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Newly single Caro Cartwright has decided that when it comes to life (and men), ordinary is good. Until her best friend, Princess Lotty, begs her to stage a diversion by masquerading as Prince Philippe of Montluce's latest squeeze....
Playboy Philippe thinks their attempt is doomed. How can he pretend to be in love with someone like Caro, who's so...unglamorous? Then Caro starts winning hearts left, right and center—including his. Can Philippe convince Caro not to settle for normal—but for an extraordinary life as princess of Montluce?
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Jessica Hart had a haphazard early career that took her around the world in a variety of interesting but very lowly jobs, all of which have provided inspiration on which to draw when it comes to the settings and plots of her stories. She eventually stumbled into writing as a way of funding a PhD in medieval history, but was quickly hooked on romance and is now a full-time author based in York. If you’d like to know more about Jessica, visit her website: www.jessicahart.co.ukExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Subject: Internet dating
What a shame about the deli folding. I know you loved that job. You must be really fed up, but your email about the personality test on that internet dating site really made me laugh—good to know you haven't lost your sense of humour in spite of everything that skunk George did to you! All I can say is that compared to Grandmere's matchmaking schemes, internet dating sounds the way to go. Perhaps we should swap lives??! Lotty
Subject: Swapping places
What a brilliant idea, Lotty! My life is a giddy whirl at the moment, what with temping at a local insurance company and trying to write profile for new dating site (personality test results too depressing on other one) but if you'd like to try it, you're more than welcome! Of course, living your life would be tough for me—living in a palace, having (admittedly terrifying) grandmother introducing me to suitable princes and so on— but for you, Lotty, anything! Just let me know where and when and I'll have a stab at being a princess for a change ooh, that's just given me an idea for my new profile. Who says fantasy isn't good for you??? Yours unregally Caro XXX
PRINCESS SEEKS FROG: Curvaceous, fun-loving brunette, 28, looking for that special guy for good times out and in.
'What do you think?' Caro read out her opening line to Stella, who was lying on the sofa and flicking through a copy of Glitz.
Stella looked up from the magazine, her expression dubious. 'It doesn't make sense. Princess seeks frog? What's that supposed to mean?'
'It means I'm looking for an ordinary guy, not a Prince Charming in disguise. I thought it was obvious,' said Caro, disappointed.
'No ordinary guy would ever work that out, I can tell you that much,' said Stella. She went back to flicking. 'You don't want to be cryptic or clever. Men hate that.'
'It's all so difficult.' Caro deleted the offending words on the screen, and chewed her bottom lip. 'What about the curvaceous bit? I'm worried it might make me sound fat, but there's not much point in meeting someone who's looking for a slender goddess, is there? He'd just run away screaming the moment he laid eyes on me. Besides, I want to be honest.'
'If you're going to be honest, you'd better take out fun-loving,' Stella offered. 'It makes it sound as if you're up for anything.'
'That's the whole point. I'm changing. Being sensible didn't get me anywhere with George, so I'm going to be a good time girl from now on.'
She would be like Melanie, all giggles and low cut tops and flirty looks. Melanie, who had sashayed into George's office and knocked Caro's steady, sensible fiancé off his feet.
'I can't say what I'm really like or no one will want to go out with me,' she added glumly.
'Rubbish,' said Stella. 'Say you're kind and generous and a brilliant cook—that would be honest.'
'Guys don't want kind, even if they say they do,' Caro said bitterly, remembering George. 'They want sexy and fun-loving.'
'Hmm, well, if you want to be sexy, you'd better do something about your clothes,' said Stella, lowering Glitz so that she could inspect her friend's outfit with a critical eye. 'I know you're into the vintage look, but a crochet top??
'It's an original from the Seventies.'
'And it was vile then, too.'
Caro made a face at her. With the top she was wearing a tartan miniskirt from the nineteen-sixties and bright red pumps. She was the first to admit that she couldn't always carry off the vintage look successfully, but she had been pleased with this particular outfit until Stella had started shaking her head.
Still, there was no point in arguing. She went back to her profile. 'OK, what about Keen cook seeks fellow foodie??
'You'll just get some guy who wants to tie you to the stove and expect you to have his dinner ready the moment he comes through the door. You've already done that for George, and look where that got you.' Stella caught the flash of pain on her friend's face and her voice softened. 'I know how miserable you've been, Caro, but honestly, you're well out of it. George wasn't the right man for you.'
