I’ll be participating in this cool event. Feel free to drop by any time during the entire month!
The second Prasala Romance, The King’s Love Song will be released February 14, 2016. Happy Valentine’s Day!
But she’s thrilled to travel to Prasala for her sister’s royal wedding. What big sister doesn’t know is the day after the ceremony Darcy plans to head to LA to start the singing career she’s dreamed of all her life.
Katy doesn’t want her to go but Darcy’s mind is made up.
Except for the dark, knife-like stare of the seductively handsome King. The look that sends shivers down her spine. That might make her put her plans on hold for a while. Maybe.
Six months ago Leopold de Chambonay was crowned King of Prasala by a quirk of fate. Now he must prove that act was not a mistake. He longs to be a great King like his father. But the graceful carefree creature who is now his sister-in-law has cast some sort of spell over him. He finds himself drawn to her, longing to forget his duty and take her in his arms.
This cannot be. He must rid himself of her before he does something that might threaten the kingdom.
Why should Darcy care what the enigmatic King thinks of her? This crazy yearning in her heart for him doesn’t mean anything. Besides, she would never pine over a man. After all, love is just a game.
This really was going to be a fairytale wedding, wasn’t it?
Darcy Matthews could feel her heart thump as she peeked out from the high scrolling arches of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral at the excited throng on the sidewalk.
In the shadow of the tall Byzantine spires and ancient gargoyles, the streets were filled with Prasala’s faithful. For hours they had stood in the afternoon sun—warm for early spring, so she’d heard—in honor of their new Prince.
Everyone was waiting for a glimpse of his Princess Bride.
Suddenly a clip-clop sounded, the church bells rang out above, and everyone turned toward the far end of the street.
Around the corner a gilded rose-covered carriage appeared, drawn by the ebony stallion and chestnut filly Katy had told Darcy so much about. The coach moved slowly, majestically over the cobblestone lane, and after what seemed like half an hour came to a halt along the curb. A footman riding along the side disembarked and opened the door.
He extended a hand to help the lady down from carriage, and she waved graciously to the crowd.
As she made her way to the cathedral’s massive entrance the people shouted for joy.
Darcy’s heart swelled.
She was used to seeing her sister in jeans and old shirts with her blond hair tousled by the wind. She’d never seen her quite like this before.
But there she was in a stunning strapless designer creation of white satin and veiled lace scattered with floral appliqués and studded with pearls and diamonds. The matching veil had a real diamond tiara and the train was so massive it took three ladies-in-waiting to carry it.
Katy looked like a real princess.
Well, she was a real princess. Or she would be in a few minutes. Darcy would have to get used to that.
She stepped forward to speak to her sister but the thin dark woman who was in charge of the ceremony—and who reminded Darcy of the wicked witch in fairy tales—ushered her back inside.
“It is almost time for the bridesmaids to go down the aisle,” the witch woman whispered in a thick Prasalian accent.
“Okay, okay.” Darcy hissed under her breath.
The woman’s eyes flashed with indignation but luckily there wasn’t time for a conversation.
The music had started.
As she took her place under the archway of the crowded church with a bouquet of ladyslipper orchids and pale yellow roses in her hands, Darcy wished she’d had a moment to apologize for the fight she’d had with Katy last night. She hadn’t wanted to spoil her day.
But no, it was too gorgeous to spoil. Too thrilling. Too fairytale-like.
Her heart beating anew with excitement, Darcy began the slow procession down the long flower strewn aisle toward the huge, elaborate altar at the front.
Megan Russell, Katy’s best friend from back home, preceded her. Second in line, Darcy took fashion-model-like steps in time to the soft strains of Handel from the colossal pipe organ. Behind her were seven other bridesmaids, three flower girls, and a young ring bearer.
The ladies-in-waiting who had escorted Katy from the coach weren’t in the wedding party. They were real ladies-in-waiting, part of the royal court.
Goose bumps prickled on her arms. She wanted to pinch herself. Was she really here in Prasala? In her sister’s royal wedding? Was she really marching down the aisle in a mermaid-cut gown of blackberry and tea-rose, created by the incomparable Valsois?
