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Royal Scandal

Part of Royal Blood

Read by Kristen Sieh
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The second book in the Royal Blood series about an American girl who threatens the royal family by exposing their darkest scandals—even as they get more sinister.

American girl turned monarchy nightmare, Evan Bright, has gotten used to the press about her but the media attention has only seemed to get worse. 

From desperate clickbait articles about her and the President's son to Royal Record headlines pitting her against Princess Maisie, it seems everyone is dying for Evan to return back to America for good. Meanwhile Evan is receiving mysterious threats about her real story being reveiled in a tell-all biography. 

When more information is leaked about Evan, she fears she will always be Britain's media villain. But the threats escalate when there is an attempted assassination with no suspects...and Evan believes the person is in the palace's walls. 

They say what doesn't kill you will make you stronger...but what if it's the royal family who wants you dead?
Chapter One


We at the Regal Record hope you’ve been good this year, because it seems like Saint Nicholas has come early for us all.

Despite rumours of a cancellation thanks to an untimely blizzard across the pond, the United Kingdom’s notoriously naughty royal family will indeed be hosting a state banquet tonight for the president of the United States, Hope Park, and it promises to be chockful of chaos.

Under ordinary circumstances, this state visit would be noteworthy considering President Park is both the first woman and first Korean American to hold the highest office in the US. But, just like every other significant event as of late, this historic achievement has already been overshadowed by the most recent addition to the House of Windsor’s royal family tree.

That’s right--Evangeline Bright, the King’s illegitimate American daughter, will be in attendance tonight, and given her past exploits, it’s safe to assume she’ll do something gratingly inept to steal the thunder--and the headlines--from those who’ve actually earned their place at the royal table.

In the five and a half months since Evangeline’s tasteless and explosive BBC One interview detailing her own sordid behaviour that led directly to Jasper Cunningham’s death--of which she was cleared of criminal charges, thanks to a reported backroom deal between Scotland Yard and the King’s personal lawyers--the palace has seen fit to shove her down the throats of the British people at seemingly every turn. Hospital openings, charity appearances, even walkabouts typically reserved for legitimate members of the royal family--Evangeline has merrily joined in on all, resulting in a long list of missteps and blunders. Yet despite the efforts of the palace to make her palatable, it’s becoming painfully clear that no amount of media and etiquette training can turn this American frog into a princess.

How much longer can the royal family’s already-tattered reputation withstand the Bright blight? While we wait to see the fallout of tonight’s state banquet and Evangeline’s inevitable indiscretions, we at the Regal Record can only apologise yet again for revealing her identity this summer and unleashing this Pandora’s box of mayhem and vexation on not only the entire country, but the world. One must own up to one’s mistakes, and we deeply regret our part in this royal fiasco.

Let us hope that no one else ends up dead tonight.

--The Regal Record, 18 December 2023



“I’m well aware that being on time isn’t a priority for you,” says Tibby, clutching her phone like she’s about to chuck it at my tiara. “But could you at least pretend to care that I’m about to lose my bloody job?”

I’m leaning against the wall in the long gallery of Windsor Castle, trying to keep my head upright as I fiddle with a strap on my stiletto. My gown isn’t making it any easier, and as I set my foot down, the heel snags and comes dangerously close to ripping the shimmering burgundy fabric.

“It’s my shoe,” I mutter, untangling my hem. “One of the straps is loose.”

Tibby arches an eyebrow as I test my weight again. Somehow, despite what has been an obscenely long day full of trivial appointments and last-minute fittings, Lady Tabitha Finch-Parker-Covington-Boyle’s black pixie cut is still perfectly styled, and her tailored gray dress doesn’t have a single piece of lint on it. Unfortunately for both of us, this superpower has yet to rub off on me in the six months she’s been my personal secretary-slash-babysitter, and no one is more aggrieved by my failure to develop a completely new personality than Tibby.

“I don’t care if the heel’s broken off and you’re walking on your tiptoes,” she says. “We cannot be late, Evan.”

