When an old friend calls in a favor that sends me to the UK to pose as a nanny, I’m not thrilled. Kids and me? Not a great mix. But Prince Nicholas and his wife, Kyra, turn out to be the most relaxed royal parents ever, and their little girl is actually a sweetheart. Protecting their family turns into something I want to do. Maybe this undercover nanny job will be easier than I thought.
The only problem? The prince’s cousin Milo, the Earl of Ross, is living here, too, and this guy is a huge complication. He’s arrogant, elitist, and haughty. Oh, and he’s also handsome, sexy, and super hot.
I don’t want to feel this attraction to him, but it seems I can’t help it. How can I do my job if I’m more worried about protecting my heart from falling for him?
Tawdra Kandle is the author of over 100 romances that span genres from contemporary through paranormal. Her engaging and realistic characters bring readers back again and again to devour the steamy love stories she spins. Fan favorites include The Anti-Cinderella Chronicles and the Career Soldier series.
Tawdra lives in central Florida with her husband, who is an Anglican priest, a sweet pup, and too many cats. Assorted grown children and two perfect granddaughters live nearby. And yeah, she rocks purple hair.
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How to celebrate a 99-cent sale on a super romantic royal box set? How about a never-before-seen prequel scene??
“This was the best idea ever, Ky.”
My grandmother lifted the bottle of wine toward me just before she took a long swig. Next to me, my best friend Shelby giggled.
“Go, Honey! I’m impressed.”
Honey grinned at her. “Sweetie, never go up against this old hippie in a drinking contest. You’ll always lose.” She passed the bottle to me. “But I’m serious, Kyra. Having a girls’ night to christen your new digs here in Maine was inspired. And I appreciate that you two young ones included this old broad.”
“If you’re an old broad, Honey, I want to be just like you when I grow up.” I took a less-ambitious sip of the bottle.
“Genetics tells us you have a pretty good shot.” My grandmother winked and nudged me. “But you know that old saw about how you’re only as old as you feel? It’s true. I know that to you girls, I probably seem ancient, but in my mind, I’m a spring chicken. Young and spry. Just had my first kiss last night.” She sighed with a reminiscent smile.
“Ooooh, tell us about it!” Shelby leaned forward, her eyes sparkling. “I want to hear all the dirty details. Who did you kiss? Where did it happen?”
“Oh, darlings.” Honey held out her hand for the wine. “Well, it will sound tame and boring to you two, but for me, it was pure magic. ” Her smile broadened. “It was a sock hop, of all things. I went to a private school, but my best friend and I had learned that the local public high school was having a dance one Friday night. I’d been mooning after a boy who was a student there–we’d met at the library, and even though we’d barely spoken more than a word or two, I was positive that it was love at first sight.”
“And was it?” I tilted my head.
“Perhaps,” Honey allowed. “Maybe it was first love, that tender, precious bud that rarely weathers the storms of life. At any rate, Louisa–my best friend–convinced me that we should show up at the dance. So we played that old trick of telling our parents that we were each at the other’s house for the night, and then we snuck off to the dance.”
“You were such bad girls,” I teased. “And was your crush there?”
“Oh, yes, he was. Surrounded by girls, which made me want to turn around and leave. But then he saw me, and it was just like a storybook. He pushed through his crowd of admirers and came to me. He asked me to dance.”
“And you said yes, of course,” Shelby said.
“I don’t remember saying yes, but the next thing I knew, we were holding each other close on the dance floor while the band played Earth Angel.”
“So romantic,” I groaned. “Then what?”
“As the song ended, he drew me even closer, lifted my chin with one finger, and he kissed me right there, in front of all of his friends and classmates.”
“God, I can’t stand it!” Shelby shimmied a little in her chair. “What happened next?”
Honey screwed up her face. “Then suddenly my father was there. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and yanked him away from me before he took me by the arm and dragged me–and Louisa–from the gym. All the way home, we got the tongue lashing of our lives.”
“What about your crush? Did you ever see him again?” I demanded.
“No.” Honey shook her head. “That night was the beginning of a new restlessness in me, a growing resentment of my parents’ restrictiveness and their expectations that I would follow in their footsteps. Six months later, I ran away from home and ended up in San Francisco, where eventually, I met a man who showed me what real love looked like.”
“I hope you’re talking about Handsome.” Shelby raised her eyebrows.
