It's so nice to be visiting with you today. Thanks for hosting a stop on my virtual book tour. Today I want to talk about two brothers, Enrique and Alejandro, from my new release Not-So-Perfect Princess. Two men couldn't be more different.
Enrique is the older of the two and crown prince of la Isla de la Aurora, a small Mediterranean island off the coast of Spain. His entire life has been spent preparing to be king. He's proper and polished. He's put aside activities and hobbies enjoyed in his youth to embrace his duty and concentrate on state business. Enrique wants to marry a princess bride with a large dowry to secure his struggling country's financial future.
Alejandro is the younger brother aka "the Spare." He's lived in his older brother's shadow his entire life and hates all things royal, including being a prince. Years of being ignored have turned him into a rebel, the black sheep of the family. He believes people have a duty to themselves to follow their hearts and pursue their dreams. His brother's upcoming wedding to wealthy Princess Julianna will give Alejandro the freedom from his princely duties he so desires.
If you had to choose between the two brothers based on that information, could you? After meeting Enrique and Alejandro, Princess Julianna (called Jules by those closest to her) believed the choice to be clear:
…the two brothers were tall, dark and handsome. They shared the same brown eyes, but the similarities ended there. One was sexy and dangerous, the black sheep. The other was formal and Old World, the future king.
Jules might be inexperienced when it came to men, but she wasn’t stupid. Even if thinking about Alejandro made her pulse quicken, Enrique would make the better husband and father. He was the logical choice, the smart choice.
The only choice.
Yet Jules, who considers herself a proper princess, finds herself surprisingly tempted by Alejandro. It's good thing Jules is smart enough to realize Alejandro might be fun and exciting, but he isn't without faults:
But Alejandro wasn’t perfect, either. His blatant disdain for the responsibilities thrust upon him by his royal birth and his lack of respect for the monarchy made her question his priorities. She wished he wasn’t so intent on turning his back on his duty.
Being dutiful is all Jules knows. She's been raised to be a queen. The only way for that to happen is marry a king or a crown prince. Yet Enrique isn't all she hoped he would be. How's a princess to decide which brother is the right one for her?
Blurb for Not-So-Perfect Princess
While the Princess was sleeping…
Dutiful Princess Julianna has a secret—she’s actually happiest makeup free, sailing with the sea breeze in her hair. Her attraction to rebel prince Alejandro is instant—but her intended is his brother, the proper but dull Enrique!
For the first time, Julianna’s irresistibly tempted. Before long, she’s spending her nights sailing with gorgeous Alejandro while the rest of the palace believes she’s sleeping. Soon she’ll have to choose—remain the perfect princess, or follow her heart and stop sleepwalking her way through life.…
“We are approaching the palace,” the pilot announced over the headsets.
Goosebumps prickled Jules’s skin.
Full of curiosity at her new home, she peered out the window. A huge white stucco and orange tile roofed palace perched above the sea. The multistoried building had numerous balconies and windows. But no tower. Another good sign?
A paved road and narrower walking paths wove their way through a landscape of palm trees, flowering bushes and manicured greenery. Water shot at least twenty-five feet into the air from an ornately decorated fountain.
The Mediterranean island and palace were a world away from Aliestle and the stone castle fortress nestled high in the Alps. Living somewhere lighter and brighter would be a welcome change from the Grimm-like fairy-tale setting she called home.
“Father may have finally gotten this right,” Brandt said.
Jules nodded. “It’s pretty.”
“At least on the outside.”
She sighed. “Don’t forget, dear brother, you’re here for moral support.”
“And to make sure the honeymoon doesn’t start early,” Brandt joked.
As if she’d ever had that opportunity present itself. She glared at him. “Be quiet.”
“Sore spot, huh?”
He had no idea. Engaged three times, and she’d never come close to anything other than kisses. Besides making out with Christian while a teenager, she’d been kissed once as an adult. Prince Niko’s kiss while sailing had been pleasant enough, but nothing like the passion she’d overheard other women discussing. Perhaps with Prince Enrique…
The helicopter landed on a helipad. The engine stopped. The rotor’s rotation slowed. Her hand trembled, making her work harder to unbuckle her harness. Finally she undid the latch. As they exited, a uniformed staff member placed their luggage onto a wheeled cart.
