Plot[ edit ] Fifteen-year-old Ella Brown of Fridesia, now known as Princess Cynthiana Eleanora, is engaged to Prince Charming and living in the palace preparing for the wedding day and life as a princess. For the most part, she finds life at the palace to be dull, soon discovers the prince seems to be lacking in both charm and brains and laments the fact that noblewomen have virtually no power whatsoever. She despises Madame Bisset, who is in charge of her training, but makes friends with Mary, a young servant girl, and Jed Reston, who is standing in for his father who had a stroke as her history teacher. It is through him that Ella learns the rumors surrounding her engagement involving a fairy godmother and a pumpkin coach, and she tells him the truth.
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That meant I was alone when I felt a timid tug on my dress. I mean, Princess. My own mother had died when I was born, and my father said ithurt to talk about her, so I had very little in the way of even secondhand memories. Certainly Lucille was no substitute for a loving mother.
I dragged myself out of self-pity and directed my attention back to the child. But her eyes were lively and quick, and I found myself looking at them and forgetting the rest. If you get a chance, could you let me know tomorrow how Lord Reston is doing? I heard you ask at the table. She probably knew more about palace protocol too. I squinted thoughtfully. I went off to my needlepoint feeling a little cheerier. That evening was my time to meet with the prince. We had an hour together just about every other night, depending on his schedule.
I saw him at the banquet table every night, of course, but that was often from a distance, because the seating chart always changed. In the beginning, they always placed me with Madame Bisset and my other instructors, so they could correct any horrifying error I made before it attracted too much attention. The protocol of these visits was strictly regimented. My lady-in-waiting would curtsy and discreetly remove herself. I studied the tapestry on the wall, a dramatic scene of huntsmen killing a wild boar.
I dismissed her ideas as too silly to even think about. He sounded like he had a bad cold. The candles sputtered in their sconces. The old grand-father clock by the door donged eight times. Remembering the ball, I almost missed the opening door. But then there was the prince, in all his glory: clear blue eyes, high cheekbones, rugged jaw, blond hair precisely the right length because it was cut every fourth day by the royal barber. Tonight the prince was wearing a deep blue waistcoat that exactly matched his eyes and showed off his muscular chest and trim waist.
My heart quickened, as always. Dizzily, I thought back to a summer afternoon years ago, before the Step-Evils entered my life, when several of the other girls in the neighborhood and I were wading in the creek behind our house, talking of whom we would marry. I bent forward and extended my hand for kissing.
Charm took it, and the brush of his lips on my skin sent shivers down my spine. His voice was low and deep, just as you would expect. Perfect, like everything else about him. He sat down beside me, his left leg a scant inch from my skirt.
Had he heard about Lord Reston? Would I be violating some etiquette rule by bringing up his condition? Tonight, I decided, the less said the better. The chaperon coughed behind us. The clock ticked. I saw the time on its face: And already Prince Charming and I had run out of things to say. I often wished, during these stiff meetings, that I could skip ahead in my life, past the glorious wedding, to maybe a year from now.
Then, after many hours together without a chaperon, I could picture the prince and I cuddling cozily on these cushions instead of sitting stiffly an inch apart. Prince Charming gave me an innocent, adorable smile. When we danced, he kept one hand on just the right spot on the small of my back, gently guiding me.
His other hand held mine. He jerked his head toward me, jolted by the urgency in my voice. I may have surprised him into telling the truth. Were ladies allowed to say that? The prince smiled indulgently. Why, we throw away food here at the castle that would be a feast in Suala.
We had been at war with Suala for as long as I could remember, so maybe the prince was only showing bravado, the way street urchins brag about the number of maggots in the bread they steal.
But still, I wondered I wished my hair had feeling. I wished he were touching my hand instead. The prince chuckled. It matters not to me. But his last words stopped me. What was wrong with this man? Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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