbow but he grabbed her hair. He pushed her against the wall with his body. He covered her mouth and threatened to break her fingers. He then tried to pull her down to the floor, but she was able to punch his nose. She heard it crunch and blood spurted. She got away but he backhanded her knocking her to the ground. He forced her down and grabbed his knife. Another man enters the room, holding a sword to the man. They fight a bit but the second man thrusts his sword into his chest all the way to the hilt. There is a choking sound and a gush of blood. The man’s body sags and blood is pouring over the other man’s hand but he doesn’t move until he’s positively dead. The man has blood on his hands and effectively gets it on his own face and the young woman’s. The woman comes away with a swollen, blackened eye and scrapes on her cheeks.
During a siege, the people inside the wall shoot fiery cannon balls outside, causing many deaths. The people outside were building towers so the captain inside orders them to be shot with arrows. The people inside building tunnels but one the outside discover them the tunnels are quickly closed causing the deaths of many people. The people outside catapult fire balls into the city and the city starts burning. Rangers set explosions on the outside of the wall. The inside people poured tar and boiling water on them. They screamed and fell.
Potentially Intense Themes
This society uses slaves. The slaves are auctioned off. Bruises are looked at as being difficult to control. If they are physically strong they are recommended to be with an owner who uses a whip.
There was a war about 10 years ago, there were few slaves before the war and now an entire nationality are slaves.
There had been a plague where one nationality wasn’t as affected as another. One man ordered another man to heal his family or die. He cut the young girl’s arm to bleed the disease but then killed himself before helping the woman. The father tried to cut his wife the same way to heal her but there was too much blood and she died.
An elderly woman dies of a severe cough, one that produced blood.
A man imagines the woman he loves drowning, mouth filled with water, her fighting it, limbs loosening then her floating among the waves.