A Queen From the North
A Royal Roses Book
by Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese
Genre: Contemporary Romance
It may be the 21st century, but in a not-so-united kingdom the wounds of the Wars of the Roses have never healed. The rivalry between the Yorkish north and Lancastrian south has threatened to pull the nation apart for over 500 years.
While the modern world struggles with fractures born of ancient conflict, Lady Amelia Brockett faces far more mundane problems. Known to her family as Meels, this youngest daughter of a Northern earl is having the Worst. Christmas. Ever. Dumped by her boyfriend and rejected from graduate school, her parents deem her the failure of the family.
But when her older brother tries to cheer her with a trip to the races, a chance meeting with Arthur, the widowed, playboy Prince of Wales, offers Amelia the chance to change her life -- and Britain's fortunes -- forever. Hunted by the press -- and haunted by Arthur's niece who fancies herself the kingdom's court witch -- Amelia finds herself adrift in a sea of paparazzi, politics, and prophecy.
With few allies beyond her allergic-to-horses sister-in-law, her best friend who has a giant crush on the prince, and the cute young receptionist at Buckingham Palace that calls himself her Royalty Customer Service Representative, Amelia must navigate a perilous and peculiar course to secure Arthur's love and become A Queen from the North.
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When Amelia returned to the stable yard leading Hyacinth’s horse beside her, almost an hour had passed. She was tired, cold, and very in want of a bath. She was also increasingly worried about the Princess, if for no other reason than a total lack of information.
She turned the erstwhile runaway horse over to a groom who came out to meet her, relieved to have had help with the difficult animal. The stable yard was otherwise mostly empty, except for a man on the other side of it brushing down a horse. With a jolt of surprise she realized it was Arthur.
He looked over when she rode up to him and swung down.
“You caught him,” he said, nodding to Hyacinth’s horse.
“Yes. Eventually. He ran into the woods. It took forever. Is Hyacinth all right?”
“For the most part. Broken wrist. Our physician took her to A&E, much to her displeasure. She’ll be back in an hour or so with X-rays and a cast. Could have been much worse.”
Amelia blew out a relieved breath. A broken wrist was an annoyance, particularly for the active Hyacinth, but it was much better than the dire scenarios she’d been spinning in her head.
“The horse is all right?” Arthur asked.
Amelia nodded. “Perfectly fine and not even sure what all the upset was about. Damn skittish though.”
Arthur raised an eyebrow as she removed her own horse’s tack and saddle.
“Why do you look surprised?” she asked.
Arthur shrugged. “You’re a small girl. This part’s a lot of work.”
“And you’re the Prince of Wales, doing it yourself. Isn’t this what you have people for?”
Arthur ran a hand down his horse’s neck. “This is one of the only things people leave me alone to do.”
“I bet it took you a while to train them into that.”
They fell into a silence after that, both of them focused on their horses. But whenever she glanced sideways at Arthur she caught him staring at her.
“This weekend is a bit of a mess,” Amelia said mildly into the silence which was beginning to grow awkward. “One of the Princesses fell off a horse, the other hates me; your friends think I’m a child and a fool who can’t even make it to dinner on time; and it’s only Saturday morning. You want me to be queen, I think, but no one else here seems to know that and they’d probably be appalled if they did.”
“I don’t really care about what other people think. Do you? Or was this just a game until it got hard?”
“Other people are not what make any of this hard. What makes this hard is you and your inability to be consistent or transparent about anything. Including whether you want me around.”
“I wanted to call,” Arthur said quietly. “When my father was ill.”
“So why didn’t you?” Amelia demanded. Maybe now they could be done with this argument once and for all. And maybe Arthur would finally say something that could make her understand him and his wretched mercurialness.
“Enough awful things have happened in my life. You’re one of the good ones. I didn’t want to drag you into a crisis.”
“If you want me to be your partner, you need to treat me as such,” Amelia said. “I won’t break because the world is hard to live in sometimes. If I’m going to go through with this, I’m not doing it alone.”
“So you are going through with this?” Arthur asked. He turned to look intently at her.
“That was the deal.”
“Good. Will you marry me?”
Amelia blinked. “What?”
“I said, will you marry —”
“No.” She took a step back, panicked. “Not like this. You can’t ask me like this.”
Arthur looked around, as if he had just realized where they were. “We can go inside?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean? You’re clearly not doing this just for your health,” Arthur looked nervous, Amelia noticed in an abstract way.
"Without me, your crown, or at least your legacy, is forfeit. I'm barely more than a child who is about to be abused by media all over the world. The least you can do is kneel." Amelia had no idea where the words came from. She hadn’t rehearsed them, indeed had never imagined this moment, not like this: standing in the Gatcombe stable yard in the cold damp of an English spring.
Arthur smiled at her, almost proud. Then, he strode the two paces to where she stood and sank to one knee before her, right there in the dirt. His horse whickered softly as he took her hands in his.
“Go on,” Amelia said. “Both knees.” She could hardly believe her own daring, but Arthur had always seemed to enjoy it when she pushed. She would have so little power in their lives going forward, he could at least give her this.
Arthur seemed to agree, because he shifted his other knee under himself as well.
At the sight of the Prince, on both of his knees for her and at her command, Amelia realized with a startling clarity that she was absolutely and completely in love with him. Well then.
“Is this all right?” he asked, with an amused tilt of his mouth.
It took Amelia a moment to find her voice. “Yes.”
“Lady Amelia Brockett. Of Kirkham. Of York. Of all my supposed enemies.” He looked her straight in the eye. “Will you marry me?”
Arthur squeezed her hands. “The least you can do,” he said, “Is actually say yes. Aloud. Please.”