'I know.' Caro caught herself sighing and squared her shoulders. 'It's OK, Stella. I'm fine now. I'm moving on, aren't I?'
Pressing the backspace key with one finger, she deleted the last sentence. 'It's just so depressing having to sign up to these online dating sites. I don't remember it being this hard before. It's like in the five years I was with George, all the single men round here have disappeared into some kind of Bermuda Triangle!'
'Yeah, it's called marriage,' said Stella. She picked up Glitz again and flicked through in search of the page she wanted. 'I don't know why you're looking in Ellerby, though. Why don't you get your friend Lotty to introduce you to some rich, glamorous men who eat in Michelin starred restaurants all the time?'
Caro laughed, remembering Lotty's email. 'I wish! But poor Lotty never gets within spitting distance of an interesting man either. You'd think, being a princess, she'd have a fantastically glamorous time, but her grandmother totally runs her life. Apparently she's trying to fix Lotty up with someone suitable right now.' Caro hooked her fingers in the air to emphasise the inverted commas. 'I mean, who wants a man your grandmother approves of? I think I'd rather stick with internet dating!'
'I wouldn't mind if he was anything like the guy Lotty's going out with at the moment,' said Stella. 'I saw a picture of them just a second ago.
If he was her grandmother's choice, I'd say she's got good taste and she can fix me up any time!'
'Lotty's actually going out with someone?' Caro swivelled round from the computer and stared at Stella. 'She didn't say that! Who is he?'
'Give me a sec. I'm trying to find that photo of her.' When the flicking failed, Stella licked her finger and tried turning the pages one by one. 'I can never get over you being friends with a real princess. I wish I'd been to a posh school like yours.'
'You wouldn't have liked it. It was fine if you had a title and your own pony and lots of blonde hair to toss around, but if you were only there because your mum was a teacher and your dad the handyman, they didn't want to know.'
'Lotty wanted to know you,' Stella pointed out, still searching.
'Lotty was different. We started on the same day and we were both the odd ones out, so we stuck together. We were both fat and spotty and had braces, and poor Lotty had a stammer too.'
'She's not fat and spotty now,' said Stella. 'She looked lovely in that picture ah, here it is!'
Folding back the page, she read out the caption under one of the photographs on the Party! Party! Party! page. 'Here we go: Princess Charlotte of Montluce arriving at the Nightingale Ball—fab dress, by the way—with Prince Philippe.
'Philippe, the lost heir to Montluce, has only recently returned to the country,' she read on. The ball was their first public outing as a couple, but behind the scenes friends say they are inseparable and royal watchers are expecting them to announce their engagement this summer. Is one of Europe's most eligible bachelors off the market already?'
'Let me see that!' Caro whipped the magazine out of Stella's hands and frowned down at the shiny page. 'Lotty and Philippe? I don't believe it!'
But there was Lotty, looking serene, and there, next to her, was indeed His Serene Highness Prince Philippe Xavier Charles de Montvivennes.
She recognised him instantly. That summer he had been seventeen, just a boy, but with a dark, reckless edge to his glamorous looks that had terrified her at the time. Thirteen years on, he looked taller, broader, but still lean, still dangerous. He had the same coolly arrogant stare for the camera, the same sardonic smile that made Caro feel fifteen again: breathless, awkward, painfully aware that she didn't belong.
Stella sat up excitedly. 'You know him?'
'Not really. I spent part of a summer holiday in France with Lotty once, and he was part of a whole crowd that used to hang around the villa. It was just before Dad died and, to be honest, I don't remember much about that time now. I know I felt completely out of place, but I do remember Philippe,' Caro said slowly. 'I was totally intimidated by him.'
She had a picture of Philippe lounging around the spectacular infinity pool, looking utterly cool and faintly disreputable. There had always been some girl wrapped round him, sleek and slender in a minuscule bikini while Caro had skulked in the shade with Lotty, too shy to swim in her dowdy one-piece while they were there.
'He and the others used to go out every night and make trouble,' she told Stella. 'There were always huge rows about it, and one or other of them would be sent home on some private plane in disgrace for a while.'
'God, it sounds so glamorous,' said Stella enviously. 'Did you get to go trouble-making too?'
'Are you kidding?' Caro hooted with laughter. 'Lotty and I would never have...
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Book Description Harlequin. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0373177356 . Seller Inventory # Z0373177356ZN
Book Description Harlequin, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373177356
Book Description Harlequin Romance, 2011. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373177356