The newest release in the Royal Romances series.
A Proper Scandal: Royal Romances, Book Five
Still Waters Run…Wild?
Beatrice is fifth in line for the English throne, modest and dutiful. She is everything a proper princess should be, apart from that one little secret…that tiny little internationally famous feminist blog she writes under a fake name. She takes a job at a university in Madrid and gets a taste of freedom. She also meets Javier, a seductive Spaniard launching a feminist news site.
Tapas and Temptation
Javier Vicarios has sunk every penny he has into the launch of Feminista. When sparks fly with Princess Beatrice during a university training, he asks her to write for Feminista, enthralled by her fiery opinions. She refuses, but recommends her ‘friend’, popular blogger Lavinia Hayhurst. Javier takes Bea sightseeing in beautiful Madrid and they succumb to their mutual attraction.
The Truth Will Trap You Every Time
At the same time, Javier and Lavinia are flirting on Messenger and Beatrice doesn’t know what to do—tell Javier that Lavinia is really her alter ego or continue to deceive him as long as she can? Either way, she risks losing the man she’s fallen for. When the media finds out about Javier, they splash his sketchy past all over the papers and plunge the proper princess into the scandal of her nightmares. Will the media frenzy also tear them apart forever?
Here is an excerpt of Chapter One
Beatrice Caroline Alice was the second daughter of King Victor and Queen Eugenie of the United Kingdom. She was only fifth in line for the throne, and nothing short of a tragic multi-vehicle accident would put her on the throne. Which was a good thing because Beatrice didn’t want to be a monarch, and she certainly didn’t want anything terrible happening to her parents and all her brothers and sisters. Being neither the heir—that was her oldest brother Jamie—nor the spare—the ever-dependable Edward, Bea was pleasant but superfluous in the eyes of most royal watchers, like the parsley garnish on the side of a dinner plate.
Her years as a student were at an end. She had successfully defended her dissertation, A Dialectic of Micro-aggressions among Females in the Nonprofit Sector. She’d worked on it piecemeal for three years, and it was well past time to be done with it. Now she had an email whose attachment she didn’t know how to complete. The application for commencement.
Beatrice sat in the café and sipped her water, relieved to see her sister-in-law Carrie come to join her at last. Carrie wasn’t late—in fact, she was as strictly punctual as Edward, the prince she’d married. Beatrice was just pathologically early.
“So, I admit I’m a bit curious. You’re not the one who asks me for advice normally,” Carrie said.
“You mean Lizzy,” Beatrice said.
“Lizzy once called to read me the label on a pair of socks she bought so she could ask me if 40% wool was a good thing or not,” Carrie said, “the woman has the will to move mountains but cannot buy a pair of socks.”
“That would be Lizzy to a tee, I’m afraid. My question is nearly as inane. I’ve finished reading Gender Studies in my doctoral program,” she said.
“That’s great! It’s also not a question,” Carrie said.
“I must decide today if I will take part in the commencement.”
“Why wouldn’t you? You defended your dissertation and got a doctorate. You’re Dr.—Beatrice? Dr. Craismere? What is your last name? I mean, I married it, but I just got Carrie, Duchess of Mountebank, the Princess Edward which isn’t exactly a last name.”
“At school, they called us England. Jamie was Jamie Wales, and the rest of us were called England. It wasn’t official, mind you. It was more of a—slur or an insult, I suppose. From that standpoint I suppose I’m Dr. England,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have thought the toffs would make fun of you at school. I guess they’re a lot of assholes in middle school just like where I’m from. And if England is the worst thing they called you, well, I’ve been called the Skanky Yankee as an adult, so I suppose the Brits are more into name-calling than you’d think with all that tea and etiquette. You should be proud of what you’ve accomplished and go to the graduation!”
“I see what you’re saying, and I appreciate it, but it’s a bit more of the brash American attitude than I have.”
“You did ask an American for advice.”
“No, I asked you. I asked someone I like and respect who is also in the royal family and knows what its like.”