“Of course I am. Once I caught sight of him, he was it for me. No one else existed. I still feel the same way.” Honey sighed. “But I still never forgot that first kiss at the sock hop.”
“That’s so sweet.” I took my turn at the wine and reached for a handful of popcorn. “It’s your turn, Shelby. Tell us about your first kiss.”
“It wasn’t nearly as romantic as Honey’s story,” my friend retorted. “I was with a bunch of friends at the bowling alley, and a guy at the next lane suddenly came over to chat me up . . . and when I got a strike on my next turn, he kissed me.” Shelby rolled her eyes. “I found out later that his friends had bet him he couldn’t get a kiss before our games ended. I was super pissed off.”
“Ugh, that sucks.” I patted her arm. “But you’ve more than made up for it in the years since.”
“It’s true,” she agreed smugly. “I’ve had my share of kisses. But I’m still irritated that the jerk stole my first one.”
“Karma will get him,” Honey assured us. “And doesn’t your sister still write that column about having to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, Shelby? You just happen to have hit an especially slimy frog first thing.” My grandmother’s gaze slid to me. “Speaking of princes . . . I think it’s your turn to tell us a story, Ky.”
My face heated. The tale of my own first kiss was still a somewhat sensitive memory, and I rarely shared it. But now Shelby was watching me with anticipation and interest, and a small, knowing smile played around Honey’s lips.
“Oh, mine’s . . . it’s actually kind of boring. We used to spend the summers at Honey and Handsome’s house down in Florida when we were growing up. Honey’s best friend Louisa–the one from the sock hop–had a house right next door, and her grandchildren used to come for about a month every summer. One of them was a boy around my age, and one summer night . . .well, he kissed me.” I shrugged. “And that was my first kiss.”
Honey was watching me with an inscrutable eye, and I knew she must have been thinking about what I’d left out of the story–and why. But she didn’t say anything.
“C’mon, Kyra, there’s got to be more to it than that. Give me the deets, babe. You always tell the best stories, and this one was like the Reader’s Digest version. I need more.”
“There isn’t any more,” I replied, my words clipped. “I was fifteen. He was sixteen. We were on the beach, and he was leaving the next day. He kissed me, then he went into his grandmother’s house, and the next morning, he was gone. I never saw him again.”
“Did you have feelings for him?” Shelby pressed.
“I–I mean, I guess–” I tossed up both hands. “I was fifteen, Shel. Any feelings I had would have been shallow and . . . inconsequential.” Grimacing, I added, “And clearly he didn’t feel anything for me since he left without a backward glance and didn’t bother to ever write or call or anything.” All these years later, that pain still twinged just a little.
“But—” Shelby looked from me to Honey, obviously waiting for one of us to break. I caught my grandmother’s eye and telegraphed a plea for rescue.
“Shelby.” Honey snagged the wine and shook the bottle a little. “I think we need to crack open a new bottle. And once we do, I’ll tell you what it was like to be in Haight-Ashbury in the summer of 1969 . . .”
As my grandmother and my best friend disappeared into the kitchen to open another bottle, I breathed a silent sigh of relief. There wasn’t much I hid from Shelby; she’d been my best friend since we’d met in college, and now she was also my housemate.
But even so, I wasn’t ready to tell her that the boy who’d given me my first kiss was Nicholas Windsor . . . a prince of the United Kingdom and a grandson of the Queen.
After all, it wasn’t like I was ever going to see Nicky again.
Today, I am 55 years old.
A dear reader wrote to me this week and said she hoped I wasn’t upset about getting older. “Not getting older is worse,” she reminded me. And how right she is.
I actually love adding a year to my age. For one thing, being the history lover that I am, I appreciate that I’ve lived in seven different decades (yes, I’m only in my fifties, but I was born in the 1960s, lived through the 1970s, 1980′, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and into the 2020s). When I consider that I was born just a little over twenty years past the end of World War II–and that my grandparents were all born at the start of the twentieth century–it’s really amazing how connected we all are to people and events that can feel so far away.
I also lost my parents and mother-in-law when they were still fairly young, so for every year I live, I am grateful.
A year ago on my birthday, I was looking forward to what looked to be a fairly serene and promising year. Books were selling so-so, but the writing was moving along. After a year of working almost exclusively on the Community Garden during the pandemic, Clint was excited about the plans for expansion and improvement. We had a new granddaughter on the way. So much for which to be grateful!
And then . . . and then.
