Synopsis: Book 1
A wildly funny, ridiculously romantic spinoff from best-selling author Melanie Summers…
Princess Arabella of Avonia has spent her first twenty-nine years in an endless loop of high teas, state dinners, and the same five conversations. Every minute of her day is planned by someone else. From what to wear to what to eat, the royal handlers keep her on a tight leash. To make matters worse, they’ve extended their duties to include finding her a suitable husband before she turns thirty. Desperate for an out, she sneakily signs up to co-host a new nature docu-series, starring Will Banks, the man dubbed McHotty of the Wilderness.
Will has ladies all over the globe lining up to meet him until a hot, new adventure show comes on the scene, and his ratings take a nose-dive. Producers decide an emergency change in format is in order. Enter Princess Arabella. The pampered and proper royal is the perfect foil to Will’s rugged outdoorsman.
It’s hate at first sight, but their on-screen loathing makes for great television. Surprisingly, when the cameras stop rolling, these two finally see each other’s good sides. Can these opposites find their forever in each other’s arms, or will their differences be their undoing?
I’ve been a very good groomsman. I’ve smiled for all the photos. I laughed through the many toasts and I’ve done a bang-up job of pretending life couldn’t be better for me all day, even though there is a boulder of worry lodged in my chest. And now, it’s time for me to get piss-stinking drunk.
The trick with over-imbibing at a wedding is to make it look like you’re carrying drinks for other people. In this case, four flutes of champagne from the champagne fountain. Two could still possibly look like I’m going to drink them myself, but four seems far too ridiculous for anyone to suspect me of what I’m actually doing, which is filling them, then carrying them through the hotel ballroom with a purposeful look on my face, stopping periodically to down one and leave the glass.
I’m just filling up the last flute when I hear a woman’s voice behind me. “Rough day?”
Glancing over my shoulder, I see a lovely blonde in a blue gown. Her hair is up in some sort of complicated fancy do, and she has the most mesmerizing light blue eyes I think I’ve ever seen.
My jaw goes slack for an instant before I pull myself together. “These aren’t all for me.”
Taking one from my hand, she says, “Sure they’re not. I saw you earlier crossing the room with your first four glasses. Excellent trick. No one would ever imagine someone making such a pig of himself.”
“No offense, though, right?” I say, tipping back my glass and downing it. I set the glass down and hold my right hand out. “Will Banks.”
She shakes my hand even though she seems like the type of woman who’s more used to men kissing her knuckles lightly. “Yes, I know who you are.”
I blush a little and get that slightly squishy feeling that comes along with being sort of famous. “Right, sorry, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around people knowing who I am everywhere I go.”
“Occupational hazard, I guess,” she says with a grin.
“And what are the hazards of your occupation?” I ask. Oooh, that was pretty smooth, if I do say so myself.
She stares at me for a second, then says, “It’s a bit difficult to put a finger on it, but I suppose you could say I’m in public relations.”
“I’ll try not to hate you for it,” I say with a wink.
“I’m assuming there’s some sort of delicious backstory to that comment. Perhaps something that requires eight glasses of champagne to forget.”
“Something like that.” I watch, thoroughly engrossed as she takes a dainty sip. “Not that I’d ever complain, because believe me, I know how lucky I am to be doing the work I do, but there are aspects of it I could do without.”
She nods, a look of understanding crossing her face that makes me want to continue the conversation. I stare at her for a moment and can’t help but feel like she’s somehow familiar. “Have we met before?”
“Are you sure?”
“You’d remember me,” she says with a little smile.
“Ha! Good one,” I say, having a swig of my drink. “Did you enjoy the wedding?”
“It was quite lovely.”
“Whose side are you on? The bride or the groom?”
“The groom,” she says. “He’s a friend of my older brother.”
“Your brother must be quite the person. Pierce is very selective with who he allows in his inner circle.”
“Yes, you could say that.” She glances around, then looks back at me. “What about you? Are you a fan of weddings in general?”
“For other people. You?”
“Agreed. Marriage is definitely not for me.”
“So, it’s a life of public relations for you, is it?”
“It’s what I was born to do.”
