Wickedly Charmingby Kristine Grayson
He's given up on happily-ever-after...But she may be the key to happily-right-now...
Before turning to romance writing, award-winning author Kristine Grayson edited the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and ran Pulphouse Publishing (which won her a World Fantasy Award). She has won the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award and, under her real name, Kristine… See more details below
He's given up on happily-ever-after...But she may be the key to happily-right-now...
Before turning to romance writing, award-winning author Kristine Grayson edited the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and ran Pulphouse Publishing (which won her a World Fantasy Award). She has won the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award and, under her real name, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the prestigious Hugo award. She lives with her own Prince Charming, writer Dean Wesley Smith, in Portland, Oregon.
"I love this take on an old story... Exceedingly endearing... Reviewer Top Pick!" - Night Owl Reviews
"A delightful antidote to the fairy tale and an entertaining read. 4 Stars" - RT Book Reviews
"Reality and fairy tales collide in this altogether delightful story... Book lovers will be thrilled by the inside look at the publishing world, while fairy tale fans will love the in-jokes. " - Publishers Weekly
The author manages to bring you along two very different paths that somehow merger perfectly into one very emotional and believable plot.
An amusing satirical take on images, public spins, and the publishing industry.
A fun and delightful story, read Wickedly Charming and find out what really happens to "happily ever after!"
A great spin to stories we all know...
This book does a great job of humanizing the Grimm characters... Many kudos to the author for her outstanding - and humorous - work.
Appealing, vulnerable characters... It's a story about second chances, and the message is a real one: you have to work for your happily-ever-after.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.28(w) x 6.92(h) x 0.99(d)
Read an Excerpt
By KRISTINE GRAYSON
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Kristine Kathryn Rusch
All rights reserved.
The very words of the sign filled Mellie with loathing. Book Fair indeed. More like Book Unfair.
Every time people wrote something down, they got it wrong. She'd learned that in her exceptionally long life.
Not that she was old—not by any stretch. In fact, by the standards of her people, she was in early middle age. She'd been in early middle age, it seemed, for most of her adult life. Of course that wasn't true. She'd only been in early middle age for her life in the public eye—two very different things.
And now she was paying for it.
She stood in a huge but nearly empty parking lot in the bright morning sun. It was going to be hot—California, too-dry-to-tolerate hot, fifty-bottles-of-Gatorade hot—but it wasn't hot yet. Still, she hoped she had on enough sunscreen (even if it did make her smell like a weird, chemical coconut). She had her hands on her hips (which hadn't expanded [much] since she was a beautiful young girl, who caught the eye of every man) as she surveyed the stunningly large building in front of her, with the banner strung across its multitude of doors.
The Largest Book Fair in the World!, the banner proclaimed in bright red letters. The largest book fair with the largest number of publishers, writers, readers and moguls — movie and gaming and every other type of mogul the entertainment industry had come up with.
It probably should be called Mogul Fair (Mogul Unfair?). But people were pitching books, not pitching moguls (although someone probably should pitch moguls; it was her experience that anyone with a shred of power should be pitched across a room [or down a staircase] every now and then).
This season's books, next season's books, books for every race, creed, and constituency, large books, small books, and the all-important evergreen books which were not, as she once believed, books about evergreens, but books that never went out of style, like Little Women or anything by Jane Austen or, dammit, by that villain Hans Christian Andersen.
Not that Andersen started it all. He didn't. It was those Grimm brothers, two better named individuals she had never met.
It didn't matter that Mellie had set them straight. By then, their "tales" were already on the market, poisoning the well, so to speak. (Or the apple. Those boys did love their poisons. It would have been so much better for all concerned if they had turned their attention to crime fiction. They could have invented the entire category. But noooo. They had to focus on what they called "fairies," as misnamed as their little "tales.") She made herself breathe. Even alone with her own thoughts, she couldn't help going on a bit of a rant about those creepy little men.
She made herself turn away from the gigantic building and walk to the back of her minivan. With the push of a button, the hatchback unlocked (now that was magic) and she pulled the thing open.
Fifty signs and placards leaned haphazardly against each other. Last time, she'd only needed twenty. She hoped she would use all fifty this time.
She glanced at her watch. One hour until the Book Unfair opened.
Half an hour until her group showed up.
Mellie glared at the building again. Sometimes she thought of these things like a maze she needed to thread her way through. But this was a fortress, one she needed to conquer. All those entrances intimidated her. It was impossible to tell where she'd get the most media exposure. Certainly not at the front doors, with the handicapped ramp blocking access along one side.
Once someone else arrived to help her hand out the placards, she could leave for a few minutes and reconnoiter.
She wanted the maximum amount of air time for the minimum amount of exposure. She'd learned long ago that if she gave the media too much time in the beginning, they'd distort everything she said.