“I’d do the commencement. Partly to make them look at you. Because you’ve done a great deal, that’s impressive, and no one talks about it. I mean, at that dinner for Eugenie’s birthday, Jamie said you read psychology at school when you were sitting there, preparing a dissertation in Women’s Studies and you barely said anything. They don’t take any notice, and it’s time they did, as far as I’m concerned.”
“I don’t like attention like that, though. I don’t like the ceremony of the graduation.”
“You don’t like ceremony? Honey, you’re a princess. They probably minted a coin the first time you peed in the potty. Everything has a ceremony and a tiara and some protocol for it. Are you going to be the first princess to graduate with a doctorate?”
“Ask Jamie. He’s the historian in this lot. I never bothered to find out. I had plenty of more salient research to conduct. I don’t need to be the first to do anything. I’d rather not have that distinction. I think—I believe that you’ve helped me greatly here because you got me to realize I dread the idea of the commencement, and I can’t be talked round to it, even by someone I care for.” Beatrice said, her cheeks flushed, her eyes downcast. Carrie stood and hugged her.
“If that’s how you need to handle it, go for it. I’m still getting you a present.”
“No, not socks!” Carrie said, “Although you’re always welcome to call me with sock questions. Jamie may be the historian in the family, but I’m the authority on socks.”
“I’m going to the exhibit opening tonight, the Georgia O’Keeffe. I need to get ready. We’ll talk soon.”
“Are you wearing the black dress?” Carrie asked.
“I had thought to, yes.”
“I figured you would. It may be time to branch out there. Try a lovely navy blue or something wild like that,” Carrie said with a wink.
Beatrice considered and discarded that recommendation on the way home. If a garment at Zara was gray or black, you could be certain that Beatrice owned it. Her entire wardrobe was simple with an utter absence of nonsense. She walked around London in black trousers and a black turtleneck sweater without a colorful scarf or a bright handbag or Audrey Hepburn sunglasses. She dressed unassumingly because she liked blending in. Just as Jamie and Lizzy and their baby sister Gigi loved to stand out, she preferred to stay in the background with her patronage of the botanical gardens and her utterly mundane collection of opera gloves. Occasionally she wore a chic black sheath to attend a museum exhibit or charity dinner. Otherwise, she stayed out of the limelight, and the A ridiculous lot stayed out of her rather dull existence.
After uni, she’d got a flat instead of living in the palace. Bea could walk to the shop or take the Tube, and if she couldn’t exactly disappear, she at least didn’t draw that much notice. People recognized her every day and came up to her on the high street or at the dentist, mostly Americans, and she would smile and speak to them, but she declined to do pictures or autographs. She was naturally rather pale with rosy cheeks so it was easy to pretend that she was blushing from the attention and just would rather not.
Beatrice pinned her hair into what she thought of as her ballerina bun, although she had not studied dance since she was a child. She still thought it made her look elegant and reserved, the way she’d like to see herself. She surveyed her reflection critically. She was a smaller, mousier, far less stunning version of Lizzy. She’d always considered herself a pale copy of the Princess Royal—hair a lighter brown, skin paler and with a tendency to rosy cheeks and blushing, her jaw and cheekbones sharper, less soft and feminine than Lizzy’s. When her hair had been shorter, when she had bothered with eyeliner, she had managed to look gamine. Now she just wanted to acquit herself well enough to avoid notice. She wanted to do her duty properly and draw no attention in the process. So she had the black dress on, the one her mother had asked her personally to retire.
She had hesitated just an instant before her wardrobe, remembering Carrie’s well-meaning remark about the black dress. Beatrice owned no shortage of garments, but they were mostly black trousers and many nondescript jumpers and cardigans. She had reached past the bridesmaid dress she wore to Carrie’s wedding—a long silver column cut on the bias which made her feel like a lounge singer from a black and white film. That was hardly appropriate for the Tate Modern. She did have a gray wool dress as well, but it was more of a day dress, ideal for giving a short speech or presenting flowers at a memorial plaque on a rainy afternoon.
