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Once Upon a Princess (EBOOK)

Once Upon a Princess (EBOOK)

Princess Olivia, fleeing royal duties, meets Cornwall's hardworking cafe owner Rosie. Against all odds, sparks fly. But can love truly conquer tradition?

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Full description

Can true love be their crowning glory?

Olivia Charlton is a princess who believes in love — not a high priority in a royal family hung up on tradition and duty.

Meanwhile, village sweetheart Rosie Perkins has no time for affairs of the heart — she’s just struggling to keep her cafe and life afloat.

When Olivia heads to Cornwall to escape her royal duties for a few weeks, the two meet and sparks fly. But can a cafe owner and a princess truly end up with their own happily ever after when all the odds are stacked against them?

Best-selling lesbian romance authors Clare Lydon & Harper Bliss have teamed up to bring this modern-day fairy tale to life. Grab your copy of the love story everyone’s talking about!

Themes and tropes

  • Opposites attract
  • Undercover princess
  • Small town romance

Chapter One Look Inside

Chapter 1

Olivia Charlton clenched her left fist, a headache beginning to wrap itself around her brain. She could still hear the whir of camera lenses, the shouts of the photographers asking them to turn around, but she didn’t look back. They’d posed for 20 minutes and taken questions, and that was as much as the press were getting today. Her smile was broad and her head held high, her hand wrapped around that of Jemima Bradbury, now her fiancée.

It was early May, and the sky was blue and cloudless.

Unlike her mood, where storm clouds were brewing.

It was only when she was through the thick, black wooden gate and into the courtyard of the estate that she dropped Jemima’s hand and relaxed her shoulders, blowing out a frustrated sigh.

She still couldn’t believe her parents had made her hold a press conference to announce her engagement at such short notice — less than 24 hours. It wasn’t their style, which led her to believe they were worried she was going to bolt. They weren’t wrong.

When she glanced up, Jemima was flexing her hand, a soft smile on her face. “Jeez, you nearly broke a bone, you were holding my hand so tight. Anyone would think you didn’t want to marry me.” She punctuated her statement with a single raised eyebrow. “And what was that answer about the proposal? You could have at least made up a good story, given the press what they wanted. This is a happy occasion, in case you’ve forgotten.”

Jemima cocked her head, her long, blonde hair cascading around her tanned shoulders. She was wearing a specially tailored white skirt and matching top with black trim, and her feet were encased in a pair of pristine white Manolo Blahniks.

“What’s the point of a made-up story, Jem?” Olivia raked her fingers through her long conker-brown hair, her shoulders tightening all over again. “You really want to marry me? When you know damn well we don’t love each other?”

Call Olivia old-fashioned but she’d always thought that, when she got engaged, she’d be in love with her future bride. It was something her mother couldn’t understand, something she kept telling her youngest daughter wasn’t important in their circle. “Love comes quite far down life’s must-haves, Olivia. I thought, by the age of 33, you would know that.”

A soft breeze wafted over her as she stared up at the back of the red-brick Surrey estate, her home for the past three years since she’d come back.

Or her prison, as she often thought.

Jemima laughed, a pained expression settling on her face. “I’ve tried the love thing, and it didn’t work out. It often doesn’t.” She paused. “It didn’t work out for you and Ellie, did it?”

Hearing her ex-girlfriend’s name was still like a punch to the gut.

Jemima went on. “And you’re not such a bad catch from where I’m standing. You’re a princess. Getting the opportunity to marry a royal is one I don’t intend to turn down.” She sighed and reached out to take her fiancée’s hand.

Olivia jumped as they connected. Jemima’s palm was sweaty.

“We could be good together, you know that. We’ve got history.” Jemima fluttered her long lashes Olivia’s way, in a practised move.

“I’m not sure that’s enough.” Yet here they were, engaged. She and Jemima had gone out in their early 20s until Olivia had decided on a career in the army rather than one as a socialite. Sure, they still mixed in the same circles and they’d had an ill-advised one-night stand a year ago that Olivia still winced about, but now, her old flame was being thrust into her life once more by royal decree. The trouble was, everyone — including Jemima — was far happier about it than Olivia was.

