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13 July 2011

Giveaway and Guest post for Melissa McClone's new release - Not So Perfect Princess





HL: It's a pleasure to welcome back today Melissa Mcclone, who is here to  tell us all about her latest release and how she researched it. Over to you, Melissa. (Don't forget to leave a comment for Melissa  to be in with a chance to win her prize.)

MM: Thanks for having me on your blog today. It's so nice to be back! You asked about one of my favorite topics—research. I love doing research for a story. It's one of the best parts of being a writer!

The question you posed was: "I'd love to know how you do your research for a story like this—or do you have experience of sailing yourself."
I know how to sail, but haven't been out on a boat in many years. I'm married to a sailor though, so getting started I figured he would be my go-to-guy for help when I needed it.

As I plotted Not-So-Perfect Princess, I remembered the text from the sailing lessons I took in the San Francisco Bay Area. I checked my bookshelf, and there it was! I was so happy I kept it all these years. As I skimmed pages, memories surfaced of fun afternoons after work learning to sail with the wind on my face.

With my memory refreshed and the glossary handy, I surfed the Internet to learn about Mediterranean sailing and regattas. An important subplot of this story involves racing. I do take artistic license in my stories, but I also want to make things as plausible as possible. That included the sailing. I read as much as I could on-line about racing teams, everything from casual team blogs to websites on the teams in the America Cup. The bios helped me figure out who would be on my hero's crew.

I have to admit I was concerned about writing the racing scenes. You see, I'd only competed once in a sailing race, and it wasn't a good experience.

As I mentioned above, my husband is a sailor. He learned to sail as a child and competed on his college's sailing team. After graduation, he became a sail maker and raced on the east coast. When he moved to San Francisco (where we met), he crewed on a boat moored in San Francisco. While we dated, we would go out for leisure sails. But his passion was racing.

One Friday evening, the boat's owner invited his girlfriend and I to crew with him and my-then-boyfriend during a practice race. I was so excited. I didn't have a clue what racing would be like. I'd seen Wind, but that was a big race in a movie and this was just a practice race. I figured we wouldn't have wine and cheese like our usual sails, but it would still be fun and easygoing.

Wrong!

The guys—okay, my guy—barked orders like Captain Bligh. Forget about this being "practice." I ended up with a broken thumb because I couldn't tail the line fast enough. So not fun! But I didn't hold it against him for too long. We went sailing in Grenada on our honeymoon, but I never have raced again. Nor do I plan on it. Still I enjoyed writing the racing scenes in Not-So-Perfect Princess.

My husband was a huge help. It was so cute how he would qualify his answers to my questions by saying he hadn't raced this kind of boat, then offer me great suggestions. Before, he'd always been in the background with his assistance (cooking, driving kids, laundry) when it came to my writing, but we had fun working on the sailing parts together. Thanks to him, the research for Not-So-Perfect Princess was smooth sailing!

 Thank you Melissa - I love hearing about the way other authors research their books and what a romantic way to enjoy a honeymoon!


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.

EXCERPT:

Lying in bed, Alejandro Cierzo de Amanecer heard a noise outside his room at the beachfront villa. The stray kitten he’d found at the boatyard must want something. He opened his eyes to see sunlight streaming in through the brand-new floor-to-ceiling windows. Most likely breakfast.

The bedroom door burst wide-open. Heavy boots sounded against the recently replaced terra-cotta tile floor.

Not again.

Alejandro grimaced, but didn’t move. He knew the routine.

A squad of royal guards dressed in blue and gold uniforms surrounded his bed. At least they hadn’t drawn their weapons this time.

Not that he would call another intrusion progress.

“What does he want now?” Alejandro asked.

The captain of the guard, Sergio Mendoza, looked as stoic as ever, but older with gray hair at his temples. “King Dario requests your presence at the palace, Your Highness.”

Alejandro raked his hand through his hair in frustration. “My father never requests anything.”