“We’re not late.” As I resume my march down the corridor, now with a noticeably uneven gait, I glance through the nearest window and into the dark courtyard beyond. A line of luxury vehicles snakes along the opposite wing of Windsor Castle, and royal footmen hoist umbrellas as tonight’s guests exit their cars and step into the December downpour. “Okay, we’re a little late, but--”

“There is no such thing as a ‘little’ late,” says Tibby. “If His Majesty discovers you’re missing, it’ll be my neck on the block, not yours.”

“He’ll be too busy with the president to notice. Besides, they don’t need me for the pictures, and I’m not escorting anyone inside.”

“An unforgivable oversight,” says Tibby irritably, as if this, too, is somehow my fault. “You’re His Majesty’s daughter, and you’re American. You should be in the procession, preferably on the arm of a member of the president’s family. Your absence will only start another wave of rumors in the press.”

“I start rumors by breathing,” I say. “Besides, it’d be an insult to pair me with anyone important.”

Tibby sniffs. “Illegitimate or not, you’re still of royal blood.”

“Which is the only reason I’m part of this dog and pony show in the first place,” I say. “That and the fact that the universe has a terrible sense of humor.”

By the time we turn the corner and pass the royal family’s private apartments, my scalp is throbbing. I reach up to adjust the Queen Florence tiara that’s secured to my braided updo, but before my fingers can even graze the glittering headpiece, Tibby swats my hand away.

“Don’t you dare,” she says with more vehemence than usual. “Can you imagine the headlines if your tiara falls off in front of the Royal Rota? The metaphor alone--”

“The pins are digging in,” I protest. “I think my scalp might actually be bleeding.”

“Ignore it. The banquet won’t last more than three or four hours.”

“Three or four--” I gape at her. “Haven’t you people ever heard of the Geneva Conventions?”

“You’re royalty, darling,” she says in the dismissive tone she always uses when I complain. “The Geneva Conventions don’t apply.”

I start to object, but before I can utter more than a single syllable, Tibby turns on her heel to face me, and I stumble to a halt.

“I understand you’re uncomfortable, Evan,” she says, her voice low and hurried. “I understand you’d rather not sit around for hours listening to a bunch of politicians make each other feel important. But this is the price you pay for being royal. This is the price you pay for living in a castle with a staff of hundreds to cater to your whims. You have every resource you could ever need, every opportunity you could ever dream of, and you are one of the most famous people in the world. You are privileged in a way damn few others are, and if you tell me one more time how uncomfortable your designer shoes and couture gown and priceless tiara are, I will throttle you.”

For a long moment, we stare at each other in silence. She’s right, of course--every word of it--and I hate that six months ago, I would have throttled myself for acting like this, too.

“Sorry,” I mumble, my cheeks growing warm. “I think I’m spending too much time around Maisie.”

“Her Royal Highness’s faults are no excuse for yours,” says Tibby tartly, but at last she steps aside, and we continue down the hall toward the state apartments. “The people are watching you, Evan, and they deserve more than another ungrateful brat. Especially when you offer them hope that maybe their lives can become a fairy tale, too.”

I snort. “Being accused of murder and having all my secrets exposed to the entire world counts as a fairy tale now?”

“Haven’t you read the Brothers Grimm?” says Tibby. “Murder is practically a plot requirement. If we want any chance of making it in time, we’ll have to go this way.”

She ushers me into the royal family’s private chapel--sacrilegious, I’m sure, though clearly the only sin Tibby’s worried about is tardiness. She’s moving so quickly now that I’m forced to do a strange skip to keep up, but when we finally reach the threshold of St. George’s Hall, I stop in my tracks--and so does she.

While normally the vast hall is empty, save for the ever-present paintings, marble busts, and suits of armor that line the walls, a table that easily seats two hundred now stretches from one end to the other, covered in massive festive bouquets and more plates and utensils than I’ve ever seen. And because my life, while newly charmed, can never be fair, nearly all of tonight’s guests are already inside as a fleet of footmen show them to their seats.