“The press might be fooled because we make a great-looking couple and that’s what they want.” Olivia locked her gaze with Jemima’s. “But don’t you want something more? Do you really want to settle for me?” She wanted Jemima to think hard about what she was getting into, because she had more choice than Olivia. Whereas, in the back of her mind, Olivia had always known an arranged marriage was likely to happen, having seen her sister go through it.

Jemima let out a strangled laugh. “Marrying Princess Olivia, fourth in line to the throne is hardly settling. And we could rub along together just fine. It’s not like we hate each other, is it?”

It wasn’t, Olivia had to agree. Despite being exes, they’d always got on. She went to kick a stone in the courtyard, but then realised she was wearing 4-inch heels and not her trainers: today, she was a professional princess, not a soldier. She wanted to stuff her hands in her pockets and stalk around the courtyard, but it wasn’t so effective in a poppy-red dress and full make-up.

“Think about it, this isn’t such a terrible plan,” Jemima said, splaying her manicured hands. “Don’t you want to settle down, and wouldn’t you rather do it with someone who knows your world, understands it and looks good on your arm? Wouldn’t that make life just a tiny bit easier?”

Olivia licked her lips, knowing Jemima had a point. But the nagging doubt was still in the back of her mind, and she couldn’t let it go. She’d tasted love once with Ellie and she wanted it again.

When she got married, she wanted it to be for real, for life, forever.

And none of those things belonged in the same sentence as Jemima Bradbury.

* * *

Her mother’s private secretary, Malcolm, came out of the ornately carved door and bowed his bald head before speaking. “The Queen will see you now.”

He didn’t say another word, but his narrowed gaze told Olivia all she needed: do not cause the Queen any unnecessary trouble because it will be me who has to clear it up.

Olivia gave him a sweet smile as she walked past.

She’d never liked Malcolm.

Her mother — Queen Cordelia to give her full title — was fiddling with her phone when she walked in; her father — Prince Hugo — was reading today’s Times in his favourite armchair. It was golden, tattered and creaked at every opportunity, but he refused to let Mother re-upholster it and so far, she’d agreed. It was a small victory in the life of her father, one he clung to.

When Olivia cleared her throat, he put the paper down.

The Queen glanced up, then folded her arms across her chest: this was going to be just as hard as Olivia had feared.

She motioned to the soft blue couches in front of the fireplace, and her mother followed. They sat opposite each other. Olivia flexed her toes in her high heels. She’d kept the same clothes on, because she knew her mother would be fully made up and ready for battle. She hadn’t been wrong: the Queen was dressed in a figure-hugging grey trouser suit and matching heels, her appearance as sharp as her attitude.

“So, did you watch it?”

Her mother nodded. “We did.” She paused, crossing one leg over the other. “You could have smiled more, looked a bit happier.” She squinted as the afternoon sunshine hit her face through the leaded palace windows and put a hand up to shield herself. “You looked like you were announcing a funeral, not a wedding.”

“Your mother’s right.” Her father came over to sit next to his wife in his usual black suit and striped tie, his pallor grey. “You didn’t look like you wanted to be there.”

“Because I didn’t want to be there, you know that!” Olivia threw both hands in the air: her parents could send her from zero to 100 in seconds. How could they be so calm when they knew this wasn’t what she wanted? They’d had the conversation only three nights ago, and they knew where she stood.

“And you know that questions are being asked and you’re of a certain age.” Her mother’s face was icy. “Your sister knew it and got married without a murmur. We’re not even making you marry a man—”

“—Big of you.” Olivia scowled.

“—It is, actually. You’re going to be the first lesbian princess to marry, and Jemima is a good fit for that. If you must marry a woman, it has to be the right kind of woman. This is not just about you, Olivia, this is about being a member of the royal family — you need to settle down. And ever since Ellie, you don’t seem to want to try.”