Sergio’s facial expression didn’t change. He’d only shown emotion once, when Alejandro had been late bringing Sergio’s youngest daughter home from a date when they were teenagers. In spite of the security detail accompanying them, Alejandro had feared for his life due to the anger in the captain’s eyes. 

“The king orders you to come with us now, sir,” Sergio said.

Alejandro didn’t understand why his father wanted to see him. No one at the palace listened to what Alejandro said. He might not want to be part of the monarchy, but he wasn’t about to abandon his country.

He’d founded his business here and suggested economic innovations, including developing their tourist trade. But his ideas clashed with those of his father and brother who were more old-fashioned and traditional in their thinking.

A high-pitched squeak sounded. The scraggly black kitten with four white paws clawed his way up the sheet onto the bed. The thing had been a nuisance these past two weeks with the work at the boatyard and renovations here at the villa.

“I need to get dressed before I go anywhere,” Alejandro said.

“We’ll wait while you dress, sir.” Sergio’s words did nothing to loosen Alejandro’s tense shoulder muscles. “The king wants no delay in your arrival.”

Alejandro clenched his teeth. He wanted to tell the loyal captain to leave, but the guards would use force to get him to do what they wanted. He was tired of fighting that battle. “I need privacy.”

Sergio ordered the soldiers out of the room, but he remained standing by the bed. “I’ll wait on the other side of the door, sir. Guards are stationed beneath each window.”

Alejandro rolled his eyes. His father still saw him as a rebellious teenager. “I’m thirty years old, not seventeen.”

Sergio didn’t say anything. No doubt the captain remembered some of Alejandro’s earlier…escapades.

“Tell me where you think I would run to, Captain?” Alejandro lay in bed covered with a sheet. “My business is here. I own properties. My father’s lackeys follow me wherever I go.”

“They are your security detail, sir,” Sergio said. “You must be protected. You’re the second in line for the throne.”

 “Don’t remind me,” Alejandro muttered.

“Many would give everything to be in your position.”

Not if they knew what went with being the “spare” entailed. No one cared what he thought. Even when he tried to help the island, no one supported him. He’d had to do everything on his own. Alejandro hated being a prince. He’d been educated in the United States. He didn’t want to participate in an outdated form of government where too much power rested with one individual. But he wanted to see his country prosper.

“Guard the door if you must.” Alejandro gave the kitten a pat. “I won’t make your job any more difficult for you than it is.”
Image: http://www.copyright-free-photos.org.uk/

As soon as Sergio left, Alejandro slid out of bed and showered. His father hadn’t requested formal dress so khaki shorts, a navy T-shirt and a pair of boat shoes would do.

Twenty minutes later, Alejandro entered the palace’s reception room. His older brother rose from the damask-covered settee.

Enrique looked like a younger version of their father with his short hairstyle, tailored designer suit, starched dress shirt, silk tie and polished leather shoes. It was too bad his brother acted like their father, also.

“This had better be important, Enrique,” Alejandro said.

“It is.” His brother’s lips curved into a smug smile. “I’m getting married.”

About time. Enrique’s wedding would be the first step toward Alejandro’s freedom from the monarchy. The birth of a nephew or niece to take his place as second in line for the throne would be the next big step. “Congratulations, bro. I hope it’s a short engagement. Don’t waste any time getting your bride pregnant.”

Enrique smirked. “That’s the plan.”

“Why wait until the wedding? Start now.”

He laughed. “King Alaric would demand my head if I did that. He’s old-fashioned about certain things. Especially his daughter’s virginity.”

“Alaric.” Alejandro had heard the name. It took a second to realize where. “You’re marrying a princess from Aliestle?”

“Not a princess. The princess.” Enrique sounded excited. No wonder. Aliestle was a small kingdom in the Alps. With an abundance of natural resources, the country’s treasury was vast, a hundred times that of La Isla de la Aurora. “King Alaric has four sons and one daughter.”

“Father must be pleased.”