Tibby swears. “Keep your head up, but move quickly,” she whispers, and this time I don’t complain as we hurry to the nearest exit. Before we make it more than twenty feet, however, a woman at the end of the table gasps.

“Evangeline?” she says, her voice mercifully low. A few of her companions turn to look at me, too, and I smile and press my finger to my lips. Her shock quickly turns to conspiratorial amusement, and even though I’m not a princess--or even an official member of the royal family--she dips in a low curtsy.

A rising murmur follows Tibby and me now, and I do my best to walk properly in my uncooperative shoe, keenly aware of all the eyes on us. It’s only sheer luck that I don’t trip and fall on my face, and when we finally reach the nearest exit, Tibby all but yanks me through the doorway--

And straight into the middle of an explosion of camera flashes.

“Ah, Evangeline,” says a deep voice as the door closes behind us. “I’m pleased you were able to make it.”

His Majesty King Alexander II, monarch of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, stands fifteen feet away in the opulent Grand Reception Room, his blue eyes fixed directly on me. While his slightly balding head is bare, his tuxedo is heavy with sashes and medals he never actually earned, and even though he’s not especially tall or commanding, everything in the room seems to revolve around him like he’s the only source of gravity.

Beside him stands a square-jawed woman I instantly recognize as President Park. They’re posing for a cluster of photographers and members of the Royal Rota--the group of journalists whose only job is to cover the royal family--and both are still smiling widely even though every single camera is now pointed toward me.

Perfect.

Sorry, I mouth as a deep blush spreads across my face. I should curtsy, or at the very least dip my head in a show of respect. But as Tibby is so quick to lament, I’m not exactly a stickler for the rules, and as long as I have dual citizenship, I refuse to bow to anyone--even my endlessly patient father.

He doesn’t seem to mind, and when he shoots me a wink before turning back to President Park, I know I’m forgiven for my unexpected entrance. By him, at least. Tibby is another story, and as she squeezes my arm in a supposed show of support, I’m sure it’s only to measure how much acid she’ll need to dissolve my body after she murders me for this.

As the photographers reluctantly return their attention to the main attraction, I slip into an empty corner and try to make myself as small as possible. Somehow, in the greatest show of self-restraint I’ve managed since arriving in England, I resist the urge to make sure my tiara hasn’t slipped out of place. Given the number of pins currently digging into my scalp, it’s undoubtedly right where I left it, but Tibby’s earlier quip about headlines and a falling crown haunts me like a premonition I can’t shake.

“And now our families,” announces Alexander, and he gestures toward the other side of the room, where a small crowd is gathered. I spot two bobbing tiaras among the sea of suits and dresses, and finally Queen Helene appears with Princess Mary in tow.

Admittedly it doesn’t take much to make me feel like an impostor most of the time, but one look at them, and I shrink even further into the metaphorical shadows. They’re both stunning--the kind of gorgeous that only money can buy, with flawless porcelain skin, shiny hair, and blindingly white smiles. My statuesque stepmother is in a flowing ivory gown with her blond hair wrapped around the base of her glittering headpiece, and it’s obvious why she’s been declared the most beautiful woman in the world by multiple magazines. Everyone in the room is watching her--everyone except my father.

Maisie, my equally elegant half sister, wears a sapphire dress covered in crystals, but nothing outshines the intricate tiara perched above her strawberry-blond waves. There’s something slightly off about her expression, though--something cold and a little stiff, but not so much that she’s dragging down the mood. It could be anything, from the indignity of being in a color she doesn’t love to an actual problem she has to ignore for a few hours in order to transform into Her Royal Highness Princess Mary, heir to the throne and the future Queen of the United Kingdom, and I make a mental note to ask if she’s okay.

As they make their way across the room, they’re accompanied by a clean-shaven man I recognize as President Park’s husband and a teenage boy I can’t place as easily. But there’s no question who he is, not when he has the president’s square jaw and her husband’s lithe build.