Less than two months later, we learned that our rental home was being sold, forcing us to move. During the same week, the garden was taken from Clint. Doors were slamming shut all over the place, and we didn’t know what to expect next. The year I’d thought would be so calm and happy was suddenly unpredictable and a little scary.
Yet here I am, a year later, a year older, and all of those unknowns turned into blessings.
Our new home took quite a while to find, but once we did, everything fell into place with amazing alacrity. And we’re now less than four minutes from our oldest daughter and two granddaughters. Moving to this side of town–where we haven’t lived in ten years–has been a pleasant change, letting us rediscover old haunts and favorite spots. Clint has continued gardening on a more limited basis at several senior care facilities.
My fifty-fifth year has been one of reclamation and reunion. I’ve found my best friend from childhood–or rather, she found me. I’m also back in touch with several other friends with whom I’d lost contact over the past decade or more. And as I said, I’m enjoying some of my favorite parks, restaurants, and shops on the west side of town.
I find in this decade of my life that I both care less and care more. Some things that used to annoy or worry me no longer faze me at all. I’ve realized that getting anxious about what others do or think accomplishes nothing. At the same time, issues in the world–violence, war, intolerance, discrimination, pain, and injustice–make me cry on the regular. Even though I know these evils have existed since the beginning of time, somehow the older I become, the less used to them I become. My heart is becoming more tender instead of less. I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad. Maybe it isn’t either–it simply is.
I’m grateful for work I love, and for friends who make me laugh, send me chocolate, dedicate books to me, listen to me rant, and drink tequila with me. Where and how I live makes me happy. My sister, my sister-in-law, my nephews, and my favorite niece all add to my sense of connectedness in this crazy world. Aunt Terry and Uncle John are two of my favorite people and show me steadfast, unconditional love.
I have four incredible children who are all out seeking to make our society better–and they all have the greatest sense of humor, which is the best thing they could have inherited from me. And the people they’re bringing into our family are only making us an even better, stronger family.
And then there are my granddaughters. They are gorgeous, so bright, super funny (on purpose), and the lights of my
life. Truly. Being a nana has been the life-changer I didn’t believe it could be.
The man without whom I would be neither wife, mama, OR nana is still the hottest, wittiest, sweetest man I’ve ever met. My fifty-fifth year of life is also our thirty-fifth year of marriage, and I love him more now than I did the day we said I do.
I don’t know how long I’ll be on this earth. None of us do. My parents were both 63 when they died, but three of my four grandparents lived to their late 80s or mid-90s (the one outlier had a bizarre cause of death). Each year is a gift and a victory–and I plan to suck the marrow out of them all.
(That’s a good thing, the marrow sucking. Trust me. And it’s figurative. I tend toward vegetarianism.)
The Posse was my game-changer book.
I was a baby author, and I’d released four young adult paranormal romances. I was thinking of what came next–it was meant to be Rafe and Nell’s books. And then one day, I’d gone to the beach with the kids, and as I drove home, suddenly a story fell into my lap. Or my head, as it were . . . and unlike most of my other stories, this one was definitely adult, not supernatural at all, and I knew the entire thing, beginning to end, from the moment it was conceived.
Before I reached home that day, I knew the names, the characters . . . and the setting. Crystal Cove is based loosely on the Florida beach town of New Smyrna Beach, although I take lots of liberties–Crystal Cove is its own entity by now.
I have a special place in my heart for The Posse (and for The Plan and The Path and The Problem which followed), so I was especially thrilled when the talented Stacey Blake created these gorgeous new covers.
To celebrate, The Posse will be discounted through July.
I’ve always believed in second chances. But I never thought I’d need one.
And then my husband Daniel, my childhood sweetheart, father of my two almost-grown kids, died and left me alone with my memories, our family beach restaurant . . . and his life-long friends, the Posse.
I’m a little surprised–and suspicious–when a few of those friends begin to wine and dine me a year after Daniel’s death. I know they promised to look after me, but this is above and beyond. What’s really shaking me up, though, is that one of them tempts me to believe that maybe I’m not quite finished with love yet.
For most of my life, I silently watched my best friend love the only woman I ever wanted.
When Daniel died, I lost a guy who was like a brother to me. Along with the rest of our friends, I promised to look after his wife, Jude. Only . . . maybe I want to be more than just her pal.
It’s not going to be easy to convince her that we can be together without betraying our past. But I’ve loved Jude too long to give up on the future we could share.