Friday, February 25, 2011

Expecting Royal Twins

With us today is Melissa McClone, author of EXPECTING ROYAL TWINS. Welcome Melissa.
Melissa's heroine Izzy has a bit of a predicament. She's a blue-collar worker who's about to become a princess. For our blog today, Izzy is seeking guidance from a local paper's etiquette columnist.

Suddenly a Princess...

“The attributes of a great lady may still be found in the rule of the four S's: Sincerity, Simplicity, Sympathy and Serenity.”—Emily Post

I'm a mechanic who is about to become royalty. Any guidance you can give me would be appreciated. Sincerely, a long-and-still-somewhat-lost Princess

Do you know how many women would love to be in your position? Do not fret, somewhat lost princess. Even Kate Middleton is taking princess lessons to prepare for her new role in the British monarchy.

The first thing to consider is your appearance. Wherever you go, royal watchers, royal haters and royals themselves will have their eyes locked on you. You must look and dress the part. Most princesses are on a first name basis with the top clothing designers by the time they go off to grammar school. In case you're wondering, this list of designers does not include Carhartt.

Mechanics wear grease covered coveralls and steel-toed shoes. While this is perfectly acceptable attire when working on cars at a garage, it would considered poor form to wear such clothing to an event where you represent the royal family. Certain social events, such as weddings and horse races, require hats. Often ones with feathers. Get used to it. Sometimes simplicity is best, but other times require feathers.

Princesses do not have problems with personal hygiene. Since you are a mechanic, you must be sure to keep your hands cleans. That means spotless and free from motor oil. Invest in an excellent hand cream. Princesses do not have chipped and broken nails. Regular manicures are a must. A dark polish can help hide stains beneath your fingernails.

When dining, the rules are the same whether you are eating at a state dinner with three hundred attendees or in your kitchen with three. Napkin in your lap. Wait for host/hostess to take the first bite. Eat with your mouth closed. Say please or thank you. Use your silverware from the outside in. Don't slurp your drink or soup. But I'll let you in on a little secret. As long as you are sensitive to the feelings of others around you, what fork you use when won't really matter.

Each country has its own rules of protocol. Learn them. Know them inside and out. Find the person who has been in the palace the longest, either royal or staff, and have them help you. Knowing the history and traditions of the monarchy are important. It will also give you time to prepare yourself in case you must name your first born after a royal ancestor with an odd name.

Be on good terms with the Queen, even if she makes the Disney stepmothers seem like Glenda the Good Witch. Do whatever it takes to get her on your side. The last thing you need is for your mother-in-law to be screaming, "Off with her head."

People will look up to you as a role model. Young girls and women will emulate you. Act accordingly. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Be sympathetic and sincere with everyone you meet. Don't forget you weren't always royalty.

Finally, don't allow yourself to be swallowed whole by the princess you become. Hold on to your dreams and what brings you joy, even if that is occasionally grease-covered hands. Remember to laugh, not just smile on cue. Jump in a mud puddle or run barefoot through the grass when you're alone. And sometimes when you're not.

Good luck, Princess. I hope a happily ever after is in your future!

Blurb

It's not every day that a tall, dark, handsome prince strides into your workshop and announces he's your husband! Mechanic Izzy nearly drops her wrench. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she'd become a princess!

Independent Izzy struggles with exchanging her oil-stained overalls for silken gowns, let alone becoming responsible for an entire country! Yet her attraction to Prince Niko tempts her further into the fairy tale. And then two small surprises change all the rules of the game....


EXCERPT

Nikola Tomislav Kresimir, Crown Prince of Vernonia, strode past his father's assistant and the two palace guards standing watch. As soon as he entered the king's office, Niko heard the door close behind him.

He grimaced.

Niko didn't have time for another impromptu assignment. His in-box was overflowing. The upcoming trade conference was turning into a logistical nightmare. Princess Julianna of Aliestle was patiently waiting to have lunch with him.

He was used to juggling competing demands, thrived on them actually, but the collar of his dress shirt seemed to have shrunk two inches since he'd left his own office three minutes ago. He tugged on his tie.

Not that it lessened his frustration level.

A summons from the king trumped everything else and often messed up Niko's schedule for the rest of the day, sometimes week. Not to mention the havoc royal protocol played with his priority of turning their provincial country into a modern nation. But he followed his father's orders out of respect and for the good of the country.