She couldn’t believe it.
Gazing up at the tall flying buttresses of the massive church, Darcy felt she had stepped into a fairy tale herself.
If love were real, this exotic southeastern European country would definitely be the place for it. It had been for Katy.
But Darcy knew it wouldn’t be for her.
She didn’t even believe love was real. Not for her anyway.
She’d built a high impenetrable wall around her heart long ago—when her father died when she was thirteen. She’d been devastated by his loss. While other girls her age were starting to date and form crushes on the popular boys in school, she’d remained unmoved. Her heart didn’t work that way anymore. As the years went by that wall remained. Darcy had never felt anything she could call love.
She had been Daddy’s little girl. No man could ever live up to him.
Of course, that didn’t mean a girl couldn’t have a little fun.
She eyed the dignitaries and nobility from all over the world who were crowded together in the pews.
On one side a handsome blond guy, well-groomed and all dressed up in a fine tux might have just winked at her. Across from him a whole row of young men seemed to be selecting partners from the procession of bridesmaids. One of them caught her eye and she risked a flirtatious grin. An older man standing next to what must have been his mother looked as if he were making a mental note to dance with her later on.
She might. After she made him wait his turn.
Oh, she was going to have a good time at the reception tonight.
She reached the alabaster stairs and grinned at the dark, handsome groom awaiting his bride. There he was. Julio de Chambonay, Prince of Chevalia, one of the country’s provinces. Dressed in full Prasalian uniform, the man was absolutely stunning.
Now there was a reason not to believe in love.
Despite his amazing good looks, Julio de Chambonay had broken her sister’s heart in two a few months ago. Darcy had witnessed firsthand the pain Katy had endured, had listened to her cry herself to sleep every night. And Julio’s mother, the Queen, had had something to do with it, too. The woman was sitting in the front pew now and Darcy had avoided even looking at her.
According to Katy all was well now. Of course it was or this day wouldn’t be happening. But Darcy kept her reservations about the man.
Katy had never told her the details about how things had worked out. She’d run off somewhere with Julio right after he’d come to Kentucky.
All Darcy knew is that she would never go through that for a man.
Beside her Megan cleared her throat. Oh, right. Turn and face the entrance. She’d missed most of the dress rehearsal and Megan had gone through the ceremony with her that morning.
She pivoted carefully, hoping to focus on her mother who was sitting on the opposite side from the Queen. Darcy knew she’d been beaming with pride and joy for both of her daughters.
Instead Darcy caught sight of the dark mysterious man standing next to the groom.
Like Prince Julio he was clad in the country’s uniform and girded with sash and gold epaulets at the shoulders. The pair looked enough alike to be twins, though this one was taller and infinitely more handsome, in her opinion. With his regal dress and the shining medallions decorating his broad chest, he exuded strength and power.
That was right. He was Julio’s brother.
The reigning king.
She wished she could have gotten here earlier so she would know everyone better.
Darcy winced, thinking again of the harsh words she and Katy had thrown at each other last night. Katy had wanted her here in Prasala a week ago for the wedding preparations, but Darcy had had a farewell concert with her band back in Kentucky. She couldn’t miss that.
Katy didn’t understand why Darcy had changed her plane reservation and arrived late yesterday instead.
And to top it off, Katy told her the wedding planner—the wicked witch lady—had selected a local singer for the reception. Darcy wouldn’t be allowed to sing at her own sister’s wedding.
Okay, she could understand her timing was bad. She’d missed rehearsals. And the type of music they wanted wasn’t her usually thing. But she could have handled it. She was a professional, after all. Why hadn’t Katy stuck up for her?
She knew why. Katy thought her singing was a silly hobby and that Darcy needed to settle down and get serious about life.
That was what stung the most.
Katy might think she was frivolous and shallow but making music was as important to Darcy as Katy’s horses were to her.
If only her sister got that.
It didn’t matter, she told herself, battling down the angry memory. She would show Katy and everyone else, too.
