Penelope and Prince Charming (Nvengaria Series #1)

Penelope and Prince Charming (Nvengaria Series #1)

3.4 25
by Jennifer Ashley

His blue eyes beguiled. His muscular form could have satisfied any fantasy. He had a delicious foreign accent -- and to top it off, he was royalty! What woman would dare refuse the most sought-after lover in Europe?

Miss Twice-a-Jilt Penelope Trask, that�s who. And, unfortunately for Damien, marrying Penelope is the only way to inherit his kingdom. Good thing

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His blue eyes beguiled. His muscular form could have satisfied any fantasy. He had a delicious foreign accent -- and to top it off, he was royalty! What woman would dare refuse the most sought-after lover in Europe?

Miss Twice-a-Jilt Penelope Trask, that�s who. And, unfortunately for Damien, marrying Penelope is the only way to inherit his kingdom. Good thing this enchantingly infuriating woman doesn't seem completely immune to his many charms. The passionate way she returns his kisses tells Damien he isn�t the only one head over heels. But wooing is difficult amid assassination attempts, wild magic, and desire so strong it threatens to overwhelm him every time they touch. Why had no one mentioned the road to happily-ever-after could be so difficult?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Unremarkable Penelope Trask has always loved fairy tales, but never expected to live one; unfortunately, Ashley's one-dimensional characters wouldn't do a nursery rhyme justice, much less this foray into fantasy romance. Everything changes for this ordinary young woman living in an ordinary 19th-century English village when Prince Damien Augustus Frederic Michel of the far-off kingdom Nvengaria rides into her life and claims an ancient prophecy naming her his princess. Naturally, there's a drawback: in order to fulfill the prophecy and regain control of his kingdom from a usurper, the prince must marry her immediately. Even more troubling, Penelope must travel alone with the brash Damien, whom she does not trust. The plot becomes increasingly fanciful en route to Nvengaria, as they encounter assassins, magic spells and an attack by a logosh-a shape-shifting half-human, half-beast. In the meantime, fueled by the prophecy's magic, passion between Penelope and Damien escalates-and escalates giving the story a pedestrian pace that suggests Ashley, known for her acclaimed Pirate series (The Care and Feeding of Pirates, etc.), has not yet shaken off her sea legs. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Nvengaria Series, #1
Product dimensions:
4.28(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.05(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Penelope & Prince Charming

By Jennifer Ashley

Dorchester Publishing

Copyright © 2006

Jennifer Ashley

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8439-5606-2

Chapter One

December 1818

His full name was Prince Damien Augustus Frederic Michel of
Nvengaria, a title that always caused mild panic. People were
afraid they'd have to remember it.

"Call me Damien," he'd say. "It will save time."

Women called him love and cherie and
oh-please-don't-stop-doing-that in whatever language they
happened to speak.

He had black hair and the dark blue eyes of the people of
Nvengaria, an athletic body and skin slightly darker than that
of most Europeans. Nvengarian men were reputed to be devoted
to the intense pleasure of the women in their beds, and ladies
from Belgrade to Heidelberg to London were willing to find out
whether this was true.

The woman in Damien's bed tonight was a Russian countess with
blonde hair, blue eyes, and a lush body that his own body was
vastly enjoying.

His brain, on the other hand, was preoccupied. He had nearly
died again this afternoon, but luckily he'd seen the
assassin's knife a split second before it struck. His
bodyguard had taken the man down, and Damien had walked on,
pretending to the crowd on the Paris street that his heart
wasn't screaming in his throat.

Hence, the countess.

Her gaze roved the knotted muscles of his biceps and shoulders
in admiration. "My prince. Myhandsome prince."

Damien lowered himself to her and put his mouth against hers.

She smiled eagerly and licked her lips, her tongue brushing
his. "Make me."

He did. He slanted his mouth across hers, kissing her in
burning strokes. His skin dripped sweat in the overheated
room, muscles contracting as he moved over her.

The wide mirror on the wall reflected her slender white body
nearly hidden in red coverlets, and his own bronzed nakedness
on her, the round of his hips rising and falling. Candles
blazed around the bed and throughout the sumptuous room,
dozens of them, so that if a few burned out, Damien would not
be left in the dark.

One candle guttered and smoked, making him want to sneeze. The
countess's noises grew frantic. She tore her mouth from his.

She lifted her hips, squeezing him hard. This was what he'd
been waiting for-to lose himself in the mindlessness of it,
to let her pressure on him erase all thought.

He gave a heartfelt groan, disappointment mixed with ecstasy.
The intense, wild feeling boiling through him meant he would
come down to earth in a second or two, and then it would be

He held on as long as he could. Too long, too long. Damn. He
climaxed with one last thrust while she shrieked and moaned.

It was done. Damien withdrew and crashed onto the bed beside
her. His arousal stood out in a sharp angle from his body,
slick and wet from their lovemaking. He was already hardening
again, nowhere near sated, but blessed, numbing sleep was
coming to take him over.