Better to parcel out information bit by bit.
The Book Unfair was only her first salvo.
But she knew it would be the most important.
* * *
He parked his silver Mercedes at the far end of the massive parking lot. He did it not so that he wouldn't be recognized—he wouldn't be, anyway—but because he'd learned long ago that if he parked his Mercedes anywhere near the front, the car would either end up with door dings and key scratches, or would go missing.
He reached into the glove box and removed his prized purple bookseller's badge. He had worked for two years to acquire that thing. Not that he minded. It still amazed him that no one at the palace had thought of opening a bookstore on the grounds.
He could still hear his father's initial objection: We are not shopkeepers! He'd said it in that tone that meant shopkeepers were lower than scullery maids. In fact, shopkeepers had become his father's favorite epithet in the past few decades, scullery maid being both politically and familially incorrect.
It took some convincing — the resident scholars had to prove to his father's satisfaction that true shopkeepers made a living at what they did, and in no way would a bookstore on the palace grounds provide anyone's living—but the bookstore finally happened.
With it came myriad book catalogues and discounts and advance reading copies and a little bit of bookish swag.
He'd been in heaven. Particularly when he realized he could attend every single book fair in the Greater World and get free books.
Not that he couldn't pay for his own books — he could, as well as books for each person in the entire Third Kingdom (which he did last year, to much complaint: it seemed everyone thought they would be tested on the contents of said gift books. Not everyone loved reading as much as he did, more's the pity).
Books had been his retreat since boyhood. He loved hiding in imaginary worlds. Back then, books were harder to come by, often hidden in monasteries (and going to those had caused some consternation for his parents until they realized he was reading, not practicing for his future profession). Once the printing press caught on, he bought his own books—he now devoted the entire winter palace to his collection—but it still wasn't enough.
If he could, he would read every single book ever written—or at least scan them, trying to get a sense of them. Even with the unusually long life granted to people of the Third Kingdom, especially when compared with people in the Greater World (the world that had provided his Mercedes and this quite exciting book fair), he would never achieve it. There were simply too many existing books in too many languages, with too many more being written all the time.
He felt overwhelmed when he thought of all the books he hadn't read, all the books he wanted to read, and all the books he would want to read. Not to mention all the books that he hadn't heard of.
Those dismayed him the most.
Hence, the book fair.
He was told to come early. There was a breakfast for booksellers—coffee and doughnuts, the website said, free of charge. He loved this idea of free as an enticement. He wondered if he could use it for anything back home.
The morning was clear, with the promise of great heat. A smog bank had started to form over Los Angeles, and he couldn't see the ocean, although the brochures assured him it was somewhere nearby. The parking lot looked like a city all by itself. It went on for blocks, delineated only by signs that labeled the rows with double letters.
The only other car in this part of the lot wasn't a car at all but one of those minivans built so that families could take their possessions and their entertainment systems with them.
The attractive black-haired woman unloading a passel of signs from the van looked familiar to him, but he couldn't remember where he had seen her before.
He wasn't about to go ask her either. His divorce had left him feeling very insecure, especially around women. Whenever he saw a pretty woman, the words of his ex-wife rose in his head.
She had screamed them at him in that very last fight, the horrible, unforgettable fight when she took the glass slipper—the thing that defined all that was good and pure in their relationship—and heaved it against the wall above his head.
Not so charming now, are you, asshole? Nope, not charming at all.
He had to concede she had a point—although he never would have conceded it to her. Still, those formerly dulcet tones echoed in his brain whenever he looked in the mirror and saw not the square-jawed hero who saved her from a life of poverty, but a balding, paunchy middle-aged man who would never achieve his full potential—not without killing his father, and that was a different story entirely.
Charming squared his shoulders and pinned his precious name badge to his shirt. The name badge did not use his real name. It used his nom de plume — which sounded a lot more romantic than The Name He Used Because His Real Name Was Stupid.
He called himself Dave. Dave Encanto, for those who required last names. His family didn't even have a last name—that's how long they'd been around—and even though he knew Prince was now considered a last name, he couldn't bring himself to use it.
He couldn't bring himself to use any name, really. He still thought of himself as Charming even though he knew his ex was right—he wasn't "charming" anymore. Not that he didn't try. It was just that charming used to come easily to him, when he had a head full of black, black hair, and an unwrinkled face, and the squarest of square jaws.
Prince Charming was a young man's name, in truth, and then only the name of an arrogant young man. To use that name now would seem like wish fulfillment or a really bad joke. He couldn't go with P.C. because the initials had been usurped, and people would catch the double irony of a prince trying to be p.c. with his own name change.