“He’s giddy over the amount of Julianna’s dowry and the economic advantages aligning with Aliestle will bring us. Fortunately for me, the princess is as beautiful as she is rich. A bit of an ice princess from what I hear, but I’ll warm her up.”

“If you need lessons—”

“I may not have your reputation with the ladies, but I shall manage fine on my own.”

“I hope the two of you are happy together.” Alejandro meant the words. A happy union would mean more heirs. The further Alejandro dropped in the line of succession, the better. He couldn’t wait to be able to focus his attention on building his business and attracting more investors to turn the island’s sluggish economy around.

“You are to be the best man.”

A statement of fact or a request? “Mingling with aristocracy is hazardous to my health.”

“You will move home until the wedding.”

A demand. Anger flared. “Enrique—”

“The royal family will show a united front during the engagement period. Your days will be free unless official events are scheduled. You’ll be expected to attend all dinners and evening functions. You must also be present when the princess and her party arrive today.”

Alejandro cursed. “You sound exactly like him.”

“They are father’s words, not mine.” Rare compassion filled Enrique’s eyes. “But I would like you to be my best man. You’re my favorite brother.”

“I’m your only brother.”

Enrique laughed. “All the more reason for you to stand at my side. Father will compensate you for any inconvenience.”

Alejandro’s entire life was a damn inconvenience. Besides, he would never be able to get the one thing he wanted from his father. “I don’t want his money.”

“You never have, but when Father offers you payment, take it. You can put the money into your boats, buy another villa, donate it to charity or give it away on the streets,” Enrique advised. “You’ve earned this, Alejandro. Don’t let pride get in the way again.”

He wasn’t about to go there. “All I want is to be left alone.”

“As soon as Julianna and I have children, you will no longer be needed around here. If you do your part to ensure the wedding occurs, Father has promised to let you live your own life.”

Finally. “Did you ask for this or did father offer?”

“It was a combination, but be assured of father keeping his word.”

“When am I to move back?”

“After lunch.”

Alejandro cursed again. He had a boatyard to run, investment properties to oversee and the Med Cup to prepare for. Not to mention the kitten who expected to be fed. “I have a life. Responsibilities.”

“You have responsibilities here. Ones you ignore while you play with your boats,” Enrique chided.

Seething, Alejandro tried to keep his tone even. “I’m not playing. I’m working. If you’d see the upcoming Med Cup race as an opportunity to promote—”

“If you want to build the island’s reputation, then support this royal wedding. It’ll do much more for the economy than your expensive ideas to improve the island’s nightlife, build flashy resorts and attract the sailing crowd with a little regatta.”

“The Med Cup is a big deal. It’ll—”

“Whatever.” Enrique brushed Alejandro aside as if he were a bothersome gnat. Like father, like son. “Do what you must to be here after lunch or father will send you away on a diplomatic mission.”

The words were like a punch to Alejandro’s solar plexus. Not unexpected given the way his father and brother operated sometimes. The threat would be carried out, too. That meant Alejandro had to do as told to secure his future. His freedom. “I’ll be back before your princess arrives.”

But he would be doing a few things his way.
Once the black sheep, always the black sheep.

And let’s face it, Alejandro didn’t mind the title at all.



About Melissa:

Melissa McClone writes for Harlequin Romance. 
She graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but quit her job to write romance novels. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, four cats and a dog named Chaos.

Visit Melissa Here: http://www.melissamcclone.com
Purchase 'Not-So-Perfect-Princess' HERE

What an intriguing excerpt! Thank you so much, Melissa.

 Don't forget to comment for your chance to win Melissa's prize. (See details below)

The other stops on Melissa's tour can be found Here http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2011/05/virtual-tour-not-so-perfect-princess.html.  



GIVEAWAY
Melissa will be giving away a $20 Gift Card to one randomly chosen commenter at the end of her tour and will also give three Trading Cards from the book to one commenter on each stop.

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment and your e-mail address.

Contest ends 26th July and is open to all.

Melissa's tour continues tomorrow at
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