The countess looked at him, smiling lazily. "Oh, my prince.
That was the best I ever had."

He returned the smile, but didn't answer. She probably
exaggerated. His body grew heavy, seeking sleep. Sweet,
oblivious, sleep.

Before he succumbed, he politely loosened the silk tethers
that bound her wrists to the headboard.

She looked disappointed. He briefly kissed her lips,
whispered, "Go to sleep," and then went there himself.

* * *

Damien awoke to a sharp knock on his chamber door. He dragged
open his eyes and swore softly. By the bright candlelight, he
saw that the clock had moved only an hour, and he was still

He did not worry that a jealous lover had come calling for the
countess. The only person allowed past the antechamber, the
only one allowed to knock on the bedchamber door, was Petri,
his valet.

If Petri knocked, he must have good reason. Maybe France had
gone to war again, and the French king would once more flee
into exile. That would make a good excuse for Damien to leave
Paris, and he was looking for one.

Spain was nice this time of year. The Spanish court liked him.
He could commission another painting from that retired court
painter; Goya, that was his name. Damien liked his art. The
man had a gift for seeing what was really there.

Or London. He grimaced. No, in London he'd have to visit the
Prince Regent, and their last parting had been cool. During
Damien's previous visit, the Regent had overheard someone say
of Damien, "Now he's what a prince should be."

Damien rose from the bed. He absently brushed dried patches of
cream from his skin and shrugged on his dressing gown. The
countess slept on, her head pillowed on her arm, the blissful
sleep of a woman with no conscience.

Damien silently opened the door and slipped into the

Petri waited for him with six other men who'd crammed
themselves into the little jewel box of a room. All except
Petri were dressed in the full livery of the imperial princes
of Nvengaria-bright blue coats, blue trousers, black boots,
gold epaulettes, polished brass buttons, and medals.

Nvengaria liked to bestow medals. Damien doubted that rulers
of other countries cut medals for rescuing the Imperial
Prince's cat from a tree, but Damien's father had. Damien's
father handed out medals for anything, pretending to be a
benevolent man, though no one was fool enough to believe he

Damien recognized the leader of the pack as Misk, the man the
Imperial Prince sent to Damien when he had an important
message for him, usually a death threat. Misk wore more medals
than the other lackeys. Damien wondered how the man could
stand up straight with all the metal hanging from his chest.

"Your Highness." He bowed low, medals clanking. "Terrible,
grievous news I have."

Damien waited without alarm. Misk always had terrible,
grievous news.

Misk removed a velvet drawstring bag from his pocket. Inside
this was a small box, inlaid in rosewood and teak in the
designs of the imperial family crest.

The box was very old; the sides were polished with time until
the inlay was smooth, the lines of the design blurred.

Misk opened the box and handed it to Damien.

Inside lay a ring. A silver ring, thick and heavy, the flat
head bearing the signet of the Imperial Prince of Nvengaria.

"That is my father's," Damien said.

"No, Imperial Highness. It is yours. Your father is dead."

Damien's heart missed a beat. The father who had imprisoned
him then thrown him into exile, threatening him with death if
he so much as looked in Nvengaria's direction again. Dead and

Damien drew out the ring, held it up to the candlelight. The
silver, eight hundred years old, gleamed softly.

The men in the room dropped to their knees.

Damien looked over their bowed heads to the gilded vines
lining the walls of the antechamber. He was now the Imperial
Prince of Nvengaria.

For one moment, he said nothing, while the men waited. He
poised on the knife-edge of change-whatever decision he made
here would seal his fate forever. No going back.

He closed his fist around the ring. "Petri," he said softly.
"Pack my things."

* * *

England, May 1819

Nothing out of the ordinary ever happened in Little Marching,


"Where are you off to, darling?" Penelope's mother, Lady
Trask, asked as Penelope and Meagan donned bonnets in the
high-ceiling hall of Ashborn Manor, the Trask country home.

Lady Trask stood at the large oval table in the middle of the
hall, arranging flowers of varying shapes and clashing colors
in a huge oriental vase. Lady Trask often arranged flowers.
She also painted with watercolors. She did little else.

Penelope gave her mother a kiss. "To the village. To buy

Lady Trask returned the kiss with a tiny one on Penelope's
cheek, a long-stemmed, early rose in her hand. "Take one of
your books to Mrs. Swanson, dear. She likes your little

Penelope had already put one of the collections of fairy tales
into her basket. "Yes, mama."

Lady Trask frowned at the rose. "You will not get white
ribbons, will you? You are too old for white."

"Of course not, mama," she said, tying the very brown ribbons
of her small, flat bonnet. "I have not worn white in three

Lady Trask sighed. "A pity your father died. He could have
found you such a rich husband, Penny, dear."