And as for Prince—that name was overused. In addition to the musician, Princes abounded. People named their horses Prince, for heaven's sake, and their dogs, and their surrogate children. In other words, only the nutty named a human being Prince these days, and much as Charming resented his father, he couldn't put either of his parents in the nutty category.
So he told people to call him Dave, which was emphatically not a family name. Too many family names had been co-opted as well — Edward, George, Louis, Philippe, even Harry, not just by another prince, but by some very famous, very fictional, magical potter's kid.
Dave, not David, a man who could go anywhere incognito any time he liked. Gone were the days when people would do a double-take, and some would say, Aren't you ...? or You know you look just like that prmce—whatsisname? — Charmmg.
Now they nodded and looked past him, hoping to see someone more important. Which was why he preferred the Greater World to the Third Kingdom. In the Greater World, they knew he wasn't the Prince Charming. To them, the Prince Charming was a man in a fairy tale, a creature of unattainable perfection, or—more accurately (he believed) a cartoon character, an animated hero.
He was none of those things. True, he had a longer-than-usual life, but that caused longer than usual problems — like waiting for his father, who also had a longer-than-usual life, to kick the proverbial bucket (which in the Third Kingdom, wasn't as proverbial as you might think).
But as for magical powers, Charming had none, besides that all-encompassing charm, that Ella had told him, in no uncertain terms, was gone now. Ella, who got his estates, half of his money, and custody of their two daughters because—true to form—his father wouldn't let Charming contest the divorce over girls.
Charming sighed and started across the monstrous parking lot. Several other cars were pouring into the first entrance, way up front, near the doors. The parking there, he knew from the emails he had gotten, was reserved for booksellers and the disabled—or the differently abled, as he had been bidden to say. The emails claimed he would need the close-in parking for the hundreds of pounds of books he would lug back to his car at regular intervals. But he had lugged chain mail and two injured companions over a hundred miles. He figured he could handle a few books.
The attractive woman had pulled out the last sign. He saw the initials—PETA—and felt a surge of disappointment. He'd seen what those animal rights lovers had done to his mother's favorite fur coat the one and only time he had taken her to the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan. His mother had been horribly traumatized, although not so traumatized that she forgot to command him to bring the entire cast of the Met to the Third Kingdom at the end of every opera season.
Charming walked around the attractive woman, resisting the urge to stare at her. Instead, he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.
She had hit that age when women moved from cute and perky to beautiful and sometimes even handsome. This woman had a narrow face and raven black hair, the kind that always attracted him. She wore a short-sleeved black jacket over matching black pants, along with a red blouse that accented her unlined skin.
She looked like the kind of woman who knew exactly what she wanted and exactly how to get it. The kind of woman who ran boardrooms and households with equal ease.
The kind of woman his ex most certainly was not.
He shuddered at the thought of Ella. No matter how much he tried to forget her, he couldn't. He'd had hopes for that relationship. He had hoped it wouldn't be an empty relationship, like his parents' relationship. He had hoped it would be based on trust and mutual interests, and most of all, on love.
He had loved Ella. He had loved her a lot.
But he had paid for his myopia time and time again, for the fact he hadn't recognized her when he had seen her covered with ash from her stepmother's fireplace, a fact that Ella—in all the years of their marriage—never let him forget.
In those days, he hadn't known he needed glasses. No one used glasses back then, well, no one important anyway. A few people wore a magnifying glass over their eyes, but a king's son certainly couldn't, not if he wished to maintain his dignity.
His mother had paid for a few spells to improve his eyesight, but the damn things always wore off at the most inconvenient times. He'd been married a year when he got his first pair of glasses — and he'd gotten them in defiance of his entire family, including his wife. But none of them had nearly died on the field of battle, because the damn spell wore off as he was in the middle of hand-to-hand combat with one of the champions from the other side. The entire world went from crystal clear to blurry in a half a second, and he flailed miserably.
Fortunately, in the flailing, he'd managed to disarm (and accidentally dismember) his opponent. It ended well for Charming — in those days, things usually did— making him even more of a hero to his people.
But they didn't know it was an accident because he couldn't see anything.
Not that he ever wore his glasses on the field of battle. His family wouldn't hear of that (and truthfully, the thought frightened him—glasses broke at the most inopportune times and in the most inopportune ways. Eye-gouging was a favorite practice in those days — one of the few things the early fairy tales [misnamed stories of his — and other people's—exploits] got right).
He had passed the woman now. For a brief moment, he fantasized that she would look up from her struggle with the PETA signs (why did the gorgeous ones always have a tinge of nutcase to them?) and would see him. She would watch him walk with great interest, as if he were still the Charming of old, thinking how much she'd like to meet him (and maybe how much she'd like to do other things with him).
Excerpted from Wickedly Charming by KRISTINE GRAYSON. Copyright © 2011 Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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