As a society, our pop culture’s appetite for royal scandals is bottomless. Whether it’s reliving the shock of Charles and Diana’s divorce through the drama of The Crown Season 5, binge-watching the Harry & Meghan documentary on Netflix, or gobbling up gossipy tabloid tidbits in the wake of Prince Harry’s tell-all memoir Spare, we simply cannot get enough.
Author Aimee Carter’s addictive new YA series, Royal Blood, leans fully into this trend, mixing palace intrigue with a murder mystery in this explosive story about a fictional royal family and the illegitimate daughter of the King of England, who finds herself the prime suspect in a high-profile murder case. But as Evangeline (Evan, for short) Bright fights to clear her name, she discovers that royal families are often hiding a lot of secrets—some that are even more scandalous than her own.
Here’s how the publisher describes the story.
As the King of England’s illegitimate daughter, 17-year-old Evan Bright knows a thing or two about keeping secrets.
But when she’s forced to spend the summer in London with her father and the royal family, who aren’t exactly thrilled she exists, her identity is mysteriously revealed, and suddenly the world is dying to know every juicy lie the press prints about her.
After a fun night turns deadly and Evan becomes the primary suspect in a murder investigation, the escalating rumors and fallout threaten to tear her life apart. As she fights to uncover the truth about what happened, she discovers royal secrets that are even more scandalous than she imagined – secrets that could change the monarchy forever.
And her own may be next.
Although Royal Blood won’t hit shelves until March 7, we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from the book for you right now!
Louis leads us into his office, which is bigger than I expect, with a long desk in one corner, a rack of gowns in another, and several armchairs and love seats scattered about. As I look around, he openly studies me, his gaze moving up and down as he takes in every detail.
“You’re a slip of a thing, aren’t you? And your hair is more colorful than I was led to believe.”
“I trust you can fix that,” says Jenkins, eyeing me critically now, too. “She’ll need a polish before we present her to His Majesty.”
“A polish?” Louis’s eyebrows shoot up. “That’s putting it mildly.”
“I’m right here,” I say, flopping onto a sofa beside the door. “And the dye was supposed to be temporary. I didn’t know it would turn green and stick around.”
“It isn’t just the hair, love, though that will certainly be our first priority,” says Louis. “The royal family’s style is very . . . particular. There are rules, written and unwritten, and if you’re going to participate—”
“I’m not,” I say. “I’m here for a month, and that’s it.”
A shadow passes over Jenkins’s face. “That is still a month we must make sure you’re presentable. Louis is Her Royal Highness’s personal stylist, and he can guide you toward the appropriate—”
Suddenly heavy footsteps echo in the hallway, and a sandy-haired man strides into the office.
The open door blocks me from his view, but from where I sit, I can see him shaking with fury.
“Jenkins,” he says, his voice low despite his obvious anger. “What on earth do you think you’re playing at?”
Both Jenkins and Louis immediately stand at attention. “Your Majesty,” says Jenkins with a bow of his head, and bile rises in my throat. “Perhaps we might speak in private—”
“I need you to explain to me why you thought bringing her here was acceptable, let alone necessary,” says the man with sandy hair. Alexander. King Alexander II, monarch of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, and my supposed father. Who, I realize, most definitely did not know I was coming.
I pull my knees to my chest and open my mouth, but nothing comes out. It’s impossible not to know what he looks like—I exist, after all, and I don’t live under a rock. But there’s something wholly unsettling about being in the presence of someone I’ve seen in pictures my entire life, and as I stare at the back of his head, all I can think about is that he’s shorter than I thought. Not by a lot—a few inches, maybe—but he isn’t the towering giant that’s lived in my imagination for almost seven years. He’s just an average-sized man. And a slightly balding one at that.
“Sir,” says Jenkins imploringly, and his gaze flickers toward me, but Alexander doesn’t take the hint. “Perhaps there is another place we could discuss—”
“Answer me, Jenkins,” he says with sharp, unwavering authority. It’s the voice of a man who’s never been told no.
Jenkins presses his lips together. “She has nowhere else to go, sir,” he says at last, clearly giving up on any semblance of discretion. “And given the, er, incident this morning, there’s a strong chance the police will press charges. By keeping her close, it will be easier to protect her, and—” He hesitates. “If I may be frank, it is my strong opinion that this is the best place for her.”
“Your opinion has no merit here,” snaps Alexander. “I am her father. It is up to me to decide where she would be better off, and that place is nowhere near Helene and Maisie.”
Maisie. It takes me a moment to realize he’s talking about Princess Mary, his real daughter, and the queasy feeling in my stomach turns hot with shame and devastation as something inside me shatters. Maybe it’s the hope I’ve clung to all these years that he might secretly love me after all, or maybe it’s every lie I’ve told myself about happy endings. But whatever it is, it’s in pieces now, and I’m left aching in its wake.
Before I can stop myself, I sit up straighter, my fingers digging into my shins so hard that I wouldn’t be surprised if I have bruises tomorrow. “If you don’t want me here, then send me home,” I say, cutting Jenkins off as he starts to respond. “It’s obvious you’d be doing both of us a favor.”
The King jerks around, and I see my father’s face in person for the first time. His eyes are blue, his brows bushy, and as his otherwise unremarkable features go slack at the sight of me, I feel like someone’s plunged a knife into my gut. At one point in my life, before my grandmother died, I desperately wanted to meet him—to talk to him, to hear his voice, to know that despite the distance between us, I actually did matter to him. But now I would give almost anything to never see his face again.
“Your Majesty,” says Jenkins, and there’s no mistaking the quaver in his voice this time. “May I present Miss Evangeline Bright. Evangeline—”
“I know who he is,” I say, forcing the words out. “I mean it. Send me home. You don’t want me here, and I don’t want to be here, so let’s just move on and forget this ever happened. We both know you’re good at that.”
The room is deadly quiet, but after several long seconds, Alexander manages to speak.
“E-Evangeline.” He wheezes my name like he’s never said it before in his life. “I . . . of course I
want you here—”
“No you don’t. You just said you don’t,” I say, and although my eyes prickle, I refuse to let him see me cry. “Please. Let me go home.”
Royal Blood is available March 7 from Delacorte Press, but you can pre-order it right now!
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.