When his mother was elected three years ago, Thaddeus Park was quiet, awkward, and best known for his love of Star Wars. Now, at eighteen, he has most definitely grown into that jaw. And those cheekbones. And those shoulders. I give myself five seconds to stare before I tear my eyes away, reminding myself that I have my own quiet and adorably awkward boyfriend who, less than thirty minutes ago, sent Tibby a text wishing me luck tonight, followed by a single x--which, apparently, he only ever uses with me.

Tibby lets out a low whistle as she also admires the view, and I elbow her in the side. “He’s my age,” I hiss. “Cougar.”

“How old do you think I am?” says Tibby, aghast, and I shrug.

“Old enough to be my babysitter.”

“I am not your babysitter,” she says with familiar exasperation. “I am your private sec--”

“Miss Bright.”

An older man with a short salt-and-pepper beard steps out of the crowd, and though he stands stiffly and with an air of formality, there’s a twinkle of amusement in his eye.

“Mr. Jenkins,” I say, biting back a grin. Even though I’ve known Jenkins longer than I’ve known almost anyone, I’ve never seen him in a tux before, and he also has an impressive set of medals--including the star worn by Knight Commanders of the Royal Victorian Order. I’ll never catch up to what people like Tibby and my half sister have known practically from birth, but I feel some small sense of victory for recognizing this much. “I’m sorry we’re late. It’s not Tibby’s fault--”
Praise for the Royal Blood series: 

"Palace intrigue with a murder mystery in this explosive story." Paste

"A dark, modern fairy tale,"Kirkus

"An intriguing murder mystery starring an American teenager shaking up the foundations of an alternate British royal family... Evan's portrayal as a snarky fish-out- of-water among glamorous European royalty lends a comedic through line to Carter's jam-packed novel. ―Publishers Weekly

"A slick addictive page-turner and, quite simply, a hell of a lot of fun. ― The Bookseller
Aimée Carter is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including the Goddess Test series, the Blackcoat Rebellion series, and the Simon Thorn series for middle-grade readers, now a #1 internationally bestselling series under the title Animox and Die Erben der Animox. View titles by Aimée Carter

About

The second book in the Royal Blood series about an American girl who threatens the royal family by exposing their darkest scandals—even as they get more sinister.

American girl turned monarchy nightmare, Evan Bright, has gotten used to the press about her but the media attention has only seemed to get worse. 

From desperate clickbait articles about her and the President's son to Royal Record headlines pitting her against Princess Maisie, it seems everyone is dying for Evan to return back to America for good. Meanwhile Evan is receiving mysterious threats about her real story being reveiled in a tell-all biography. 

When more information is leaked about Evan, she fears she will always be Britain's media villain. But the threats escalate when there is an attempted assassination with no suspects...and Evan believes the person is in the palace's walls. 

They say what doesn't kill you will make you stronger...but what if it's the royal family who wants you dead?

Excerpt

Chapter One


We at the Regal Record hope you’ve been good this year, because it seems like Saint Nicholas has come early for us all.

Despite rumours of a cancellation thanks to an untimely blizzard across the pond, the United Kingdom’s notoriously naughty royal family will indeed be hosting a state banquet tonight for the president of the United States, Hope Park, and it promises to be chockful of chaos.

Under ordinary circumstances, this state visit would be noteworthy considering President Park is both the first woman and first Korean American to hold the highest office in the US. But, just like every other significant event as of late, this historic achievement has already been overshadowed by the most recent addition to the House of Windsor’s royal family tree.

That’s right--Evangeline Bright, the King’s illegitimate American daughter, will be in attendance tonight, and given her past exploits, it’s safe to assume she’ll do something gratingly inept to steal the thunder--and the headlines--from those who’ve actually earned their place at the royal table.

In the five and a half months since Evangeline’s tasteless and explosive BBC One interview detailing her own sordid behaviour that led directly to Jasper Cunningham’s death--of which she was cleared of criminal charges, thanks to a reported backroom deal between Scotland Yard and the King’s personal lawyers--the palace has seen fit to shove her down the throats of the British people at seemingly every turn. Hospital openings, charity appearances, even walkabouts typically reserved for legitimate members of the royal family--Evangeline has merrily joined in on all, resulting in a long list of missteps and blunders. Yet despite the efforts of the palace to make her palatable, it’s becoming painfully clear that no amount of media and etiquette training can turn this American frog into a princess.