King Dmitar sat behind his large mahogany desk staring at a manila file folder in his hands. His once dark hair was now as white as the snowcapped peaks of the Balkans and Carpathians. His face, like Niko's own, was as rugged as those same mountain ranges. His wire-rimmed reading glasses rested low on his nose, making him look more like a professor than a soldier or a king who had spent the majority of his rule trying to unite his country against all odds.

Niko stood ten feet away, waiting.

A breeze blew through an open window, carrying the sweet fragrance of flowers from the royal gardens. A vast improvement over the acrid smell of gunpowder and sickening scent of blood that used to taint the air around here.

Five years had passed since the ratification of the peace treaty. Tensions between the two warring factions erupted occasionally, but peace prevailed. Niko intended to ensure it always would. A totally united Vernonia, however, seemed like a far off dream. A fairy tale, really.

Not wanting to waste more time, he cleared his throat. His father looked up. Dark circles ringed his eyes. "You sent for me, sir," Niko said.

The lines on his father's face seemed deeper, more pronounced, than they used to be. The conflict had aged him; so had grief. But still the corners of his mouth curved upward into a rare smile. "I have good news, my son."

The best news would be that Vernonia had been accepted into the European Union, but Niko knew they still had too many improvement projects to complete first. He stepped closer to the desk. "I've spent the morning wading through the demands of the trade delegations. Good news will be a welcome relief, Father."

"Your bride box has been located."

Not located. Found.

The unexpected news sunk in. Niko respected the past, but the fact something as important as his marriage was dependent on such on antiquated custom as presenting his wife a family heirloom on their wedding day irritated him. Traditions could only take his country so far. "You are certain it is mine?"

"As certain as we can be until we have the box in hand."

His bride box hadn't been seen in over twenty years. Not since the collapse of the Soviet Union brought turmoil to many Balkan countries. Vernonia had avoided the ethnic strife that ravaged many of its neighbors, but terrorist acts had led to a deadly civil war that tore the country apart and nearly destroyed its economy. "Where is the box?"

"The United States." His father adjusted his glasses and studied the folder. "Charlotte, North Carolina, to be exact."

"A long way from home."

"Yes."

The location wasn't really important. Niko would have the box back. Tradition—and his father—would be satisfied. Nothing would stand in the way of Niko's marriage to Julianna. He could finally fulfill his duty as his parents and people wished him to do. The marriage would give him the means and opportunity to do what he wanted—needed—to do with Vernonia.

Plans formed in his mind, but he couldn't get too far ahead of himself. Nothing could happen until he had possession of the box. "How was it discovered?"

"The internet." His father shuffled through papers in the file. "Someone posted on an antiques forum looking for the key. After a few exchanges verifying the seriousness of our interest, we were sent a picture that confirmed our suspicions. The box is yours."

"Incredible." Niko considered the number of private investigators and treasure hunters hired to find the heirloom. He laughed at the irony. "Technology to the rescue of an Old World custom."

"Technology may be useful at times, but our people desire tradition. You must remember that when you wear the crown."

"Everything I've ever done has been for Vernonia." Niko's family had ruled for eight centuries. The country was in their blood and hearts. Duty always came first. "But we must modernize if we are to succeed in the twenty-first century."

"Yet you have agreed to an arranged marriage."

He shrugged, but the last thing he felt was indifference. His marriage would act as a bridge between the past and the future. He might not be the United Kingdom's Prince William, but Niko had the attention of royal watchers. The publicity surrounding a royal wedding would be good for his country's nascent tourist industry. He would use whatever he could to Vernonia's advantage. "I may not be a stickler for tradition, Father, but I will always do what is best for the country."

"As will I." His father placed the folder on his desk. "You have the key."

"Of course, sir." Niko always had the key. He had been wearing the damn thing ever since the decree that he could never take it off twenty odd years ago. The only thing that had changed since then was the size of the chain. He pulled the thick silver one from beneath his shirt. A key that looked more like a cross and heart welded together dangled from his fingers. "Can I finally stop wearing the necklace now?"

"No." The word resonated through the spacious office until the tapestries on the wall swallowed the sound. "You will need the key when you go to North Carolina tomorrow."

"Send Jovan. I can't travel to the United States right now. I'm needed here," Niko countered. "My schedule is full. Princess Julianna is here."

"The box is yours," his father said. "You will be the one to bring it home. The travel arrangements have already been made. Your aide will be provided with an itinerary and the necessary information."