Her evening wear began and ended with the solitary black dress. She knew it was her uniform, but it was her armor of choice as well. It was a simple sheath, well-cut and serviceable, and she’d worn it to many events. Too often, according to the press agent at the palace. She needed to vary what she wore. Otherwise, no one would take her photo, and her presence wouldn’t raise the profile of the organizations she patronized in the black dress. While she wanted to help the charities and museums she worked with, Beatrice also liked the idea that none of the photographers would want to take her picture if she always looked the same. Black sheath, kitten heels, ballerina bun, a string of pearls, sheer pink lipstick and a touch of mascara. Conservative, respectable, and nothing at all out of the common way. She hadn’t Lizzy or Leopold’s lust for press attention, hadn’t any of Lizzy’s affection for sparkly silver dresses or pink tiaras. Beatrice was only the second princess, after all.
Out of regard for her mother the Queen Consort, Beatrice retired her pearls and wore instead a prettyish pin on her shoulder, a fanlike shape of silver tendrils with diamonds at the points that reminded her of a sea urchin. She had always liked those when she watched nature documentaries—they were lovely but untouchable and showed their prickles to avoid trouble, warning others to stay back. This was an exhibit opening at the Tate and one she couldn’t wait to attend. She was one of the patrons who’d pressed for this particular showing of women artists and nature. She’d personally secured the loan of nine important O’Keeffe’s from the museum in New Mexico. She secretly loved the audacious sensuality and femininity of the artist’s flowers. This was her opportunity to see some of them in person. She just had to endure the red carpet and the cocktail party first.
Her driver dropped her off at the appointed spot, and she clutched her little handbag as she stepped out. Smoothed her skirt, tried to still her shaking hands and tried not to blush quite so much. She stood and posed, as dignified as possible, trying for a small smile but feeling very uncomfortable. A television presenter approached and asked her a few questions.
“If I’m honest, I’m quite excited to be here tonight. It’s a great opportunity to see these works united in a single exhibition, and I can’t wait to hear what Ms. Lewis and her team have put together for the audio tour as well,” Beatrice said.
“How nice. Here without an escort again, your highness?” the presenter said.
“I’m here to see the art and to congratulate the director and patrons for their dedication to producing this unique exhibit. The art itself is my companion tonight,” she said. She regretted it as soon as it came out of her mouth rather tartly. She knew that quote would be pulled and splashed alongside her picture with some lonely-hearts caption. She felt a pang of consternation and excused herself to go inside.
Beatrice greeted Melody Lewis, the director of temporary exhibitions, and congratulated her. Melody took her through the pictures quickly so she could have a private viewing. Beatrice could have sat before that overwhelming jimson weed painting forever. She felt like she was being drawn into its yellow-gray center, enfolded by the white petals. She wished she could fall into that painting, she thought wildly, into whiteness and voluptuous silence. Her heart beat faster, and she felt embarrassed at her reaction to what was merely a picture of a plant. She hurried through the rest of the pictures. She accepted a glass of champagne but barely sipped it. She spoke to a few of the other directors and left as early as she could after the speeches.
By the time she was at home, drinking a banana milkshake in her favorite jumper, a Beatles t-shirt Evie had given her, the goss sites were lighting up with stories about her appearance at the exhibit. She knew she shouldn’t care what the press said about her—any attention she brought to the Tate’s exhibition was beneficial. But she looked anyway.
PRINCESS BEA STILL NO BOYFRIEND
SINGLETON BEA SAYS PAINTINGS ARE HER DATE
TAKE THE POLL: WOULD BEA HAVE A MAN IF SHE DITCHED THE BLACK DRESS?
GIVEN UP ON LOVE! INSIDERS SAY BEA WON’T TRY FOR A MAN
Whomever the insiders were who said she didn’t try for a man, they were right. She’d only ever been in love once, and Simon had most certainly not been a proper boyfriend. Simon told her she was beautiful when she was timid. She turned off her phone so she wouldn’t hear the judgmental ping of more pitying articles about herself. Besides him, there had only been the dull Norwegian aristocrat she’d gone out with a few times to please her parents.
