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Love and War

Author(s): Suzy Knight

Love, Duty, or Family… Which would you choose?

Love and War is a sweet romantic fantasy focusing on the lives of two princesses in the fictional kingdom of Estoria. Amelia and Sophia Montford are twins and neither are eligible to inherit the crown unless they marry. While Sophia is anxious to meet the husband their father has chosen for her, Amelia would rather become a King in her own right than become someone else’s Queen and has no real interest in marrying anyone.

However when their betrothals are announced the sisters are shocked to discover that it is Amelia that will be marrying the second-born prince of a neighboring country and inheriting the throne, while Sophia is to be married to a mere Duke’s son. Things get more complicated when Amelia starts to have feelings for the bodyguard her betrothed sent to keep her safe.

Excerpt


“Amelia!” The shrill cry of outrage echoed through the courtyard. The young woman in question flinched and ducked behind the practice dummy she had been sparring with. A matronly woman, Ida Rillingson, the etiquette tutor, was red-faced with both anger and exertion as she wobbled across the flagstones and dragged the princess out with a tight grip on her sleeve.
There was a muffled clunk as Amelia threw the sword away, hoping she hadn’t been seen. She allowed the muttering spinster to drag her through the castle by the sleeve to the tower room in which the Queen and her ladies-in-waiting were embroidering. The guards at the bottom of the tower stairs snickered as Amelia was pulled up the stairs behind the portly etiquette instructor.
“Just you wait, young lady,” puffed Ida. Her jowls wobbled after each syllable she spoke, her anger powering her climb to the sitting room. Amelia followed and then continued past her to wait patiently at the top of the stairs while her aggressor tried to catch her breath, leaning against the wall.
Queen Elsabeth beamed when she saw her daughter enter the women’s sitting room, but the smile froze when she saw the matron push her way in behind Amelia.
“Your Majesty,” Ida wheezed. The queen waited, her right eyebrow twitching in irritation. Amelia rolled her eyes but she wasn’t going to admit to anything until she knew how much had been seen. She caught sight of her twin sister, Sophia, stitching beside their mother, a smug look on her face.
“Your Majesty, I have tried to instill skills and temperament into the young princesses. Sophia has excelled in all her studies: dancing, table manners, appropriate hobbies, and such-like. But I fear I cannot teach Amelia anything. She runs from my lessons and comes to meals covered in mud or ink stains. She is far too vocal and opinionated,” the matron broke off to glare at Amelia, and then clutched at her head and collapsed into a convenient chair “Oh, I cannot teach her any longer my queen…I fear there is no hope for her.”
The queen glared at the prone woman. “I’m sorry to hear that.” Her voice was curt and cold. Amelia took a step back, and even Sophia looked surprised, but Ida seemed to be oblivious to the tone of the queen’s voice.
“I’m so glad you agree. I would be happy to continue educating Sophia, of course. It’s just Amelia.” Ida sat upright and began arranging her skirts. “Do you know what I found her doing just now?” she said conspiratorially to a nearby woman. “She was attacking a practice dummy in the courtyard—with a sword!” Lady Catherine looked horrified, although Amelia was unsure whether her horror was at being drawn into the situation, or at Amelia’s unladylike behavior.
“Thank you for your service. Please see the steward, so you can be appropriately compensated.” The queen turned back to her embroidery, ignoring the unfortunate spinster. The woman in question looked pleased to be rewarded, but as she looked around the room, she noticed the way the other ladies furiously worked on their embroidery and pointedly ignored her. Amelia watched with guilt as the woman’s jaw dropped open, and the truth of her situation dawned on her.
“B…but your Majesty, I…” stammered the portly spinster. Her cheeks drained of their previous color. The queen fixed her with a cold stare.
“There’s no need for further discussion of the matter. You resigned, and I accepted, and that will be all.” She nodded to the guards standing just inside the door, and they helped Ida to her feet and out of the room.
Amelia knew better than to try to sneak out after her…she had embarrassed her mother by being dragged here by a servant. She quickly sat down in her own chair and began to desperately embroider the handkerchief she had been working on for the past month. One by one, the women of the court made excuses and fled the room. When there were only the two princesses left, the queen sighed and laid down her silk.
“What were you thinking, Amelia? A sword?” The queen sighed again and rubbed her temples, as though hoping to ward off a headache.
“I’m surprised she didn’t trip and cut her own leg off!” Sophia snorted, still stitching away—probably creating a small masterpiece. Amelia clenched her hands into tight fists, determined not to let her sister prod her into a fight…not when she was already in so much trouble.
“I kept it sheathed until I was at the dummy, you dummy! I just wanted to see how hard it would be to swing one—swords are really heavy!” Before Sophia could reply, the queen held up a hand for silence.
“In what situation do you see yourself needing to wield a sword? We have guardsmen to protect us, Amelia, and soldiers and Knights. We do not need a warrior princess!”
“The war is coming, Mother—we ought to be able to defend ourselves if we need to!”
The queen shook her head in frustration. “You are not a child anymore! You can’t sneak off to council meetings or to the guard’s room—you have to take responsibility—”
“That’s what I’m trying to do!” argued Amelia, cutting off the rest of the queen’s sentence.
“A princess does not fight her own battles!” screeched the queen, losing her own temper.
“Well, they should! I’m not content to be married off to be some stranger so that he can be King—I’m capable of ruling myself, and I know what is best for this country. I can protect us just as well as Father can, he said so himself!”
“What?” Sophia and the queen screamed simultaneously. Sophia stood, and jabbed her embroidery at Amelia.
“Why should you get to be queen? You can’t dance, you can’t curtsy, you have no political power in court—you’re a laughingstock amongst the court ladies. You need a husband to rule, and you’d never catch one. That’s why you'll never be queen! Even if Father convinced some fool to marry you—he'd run off as soon as he realized who you are!"
"Sophia Delphine Marie Montford!"
Sophia flinched at the anger in the queen's voice and primly sat back down to resume her needlework. Amelia's jaw dropped. She never thought she would see the day when perfect Sophia got in trouble—not with their mother, anyway.
"Your father will decide which of you is to be queen when the time comes. He will also choose your husbands. As princesses of Estoria, it is your duty to accept this. Both of you are to abide by his decision—have I made myself clear?"
Both girls nodded sullenly. "Amelia, you will be learning etiquette with me from now on. I clearly cannot trust you under anyone else's supervision. If you are chosen to be the next queen there will be certain skills your husband will expect you to have—and swordsmanship is not one of those skills." Amelia fought to hold back the tears welling in her eyes. If the rules of ascension were not so stringent, she might have had a chance to make her mother agree with the King’s statement: Amelia would make an excellent King.
"Mother, if I may—why force Amelia to study what she has so little talent for? I am fully prepared to do my duty and marry whomever Father thinks is appropriate." Sophia sneered at Amelia, but Queen Elsabeth only shook her head.
“I hope, Sophia, that when the time comes for you to marry, you will remember this conversation. Your father’s decision will be final, and he will make it considering the happiness and well-being of both of you and the kingdom.”
“She’s right, though, Mother. I’m too clumsy and outspoken to be a good wife. Why can’t I study to be an ambassador or a steward? I’d settle for being Sophia’s husband’s advisor.” Amelia knew she shouldn’t push, the queen was already angry, but if she didn’t say it now she might never get another chance.
“Why do you assume my husband will want your advice?” sniffed Sophia.
“Why do you both assume Sophia’s husband will be King?” snapped the queen.


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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 978-1-62916-051-1
Genre: Sweet Romance
Date Published: 02/06/2014
Publisher: Taliesin Publishing

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