It isn’t always easy being royal—and no one knows that better than Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria.
Constantly at her mother’s side, the 27-year-old princess doesn’t have a moment for herself…not to mention romance.
But when she’s reintroduced to Prince Henry Battenberg—with whom she used to play when she was a child—she finds herself thinking that maybe she’s not destined for a lonely life after all. That is, if he can get past her mother first.
But Henry isn’t the only man vying for Beatrice’s heart. Her nephew, Wilhelm II, has sent a charming Scott—Gregory MacAlister—to seduce the princess and spy on the queen.
From heartbreaking misunderstandings to a thrilling pursuit, Princess Beatrice will have to determine which of these men she can trust…and who can win her heart.
In Mary Hart Perry’s romantic story, history intersects with fiction, as we get to know Queen Victoria’s family—including the daughter she kept so close—on such an intimate level. At once charming and thrilling, this page-turner will have you yearning for your own royal romance.
Read on for an excerpt from Seducing the Princess, and then download the book.
Minutes later, Beatrice rode out through the paddock at a leisurely pace, seated side saddle as all Victoria’s girls had been taught. “The only lady-like way to ride,” the queen stated. After ten minutes or so Beatrice felt as though she and the horse had become sufficiently accustomed to each other. She cropped the horse into a comfortable canter and enjoyed the familiar rhythm and bounce of the horse’s stride. The air smelled sweetly of spring flowers and new grass. She followed a dirt path into woods lush with new growth. The perfume of damp moss, pungent pine needles, and feathery ferns pleased and soothed her, dissolving the tension she always felt when forced to converse with strangers or appear before a large group of people. Lovely, this is absolutely perfect!
“Hello, hold up there!” a shout came from behind her.
Beatrice tensed at the sound of another set of horse’s hooves. Her first thought was that she had strayed off the duke’s land and offended a neighbor by trespassing. But was that really possible? She’d ridden less than a mile; the estate covered hundreds of acres. She turned her mount to face the oncoming rider.
With a jolt she saw it was a lone man. He rode a gleaming black Arabian that seemed as spirited as her mare was calm. The approach of the other horse made her own mount anxious. Genevieve danced in place apprehensively. Beatrice checked her with the reins.
“Sssshhh, it’s all right, my pretty,” Beatrice soothed, stroking the horse’s silky neck. “It’s one of your pals.” She recognized the Arabian as a horse the groom had passed over when choosing hers, no doubt having assumed the powerful animal would be too much for her to handle.
The rider came closer and, at last, she recognized him. “Liko! Henry, hello.”
“Are you escaping the madness too?” he asked cheerfully, stopping close to her. “Wise woman. The palace is crammed to the gills with guests. Louis is a mad man he’s so nervous. And Sandro claims he’s in love with a girl whose Russian mother despises Germans. I told them both they’d be better off not falling in love at all. Find a girl with money who offends no one. Marry her, if you must marry at all.”
“Oh, do you really believ—“ she started to object, but then saw he was laughing at her. “You’re trying to get a rise out of old Auntie, aren’t you?”
He looked perplexed. “Old—? Who is that?” He turned in his saddle to look around the woods. “Oh, you mean you? How can you think of yourself as old? You are no more aged than I?”
It was true, she now remembered. They were the same age. And yet he seemed so very young to her—utterly dashing in his military uniform and on that magnificent steed that looked as though it wanted to bolt down a hill in a cavalry charge.
“Why are you out here on your own?” he asked. “You could have sent someone for me. I’d have been happy to accompany you.”
“You rode out alone. Why did you not send for me?” She swallowed, shocked by her boldness.
“You’re right, Your Highness.” He laughed and turned his horse as if to go. “There’s no reason you can’t seek solitude. If that was your intent, then I’m intruding.”
Smiling, he gave her a jaunty salute. “I shall leave you in peace.” “No!” she cried out, but immediately controlled her impulse to plead with him to stay. More calmly she said, “It was nice for a bit, riding alone, but I’d enjoy your company. That is, if you’re not wanting solitude.”
“The company of a lovely lady suits me just fine.” He flashed her another smile, and this one melted her down to her toes. He’s teasing me, she thought, but decided she didn’t mind. Perhaps she’d just pretend right along with him. Pretend that he meant what he said. Play the part of a worldly, attractive woman. Flirt!
They rode further into the woods, side by side for as long as the path accommodated two horses. When it narrowed, he let her take the lead while they chatted about their families and swapped Court gossip until they emerged into an open field dotted with red and white poppies.
“Do you have any idea how much you surprise me?” Henry said as they cut through tall grasses whose feathery tips brushed her stirrups.
“Surprise you. How?”
“Louis told me you were quite the cold fish.”
She cringed. It wasn’t the first time she’d overheard such comments. “I don’t see how he’d know,” she said with a brusqueness she hadn’t intended. “We’ve barely ever spoken.”
Henry brought his horse up alongside hers. The animals seemed to have calmed down in each other’s presence and walked along amicably. “I think that’s the point.” He gave her a sidelong look. “Louis tried to start a conversation with you, once, a long time ago.”