How much longer can the royal family’s already-tattered reputation withstand the Bright blight? While we wait to see the fallout of tonight’s state banquet and Evangeline’s inevitable indiscretions, we at the Regal Record can only apologise yet again for revealing her identity this summer and unleashing this Pandora’s box of mayhem and vexation on not only the entire country, but the world. One must own up to one’s mistakes, and we deeply regret our part in this royal fiasco.

Let us hope that no one else ends up dead tonight.

--The Regal Record, 18 December 2023



“I’m well aware that being on time isn’t a priority for you,” says Tibby, clutching her phone like she’s about to chuck it at my tiara. “But could you at least pretend to care that I’m about to lose my bloody job?”

I’m leaning against the wall in the long gallery of Windsor Castle, trying to keep my head upright as I fiddle with a strap on my stiletto. My gown isn’t making it any easier, and as I set my foot down, the heel snags and comes dangerously close to ripping the shimmering burgundy fabric.

“It’s my shoe,” I mutter, untangling my hem. “One of the straps is loose.”

Tibby arches an eyebrow as I test my weight again. Somehow, despite what has been an obscenely long day full of trivial appointments and last-minute fittings, Lady Tabitha Finch-Parker-Covington-Boyle’s black pixie cut is still perfectly styled, and her tailored gray dress doesn’t have a single piece of lint on it. Unfortunately for both of us, this superpower has yet to rub off on me in the six months she’s been my personal secretary-slash-babysitter, and no one is more aggrieved by my failure to develop a completely new personality than Tibby.

“I don’t care if the heel’s broken off and you’re walking on your tiptoes,” she says. “We cannot be late, Evan.”

“We’re not late.” As I resume my march down the corridor, now with a noticeably uneven gait, I glance through the nearest window and into the dark courtyard beyond. A line of luxury vehicles snakes along the opposite wing of Windsor Castle, and royal footmen hoist umbrellas as tonight’s guests exit their cars and step into the December downpour. “Okay, we’re a little late, but--”

“There is no such thing as a ‘little’ late,” says Tibby. “If His Majesty discovers you’re missing, it’ll be my neck on the block, not yours.”

“He’ll be too busy with the president to notice. Besides, they don’t need me for the pictures, and I’m not escorting anyone inside.”

“An unforgivable oversight,” says Tibby irritably, as if this, too, is somehow my fault. “You’re His Majesty’s daughter, and you’re American. You should be in the procession, preferably on the arm of a member of the president’s family. Your absence will only start another wave of rumors in the press.”

“I start rumors by breathing,” I say. “Besides, it’d be an insult to pair me with anyone important.”

Tibby sniffs. “Illegitimate or not, you’re still of royal blood.”

“Which is the only reason I’m part of this dog and pony show in the first place,” I say. “That and the fact that the universe has a terrible sense of humor.”

By the time we turn the corner and pass the royal family’s private apartments, my scalp is throbbing. I reach up to adjust the Queen Florence tiara that’s secured to my braided updo, but before my fingers can even graze the glittering headpiece, Tibby swats my hand away.

“Don’t you dare,” she says with more vehemence than usual. “Can you imagine the headlines if your tiara falls off in front of the Royal Rota? The metaphor alone--”

“The pins are digging in,” I protest. “I think my scalp might actually be bleeding.”

“Ignore it. The banquet won’t last more than three or four hours.”

“Three or four--” I gape at her. “Haven’t you people ever heard of the Geneva Conventions?”

“You’re royalty, darling,” she says in the dismissive tone she always uses when I complain. “The Geneva Conventions don’t apply.”

I start to object, but before I can utter more than a single syllable, Tibby turns on her heel to face me, and I stumble to a halt.

