Romance columnist Christie Ridgway calls Megan Mulry's debut, A Royal Pain, "a modern love story fizzing with bubbles of Cinderella fantasy."
She isn't kidding about the "modern": Bronte Talbott is a classically independent American woman, and when she finds out that the guy she's dating—cute British doctoral student Max Heyworth—is actually the Duke of Northrop, she's not exactly ready to be swept off her feet. Amid all the falling-heads-over-heels for each other, there are financial differences, a disapproving mother and a ocean-sized question of trans-Atlantic distance.
We chatted with author Megan Mulry—who is not British, by the way—about royal gossip, sexy scenes and what she's reading in a 7 questions interview. When it comes to dinner party guests, I like her style:
"All the best people, darling! Julia Child, Christopher Hitchens, Coco Chanel, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duchess of Devonshire, Caitlin Moran, Colin Firth, Anthony Bourdain, Vita Sackville-West and some of my real-life friends to round out the numbers. David Gandy would be the waiter."
Enjoy an excerpt from A Royal Pain (more here):
It was hard to say which one of them had been more flummoxed by the other’s transformation. Having only seen each other in a parade of T-shirts and jeans for the previous days and weeks, when Max opened the door to Bronte’s flat and saw her in the little red Valentino dress, he clasped both hands over his heart, as if to stave off an attack. Bronte was similarly stunned by Max in full, debonair splendor.
His broad shoulders and trim waist were even more appealing in his perfectly tailored navy suit, a few curls of brown hair touched the collar of his crisp white shirt, and he had finished it off with a pale-green Hermès tie. (They were going to have fun with that tie later, Bronte promised herself.)
Max hired a car and driver to chauffeur them around for the night, and Bronte winced slightly at the needless expense. He called her out.
“If you are constitutionally unable to enjoy spending a little bit of dosh on a night out, we need to have a talk.”
She laughed and decided, for one night at least, to let go of her financial hang-ups. “Fine! All right! I give in. Go ahead and spend. I’ll do my best to turn a blind eye to all this wild extravagance.” He obviously wasn’t the starving student she thought he was if that suit was any indication.
Max looked out the window of the relatively grimy dial-a-car and hid his amusement at Bronte’s idea of extravagance. She was in for a few surprises when she came to London. And it was definitely when she came, because as far as Max was concerned, there was no if about it.
They arrived at a small French restaurant and Bronte gave a brief note of thanks to the powers that be that she had never been wined and dined by any Texan suitors at this particular establishment.
“Since you have rescinded financial equality,” Max said after they were settled side by side in an intimate booth and looking over the outrageously expensive menu, “I was thinking maybe I should just take the reins altogether. I think I’ll order for you, feed you, intertwine my arms through yours as we drink a memorable bottle of Léoville-Las Cases . . .”
He brought his water glass to his lips and watched her face transition from brief, affronted shock, to humor, to something seductive and willing.
Right before he took a sip, he said, “Oh, Bron, please don’t look at me like that until we’re finished with dessert.”
"Okay,” she purred with false compliance. “Whatever you say, Your Grace.”
He almost spewed his water at her offhand remark, but instead pretended it had gone down the wrong tube and brought his napkin to his eyes to conceal his surprise.
She patted him on the back gently. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he sputtered, “fine, just excited I guess.”
Bronte finished rubbing his back then put both of her hands in her lap. “Me too. And nervous all of a sudden.”
He took one of her hands in his and gave her an encouraging smile. “Don’t say that. It’s one of my favorite things about you. You are never nervous.”
Her blood sped at the idea that he already had a favorite thing about her—one of many, apparently—then she swatted herself back into reality.
“Everybody’s nervous sometimes.” Bronte reached for her water glass. “Even Kate.”
Max looked at her with confusion. “Who?”
“You know, the Duchess of Cambridge.”
If he had been drinking water that time, Max would have spewed that mouthful for sure. The way Bronte had phrased the sentence made it sound like you know the Duchess of Cambridge. Whom he did, in fact, know.
He paused again, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Either Bronte had spent the past two days scouring the Internet and knew all about his family and connections and had decided to taunt him into confessing, or she just happened to be stumbling blindly into it.
Bronte burst out laughing. “I mean, of course you don’t know her know her. But you know what I mean. She’s always so authentic and calm and pretty and smiling and, you know, perfect.”
How the hell was he supposed to reply to that? Silence was always one of his best allies.
“Oh forget it. You men are all the same, pretending it’s all silly princess worship or whatever. Still, I bet it’s hard work being perennially cheerful all the time, and I certainly wouldn’t want to do that in a million years.”
Well, Max thought, that wasn’t an acceptable alternative either. He smiled suggestively. “I’m sure her position has its . . . advantages, wouldn’t you say?”
Bronte took the bait. “Oh, all right. William is pretty cute, I’ll give you that.”
Max didn’t know whether to laugh or cry that the future king’s cuteness was at the top of Bronte’s list of royal inducements.
What about you? Do you keep up with Kate?