Hi Caitlin and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Expecting a Royal Scandal!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Please share the opening lines of this book:
There were some invitations a wise woman did not refuse.
The invitation in question tonight had been handwritten by one of the most famous men on earth on luxuriously heavy cardstock and then hand-delivered to her door by a servant. The message itself had been intriguingly mysterious, asking her only to “meet me in Monte Carlo.”
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- I’ve never written a king in exile before and I had a little too much fun with it.
- I’ve also never written a former reality star before, but that was also a lot of fun!
- Two characters who are all about manipulation and public personas are very, very different when they’re in private…
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
I love the scene where they meet for the first time in Monte Carlo and start playing their games with each other!
“Ms. Hollis, I presume?” he asked.
Brittany was certain he’d known her at a glance. But this was the game. So she merely nodded, all gracious condescension, as if it had been a true inquiry.
“I’ve been in exile most of my life,” he said after a moment, his mild tone at odds with the way he was studying her. “Only the revolutionaries call me any kind of king these days. Best not to invoke their brand of fealty. It comes with toppled governments and ruined cities, generally speaking.” He inclined his head, reminding her with that single, simple gesture that whatever he was now, however far he’d fallen, he’d been raised to rule. “I do hope you found your way here tonight without incident. Monte Carlo is not quite the burlesque halls of the Paris sewers—that is what we call such places in polite company, is it not? I trust you do not find yourself too far out of your accustomed—ah—depths.”
Brittany had misjudged him. She hadn’t expected a playboy royal, draped in well-dressed tarts and trailing scandal behind him wherever he roamed like some kind of acrid scent, to be anything like sharp. It hadn’t crossed her mind that he could possibly insult her with any dexterity.
Or at all, honestly.
Some part of her shifted, deep inside, in what she told herself was grudging admiration. Nothing more.
“Water seeks its own level, I’m told,” she said, and smiled all the brighter as she switched up her tactics on the fly. “And so here I am.”
His impossibly carnal mouth curved again, deeper this time, and she felt it tug at her, low in her belly where she was nothing but fire and an edgy need she didn’t really understand. It seemed to intensify by the second. With every breath.
“You should, of course, feel elevated by my notice in the first place. To say nothing of my invitation.” He shifted against the table at his back, propping himself up on an elbow. It only drew attention to the fact that he had to look down at her, though she stood in three inch heels that made her nearly six feet tall. “You do not appear to be glorying in your good fortune tonight, cara.”
“I feel very fortunate, of course,” she said in an insultingly over-polite tone, as if attempting to pacify a dimwitted child. “Truly. So lucky.”
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
That we all play games sometimes, but it’s getting beneath them that matters.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?
I have two more Presents coming out this year: The Return of the Di Sione Wife in October (think: a secret baby reunion story) and The Guardian’s Virgin Ward which is… pretty much what it says in the title. I love playing with old school themes!
All of my upcoming books are listed here: http://megancrane.com/coming.php
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: A kindle e-book from my Caitlin Crews backlist, reader’s choice.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: If you got a hand-delivered, engraved invitation from a famous man, asking you to meet him in Monte Carlo, would you go?
Excerpt from Expecting a Royal Scandal:
“I saw your act,” he said after a long, tensely glimmering moment dragged by, and Brittany found she was holding her breath. Again.
He’d been there? In the audience in that grimy little club that Europe’s most pampered imagined was a walk on the wild side of their indulged little lives? Brittany couldn’t believe she hadn’t felt this intensity of his, somehow.
She hated that she felt it now. She caught herself in the act of scowling at him and softened her expression—but she was sure he’d seen it anyway.
She was certain, somehow, that Cairo Santa Domini saw a great deal more than he should.
“You have a very interesting approach to the art of the burlesque, Ms. Hollis. All that stalking about the stage, baring your teeth in such a terrifying manner at the punters. Effectively daring them to deny you their pallid offerings of a few measly bills for a glance at your frilly underthings. You’d be better off cracking a whip and dispensing with the fiction that you are at all interested in appealing to the usual fantasies, I think.”