“I understand you’re uncomfortable, Evan,” she says, her voice low and hurried. “I understand you’d rather not sit around for hours listening to a bunch of politicians make each other feel important. But this is the price you pay for being royal. This is the price you pay for living in a castle with a staff of hundreds to cater to your whims. You have every resource you could ever need, every opportunity you could ever dream of, and you are one of the most famous people in the world. You are privileged in a way damn few others are, and if you tell me one more time how uncomfortable your designer shoes and couture gown and priceless tiara are, I will throttle you.”

For a long moment, we stare at each other in silence. She’s right, of course--every word of it--and I hate that six months ago, I would have throttled myself for acting like this, too.

“Sorry,” I mumble, my cheeks growing warm. “I think I’m spending too much time around Maisie.”

“Her Royal Highness’s faults are no excuse for yours,” says Tibby tartly, but at last she steps aside, and we continue down the hall toward the state apartments. “The people are watching you, Evan, and they deserve more than another ungrateful brat. Especially when you offer them hope that maybe their lives can become a fairy tale, too.”

I snort. “Being accused of murder and having all my secrets exposed to the entire world counts as a fairy tale now?”

“Haven’t you read the Brothers Grimm?” says Tibby. “Murder is practically a plot requirement. If we want any chance of making it in time, we’ll have to go this way.”

She ushers me into the royal family’s private chapel--sacrilegious, I’m sure, though clearly the only sin Tibby’s worried about is tardiness. She’s moving so quickly now that I’m forced to do a strange skip to keep up, but when we finally reach the threshold of St. George’s Hall, I stop in my tracks--and so does she.

While normally the vast hall is empty, save for the ever-present paintings, marble busts, and suits of armor that line the walls, a table that easily seats two hundred now stretches from one end to the other, covered in massive festive bouquets and more plates and utensils than I’ve ever seen. And because my life, while newly charmed, can never be fair, nearly all of tonight’s guests are already inside as a fleet of footmen show them to their seats.

Tibby swears. “Keep your head up, but move quickly,” she whispers, and this time I don’t complain as we hurry to the nearest exit. Before we make it more than twenty feet, however, a woman at the end of the table gasps.

“Evangeline?” she says, her voice mercifully low. A few of her companions turn to look at me, too, and I smile and press my finger to my lips. Her shock quickly turns to conspiratorial amusement, and even though I’m not a princess--or even an official member of the royal family--she dips in a low curtsy.

A rising murmur follows Tibby and me now, and I do my best to walk properly in my uncooperative shoe, keenly aware of all the eyes on us. It’s only sheer luck that I don’t trip and fall on my face, and when we finally reach the nearest exit, Tibby all but yanks me through the doorway--

And straight into the middle of an explosion of camera flashes.

“Ah, Evangeline,” says a deep voice as the door closes behind us. “I’m pleased you were able to make it.”

His Majesty King Alexander II, monarch of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, stands fifteen feet away in the opulent Grand Reception Room, his blue eyes fixed directly on me. While his slightly balding head is bare, his tuxedo is heavy with sashes and medals he never actually earned, and even though he’s not especially tall or commanding, everything in the room seems to revolve around him like he’s the only source of gravity.

Beside him stands a square-jawed woman I instantly recognize as President Park. They’re posing for a cluster of photographers and members of the Royal Rota--the group of journalists whose only job is to cover the royal family--and both are still smiling widely even though every single camera is now pointed toward me.

Perfect.

Sorry, I mouth as a deep blush spreads across my face. I should curtsy, or at the very least dip my head in a show of respect. But as Tibby is so quick to lament, I’m not exactly a stickler for the rules, and as long as I have dual citizenship, I refuse to bow to anyone--even my endlessly patient father.

He doesn’t seem to mind, and when he shoots me a wink before turning back to President Park, I know I’m forgiven for my unexpected entrance. By him, at least. Tibby is another story, and as she squeezes my arm in a supposed show of support, I’m sure it’s only to measure how much acid she’ll need to dissolve my body after she murders me for this.