“Welcome to La Isla de la Aurora, Your Royal Highness Crown Prince Brandt and Your Royal Highness Princess Julianna.” An older man in a gray suit bowed. “I am Ortiz. Prince Enrique sends his regrets for not meeting you himself, but he is attending to important state business at the moment.”
“We understand.” Brandt smiled. He might not be the typical statesman, but no one could fault his friendliness. “State business comes first.”
Jules looked around at the potted plants and flowering vines. A floral scent lingered in the air. Paradise? Perhaps.
“Thank you, sir.” Ortiz sounded grateful. “I am in charge of the palace and at your service. Whatever you need, I’ll see that you have it.”
Jules glanced at Brandt, whose grin resembled the Cheshire cat’s. She would have to make sure he didn’t take advantage of the generous offer of hospitality.
“The palace grounds are lovely, Ortiz,” she said. “Very inviting with so many colorful flowers and plants.”
“I am happy you like it, ma’am.” His smile took years off his tanned, lined face. “Please allow me to show you and your party inside.”
Klaus nodded. Her bodyguard, in his fifties with a crew cut and a gun hidden under his tailored suit jacket, had protected her for as long as she could remember.
“Lead the way, Ortiz,” she said.
As they walked from the helipad to the front door, Ortiz gave her a brief history lesson about the palace. She had no idea the royal family had ruled the island for so long. No doubt the continuous line of succession had impressed her father who would want to ensure a long reign for his grandchildren and the heirs that followed.
“Prince Enrique has done so much for the island,” Ortiz said. “A finer successor to King Dario cannot be found, ma’am.”
If only Jules knew whether the compliments were truthful or propaganda. She knew little about her future husband besides his name. “I’m looking forward to meeting Prince Enrique.”
Ortiz beamed. “He said the same thing about you at lunchtime, ma’am.”
A third good sign? Jules hoped so.
When they reached the palace entry, two arched wooden doors parted as if by magic. Once the heavy doors were fully open, she saw two uniformed attendants standing behind and holding them.
Jules stared at the entrance with a mix of anticipation and apprehension. If all went well—and she hoped it did—this palace would be her new home. She would live with her husband and raise her children here. She fought the urge to cross her fingers.
With a deep breath, she stepped inside. The others followed. A thirty-foot ceiling gave the large marble tiled foyer an open and airy feel. Stunning paintings, a mix of modern and classical works, hung on the walls. A marble statue of a woman sitting in the middle captured Jules’s attention. “What an amazing sculpture.”
“That is Eos, one of the Greek’s second generation Titan gods,” Ortiz explained. “We are more partial to the Latin name, Aurora. Whichever name you prefer, she’ll always be the Goddess of the Dawn.”
“Beautiful,” Brandt agreed. “Eos had a strong desire for handsome young men. If she looked anything like this statue, I’m sure she had no trouble finding willing lovers.”
“Close the front doors,” a male voice shouted. “Now.”
The attendants pushed the heavy doors. Grunts sounded. Muscles strained.
“Hurry,” the voice urged.
The people behind Jules rushed farther into the foyer so the doors could be shut. The momentum pushed her forward.
A shirtless man wearing shorts ran toward the doors. Something black darted across the floor.
Yvette screamed. “A rat, Your Highnesses.”
“There are no rats in the palace,” Ortiz shouted.
The ball of black fur darted between Jules’s legs. Startled, she stumbled face-first.
“Catch her,” Klaus yelled.
Too late. The marble floor seemed to rise up to meet Jules though she was the one falling.
She stopped abruptly. Not against the floor.
Strong arms embraced Jules. Her face pressed against a hard, bare chest. Her cheek rested against warm skin. Dark hair tickled her nose. The sound of a heartbeat filled her ears. He smelled so good. No fancy colognes. Only soap and water and salty ocean air.
She wanted another sniff.
Ortiz shrieked. “Your Highnesses. Are either of you hurt?”
Highnesses? The man must be a prince. Her father had only spoken of the crown prince. No other brothers had been mentioned. Oh, if this were Enrique…
Melissa McClone writes for Harlequin Romance. Her November '10 release Christmas Magic on the Mountain is a RITA® Finalist in the Contemporary Series Category. She graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but quit her job to write romance novels. Writing happily ever afters is a lot more fun than analyzing jet engine performance. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, four cats and a dog named Chaos.