It wouldn’t do at all for the British public to suspect that she was happiest at home in her flat wearing a ratty Beatles t-shirt, drinking banana milkshakes, humiliating misogynists with her cutting anonymous comments on news sites, and watching funny cat videos on YouTube. It was positively undignified. Let them think, rather, that she preferred opera—Germans, not those overemotional Italians—and went to exhibits about the history of teacups. She liked the sense of order it gave her. Public life here, a private life far back on that shelf where it’s not noticeable. She didn’t have too much that was scandalous in her secret past or anything like that. Rather she kept her personality in check and behaved, as she was fond of telling her impetuous sister Lizzy, like an adult.
Mostly, she kept to her flat and her schedule of charitable obligations. For someone who was on the books as unemployed, she was ordinarily quite busy with royal events and charity lunches. So when she found herself with an afternoon completely free, she didn’t know what to do with herself. She sat bolt upright with perfect posture on the sofa in her flat, a cup of tea on the table at her elbow and flipped through the channels on the telly. She stared at the screen in dismay. It was all so vulgar, so terribly indiscreet.
That presenter was absolute bollocks. There was nothing to be gained by being oneself when oneself had to live in the public eye. The public eye suggested only last week that perhaps it was time for Beatrice to consider Botox. She wasn’t even thirty years old! Certainly, she had a bit of sun damage from her youth, but nothing Photoshop couldn’t brush away. She’d responded by writing a three-page diatribe about the impossible beauty standards for women. She’d quoted Betty Friedan and Amy Schumer; she’d invoked Charlotte Rampling, Catherine Deneuve, Helen Mirren, all on her blog, Boyfriend Jeans & Coffee Beans. Of course, she didn’t mention the Botox suggestion or princesses at all. That was the point of anonymity, after all, to keep her real life entirely separate.
The blog was four years old. She had a laptop dedicated only for that use, for research, stock images, drafts, and posting. Nothing, not one scrap of data on that machine linked the blog to Beatrice, second daughter of the King of England. She had been scrupulous. And frankly, the monetized blog would have more than paid for her flat and her Zara wardrobe. As it was, the proceeds went through a—well, through a dummy corporation and were funneled to a charity for battered women in London and another that worked to stop human trafficking in Asia. BJ&CB had already filtered several million in their direction. It seemed that cool American girls liked a cerebral take on modern single life and the patriarchy. And they loved Lavinia Hayhurst; that was for certain.
Beatrice invented Lavinia Hayhurst when she was twenty-four years old. She was at Amherst College in the US. She’d cut her brown hair short and wore 7 for All Mankind blue jeans and wasn’t precisely trying not to look like that pretty actress from the Harry Potter films. In fact, she’d been photographed a few times by people who mistook her for Emma Watson and whipped out their iPhones at the sight of a wide-eyed English girl on campus. Still, even as a fish out of her fishbowl, she was very aware she must act appropriately. No keg stands. No frat parties. Only a yearlong course in Women’s Studies at a liberal feminist campus as free and different from her ordinary life as inferno was to candlelight.
It was during that time that she’d created her alter ego, the name she used for her writing. She’d begun writing about the subtle forms of discrimination she faced every day. Everything from the guy who insisted on harassing her at the salad bar—demanding to know if she had a boyfriend or if she was a dyke like the rest of the Amherst girls—to the fact she felt she had to keep her door dead bolted any time she was in her apartment. Her sharp posts about the danger and casual cruelties of life as a woman in a foreign city were enlightening to some readers online. Some trolls insisted she was asking for attention and probably dressed provocatively. She disemboweled them in the comments with thoughtful and well-researched rebuttals. She liked to cite academic sources where possible, peppering in Americans like Helen Gurley Brown, Gloria Steinem and Kyra Kramer along with a bit of Simone de Beauvoir. It had given her a surge of adrenaline when she crushed them. She felt like she was flying—able to speak her mind, invoke her sources and leave only destruction in her literate, ballsy wake. It was by far the greatest exhilaration she’d ever felt, previous boyfriends notwithstanding.
What began as an irreverent post about how women in her age group were portrayed on reality programs as melodramatic, unstable drunks desperate for a man ended up going somewhat viral and securing Bea-as-Lavinia, an ardent group of subscribers who read, commented, clicked on the monetized ads, and followed her Twitter.