As the photographers reluctantly return their attention to the main attraction, I slip into an empty corner and try to make myself as small as possible. Somehow, in the greatest show of self-restraint I’ve managed since arriving in England, I resist the urge to make sure my tiara hasn’t slipped out of place. Given the number of pins currently digging into my scalp, it’s undoubtedly right where I left it, but Tibby’s earlier quip about headlines and a falling crown haunts me like a premonition I can’t shake.

“And now our families,” announces Alexander, and he gestures toward the other side of the room, where a small crowd is gathered. I spot two bobbing tiaras among the sea of suits and dresses, and finally Queen Helene appears with Princess Mary in tow.

Admittedly it doesn’t take much to make me feel like an impostor most of the time, but one look at them, and I shrink even further into the metaphorical shadows. They’re both stunning--the kind of gorgeous that only money can buy, with flawless porcelain skin, shiny hair, and blindingly white smiles. My statuesque stepmother is in a flowing ivory gown with her blond hair wrapped around the base of her glittering headpiece, and it’s obvious why she’s been declared the most beautiful woman in the world by multiple magazines. Everyone in the room is watching her--everyone except my father.

Maisie, my equally elegant half sister, wears a sapphire dress covered in crystals, but nothing outshines the intricate tiara perched above her strawberry-blond waves. There’s something slightly off about her expression, though--something cold and a little stiff, but not so much that she’s dragging down the mood. It could be anything, from the indignity of being in a color she doesn’t love to an actual problem she has to ignore for a few hours in order to transform into Her Royal Highness Princess Mary, heir to the throne and the future Queen of the United Kingdom, and I make a mental note to ask if she’s okay.

As they make their way across the room, they’re accompanied by a clean-shaven man I recognize as President Park’s husband and a teenage boy I can’t place as easily. But there’s no question who he is, not when he has the president’s square jaw and her husband’s lithe build.

When his mother was elected three years ago, Thaddeus Park was quiet, awkward, and best known for his love of Star Wars. Now, at eighteen, he has most definitely grown into that jaw. And those cheekbones. And those shoulders. I give myself five seconds to stare before I tear my eyes away, reminding myself that I have my own quiet and adorably awkward boyfriend who, less than thirty minutes ago, sent Tibby a text wishing me luck tonight, followed by a single x--which, apparently, he only ever uses with me.

Tibby lets out a low whistle as she also admires the view, and I elbow her in the side. “He’s my age,” I hiss. “Cougar.”

“How old do you think I am?” says Tibby, aghast, and I shrug.

“Old enough to be my babysitter.”

“I am not your babysitter,” she says with familiar exasperation. “I am your private sec--”

“Miss Bright.”

An older man with a short salt-and-pepper beard steps out of the crowd, and though he stands stiffly and with an air of formality, there’s a twinkle of amusement in his eye.

“Mr. Jenkins,” I say, biting back a grin. Even though I’ve known Jenkins longer than I’ve known almost anyone, I’ve never seen him in a tux before, and he also has an impressive set of medals--including the star worn by Knight Commanders of the Royal Victorian Order. I’ll never catch up to what people like Tibby and my half sister have known practically from birth, but I feel some small sense of victory for recognizing this much. “I’m sorry we’re late. It’s not Tibby’s fault--”

Reviews

Praise for the Royal Blood series: 

"Palace intrigue with a murder mystery in this explosive story." Paste

"A dark, modern fairy tale,"Kirkus

"An intriguing murder mystery starring an American teenager shaking up the foundations of an alternate British royal family... Evan's portrayal as a snarky fish-out- of-water among glamorous European royalty lends a comedic through line to Carter's jam-packed novel. ―Publishers Weekly

"A slick addictive page-turner and, quite simply, a hell of a lot of fun. ― The Bookseller

Author

Aimée Carter is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including the Goddess Test series, the Blackcoat Rebellion series, and the Simon Thorn series for middle-grade readers, now a #1 internationally bestselling series under the title Animox and Die Erben der Animox. View titles by Aimée Carter