Brittany tucked her bright gold clutch beneath her arm, as languid as he was though something in her shook at his horrifyingly accurate picture of the side gig she’d taken to make a few more scandalized headlines, and let her smile flirt with a bit of an edge.
“Are you reviewing my performance?”
“Consider it the studied reaction of a rather ardent fan of the art form.”
“I don’t know what’s more astounding. That you sullied your aristocratic self in a burlesque club in ‘the sewers of Paris,’ as you call them, or that you would admit to such shocking behavior in the glare of all this fussy Monte Carlo elegance. Your desperate acolytes can hear you, you know.” She leaned closer and dropped her voice to a stage whisper she was fairly certain carried all the way across the Italian border less than ten miles to the east. “You’d better be careful, Your Exiled Highness. The chandeliers themselves might shatter at the notion that a man of your known proclivities attended something so prosaic and tedious as a nightclub.”
“I was under the impression my behavior no longer shocked a soul, or so the wearisome British papers would have me believe. In any case, do you really feel as if a return to the dance halls of your storied past are a good investment in your future? I’d thought your latest marriage was a step in a different direction. A pity about the will.” That half-smile of his was—she understood as it sliced through her and reminded her of the very public way her most recent husband’s heirs had announced that Brittany had been excluded from the bulk his estate—an understated weapon. “I ask as a friend.”
“I would be quite surprised if you truly had any friends at all.” She eyed him, and amped up her own smile. Polite and charming fangs. Her specialty. “But I digress. In some circles a glance at my frilly underthings is considered something of a generous gift. You’re welcome.”
“Ah, Ms. Hollis, let us not play these games.” Something not quite a smile any longer played with that stunning mouth of his, marking him significantly more formidable than a mere playboy. “You did not strip, as widely advertised. You hardly performed at all, and meanwhile the chance to get a glimpse of Jean Pierre Archambault’s disgraced widow in the nude was the primary attraction of the entire exercise. The whole thing was a regrettable tease.”
She shrugged delicately, fully aware it made the gold fabric of her gown gleam and shimmer as if she herself was lit from within. “That must have been a novel experience for a man of your well-documented depravities.”
His head tilted slightly to one side and his gaze was not particularly friendly. Somehow, this made him more beautiful. “You were a high school drop out.”
Brittany knew better than to show any sort of reaction to the shift in topic. Or to what was likely meant to be a hard slap to shove her back into her place. Trouble was, she’d never much cared for her place, or she’d still be in Gulfport scraping out a miserable existence with the rest of her relatives. No, thank you.
“Did they call it something different when you failed to finish one private boarding school after the next?” she asked sweetly. His Royal Jackass wasn’t the only one with access to the internet. “There were how many in a row? Six? I know the obscenely rich make their own rules, but I was under the impression your numerous expulsions meant you and I are both somehow making it through the big, bad world without a high school diploma. Maybe we’ll be best friends after all.”
Cairo ignored her, though she thought there was a certain appreciative gleam in those deceptively sweet eyes of his. “A runaway at sixteen, in the company of your first husband. And what a prime choice he was. He was what we might call…”
He paused, as if in deference to her feelings. Or as if he’d suddenly recalled his manners. Brittany laughed.
“We called Darryl a way to get out Gulfport, Mississippi,” she replied. She let a little more twang into her voice, as emphasis. “Believe me, you make that choice when it comes along, no matter the drug addled loser that may or may not come with it. Not the sort of choice you had to make, I imagine, while growing up coddled and adored on one of your family’s numerous foreign properties.”
The word “exile” called to mind something a bit more perilous than the Santa Domini royal family’s collection of luxury estates; here a ranch, there an island, everywhere a sprawling penthouse in the best neighborhood of any given city. It was hard to muster up any sympathy, Brittany found, especially when her own choices had been to live wherever she could make it work or end up back in her mother’s trailer.