Niko bit his tongue. Further resistance would be futile. The king's word was final even if it made little sense under the current circumstances. "Fine, but you do realize I have never seen the box."

"You have seen it. You were a child, so you don't remember."

What Niko remembered from his childhood and early adulthood was war, the one thing he wanted and hoped to forget. Keeping peace and modernizing Vernonia were his main goals now. Though the parliament wanted him to provide an heir. Might as well get on with that, now that nothing stood in his way of marrying. Speaking of which…

"Do you wish for me to propose to Julianna before I leave for America or upon my return, Father?"

The king's face reddened. "There shall be no official proposal."

"What?" Niko remembered the open window and the people on the other side of the office door. He lowered his voice. "We've spent months negotiating with the Council of Elders in Aliestle. Even the Separatists are in favor of the marriage since King Alaric supported them during the conflict. The only obstacle to marriage has been the bride box. A delay will send the wrong—"

"No proposal."

Frustration mounted. Niko had searched for a suitable bride for almost a year. He didn't want to have to start over. "You agreed Julianna is an excellent choice for a wife and the future queen of Vernonia. That is why finding the bride box has been a priority."

"Julianna is more than suitable to be queen, but…" His father removed his glasses and rubbed his tired-looking eyes. "Are you in love with her?"

Love? Niko was surprised his traditional father had broached the subject. His parents' marriage hadn't been a love match. Niko had never expected one for himself after his older brother, Stefan, had been killed during the conflict.

"We get along well. She's beautiful and intelligent. I will be content with her as my wife," Niko stated honestly. He'd always known as crown prince he would marry for Vernonia's good, not his own. "The publicity surrounding a royal wedding will increase our visibility to the tourist industry. Most importantly, an alliance with Aliestle will give Vernonia the capital it requires to complete rebuilding. That will help our efforts to join the European Union."

"You've looked at all angles."

Niko bowed his head. "As you taught me, Father."

"And Julianna. Are her feelings engaged?"

"She.cares for me," Niko answered carefully. "As I do for her. She understands what is expected."

"But is she in love with you?"

Uncomfortable, Niko shifted his weight between his feet. "You've never spoken about love before. Only duty and what a state marriage would entail."

"You are old enough to know whether a woman has feelings for you or not. Answer my question."

Niko considered his outing with Julianna yesterday afternoon. They'd left their security detail on the shore and sailed on the lake. He'd kissed her for the first time. The kiss had been…pleasant, but Julianna seemed more interested in sailing than kissing him again. "I do not believe she is in love with me. In fact, I'm certain she isn't."

"Good."

"I do not understand what is going on, sir. If something has changed with Vernonia's relationship to Aliestle—"

"Nothing has changed there." His father's drawn out sigh would have made the parliament members' knees tremble beneath their heavy robes. "But a slight…complication in regards to you marrying Julianna has arisen."

Niko's muscles tensed. "What kind of complication?"

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for having me here today, Sandra! It's been fun doing this book tour and discovering so new blogs. My google reader is getting lots of new entries!

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  2. A very pretty blog. I am hoping this etiquette lesson will be helpful when I receive my William and Kate wedding invitation. It seems to be a bit delayed though!

    Great book!

    Peace, Julie

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  3. Congrats! The book seems like a wonderful read. No Carhartt??

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  4. Another fascinating excerpt. I love reading of fiesty heroines and beleaguered princes.

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  5. Its been my pleasure, Melissa. Twins sounds like a fun read. I'm going to have to get a copy.

    Thanks, Julie! Glad you stopped by.

    Julia---Sherry, thanks for stopping by:)

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  6. Hmmm...a wild idea has just come to me after reading this...

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  7. LOL, Julie! Mail can be sooo slow from the UK. And thanks!

    Thanks Julia. Nice of you to stop by. But sorry. No Carhartt;)

    Hi, Sherry! Great to see you here. Thanks so much!

    I really appreciate you having me, Sandra. Hope you enjoy the book!

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  8. Amarinda, do you have any other kind?:)
    Melissa, I'm sure I will enjoy it.

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  9. PS Julie, let us know when you get that invite:)

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  10. Thanks for stopping by, Amarinda. Have fun with your wild idea, too!

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  11. Now I feel ready for the princess patrol to knock at my door and give me the news...

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  12. LOL, Amy! Thanks for the smile this morning. Also thanks so much for stopping by!

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