“All right then,” she replied, laughing just a little. “Yes, Arthur, I will marry you.”
“Shit,” Arthur said.
Without a word, he stood, grabbed Amelia by the wrist, and strode off to the house, dragging her after him.
“Arthur!” she demanded, as he banged in through the side door and tromped through the atrium and then the sitting room, past a handful of people who broke off conversation to stare after them. “Where are we going?”
“I don’t have the rings,” Arthur said as he reached the stairs and started to climb, two at a time. Amelia had to run to keep up.
“I wasn’t quite planning on….” Arthur trailed off as they reached a wing Amelia hadn’t been in yet. He fumbled a door open and pulled her inside. For a moment their bodies were pressed together, and then the door closed again with a muffled bang of heavy oak.
“The genealogists put together a list,” the Prince said. “All unmarried women of the peerage, in a certain age demographic, who do not have children and have not been divorced. As you might imagine, it’s not particularly extensive.”
“Why not include commoners?” Amelia asked faintly.
“By what criteria? There’s a nation of those. If someone is going to be subjected to this life, they may as well go in as prepared as possible.”
“Wouldn’t it have been easier to hold a ball?”
Prince Arthur laughed. His whole face brightened, almost like it had at the races. “The treasury’s already girding its loins for the inevitable royal wedding. Best not to run up an even bigger bill in the process of finding a bride.”
"Are you…proposing to me?" She asked hesitantly. And then, more hysterically, “After five minutes? After talking about genealogy?”
"Hardly.” Arthur sounded offended. “This is me asking if you'd agree to meet with me again to discuss the matter of marriage further."
Amelia stared at him. This couldn’t possibly be happening.
“Your genealogy, though, is hardly irrelevant.” Prince Arthur removed a piece of paper from the folio, spun it around on the table and pushed it at her.
“This is my family tree.”
“Yes. We do our homework here,” Prince Arthur flipped through his folio again. “You’re attractive, well-born, and intelligent. Pursuing a graduate degree in the earth sciences, I believe.”
“I graduate in the spring. I’m applying to PhD programs. I want to study climate change,” Amelia managed to say, as if any of those words could be a defense against what was happening.
“All of which is excellent. You also happen to be the only eligible daughter of one of the oldest families of York. Both the city and the ancient house.”
“How is that a plus?” Amelia was wary. Little good ever came of the rare times London mentioned York.
“Political marriages — at least of this form — are rather out of style these days. But the rift between the north and the rest of the country only grows.”
“That’s the Prime Minister’s fault. And Parliament’s.” It was Amelia’s turn to be offended now. “The most recent jobs bill—”
The Prince sighed. “Yes. I know. I agree with you. Yet as a member of the royal house I can hardly engage in politics. At least not on a parliamentarian’s terms. But symbolism is mine. And what I can do is unite York and London — York and Lancaster — in a way they haven’t been in centuries. I know this proposition is awkward, but we could make history, you and I.”
“Awkward?!” Amelia exclaimed. “This conversation is insane.”
Prince Arthur blinked mildly at her. “I’m merely trying to apply the available resources to a set of problems. Before you judge, I suggest you consider the resources that could be applied to your problems were you to choose to help me with mine.”
“You don’t even know what my problems are!”
“I don’t have to, to know we could help each other.”
Amelia wanted to turn away from the intensity of his stare, but she couldn’t. He was magnetic, and there was a sharpness, even a shrewdness, to him that hadn’t been present at the races. His eyes may have been brown, but he was no prey animal. She couldn’t help but lean in ever so slightly. In her mind she cursed both the table between them and this proposed conspiracy.
“Lady Amelia,” Prince Arthur said, “do you want to be Queen Consort of England, Scotland, and Wales, Her Royal Majesty of Britain?”
“No!” Amelia pressed her feet firmly against the floor as the word came out of her mouth unbidden. The Prince was fascinating, but the question so baldly put was terrifying. Not to mention treasonous for her to answer in anything but the negative. She wondered, fleetingly, if this were a trap.
“Shall I call to have you shown out then?” His words were without rancor, but there was a coldness to them she did not prefer.
She shook her head. “No,” she repeated more softly.
Erin McRae is a queer writer based in New York and Washington, DC. She is a researcher, statistician, and novelist.
She has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Toronto (Toronto, Canada) and a master’s degree in International Affairs from American University (Washington, DC).
Together with Racheline Maltese she founded Avian30, a literary collective dedicated to stories with magical and sexual realism. She is a hybrid author. She and Racheline Maltese have self-published titles (A Queen From the North, 2017; The Art of Three, 2017, and the Love in Los Angeles series, which was originally published by Torquere Press in 2014 and is being re-released in 2017). They have also published work with Cleis Press (Best Gay Romance, 2015), Dreamspinner (The Love’s Labours series, 2015), Supposed Crimes (Young Love Old Hearts, 2015).
She lives with her spouse and their two cats.
Racheline Maltese can fly a plane, sail a boat, and ride a horse, but has no idea how to drive a car. With Erin McRae she writes romance about fame and public life. She is also a producer and writer on Tremontaine, Serial Box Publishing's adventure of manners, swordplay, and chocolate that's a prequel to Ellen Kushner's gay lit classic, Swordspoint.
Racheline's training includes a journalism degree from The George Washington University, as well as acting and directing coursework at the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School (New York City) and the National Institute of Dramatic Art (Sydney, Australia).
Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry has appeared in numerous outlets, and she is a regular speaker on pop-culture topics at fan and academic conferences. Racheline also voiced Desire and Delirium in a benefit performance of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman for the CBLDF.
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