Author Susan Carroll
Genre Romantic Fantasy
Publisher Random House
An alluring love triangle and a daring caper unfold in this imaginative retelling of Cinderella, featuring an indomitable damsel who’s not so easily swept off her glass slippers.
At the tender age of seventeen, Ella Upton lost her innocence to a traveling minstrel, a youth with flaxen hair and a golden voice whose deep blue eyes concealed his true intentions—until it was too late. Seven years later, Ella’s stepsisters chatter about winning the affections of the dreamy Prince Florian at the royal ball, but Ella has no such illusions. Instead, her dashing best friend, Malcolm Hawkridge, persuades her with his reckless charm and wicked smile to use the occasion to steal back a magic orb from the corrupt king. But before the clock strikes midnight, Ella finds herself pursued by more than one prince—not to mention Commander Horatio Crushington, who captures her with his piercing gaze from across the crowded ballroom. Dancing through the sudden swirl of suitors, Ella feels her cheeks burning—and not solely because of the orb hidden in her gown. Has the strapping Horatio awakened long-dormant desires or is Ella finally coming to grips with her feelings for Malcolm? Only the girl who thought she’d given up on love can decide.
Once upon a time. . . That is how a good story should begin or so I have been told. These tales always seem to involve a poor, but sweet young maiden who attends a royal ball, falls in love with a charming prince and lives happily ever.
This is not my story. While I am certainly poor enough, no one would ever describe me as sweet and our kingdom’s prince is far from charming. When I did get a chance to go the ball, my mind was more set on burglary than falling in love and…But I am getting ahead of myself.
My story actually starts on what promised to be another ordinary day until someone came hammering at my front door with enough force to snap the ancient brass lion knocker in half. At that moment, I was kneeling in front of the library hearth, ramming a long-handled broom up the chimney while soot sifted down over my face and hands, speckling the apron I wore over my old grey woolen gown. Only the kerchief knotted about my head prevented my hair from becoming a shade of ash blonde. I was in no fit state to receive callers.
When the insistent rapping continued, I shouted out, “Can someone please answer the front door?”
I knew both of my stepsisters were near at hand, entertaining one of their vapid beaux in the parlor. But when Amy and Netta were anywhere in the vicinity of an eligible young man, they tended to become so pixified, it affected their hearing. There was no response to my plea other than the sound of muffled giggling.
I struggled to my feet, trying to wipe my hands clean on my apron, but it was only making matters worse. I stomped from the library, aware that I was leaving a trail of soot all along the main hall that I would be obliged to clean up later. Just add that to the many other tasks facing me this afternoon. The thought did nothing to improve my mood.
I flung open the door, stopping the caller in mid-rap. “What?” I demanded.
The round florid-faced little man on the doorstep drew back in dismay at the sight of me. He was clad in all the accoutrements of a royal herald, a blue toque with a jaunty feather perched on top of his auburn curls. I was no more pleased to see him than he was me. If I had known the caller was a messenger from the palace, he could have rapped away until the knocker disintegrated. I would have never opened the door.
Recovering from his initial dismay, the herald puffed out his cheeks and raised his trumpet to his lips.
“Aw, don’t do that!” I grabbed the trumpet and wrenched it away from him, stopping him in mid-toot.
He gasped in outrage, bouncing on his toes as he tried to retrieve the trumpet, but I held it easily out of his reach.
“Miss! I must sound the trumpet. It is protocol.”
“You were supposed to have blown the horn before you ever knocked.”
He sank back on his heels, looking disgruntled. “I was warned that people are unlikely to answer their doors if I sound the trumpet first. Especially at this house, Miss Upton.”
Despite my layers of soot, the man knew who I was. Obviously he had been warned.
“What happened to George, the herald who used to work this street?” I asked.
“Surely he is a little young for that.”
“The poor man’s nerves were a wreck. He’s gone off to join the Loyal Order of Hermits in the Red Grove Forest. He simply couldn’t endure any more of the abuse heaped upon him, all the insults and threats, being set upon by dogs or angry cats.” The herald directed a pointed glare at me. “Or having pails of dirty water flung on his head.”
“I was washing the second story windows and the bucket slipped from my hand,” I protested. “It was an accident.”
Well, almost. It was George’s own fault for provoking me. When I refused to come down from the ladder to take his message, he had shouted the tidings up at me, that the palace had declared a new (and exorbitant) tax on windows. Dumping the wash water on his head had been a purely involuntary response. Still, if I had contributed in any way to poor George becoming a hermit, I did feel a twinge of remorse.
“So what is your name?” I asked.
The new herald bowed with a great flourish, his soft round stomach doubling over his belt. “Rhufawn Smythe, at your service, miss.”
“Rhufawn?” I chuckled.
He straightened, scowling at me. “I am sure it is no more amusing than being called Prunella.”
Although I utterly loathed my first name, I said, “Prunella is an old family name among the Uptons.”
“So is Rhufawn among the Smythes.” He sniffed. “You know, I think it very unfair that we royal heralds should constantly be subjected to such mockery and abuse. It is not our fault that the news coming from the palace is not always pleasant. We are simply doing our duty and—”
“All right!” I cut him off with an upraised gesture to call a truce. “So do your duty.”
“But no trumpet,” I warned as I returned the instrument to him.
He pouted, but he attached the horn back to the loop on his belt. Rhufawn delved into the large leather pouch which I could see was crammed with rolled parchments. He produced one and prepared to unfurl it.
“Just give it here.” I grabbed for the parchment but the new herald was prepared this time. His pudgy fingers clamped down, refusing to release it.
“I am supposed to read it to you.”
“I have been reading since I was three.”
“It is protocol, miss. I have to make sure you have heard and understood the proclamation. And you will want to hear, because I assure you it is good tidings.”
Good tidings from the palace? That was as unlikely as the fabled cow being able to jump over the moon.
“One of the best fairy-tale retellings of Cinderella I’ve read . . . vivid and rich, lush and three-dimensional . . . I was in love from the first page, and I can’t wait to read more!”—The Romance Reviews (top pick)
“Once the author wrapped me into the characters, I was a goner. You couldn’t pay me to put the book down.”—The Jeep Diva
99 cents at all retailers for a limited time!
Amazon – http://amzn.to/2tpmIFT
iTunes – http://apple.co/2rA2XtC
B&N – http://bit.ly/2sSZyKn
BAM – http://bit.ly/2sTaaJn
Google Play – http://bit.ly/2sMK5LF
Kobo – http://bit.ly/2sxhCY0
Author Susan Carroll began her career in 1986, writing historical romance and regencies, two of which were honored by Romance Writers of America with the RITA award. She has written twenty six novels to date. Her St. Leger series received much acclaim. The Bride Finder was honored with a RITA for Best Paranormal Romance in 1999 and also received the Reviewers Choice Award from Romantic Times magazine for Historical Romance of the year. Two sequels followed, The Night Drifter and Midnight Bride.
Ms. Carroll launched a new series with the publication of The Dark Queen set during the turbulent days of the French Renaissance. A blend of history, romance and intrigue, these six books relate the saga of the Cheney sisters, three women of extraordinary abilities who live in constant peril of being accused of witchcraft. The novels combine fictional characters with real events and personages such as the enigmatic Catherine de Medici , the lusty Henry of Navarre and the dynamic Elizabeth I of England.
Her latest book, Disenchanted is a humorous retelling of the Cinderella story. The sequel, Charmless will be released in May 2018.
Social Media Links