“Well, I hope whoever you work for, they’re good to you—not all stuffy like this lot. All the wannabe royals thinking they’re so very important when the truth is nobody outside this ballroom knows who they are, and if they did, they wouldn’t care.”
“Or worse, the actual royals,” she says with a knowing look.
“God, yes. What a useless existence that would be. I mean, they’re not even in charge of anything real anymore. It’s just a whole life of pomp and ceremony.”
“Pathetic, right?” she answers, rolling her eyes.
“I actually heard someone earlier saying they feel sorry for them.”
“Yeah, honestly. They went on and on about how hard it would be to live in the spotlight your entire life.” I take a sip of my drink. “As someone with a bit of fame, I can tell you, there’s very little to complain about.”
“Well, of course there wouldn’t be anything to whine about. Not with all the perks and privileges.”
“Exactly. If they want to do something hard, they should get dropped off in Siberia in the dead of winter and try to survive for a week without their chefs and maids and heated toilet seats.”
“Ha!” she says. God, I like her. She gets me. I wonder if she’d be up for a shag?
“They’d be calling for a helicopter in under an hour, I can guarantee it.”
“Probably even less,” she agrees, giving me a conspiratorial look.
I glance down at her full lips, then lower my voice. “Say, you wouldn’t want to get out of here, would you? Somewhere not quite so stuffy.”
She leans in close enough that I can smell her perfume. I have no idea what it is, but it smells like money. She must do really well for herself in the public relations biz. “Somewhere that I could let my hair down and we could get to know each other better.”
This is actually going to happen, isn’t it? I nod. “Exactly.”
She opens her mouth, but before she can answer, an older man in a grey suit taps her on the shoulder. “Princess Arabella, delightful to see you again. My wife and I would love to talk to you about a foundation we’re starting for homeless birds.”
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shock vibrates through me as my words about her family echo through my brain. Pomp and ceremony. Not in charge of anything real anymore. I am so not getting lucky tonight. I give her a sheepish look, wishing I could think of a clever way to make it all better, but I’ve got nothing. Just embarrassment and regret. “So … you’re … I did not … I am so …”
“I am, I know you didn’t, and I’m sure you are,” Princess Arabella says with an amused smile. “Lovely to meet you, Mr. Banks.” She holds up her glass to me. “But I’m afraid it’s time to get back to my useless existence.”
About the Author
Melanie Summers also writes steamy romance as MJ Summers.
Melanie made a name for herself with her debut novel, Break in Two, a contemporary romance that cracked the Top 10 Paid on Amazon in both the UK and Canada, and the top 50 Paid in the USA. Her highly acclaimed Full Hearts Series was picked up by both Piatkus Entice (a division of Hachette UK) and HarperCollins Canada. Her first three books have been translated into Czech and Slovak by EuroMedia. Since 2013, she has written and published three novellas, and eight novels (of which seven have been published). She has sold over a quarter of a million books around the globe.
In her previous life (i.e. before having children), Melanie got her Bachelor of Science from the University of Alberta, then went on to work in the soul-sucking customer service industry for a large cellular network provider that shall remain nameless (unless you write her personally – then she’ll dish). On her days off, she took courses and studied to become a Chartered Mediator. That designation landed her a job at the R.C.M.P. as the Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator for ‘K’ Division. Having had enough of mediating arguments between gun-toting police officers, she decided it was much safer to have children so she could continue her study of conflict in a weapon-free environment (and one which doesn’t require makeup and/or nylons).
Melanie resides in Edmonton with her husband, three young children, and their adorable but neurotic one-eyed dog. When she’s not writing novels, Melanie loves reading (obviously), snuggling up on the couch with her family for movie night (which would not be complete without lots of popcorn and milkshakes), and long walks in the woods near her house. She also spends a lot more time thinking about doing yoga than actually doing yoga, which is why most of her photos are taken ‘from above’. She also loves shutting down restaurants with her girlfriends. Well, not literally shutting them down, like calling the health inspector or something–more like just staying until they turn the lights off.
She is represented by Suzanne Brandreth of The Cooke Agency International.