Penelope drew on her gloves, carefully fitting them over each
finger. "You know I have decided not to marry, mama."

Penelope's two betrothals had been disasters. Reuben White, a
handsome man about town, had wanted a pliable wife who'd look
the other way at his blatant affairs. Magnus Grady, whom she'd
thought older, wiser, and safer, had turned out to want a
pretty young girl to chase around the drawing room.

Penelope had cried off and been labeled a jilt, then a
double-jilt. When her father died, his title and money had
passed to her cousins, leaving her mother and she only a small
jointure and allowance. Penelope's dowry had been drained to
repay debt, rendering Penelope no longer a catch.

Lady Trask regarded her sorrowfully. "All girls wish to marry.
To rich husbands."

"If I married, mama, who would look after you?"

She considered. "Yes, that is a point. But Meagan's dear papa
has been such a comfort."

That was an understatement. The two girls left the house
before they could burst into giggles.

"They'll marry in a sixmonth, I'll have a wager on it," Meagan
said as they strolled down the curving drive.

"I put it quicker than that," Penelope smiled.

They glanced back at the house. Meagan's father, Michael
Tavistock, had come to call that day, bringing Meagan with
him, of course. He'd been strolling the garden while they
readied themselves to go to the village, "waiting for us to
clear out," Meagan had whispered.

"They've worn out one bedstead already," Meagan observed as
they turned to the road that descended to the village. "I do
wish they'd get on with it. I am tired of pretending to
everyone that they are friends only because you and I are

"It will be a rest, certainly," Penelope agreed. "But I
believe they enjoy pretending to be illicit lovers."

"At their age." Meagan sighed with the wisdom of her nineteen
years. "It gives them something to do, I suppose. Little
Marching is so dull in the summer. Nothing ever happens here."

"I like nothing happening," Penelope replied with conviction.
"It is restful. You know that each day will be quiet and slow,
just like the one before."

Meagan snorted. "You say restful. I say dull. Dull, dull,
dull. No balls, no soirees, no museums, just Little Marching
and home."

"What you mean is, no men to flirt with."

"Well, no." Meagan opened her arms, gesturing to the rolling
green hills that stretched to the hazy horizon. "Do you see
any men here? None to dance with, to flirt with, to entice
into corners- Ah, Penelope, they are fine creatures, men. A
little patience, a little coaxing, and they can become quite

Penelope studied the white and yellow flowers by the side of
the road. "So you say."

"Oh, come, come, Pen, even you cannot be immune. Tell me that
a room full of trousers does not make you melt."

"Trousers with men in them, I suppose you mean?" she smiled.

Meagan looked dreamy. "Tight trousers. Tight coats on broad
shoulders. Hair that makes you want to run wanton fingers
through it. A handsome face, a wicked smile. Eyes that make
you all shivery and warm at the same time."

Penelope came out of her doldrums to laugh. "I vow, Meagan,
your papa had better get you married off quickly. You are
going to burn into a little pile of ashes, and all will wonder
at the sad end of poor man-mad Meagan Tavistock."

"Oh, piffle. I shall marry, but I shall only marry a very
handsome gentleman who is madly in love with me."

"They do not exist, Meagan," Penelope said quietly. "We marry
for money and property and to keep families together. When a
gentleman wants love, they go elsewhere."

Meagan looked remorseful. "Sorry, Pen. I forgot."

Her heart gave a quick, painful beat. "You see, you should
learn from my experience. Ladies of our station do not marry
for love. It is convenience, that is all, no matter what
pretty words they whisper into our ears."

Pretty words. Seductive murmurs. False, all of it. Come to me,
love, so that I can put an heir in my nursery then run about
with my favorite mistress and ignore you.
Thank heavens she'd
found out the truth before the ring had been on her finger.

"Not all men are like Mr. White," Meagan said. "You were

"But they are, my dear," Penelope answered. "Admire them all
you want, but be aware of the truth. They want to marry for
money and connections, nothing more. Handsome princes do not
sweep in and take ordinary girls to their faraway kingdoms,
except in stories. Real princes have double chins and marry
for politics."

She closed her mouth, her tongue having flapped too long.

Meagan pursed her lips. She knew the story of Penelope's
troubles, but Meagan insisted that both events had been
aberrations. Young, pretty, red-haired Meagan had much to
learn. Gentlemen just could not be trusted.

And so, Penelope was perfectly content to live out her life in
Little Marching in the middle of Oxfordshire, where nothing
remotely interesting ever happened.


* * *

"Is this the village?"

His Imperial Highness, Prince Damien Augustus Frederic Michel
of Nvengaria lifted the coach's curtain with a weary hand.

"Little Marching, Oxfordshire," the small, bearded man next to
him said. "I am afraid it is, Your Highness."


Excerpted from Penelope & Prince Charming
by Jennifer Ashley
Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Ashley.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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