Raul, Prince of Maritz, is furious that an archaic law is forcing him to wed. But scandal and unrest has dogged this prince for years, and a marriage to recently- discovered princess, Luisa Hardwicke, will help bring stability to the monarchy.
Only Luisa is an outspoken, mud-splattered, farm girl, who isn’t going to come quietly! Even as she’s reluctantly transformed into polished perfection, Luisa challenges Raul at every turn, and he finds himself anticipating their wedding night with an excitement he never imagined he’d feel…
See also PROTECTED BY THE PRINCERead an Excerpt Behind the Book
“I scarfed up this delectable gem in just one sitting. Award winning author Annie West knows how to tease and tempt without overdoing the angst. Her hero, Raul, is strong and compassionate while heroine Luisa is feminine yet self reliant. Set in an exotic local with an opulent castle, PRINCE OF SCANDAL entices the reader to escape the everyday world to one of seduction and romance.” ~ 4.5 stars from Donna Zapf at CataRomance
“PRINCE OF SCANDAL might very well be my favorite Annie West story to date…” “…a mixture of old-world charm and expectations along with modern ideas with delightful results.” ~ 5 blue ribbons, Chrissy Dionne, Romance Junkies
“…sweetly romantic and full of emotion.” “Splendid from page one, Annie West gives you a priceless royal romance full of betrayal, scandal and hot attraction!” ~ 5 stars, Zara B, We Read Romance
“…a romantic fairy tale with a smart, strong heroine who gives the hero a run for his money.” ~ 4 stars, Andrew Shaffer, RT Book Reviews
“My first Annie West story and I look forwards to more of this calibre. Faultless reading – highly recommended.” ~ Karen C, Amazon
Luisa’s hands curled tight as she forced down growing panic. ‘I’ve got nothing to do with your wedding.’
One dark eyebrow winged upwards. ‘The antiquated style of the contract means I’m bound to marry the Princess of Ardissia.’ He paused, his mouth a slash of pure displeasure. ‘Whoever she is.’
‘You’re out of your mind!’ Luisa retreated a frantic step, her stomach a churning mess. This truly was a nightmare. ‘I never signed any contract!’
‘It doesn’t matter. The document is legal.’ His lips twisted. ‘The best minds in the country can’t find a way out of it.’
She shook her head, her hair falling across her face as she backed up against the window. ‘No way! No matter what your contract says, you can’t take me back there as-‘
‘My bride?’ The words dropped into echoing silence. Luisa heard them repeat over and over in her numbed brain, like a never ending ripple spreading in a still, icy pool.
‘Believe me; I’ll do what’s necessary to claim my throne.’ His chin lifted regally, making clear what he hadn’t put in words: that he didn’t wish to marry someone so far beneath him. Someone so unappealing.
Why was he so desperate? Did power mean so much?
Luisa choked on rising anger. Twenty four years old and she’d received two marriage offers – both from ambitious men who saw her as nothing but a means to acquire power! Why couldn’t she meet a caring, honest man who’d love her for herself? She felt soiled and cheap.
‘You expect me to give up my life and marry you, a total stranger, so you can become king?’ What century had he dropped out of? ‘You’re talking antiquated nonsense.’
His expression grazed like shards of ice on bare skin. ‘It may be antiquated but I must marry.’
She jutted her chin. ‘Marry someone else!’
Something dangerous and dark flashed in his eyes. But when he spoke his words were measured. She sensed he hung onto his control by a thread.
‘If I could I would. If you hadn’t existed or if you you’d already married, the contract would be void and I could choose another bride.’
As if choosing a wife took a minimum of time and effort!
Though in his case it might. With his looks, sexual magnetism and wealth there’d be lots of women eager to overlook the fact they tied themselves to a power hungry egotist!
His deep voice sent a tremor rippling through her overwrought body. ‘There’s no more time to find a way out. I need to be married within the constitutional time limit or I can’t inherit.’
‘Why should I care?’ Luisa rubbed her hands up chilled arms, trying to restore warmth. ‘I don’t even know you.’
And what she did know she didn’t like.
He shrugged and unwillingly Luisa saw how the fluid movement drew attention to those powerful shoulders. The sort of shoulders that belonged on a surf lifesaver or an outback farmer, not a privileged aristocrat.
‘I’m the best person for the kingship. Some would say the only suitable one. I’ve trained a lifetime for it.’
‘Others could learn.’