Why was everyone bringing up Ellie today? Ellie was in the past, married to another, and Olivia wanted to focus on her future. That may or may not feature love, but she wanted to at least give it a try. To do that, she had to calm down, play it cool. Appealing to her father was her best bet.

“I just wasn’t fully prepared for that press conference today — you only told me about it last night. And it felt like we were lying, like they could see through the charade.”

Olivia knew it was time she faced up to her royal responsibilities — the clock was ticking — but she hadn’t thought it would leave her feeling so… empty. Bereft.

“Nonsense — the press see what they want to see,” the Queen replied, clasping her hands on her knees and fixing her daughter with her stare. “Everyone knows you and Jemima have a history, and you look perfect together. Tomorrow’s papers will be awash with your pretty, smiling faces. Well, Jemima’s at any rate.”

“She’s really not that bad a compromise, Olivia,” her father said, before looking away.

Olivia ground her teeth together: he’d compromised and look where that had got him.

If there was one marriage Olivia didn’t want to emulate, it was her parents’.

She wanted a love match, a love that burned bright every day.

She stood and walked to the fireplace, her heels clicking on the polished wooden floors. She stared at the photo of Alexandra holding her as a baby, a proud older sister at the age of six. Alex had done her duty and married Miles, and now they had two children of their own.

Olivia had no desire to emulate their marriage, either.

She turned to her parents, gathering all her courage into a ball and taking a deep breath. “I just need a few weeks to sort my head out. This has thrown me. I know what you want, and I know we agreed, but saying it out loud felt… wrong. Dishonest.”

“Welcome to royalty,” her father replied, straight-faced.

Olivia shook her head. “I’d like to go away and stay at the Cornish house. Just to clear my head and sort out what I’m really thinking.”

“The engagement’s been announced now; it’s a bit late to run off.” Her mother’s face was stoic. The Queen didn’t do touchy-feely, and she certainly didn’t understand her daughter.

“I just need some space, Mother.” Olivia pursed her lips. Surely her mother could see that, even if she didn’t agree.

“Besides, there aren’t any staff at the Cornish house at the moment; we’ve had to cut costs, show willing,” the Queen added. “And what about bodyguards?”

“I don’t need staff and I don’t need bodyguards — I’m not a teenager anymore,” Olivia said. “Plus, it means I can really have some alone time, sort myself out.” She paused. “Just two weeks, that’s all I’m asking. Then I promise to come home and go through with whatever we agree on.”

Now it was the Queen’s turn to purse her lips, casting her gaze to the floor, then to her husband.

“I suppose you think we should let her go, seeing as Olivia’s always had you wrapped around her little finger.”

Her father shrugged. “She’s only asking for two weeks, and if that’s all she needs to work things out, I say she can go.” He looked over at his youngest daughter. “Just don’t create a scene, don’t let on to people you’re there, otherwise the press might suspect something’s up. Be discreet, no wild nights or getting drunk in the village pub.”

Olivia shook her head, relief flowing through her.

They were letting her go.

“I’m a bit old for that.” She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been anywhere vaguely near a wild night. “I’ll get some glasses and even cut my hair and dye it so I won’t be recognised. Nobody will expect a short-haired princess.”

“Just don’t cut it off too short. Not like when you were in the army. You looked like a man.” The Queen wrinkled her nose.

“I looked like a woman with short hair, Mother; stop being so homophobic.”

The Queen stood, pulling herself up to her full five feet ten. She’d always been a towering presence in Olivia’s life. “We’re letting you go, don’t push it. Just make sure you’re back here so you can start to approve wedding arrangements in a few weeks.” Her voice was clipped, not to be messed with. “I’ve asked Malcolm to start looking at possible venues and to get guest lists organised.” She gave Olivia a stony look. “And remember I want long hair in the wedding photos, so not too short.”

“The wedding’s three months away.”

“Not. Too. Short.”

“And no wild parties or I’m sending bodyguards,” her father added.

Olivia took a deep breath and pulled back her shoulders. “I promise I’ll be good.”

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