The Most Famous Woman On The Planet
by Jennifer Hayward, author of Marrying Her Royal Enemy
August 31, 1997 was just another ordinary night for me. I’d just gotten off my shift as a waitress, put my feet up on the coach and turned on the TV, a glass of wine in my hand. Flipping through channels I was anticipating an old episode of my favorite crime show. Instead I was greeted with the images of the car crash that would shock the world and change modern history as we knew it.
The mangled car in the tunnel was horrific enough—the fact that it contained the most photographed, famous woman on the planet was utterly surreal. Princess Diana was dead at 36.
Diana combined the elusive persona of a real-life princess with a celebrity never before seen amongst the court. She counted presidents, pop singers, fashion designers as close friends. She wielded immense power, far more than her husband did at the peak of her popularity. But it was how she used that celebrity that won the people’s hearts. She shone the light on causes that had simply never received the visibility they should—she used her power for good.
For her to die in such tragic circumstances felt wrong in such a powerful way I could only sit and watch as events played out as if it was part of an action thriller rather than the awful truth that it was. It didn’t seem possible. It had to be a mistake.
It was with this in the back of my head as I was creating my Kingdoms & Crowns series, that I knew one of my favorite characters, Princess Stella of Akathinia, would be inspired by Diana. Beautiful, intelligent, she desired nothing more than to make her mark on the world. She was thwarted in her attempts to do so, however, when her father made her turn down her acceptance to Harvard Law School, saying it was no occupation for a princess.
Stella blazes an outrageous, daring path throughout her young life, always with the good of her people in mind. But her freedom-loving, admittedly empty life is about to come to an abrupt end when King Kostas of Carnelia comes to the throne.
Stella is the one woman who can help the damaged and haunted Kostas heal their countries and prevent a war vicious factions in Carnelia would like to ignite. But he is also the man who once broke Stella’s heart. A former navy pilot who trained in the famed Top Gun school in California, Kostas is the most sexy, dangerous crown prince on the planet, notoriously uncatchable. Except now he wants Stella to become his wife and put their past behind them to change history.
Loathe to open her heart up to the man who crushed it so ruthlessly at eighteen, Stella can’t resist the opportunity to make her mark in the equal partnership Kostas is offering her as his queen.
Passion will rage and loyalties will be tested—but the one thing Stella must never do is fall in love with her husband—the man she considers responsible for her brother’s death. The problem is, it’s getting harder and harder to remember the pain of the past when she finds herself in her marriage bed. Nothing could have prepared Stella for the magic she finds there and the love that glitters just out of her grasp. Will she end up with a broken heart or with everything she imagined she could have?
I hope you enjoy Stella & Kostas’ story—the finale to my Kingdoms & Crowns series. Here’s a taste from the opening as Kostas tracks Stella down on a Caribbean island, determined to make her his wife:
“I hear the calamari is spectacular.”
The low, textured voice came from her right, delivered by the male who slid on to the stool beside hers. She froze, breath jamming in her throat. The hairs on the back of her neck rose to attention, a sense of unreality washing over her. It couldn’t be. Except that voice carrying an Akathinian accent, infused with a western inflection, that richly-flavoured, deeply-masculine tone, could belong to only one man.
Noooo. Every muscle in her body tensed in rejection, her heart shutting down in coordination with her breathing as the earthy, sensual scent of him slammed into her senses. Her toes curled in her shoes, ordering, begging her to run. But she had never been, nor would she ever be a coward, so she looked up at the king of Carnelia instead.
Tall and muscular, he dwarfed the stool he sat on, as if he went on forever, the sheer brawn of him riveting; intimidating. But what was perhaps more hazardous to a woman’s health was how all that sheer masculine power was cloaked with a civilized veneer that had always set him apart from his savage of a father. That had once made her believe he was different.
Kostas lifted a hand to capture the bartender’s attention, an unnecessary action when everyone in the bar was staring at him. The women because his hawkish, striking face, set off by his short-cropped black hair, was just that arresting, the men because anyone that dangerous was to be inspected and sized up immediately.
“The oldest Mount Gay you have,” the king requested.
Diavole. Her stomach retracted in a visceral reaction only this man had ever been able to elicit. Stunning in ceremonial uniform as he had been the last time she’d seen him at the Independence Day ball in Akathinia, tonight in jeans and a shirt rolled up at the elbows, he was compelling in a way the sunset staining the sky outside was—an utterly unavoidable, spectacularly beautiful product of nature.
His long, powerful fingers claimed her attention as he lowered them to his side. Lethal hands—ones that could snap a man’s neck as easily as they had crushed her eighteen-year-old heart. Hands that purportedly seduced a woman so skillfully they lined up for him to do it, but that she wouldn’t know because he had saved his cruelest rejection for her.
Her teeth sank into her lower lip, the effects of him reverberating through her. He had kissed her with that beautiful, sensual mouth of his, the only soft part of Kostas that existed, to comfort her after her dreams had come crashing down around her. He had stripped her of her innocent defences, shown her what true fire could look like, then walked away, making a mockery of her teenage idolization.
She hated him.
He was watching her, analyzing her every reaction to him in that deadly way of his. She forced herself to speak past the blood pounding in her ears. “Shouldn’t you be home ruling over that band of ruffians you inherited or did your jet run out of fuel?”
A corner of his mouth lifted. “You know why I’m here.”
She set her glass down with a jerky movement, liquid sloshing precariously close to the sides. “Well you can refuel and be on your way. I gave Nik my answer. I wouldn’t marry you if you came with a dowry of a hundred-billion Euros.”
“I think you have that the wrong way around.”
“I think I don’t. I’m the prize in this scenario, am I not? Or you wouldn’t have flown half-way around the world to harass me.”
“I wouldn’t have had to if you’d given me the time I’d requested.”
“I refused what was on offer.”
His whisky-soaked gaze glittered. “How can you know what you don’t want when you don’t even know what’s on offer?”
She pressed her fingers against her mouth. “Let’s see… Hmm. A barbarian for a husband…living in the enemy’s lair… a union with a man who didn’t even have the guts to try and stop his father when he tried to take Akathinia? No thank you.”
His jaw tightened. “Watch yourself, Stella. You don’t have all the facts.”
“It’s a year-and-a-half too late. I no longer care.” She pushed away from the bar and slid off the stool. “Go home, Kostas.”
“Sit down.” The words left his mouth with the fine edge of a scythe. “Do me the courtesy of hearing me out. The time for tantrums is long past.”
I’ve included a behind-the-scenes look from the cover shoot I was lucky enough to attend so you can see how the cover came to be!
About Marrying Her Royal Enemy:
Most women would kill to be draped in ivory lace and walking up the aisle toward King Kostas Laskos. Stella Constantinides isn’t most women. But for peace in her kingdom, she’s agreed to marry the man she once bared her heart to with disastrous effect.
The feisty princess refuses to be his pawn, yet one night in their marriage bed proves that Stella will never be immune to her husband’s charms. Soon Stella begins to see a truth behind the sins of their past…and she finds herself doing what she swore she’d never do—fall for her husband!