This wedding was going to be a turning point for her. From this moment on her life would be different. For years, she’d put her own dreams on the back burner while she’d helped her mother with the family’s struggling horse farm back home. But with Katy’s marriage to Julio those days were in the past.
At last she was free. At last her time had come.
No one knew it yet, but tucked in her bags back in the palace was a plane ticket and it wasn’t for a return trip to Kentucky. She wasn’t going back to her boring dead-end paralegal job. She was starting a new adventure.
A hush came over the crowd.
The organ filled the vaulted ceiling with loud, majestic chords. At the end of the aisle the bride appeared.
Darcy sucked in her breath.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” Megan whispered.
“She’s gorgeous.” Darcy blinked back a sudden rush of tears, all anger forgotten.
In that amazing Valsois gown, Katy looked as if she were floating in a dream. Darcy was overjoyed for her sister. She hoped she would be happy with her Prince. Suddenly Darcy realized how much she was going to miss her.
But things were changing and life went on.
For her, traveling to Prasala for Katy’s royal wedding was just the first step in her plan. Next stop was Los Angeles and a singing career. She might not have started with the best voice in the world but she’d worked long and hard to develop it. And she wanted a career as a singer more than anything.
It was time for some adventure—high time she struck out on her own and started going after her heart’s desire.
It would all start tomorrow morning.
Once more Darcy’s gaze drifted to the man beside Julio. Hmm. Talk about desire.
Suddenly she was caught up in his aura of power.
How the royal colors of his deep blue and purple attire set off his rich black hair and intense features. How seductively handsome he was. How his presence seemed to fill the room.
And most of all, she was carried away by his dark, piercing stare. The one that was sending shivers down her spine—right to her very toes.
Leopold de Chambonay found himself taken off guard.
His senses betrayed him, sending his mind reeling, his thoughts out of balance.
Who is that woman?
She was dressed in the same garb as the other females of the wedding party but somehow she stood out from the others like no woman he had ever seen. She had an unmistakable glow.
What was it about her?
The rich dark hair piled under her veil? Her alabaster skin? Those dark, inviting eyes? That pearl-like mouth with the teasing smile?
She was a vision of pure loveliness. And just now she was making him want to run his hands over that delicate skin, his fingers through that hair, to taste those lips. He wished he were alone with her. In his rooms at the castle. At the seashore. In a hotel suite in the city. Anywhere but at his brother’s wedding.
With a jolt he snapped back to the present. Where in the world had his mind gone?
Shame filled him.
What inappropriate thoughts to have on today of all days. His brother’s wedding day. His brother, to whom he owed all he was.
And then he recognized the shape of the woman’s face. It was the bride’s sister. His new sister-in-law.
This was no way for a king to behave. His father would have been sorely disappointed. But no worse than he was with himself.
Chastising himself for his indiscreet thoughts, he turned away from the delectable sight and concentrated on the ceremony.
Contemporary Romance lovers!
I’m so excited to announce the first book in the Prasala Romances will be released Wednesday, January 20, 2016.
This trilogy is pure romantic escapism, set in a little known southeastern European country called Prasala. Three powerful men of Prasala. Three feisty women from Kentucky. Can their hearts survive?
Here’s a little more about it. (With an excerpt below!)
(PS: For those of you who prefer thrillers, never fear. Miranda and Parker will be ready for another adventure later on in 2016.)
To escape the pain of a humiliating breakup with her wealthy fiancé in Kentucky, Dr. Katyln Matthews travels to the faraway country of Prasala to replace the royal family’s horse doctor. The famous Prasala Invitational is in three weeks and the demanding Crown Prince insists everything be perfect.
Katy heard the heir to the throne could be an ogre when it came to his horses. And that he had a very un-ogrely appearance. All the titled ladies in Europe flock after him because of his dazzling good looks.
But Katy’s broken heart can’t handle another rich spoiled playboy.
Crown Prince Julio de Chambonay doesn’t know what to make of his new veterinarian. She’s a woman. She was hired without his approval. He has a good mind to send her packing.
But her eyes are bold, full of strength, and as blue-green as the seas of Darthalia. Unlike the ladies he’s known at court she has a natural loveliness that radiates from the inside. It arrests his attention.