He shook his head. ‘Not now. Not in time. There was unrest in the last years of my father’s reign. That’s growing. A strong king is what the country needs.’
The sizzle in his eyes stopped her breath.
‘That leaves only one option.’
She was his only option!
‘I don’t care!’ Cool glass pressed against her back as he took a pace towards her and she stepped back. ‘Let them crown someone else. I’m not a sacrificial lamb for the slaughter.’
His lips curled in a knowing smile that should have repelled her. Yet her heart hammered as she watched his eyes light with a gleam that warmed her from tip to toe.
‘You think marriage to me would be a hardship?’ His voice dropped to a low pitch that feathered like a sultry breeze across her suddenly flushed skin. ‘That I don’t know how to please a woman?’
Luisa swallowed hard, using her hands to anchor herself to the window sill behind her, rather than be drawn towards the glittering green gaze that seemed now to promise unspoken delights.
He was far more dangerous that she’d realised.
‘Be assured, Luisa, that you will find pleasure in our union. You have my word on it.’
A beat of power, of heat, pulsed between them and she knew how an animal felt, mesmerised by a predator.
‘The answer is still no,’ she whispered hoarsely, shocked at the need to force down a betraying weakness that made her respond to his sensual promise. Why did her dormant hormones suddenly jangle into life around him?
For a long moment they stood, adversaries in a silent battle of wills.
‘Then, sadly, you leave me no choice.’ The fire in his eyes was doused as if it had never been. A flicker of what might have been regret shadowed his gaze then disappeared. ‘Just remember that decision, and the outcome, are entirely yours.’
Already he turned away. Only her hand on his elbow stopped him.
‘What do you mean?’ Fear was a sour tang in her mouth.
He didn’t turn. ‘I have business to finalise before I leave. Some farms to dispose of.’
Panic surged. Luisa’s fingers tightened like a claw on the fine wool of his suit. She stepped round to look up into his stern face.
‘You can’t foreclose! They haven’t done anything to you.’
His stare pinioned her. He shook off her hand.
‘In a choice between your relatives and my country there is no contest.’ He inclined his head. ‘Goodbye, Luisa.’
Raul and Luisa’s story links to Tamsin and Alaric’s in PASSION, PURITY AND THE PRINCE aka PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE. Don’t worry, they’re stand alone stories, so if you only read one it will still make sense. Of course, I hope you read both! For those of you who have read the first of the two books, you may be interested to know Tamsin and Alaric make an appearance in this story too, and it was enormous fun writing them as a married couple.
When I had the original idea for an alpine-set royal romance I found I’d made life too complicated for my hero. The more I thought about the issues he faced the more I realised I had two stories. Stories of two equally handsome, equally charming and ruthless but oh so different distant cousins. How could I resist writing them?
Initially Prince Raul, heir to the kingdom, was going to be the first of my two heroes, until I realised Alaric and Tamsin’s story had to be sorted out first. By the time I’d finished their story I was eager to know all about the missing princess for whom Raul searched so desperately. He struck me as debonair and dangerous and that’s just how Luisa views him when he trespasses on her farm.
If you have been to the coast south of Sydney – an area of beautiful rolling green hills tucked between the massive escarpment and the sea, you’ll appreciate why Luisa wants to stay where she’s grown up, on the dairy farm she inherited from her family. But Luisa inherited something else as well. Royal blood flows in her veins and that’s why Raul has sought her out. She’s a princess who holds they key to saving his kingdom. But can a hard working dairy farmer, a woman who doesn’t even own a dress and who knows more about cattle then court etiquette, really become a princess? Would she even want to? And what would she make of a man who forces her to accept a role she doesn’t want, ignoring her own wishes?
From the moment I imagined Raul and Luisa meeting, I was hooked on this story. He was suave in Italian tailoring and hand crafted shoes. She was muddy in overalls and a battered hat. But from the first they’re absolutely equals, despite their differences. Luisa is no pushover and Raul learns fast to appreciate her determination and courage.
Luisa is a fish out of water in her new home, or, to continue the aquatic analogy, a bit of an ugly duckling, transformed to suit her new life. Yet this story isn’t about court protocol or gorgeous clothes, though both appear in the book. It’s about how a man wounded to the core by past scandal learns to trust his feelings again and about how a warm, genuine woman can transform her life and find happiness while still being true to herself.
I do hope you enjoy PRINCE OF SCANDAL!