“Your second husband was far more in the style to which you would soon become accustomed. You and he became rather well known on that dreadful television program of yours, did you not?”
“‘Hollywood Hustle’ ran for two seasons and is considered one of the less appalling reality shows out there,” Brittany said, as if in agreement. “If we’re tallying them all up.”
“That’s a rather low bar.”
“Said the pot to the kettle.” She eyed him. “Most viewers were obsessed with the heartwarming love story of Chaz and Mariella, not Carlos and me.”
“The tattoo artist.” Cairo didn’t actually crook his fingers around the word artist, but it was very strongly implied. And, as Brittany recalled, deserved. “And the sad church secretary who wanted him to follow his heart and become a derivative landscape painter, or some such drivel.”
“Pulse-pounding, riveting stuff,” Brittany agreed dryly. “As you clearly already know, if you feel you’re in a good place to judge the behavior of others despite every cautionary tale ever told about glass houses.”
It had all been entirely faked, of course. Carlos had been told the gay character he’d auditioned for had already been cast, but there was an opening for a bad girl villain and her hapless husband—as long as they were legally married. Brittany was the only woman Carlos had known who’d wanted to get out of Texas as much as he did, so the whole thing was a no-brainer. The truth was that after Darryl, Brittany didn’t think too highly of the institution of marriage anyway. She and Carlos had been together long enough to get reality show famous—which wasn’t really famous at all, despite what so many people in her family seemed to think—and then, when the show’s ratings started to fade and their name recognition with it, Brittany had dramatically “left” Carlos for Jean Pierre so Carlos could complain about it in the tabloids and land himself a new gig.
But to the greater public, of course, she was that low class whore who had ruined a poor, sweet, good man. A tale as old as time, blah blah blah.
She raised her brows at Cairo Santa Domini now. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for a fan of the show. Or any reality show, for that matter. I thought inhabitants of your social strata wafted about pretending to read Proust.”
“I spend a lot of my time on airplanes, not in glass houses and very rarely with Proust,” Cairo replied, a glint in the caramel depths of his gaze as he waved a careless hand. “Your show was such a gripping drama, was it not? You, the heartless stripper who wouldn’t give up your tawdry dancing for the good of your marriage. Carlos, the loving husband who tried so desperately to stay true to you despite the way you betrayed him on those poles every night. The path of true love, etcetera.”
Brittany felt the flash of her own smile as she aimed it at him, and concentrated on making it brighter. Bolder. It was amazing what people failed to see in the glare of a great smile.
“I’m a terrible person,” she agreed merrily. “If a television show says so, it must be true. Speaking of which, didn’t I see you featured on one of those tabloid programs just last week? Something about a hapless heiress, a weekend in the Maldives, and the corrosive nature of your company?”
“Remind me,” Cairo murmured, sounding somewhat less amused—she was almost certain. “Were you still married to Carlos when you met Jean Pierre?”
Brittany laughed. A sparkling, effortless, absolutely false laugh. “You appear to be confusing my resume with yours.”
“And speaking of Jean Pierre, may he rest in peace, what was it that drew you together? He, the elderly man confined to a wheelchair with a scant few months to live. You…”
Cairo let his gaze travel over her form, as hot and buttery as a touch. He didn’t finish that sentence.
“We had a shared interest in applied sciences, of course,” Brittany replied, deadpan and dry. “What else?”
“An interest that his children did not share, given they wasted no time in ejecting you from the old man’s chateau the moment he died and then crowing about it to the press. A shame.”