Unfortunately the ladies at court and his country demand that attention first.
Still, the position of royal veterinarian is his decision. And if this woman does not pass his test, she’ll soon be on her way back home.
Dr. Katlyn Matthews stood before the century-old stone stable and inhaled the clean air of the old world country where she’d arrived just yesterday. The smell of freshly groomed horseflesh greeted her nose as the stable master led out her first patient.
Katy preferred conducting her first examinations in the daylight. Not only because it gave her a better view of details that could be missed in a darkened barn, but because she loved the outdoors.
Holding her breath, she ran her hands over the quivering crest of the beautiful horse before her.
He was a healthy animal. His coat, black as a coal pit, shimmered like jewels in the warm morning sun.
At the unfamiliar touch, the thoroughbred whinnied nervously and stamped the ground of the royal courtyard with an authoritative hoof.
“Easy boy,” Katy whispered to her new friend. “I won’t be a stranger to you for long.” Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to come to this place, she thought.
After all, she’d longed to see the magnificent horses of Prasala for years.
Though the country seemed backward with its ruling aristocracy, the breed had fascinated her since she was a child. They were strong and tall as Clydesdales but as delicate as thoroughbreds and lightning fast. And this spirited stallion was a fine specimen. Better in her opinion, than even the celebrated Derby winners she tended back home.
She was here in this strange faraway country in southeastern Europe, with its French and Slavic influences, in a professional capacity. As temporary veteran, she was filling in for the one who had fallen ill. But at the thought of home she had the sudden urge to lay her face against the stallion’s neck and let the tears come.
She’d traveled halfway around the world to escape heartache but apparently it had followed her.
She bristled as the all too recent memory formed in her mind. Her well-to-do ex-fiancé, Randall Winslow, in the parlor of his family’s luxurious mansion with his hands up the skirt of his old girlfriend—two weeks before their wedding.
As if he sensed her thoughts were elsewhere, the horse nuzzled Katy with his nose.
“Oberon seems to like you,” said Gustaf Hartwig, the elderly gentleman who’d been holding the yearling’s halter. “The Crown Prince will be impressed. His prize steed isn’t usually so friendly.”
Hartwig’s gentle eyes crinkled as he studied her with curiosity, a smile teasing his broad mouth.
Katy stroked the probing muzzle, watched the nostrils twitch. “He’s probably just curious. I’m new to him.”
“Oh, no, Doctor. I can tell he likes you.”
Katy’s own lips turned up at the compliment, and it’s delivery in Hartwig’s thick Prasalian accent. It was a charming sound, she decided.
And she liked what she saw in the stable master’s wizened face. Kindness, knowledge, good judgment, years of experience, and a deep love of the animals under his care. One could always tell a person’s character by how they felt about their horses.
“It took Oberon’s sire some time to warm up to Doctor Ryzhkov when he first came to the stables,” Hartwig added.
Katy twisted her mouth. Doctor Ryzhkov was the royal veterinarian she’d replaced. He’d taken ill, just weeks before the Invitational, the Prasala Stakes, the country’s famous annual steeplechase, and Hartwig had flown all the way to Kentucky to hire Katy as his substitute—at the behest of the Crown Prince, of course.
She’d been flattered, and the Prince’s fee would certainly help cover the rising cost of hay and horseshoes on her mother’s struggling farm. But she wouldn’t enjoy being compared to her predecessor. Thank goodness it was a temporary job. She’d be returning home after the race.
“I’ll need to see the herd’s schedule for vaccinations and deworming, Hartwig.”
Katy lifted the horse’s forefoot and frowned. “Looks like Oberon is due for new shoes.”
“Oh?” Hartwig bent over the hoof, his brow wrinkled with concern. “That should have been taken care of while I was away. His Majesty will be displeased.”
“It’s all right. There’s still some thickness. As long as it’s taken care of by tomorrow.”
In her opinion, there was no need for alarm. Hartwig obviously kept the stables in regimental order. The large building with its red-thatched roof and spacious, airy compartments were impeccably clean and smelled of saddle soap and fresh hay. And Oberon had been meticulously groomed for her inspection this morning.