Oh, that, she thought and grimaced. “If you’re referring to that awful dinner several years ago.”
“He was very upset, you know, that you wouldn’t speak to him.”
She closed her eyes for a moment, as if to shut out the memory. “I couldn’t speak to him.”
“Why on Earth not?”
“Because my mother forbade it.”
She sensed his horse coming to a stop; she reined in her mount as well. When she turned to look at him, his long face was no longer smooth. His dazzling eyes had darkened to a stormy gray-blue, and his smile seemed to have never been. “On what grounds did she swear you to silence?”
Beatrice pursed her lips. Was it disloyal to question the queen’s decisions? Hadn’t her rules been made with her daughter’s safety and happiness in mind?
She sighed. “At the time, it seemed to make sense, what she told me to do. Mama was concerned that Louis was showing interest in me; she said it was of an unhealthy sort.” Beatrice dared not look Henry in the eye as she spoke. This was, after all, his beloved brother they were talking about. “And anyway, he was older than I and intent on a career in the Royal navy. Mama said I was not to encourage him in any way. If Louis was sincere, it wouldn’t matter that I was cool toward him. She told me he would make his true intentions known, and then we would see that it was not simply a flirtation.”
“But you didn’t just behave coolly.” Henry caught her eyes with his own. “You were silent the entire dinner. You refused to join his polite conversation.”
She shook her head, suddenly feeling sick to her stomach. “I can’t imagine what he thought of me. I know now he’s a good man. He didn’t deserve to be mistreated. But I–” She shuddered and turned her face away so Henry wouldn’t see her self-loathing.
“But you did as the queen demanded.”
“Yes. It was horrid of me. I see that now. But you don’t know what it’s like, living with her. I love her. She is my mother. But you cannot reason with the queen when she has her mind set on something…or against someone.” Near tears, Beatrice let her gaze fall to her hands on the reins. “You just can’t know—“
“But I can damn well guess.”
“I don’t blame you for hating me,” she whispered.
“Hate you?” He coughed out a laugh. “Dear girl, I don’t hate you. You puzzle me, that’s true. But hate? How could I hate such a lovely, intelligent woman? You have done me no harm.”
“But your brother—I spurned him.”
“And look at what happiness he has found with your niece. It was meant to be, you see.” He grinned, a bit naughtily she thought. “Besides, if he had married you, we wouldn’t have been able to meet like this. Now would we?”
“No, I guess not,” she said, her heart shimmying in her breast. Like this? What did he mean? “I would be your sister-in-law.”
“And the thoughts I had last night while we danced—they would have been highly improper.”
“Oh?” A rush of heat filled her. She had to look away from him. Again. The effect he was having on her was most…disturbing.
He laughed. “I’m sorry, Beatrice. I’m shocking you. Is it wrong to admit that I find you attractive? It just comes out when I’m near you.”
“She was so flustered now she could hardly speak. She didn’t need a mirror to see that her face was afire. “I am flattered, Liko. But I know what I am, and I know men—not even kind men like you—see anything pleasing in me.”
An expression of pure astonishment flashed across his face. “Oh, come now, Princess. What game are you playing?”
He leaned out of his saddle, toward her, and the aroma of leather, musky shaving lather, and pipe smoke came at her, a wall of masculinity. “I’m not blind, Princess. Let me tell you a secret. Come a bit closer.”
She leaned forward, holding on to her saddle for fear of falling out of it, curious at his tone but also wary. Before she could turn her head to hold her ear toward his lips, he kissed her full on the mouth.
“There!” he cried triumphantly. “I’ve wanted to do that since we were twelve years old.”
“Henry!” She was sure now he was toying with her. “You shouldn’t.”
“Why not? This isn’t the dark ages. People can say what they feel. I like you, Beatrice. My brother thinks you’re a strange little fish, and I’m glad he does because you’re still swimming free in the stream for me to catch.”
“To—” she swallowed, widening her eyes at him “—catch? Me?”
“Yes!” He laughed and made a grab for her that she wasn’t entirely sure was sham.
And then…then, it was as if she remembered what it was like to play with little Henry Battenberg as they chased through the gardens at Buckingham and along powdery sand at Osborne by the sea.
She tossed her head at him. “I dare you, Liko,” she challenged, feeling the corners of her lips turn up in a mischievous grin that hadn’t been there for ages. “You just try and catch me.”
And she dug her heels into the muscled belly of her mount and shot across poppy-strewn fields with a laughing prince in pursuit.
Want to keep reading? Download Seducing the Princess now.
Can't get enough tales of royal intrigue? A thrilling royal read inspired by true events, Seducing the Princess is the perfect book for lovers of historical romance.
Princess Beatrice has always considered herself to be an ugly duckling. But when she learns Queen Victoria has been withholding information about potential suitors from her, Beatrice is unprepared for the difficult romantic choices she'll soon have to make.
From a Scot with an ulterior motive, to a charming nobleman passionate about seeing the true Bea, Beatrice has her hands full — and she'll need all the allies possible to stay alive while following her heart.
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