Tomorrow is the release of My Fair Princess by Vanessa Kelly, so we're sharing an excerpt!
First, Vanessa Kelly brought readers The Renegade Royals. Now, in a delightfully witty new series, she introduces The Improper Princesses—three young women descended from royalty, each bound for her own thrilling adventure . . .
Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.
Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast . . . but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?
They stood on the quiet street, locked in a silent contest of wills. Gillian half expected him to begin lecturing her again. Yet his gaze warmed with understanding—and sympathy.
“I am not the first man to ask you to trust him, am I?” he asked.
She winced. “Blast. Is it that obvious?”
He started her forward again, for which Gillian was grateful. It would be easier to discuss such an embarrassing topic if he wasn’t looking at her.
“I put two and two together,” he said. “And, as a reminder, I would suggest you refrain from using terms like blast when in polite company.”
“All right, but only on the understanding that I can say whatever I want to immediate family.”
“I suppose I can’t really stop you, can I?
“I doubt it. Some things are just bloody difficult to change.”
“You can’t shock me, you know. Although I think I must drop a word in your brother’s ear, all the same.”
“Ha. That’s not much of a threat. I was using bad language long before I ever met Griffin.”
Gillian pretended to ponder for a moment. “Perhaps if you write down all the words I’m not supposed to say, I can commit them to memory.”
“I’m quite sure you know exactly what you should and shouldn’t say,” he said.
Gillian couldn’t help giving him a little smirk.
“Very well,” he said. “We’ll leave the language lessons for some future date. We have again been diverted from our main topic, which is—”
“Mr. Stratton.” The duke clearly wasn’t going to let it go, so she might as well get it over with. “From your reaction, I imagine you already have a good idea of what he said.”
“Did he insult you or importune you?” he asked in a hard voice.
“Mr. Stratton would be walking with a limp right now if he had. Or not walking at all, depending on my aim.”
Leverton made a slight, choking noise, then cleared his throat. “Then what did he say, exactly?”
“He asked me to meet him for a walk or a drive in the park.”
“By yourself? And without telling your grandmother?”
“Bastard,” Leverton muttered.
She couldn’t resist. “Language, Your Grace. But don’t worry. Why would I want to go driving in the park with a married man? I’m supposed to be finding a husband, not larking about with ineligible men.”
“You’re not to be engaging in such behavior with an unmarried man, either. Not unless you have the expression permission of your mother or grandmother, and only after they’ve met your escort.”
“I’m not a half-wit, nor am I naïve. I know exactly what men like Stratton are after. I’m quite familiar with the type.”
That silenced him for half a block. “I’m sorry you even have to worry about that,” he finally said.
“Grandmamma warned me some years ago what to expect.” After Pietro. Because of that gentleman, Gillian would never be naïve again. “I have no intention of allowing myself to become a member of the demimonde. I would not enjoy such a life.”
“I should bloody well hope not,” Leverton said.
Gillian feigned astonishment. “Sir, I am truly shocked. Perhaps I should draw up a list of words for you.”
“I would ask for your apology, but I doubt very much that I offended you.”
“Of course not. I’m as tough as old boots.”
“No, you’re not. And you’re as deserving of respect as any young woman. I regret that we even need to have this unfortunate discussion.”
She couldn’t help smiling. “I know you’re trying to help. And I don’t mind at all. Truly.”
“You should mind,” he said. “But back to Stratton.”
Gillian groaned. “Must we?”
“I need you to understand that he might well not be the only cad who tries to take advantage. I want you to be well armored against that possibility.”
“Of course. But Mr. Stratton is harmless, you know.”
He shook his head. “He’s exactly the type you have to worry about.”
Gillian heard something in his voice that gave her pause—an undertone of bitterness. This was more than a well-intentioned warning. It sounded personal to Leverton. “I’ll be careful, Your Grace.”
“You’re to come to me or to your grandmother if you have any concerns of this nature at all.”
“Yes, I promise.”
He let out a reluctant laugh. “Now you’re patronizing me. Or behaving as if I’m a fussy old maid who sees a rake lurking behind every tree.”
“No, you’re behaving like someone who cares. But why are you doing this?”
“Warning you about bounders like Stratton?”
She tugged on his arm. “Now you’re being deliberately obtuse.”
“Perhaps just slightly evasive,” he said with a wry smile. “But now let me ask you a question. Do you want this little experiment your grandmother cooked up to actually work?”
“You mean teaching me not to swear, and how to curtsey without falling on my ear?” she asked in as innocent a voice as she could muster. Sadly, Gillian didn’t do innocent very well.
My Fair Princess by Vanessa Kelly is a historical romance, released by Zebra on August 30, 2016.
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Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her current series, The Renegade Royals is a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes USA Today bestselling contemporary romance with her husband, under the pen name of VK Sykes.
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