She set down the hoof. “This Crown Prince of yours seems to be a bit anal.”
Hartwig’s brow furrowed. “Why whatever do you mean, Dr. Matthews?”
Of course, he would never badmouth his sovereign. You didn’t get to be Chief of the Royal Stables that way.
But she’d already heard some of the servants whispering about Prasala’s future ruler. Crown Prince Julio de Chambonay was exacting. Demanding. And he could be an ogre when it came to his horses.
She’d also heard he had a very un-ogrely appearance, and women, including all the titled ladies in Europe, flocked after him, not just because of his position, but for his dazzling good looks. And he swatted them away when he was done with them, like a stallion shooing flies off his rump with his tail.
That was all she needed. Another spoiled, rich playboy to deal with.
“Never mind. Let me see his mouth.” While Hartwig held Oberon steady, Katy gently opened the horse’s lips and took a cursory look at his teeth.
“Ho, there!” someone shouted in the distance.
Startled, she turned in the direction of the cry.
Shielding her eyes, Katy squinted at the emerald green fields, almost as lush as the blue grass back home, that stretched to azure hills at the horizon. She gazed at the spot before the hills where the magnificent castle Avante sat, home of the ruling de Chambonay family.
She focused on the trail that ran between the stables and the castle. And blinked. There was a man running down the pathway, flying at a mad dash, right toward them.
“Stop,” he barked.
What in the world?
He was dressed in dark slacks and a white shirt. Or almost dressed—the shirt was half-open and flapped behind him in the air like a flag. His raven black hair was flung back as he ran, and his fierce, dark blue-black eyes flashed with anger. He looked like some mad pirate racing for his crew ship.
Katy swallowed hard as he neared. The man had the face of a god. More than that. He was the most gorgeous creature she had ever laid eyes on.
Dazzling good looks. But this couldn’t be the Crown Prince. What sort of sovereign runs outside half-dressed?
“Hartwig!” he bellowed, pulling up just short of barging into them. “What’s going on here?”
Katy would have jumped, if she hadn’t been mesmerized by the heaving chest muscles that peeped through his half-open shirt, raising and lowering as he caught his breath. A pair of binoculars hung around his neck. A neck that looked as strong as an ancient Viking’s.
“Sir.” Hartwig came to attention, while Katy took Oberon’s halter. “I didn’t expect you so early.”
The man gestured toward Katy without looking at her. “Who is this woman?”
“This woman?” Hartwig stammered. “Why this is—”
“Never mind.” The godlike man began to pace, waving his hands in the air. “I was dressing for breakfast, looking at the paddock, as is my habit every morning,” he held up the binoculars, “when I saw this young woman tampering with my prize steed. You know that no stranger is to touch these horses. How could you allow it, Hartwig?”
He came to a halt just in front of her and eyed her with a fierce, powerful look that took her breath away. Not to mention his sensual, exotic accent, melded from Italian and French. The hint of foreign bath soap teased her nose.
Then her blood ran hot. Allow it? Who did this arrogant blowhard think he was, anyway?
“Excuse me.” She held out her hand to him, her irritation rising to match his. “We haven’t been introduced. I’m Dr. Kate Matthews. And you are?”
“What?” he grunted at Hartwig, ignoring her gesture.
Hartwig lifted his hands in a plea. “Sire, let me explain.”
“Sire?” Katy folded her arms. This couldn’t be the Crown Prince. It had been his idea to bring her here. “I think you’re mistaken, Hartwig. A royal personage would have better manners.”
The good-looking man glared at her, clearly shocked.
She patted Oberon’s neck. “Whoever you are, this three-year-old is getting jittery from your antagonism. The Crown Prince would be very displeased.”
He put his hands on his hips and glared at her with those deep, dark blue eyes. “The Crown Prince?”
“Yes. The owner of these stables? The future ruler of this country? Perhaps you’ve heard of him?”
Both dark brows rose to the sky. “I think I have.”
“In case you didn’t know, the Crown Prince hired me.”
His eyes flashed. “That’s impossible.”