“Your invitation didn’t mention that we’d be playing biography games,” Brittany said brightly, as if it didn’t bother her in the least to be so publically eviscerated. “I feel so woefully under-prepared. Let’s see.” She held her bag beneath her elbow and ticked things off on her fingers. “Royal blood. No throne. Always naked. Eight thousand women. So many sex tapes. So scandalous the word no longer really applies because it’s really more, ‘there’s Cairo Santa Domini somewhere he shouldn’t be with someone he shouldn’t have touched and blurred out bits in a national newspaper. La la la, must be Tuesday.’”
“Ms. Hollis,” Cairo said in that drawling way only extremely upper crust people could manage to make sound so condescending. When it was only her name. He reached over as if nothing had ever been more inevitable and then he traced a very lazy, very delicate path from the gold knot at her shoulder to the very top of that shadow between her breasts. Sensation detonated inside of her. She flashed white hot. She saw red. She felt him, everywhere, and that voice of his too, all dark chocolate and stupendously bad decisions melted into something that shivered through her, dessert and desire and destruction all at once. “You flatter me.”
Brittany didn’t like the way her heart catapulted itself against the wall of her chest. She didn’t like the way her skin prickled, hot and cold, as if she was sunburned from so small and meaningless a touch. Since when had she reacted at all to a man? No matter what he did?
She didn’t like the fact that she’d completely lost sight of the fact they were in public, even if the public in question was mostly his circle of pseudo-subjects she knew trotted around with him everywhere he went—or that all she’d really seen since she walked in here was Cairo. As if she’d come here to compete for his attention, like one of his usual horde of panting women.
She liked that part least of all, and she didn’t care to ask herself why that was. It didn’t matter. None of what had happened here mattered. This spectacularly messy and inappropriate man wasn’t in any way a part of her grand plan, and would do nothing but delay her dreams of a getaway to her solitary tropical island paradise in Vanuatu. He had that kind of total disaster written all over him, and too much exposure to him made her worry it was written on her, too. She’d accepted his invitation because she was curious and he was Cairo Santa Domini, and now she knew.
He was her ruin made flesh. Nothing less than that. At least she knew it now, she told herself. That meant she had the chance to avoid it. To avoid him.
“Your Almost Highness,” she breathed, in exaggerated shock.
She wanted to snatch his lazy finger away from her overheated skin, which was why she leaned into it instead. His finger slipped into the valley between her breasts, just there beneath the edge of her angled bodice, but neither one of them looked down to see what both of them could feel. Their gazes were locked together, tangled up hot and a little bit wild, and Brittany was slightly mollified to see she wasn’t the only one affected by… whatever the hell this was. She raised her voice so they could hear her everywhere in Monaco, the trashy American that she was, every inch of her offensive to each and every highbrow European eye that tried its best not to see her.
But Brittany wasn’t any good at being invisible. “Are you flirting with me?”
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A marriage to steal the headlines!
Royal scoundrel Felipe Cairo is the least likely king in Europe and avoids the crown with a passion! To uphold his reckless image and avoid the shackles of duty, Cairo must choose a most inappropriate wife…
Media sensation Brittany Hollis has a reputation outrageous enough to rival Cairo’s. Yet with each scorching kiss, she reveals more of her secrets than she’s ever shown the world.
But there’s a twist in their tabloid fairy tale that shocks them both: Brittany might not be queen material, but she’s carrying a royal heir!
Meet the Author:
USA Today bestselling, RITA-nominated, and critically-acclaimed author Megan Crane has written nearly sixty books since her debut in 2004. She has been published by a variety of publishers, including each of New York’s Big Five. She’s won fans with her women’s fiction, chick lit, and work-for-hire young adult novels as well as with the Harlequin Presents she writes as Caitlin Crews. These days her focus is on contemporary romance from small town to international glamor, cowboys to bikers, and beyond. She sometimes teaches creative writing classes both online at mediabistro.com and at UCLA Extension’s prestigious Writers’ Program, where she finally utilizes the MA and PhD in English Literature she received from the University of York in York, England. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with a husband who draws comics and animation storyboards and their menagerie of ridiculous animals.
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