She dreamed that she was swimming in circles inside an aquarium, the faces of curiosity seekers distorted by the rounded sides, made wavy and grotesque. Waking up from her annoyingly obvious nightmare, she checked her email and found that her application had been chosen—most likely because of who her parents were—for a visiting professorship at the Universidad Autonomo in Madrid. She could teach graduate courses in Gender Studies with no research requirement—she’d had enough research for a while after that dissertation—and have a change of scene. A break from the insane scrutiny of the British press, a chance to live as semi-anonymously as she had at Amherst years ago. She could imagine it, walking through the Plaza Mayor unnoticed, taking in the Prado museum without anyone minding who she was at all. Sunglasses and denim and no speculation about why she had no proper boyfriend at the age of twenty-eight. Her heart kicked up, and she felt a smile on her face. Everything seemed lighter at the very prospect of it. She replied immediately, accepting the position at six of a morning without consulting the palace. If Edward and Leo could marry Americans without a by-your-leave from the king, if Lizzy could skip out of the party circuit and take on hippotherapy, then surely she could take a teaching job without there being an international incident.
Bea took a bite of her apple, “Manzana,” she said with a smile as she chewed the sandy sweet fruit.
She would report for orientation in a fortnight. That gave her time to arrange for a flat and to see what Zara had in for spring that wasn’t too colorful. It gave her time to tell her parents, but not enough time for them to talk her out of it. Especially if she waited a few days to inform them of her plan.
She messaged her brother Alistair, but the mobile reception in rural Paraguay where he worked in a relief camp was spotty at best. So when she didn’t have a reply, it didn’t surprise her. It only meant that she’d have to wade right in instead of dipping her toe in and telling the easiest person first. She’d harbored a forlorn hope that she could tell Alistair she was moving to Madrid, and he might mention it to Edward in some jovial brotherly way while Skyping about football or the like. It had been wildly unlikely, but still, she’d hoped to avoid the actual confrontation.
She decided to tell her mum, who was at least slightly less intimidating than the king himself. She invited the Queen to lunch at Cinnamon Club because Beatrice loved the old library atmosphere and the spicy Indian food. Her mother returned a message that she would meet at the Esoffier Room and no place else. If she was to venture out for luncheon when they had excellent chefs on staff at the palace, she did not intend to eat what she termed “Eastern street food.”
Beatrice twisted the already loose top button of her gray cardigan as her mother approached the table, brisk as ever. She waited for her daughter to stand out of respect, and then offered one cheek for a kiss.
“I presume you have news; else you would have emailed me. Do say it’s that you’ve reconsidered that Norwegian, the Westervick Earl. He was quite tall and strapping as I remember. Didn’t you go out with him once or twice?”
“He talked about fish and fishing constantly. He couldn’t bear the introduction of any other topic. I went out with him twice, both times at Father’s insistence and I’m finished with that—fishy earl,” she said miserably.
“It isn’t as if you’ve shown an affinity with anyone else. You haven’t had a proper boyfriend in ages, if ever. There’s bound to be speculation you’ll end an old maid. Do show some consideration for the family. It makes you seem churlish if you can’t keep a decent chap, one from an excellent bloodline and no scandals in his past,” her mother said stoutly, perusing the menu.
“It’s not about a man at all,” Beatrice said, cringing inwardly, “it’s about a job. I’ve taken a temporary professorship.”
“Ugh,” the queen said, uncharacteristically showing her disgust, “Forgive the exclamation but it’s time and past you were done with this nonsense. It’s all well and good for a girl to have her education, but really, you’ve taken it too far. If you can read a bit of Latin and order your food in French, that’s all you need. No reason to go round being boastful and calling yourself a professor. The teaching class is far from the ruling one, and that’s as it should be.”
“Mother, I’d hoped you’d be pleased that I’ve found a useful occupation for a few months. It’ll keep my spinster ways out of the tabloids for a bit at least. Do you want to order food?”
“I’ll have the tasting menu,” the queen announced.
“I’ll have the vegetarian menu,” Beatrice said to the waiter
“Have you become a herbivore to suit the trends? A ridiculous lot of nonsense.”
“No, but the vegetarian menu has the onion consommé with Gruyere crisps. I just love cheese, and you get more of it on the vegetarian menu.”