“That he hired you.” There was a rumble in his voice.
Katy wanted to slap him across that gorgeous cheek. “And why is it impossible?”
“Because I didn’t know anything about it.”
“Perhaps you were overlooked.”
“Impossible,” he said again, even more emphatically.
She raised her chin. “I have to ask again. Why is it impossible?”
He inhaled deeply, as if trying to control his temper, while his bare chest gleamed in the sun. “Because the Crown Prince of Prasala, the owner of these stables, the future ruler of this country, is none other than myself.”
Katy had to fight to keep her jaw from dropping. She almost lost her balance. “There must be some mistake.”
“There certainly is.” And with that, he grabbed Hartwig by the sleeve and pulled him into a corner.
Now Katy’s mouth did drop open. She didn’t care if he was the Crown Prince. He must be the rudest monarch in Europe.
Did he think he was being discrete? Katy could make out every word he growled at the poor stable master.
“She’s the one you chose, Hartwig? I trusted you. My orders were to find the best. The best. Didn’t you understand?”
Apparently, the Prince hadn’t signed off on the deal, as she’d thought. But he hadn’t bothered to read the fine print.
“You know my horses must have only the very finest of care,” he grunted. “Did I not make myself clear?”
“Of course, you did, sir.”
Katy’s face flushed. Her hands fisted into knots. Anger rippled down her spine. A ten-point earthquake rumbled in her chest. She didn’t know whether she was more upset about how he was insulting her or how he was treating Hartwig. How dare he? She knew that kind of arrogance. She’d seen uppity horse owners back home mistreat their servants.
She narrowed her eyes. She didn’t care what his pedigree was. Somebody had to straighten him out. Firmly, she led Oberon back to his stall, strode to the corner and cleared her throat loudly.
He turned to her, his face demanding how she dared to interrupt him.
“Your Highness?” She uttered the title with sarcasm.
His brows drew together in dark annoyance. “What is it?”
“You have no call to speak to Hartwig like that.”
He blew out a frustrated breath. “Oh?”
“You ought to have some faith in his judgment. I’ll have you know that I am one of the best.”
Once more, the Prince put his hands on his hips. “Oh, really?”
Ignoring his muscular chest, which was still so unfairly visible, she looked him square in the eye. “I’m a specialist in the care of thoroughbreds, Derby runners in Kentucky mostly. Several winners. I’ve worked with horses all my life. I was accepted into veterinary school on the first try, which rarely happens. I’ve been a practicing horse vet outside Louisville for five years. I have an outstanding reputation.”
For the first time, he laughed. He actually laughed at her. “A woman with such credentials? And from the US? I refuse to believe it.”
So that was it. Katy struggled to breathe. She’d wondered about that sort of attitude, since the country was the last bastion of a ruling monarchy. “I see chauvinism is alive and well in Prasala.”
He scoffed, as though offended. “What do you mean?”
She shook her head at him. She’d had enough. “I won’t force my services on you, sir. If you don’t want a woman vet, that’s fine. I’ve encountered prejudice like that before.”
He took a step toward her.
She held up her hands. “I can leave. This afternoon, if there’s a flight out of Prasala. However, I will be presenting you with my bill, and I expect to be paid before I go.” She wasn’t going to come all this way for nothing, just because she didn’t fit the whim of some arrogant aristocrat.
In her wildest dreams, Katy couldn’t have imagined a more regal stun. The shock spread over his gorgeous face like a sunset.
The man was obviously used to obsequious bowing and scraping, not to mention the hoards of beautiful women who threw themselves at his feet everywhere he went. But he wouldn’t be getting that from Katy Matthew from Kentucky. This wasn’t the first time she’d stood up to a rich snob.
As you may know, the bestselling book Someone Else’s Daughter is also available in trade paperback.
But I’ll be giving away a FREE copy to three lucky winners soon! 🙂 Here’s the link to enter the giveaway (isn’t that background picture cool?):
You get more chances if you tweet and post about it, too. But hurry. The giveaway ends November 22, 5:00 p.m. PST. I’ll be drawing the winners shortly thereafter.