“You should have ordered the duck. Any self-respecting royal will order the duck in the absence of venison. It shows national pride in our game,” the Queen sniffed.
“Hmmm,” Beatrice said, resorting to silence while she carried on a rather lively and occasionally profane inner commentary on the meal and conversation.
“Your father will be furious, the king’s daughter exposing herself in this way, speaking about unseemly feminine things for money.”
“I’m not giving a course on sanitary products, Mother,” Beatrice said.
“You may as well do so if you insist on carrying on in this obscene manner. It was adequate that we permitted you to read two degrees past what one requires. I never imagined in my wildest fears that you, my only sensible daughter, would venture to do something so appalling.”
“I’m sorry you’re appalled by something so commonplace as a woman in the twenty-first century holding a job for the intellectual stimulation of it.”
“Beatrice, you’re positively cheeky today. What’s got into you? I rely on you to behave properly, especially with your father’s condition so precarious. It’s very selfish of you really to jaunt off to the beach with everything I have to deal with here.”
“I’ll only be gone a few months. If you need me for something serious I’ll return instantly, of course. I hadn’t thought it would put stress on Father for me to dodge out of the limelight and do a bit of teaching. It’s a respectable institution.”
“You’ll be working for a wage. It isn’t the same as the boys doing military service—that was patriotic, and it’s expected of the sons. All you have to do, as a princess is keep your ankles crossed, smile sweetly and marry someone appropriate. Next thing you’ll be wanting to pilot a helicopter like poor Leo,” the queen said.
“Of course not, I only want to put into practice the expertise I’ve been building for the past six years. Share some of what I’ve learned and—oh, good, our food,” Beatrice said and sipped her consommé gratefully.
“You could accomplish so much more as a proper princess, doing charitable work and raising a family. I’m certain the Westervick Earl could be persuaded to see you again if you weren’t so particular this time.”
“No thank you, Mother,” Beatrice mumbled, thinking that her relocation to Madrid couldn’t come soon enough.
As soon as she could, she retreated to her flat and her blog.
Today, a man explained coffee to me.
Like most people above the age of consent, I have had coffee every day for years. I know precisely the sort I like to order based on long experience and some experimentation.
My confidence in making a selection was questioned by the wanker behind me in the queue.
“You really ought to try a plain coffee. Just to see if you like it before you add in all those syrups and flavors and foams,” he suggested. I thanked him for his concern and returned to my original conversation—with the barista who was taking my order.
“You probably have no idea, but the delicacy of extracting flavor from the coffee bean…” he went on and on. I wondered if he owned a bloody coffee plantation some place in South America or if he just felt the need to mansplain the complex art and science of coffee ordering to a poor, clueless female.
I am an adult. I performed better than average in my studies in school. I even finished at uni. So tell me, why am I viewed as incompetent?
I considered theatrical sobs. I considered flinging my arms across the counter and weeping, overwrought and irrational, having been shown the truth about coffee by this generous stranger. Would he have been horrified?
I never knew, I would gasp, my face alight with newfound comprehension. I would then shoo away the barista who was mixing flavored syrups in, tainting the purity of the coffee bean’s essence, its lifeblood! I might even take the barista into confidence, imparting the undiscovered knowledge that coffee is made from BEANS and WATER. She might then fling off her apron and together we would skip, arm in arm, from the vulgar little shop and set off in search of natural, unflavored coffees, perhaps by hopping on a steamship to Brazil so we can follow those green coffee beans to a roaster and learn how this mysterious process occurs. Who imagined it was so complicated, so fragile?
Cue the eye roll.
I didn’t tell him, though I should have, that I knew perfectly fucking well how coffee happens. I’ve toured Ethiopian coffee farms and sampled the proprietary regional variants of Arabica beans in the country of their ancient origin! I am no callow Sloane who only drinks her coffee in a takeaway paper cup. And even if I were, I would have no interest in his form of wisdom, nor his patronizing attitude.
I may not be the resident authority on much, but I do know coffee. And I know just how I like it. Sound off in the comments—how you take your coffee and what you have had mansplained to you recently!