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.
"Two-thirds royal drama, one-third mystery, Evan's story Is wholly captivating, delivering twist upon twist, like a much darker Princess Diaries."—Jennifer Lynn Barns, author of The Inheritance Games series
About the Author
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To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it.
—Queen Elizabeth (b. 1533, r. 1558–1603)
Breaking into the academic wing of St. Edith’s Academy for Girls isn’t the most reckless thing I’ve ever done, but it definitely comes close.
What makes the whole thing exceptionally irresponsible is the fact that I have only one week to go until graduation. In one week, this nightmare that has been the past six years of my life will end, and I’ll never have to set foot in a boarding school again. I should do the smart thing and stay in my dormitory, where my roommate is crying into her pillow and thinks I can’t hear her. But I’ve built my reputation on never doing the smart thing, and there’s no point in subverting royal expectations now.
And so, at ten o’clock on a Monday night, I creep down the windowless corridor in complete darkness, my fingers brushing against each door handle as I pass. Though it’s almost impossible to navigate without banging into something, the lack of light also works in my favor. I’ve already disconnected the sole ancient security camera—the only piece of technology allowed in St. Edith’s hallowed halls—but there’s always a chance a custodian might be lurking, and all the careful planning in the world won’t hold up against someone else’s outrageously good luck.
I stop in front of the fifth door on the right and dig through my pocket. The lockpicks were a Christmas gift to myself last year, and while I’ve practiced on my dormitory door, I haven’t had the chance for real-world application until now. A thrill runs through me as I hold the lock taut with the tension wrench, nudging each tiny pin one by one with the pick in my other hand. Headmistress Thompson would spontaneously combust if she knew what sort of education I’ve been giving myself while everyone else has been vying for acceptance into Harvard and Yale, but this is quickly becoming the most worthwhile thing I’ve learned since arriving at St. Edith’s in January.
The lock gives way before I expect it to, and I almost drop my tools in surprise. I’ve done it—I’ve actually picked a lock. Pretty sure it won’t win me an award anytime soon, but it feels like a superpower, and adrenaline courses through me as I push open the door.
The hinges complain loudly, and I freeze. As my heart pounds, I remain perfectly still, listening for any sign that someone’s on their way to investigate.
With a renewed sense of urgency, I slip into the classroom. Calculus. Not my favorite. When you start trying to apply logic to the imaginary and infinitesimal, the rules get murky, and I like knowing the rules. I read the code of conduct for St. Edith’s—along with the eight other boarding schools I’ve attended since the age of eleven—cover to cover, and I can quote whole sections in a pinch. Knowing the rules, after all, makes it easier to manipulate them. And to break them in spectacular fashion.
Moonlight shines through the stained glass windows, offering a kaleidoscope of relief from the oppressive darkness, and I hurry on silent feet to the teacher’s desk. Mr. Clark isn’t a bad person. He’s just stuck teaching in an archaic system that values test performance above learning, the same way I’ve been stuck in a Vermont forest for the past five months thanks to an archaic system that values image above family. We’re both victims of circumstance, and I already feel a hefty dose of guilt for what I’m about to do. If there was a better way to handle this, I would, but there isn’t. So here we are.
The single drawer in his wooden desk is also locked, but I have it open in under thirty seconds. And there, nestled between stray pencils and paper clips in all its hunter-green glory, is my holy grail.
The grade book.
It doesn’t take me long to find the right page, and I tear it out with a single satisfying rip before pulling a lighter from my pocket. While St. Edith’s draconian ban on technology makes life infinitely more difficult than it has to be, this is the one time it works in my favor.
The paper browns and shrivels as the flames devour it, leaving behind curls of gray ash. I’m not a pyromaniac, but there’s something poetic about all that hard work disappearing in seconds. Everything is temporary. Even permanent records.
“Evangeline Bright! What on earth do you think you’re doing?”
The overhead lights buzz to life, and I wince. Headmistress Thompson stands in the doorway, her hair in curlers and her face purple. I’ve never seen her in anything other than a matching tweed skirt and blazer, and I’m so transfixed by her shabby pink robe that for a moment, I forget what I’m doing.
“Put that out,” she demands, her voice shaking. “At once, Evangeline!”
“I would,” I say slowly. “But I’m sort of all in on this now, you know? And it’s only one page. Mr. Clark will barely even miss—ow!”
The flames reach my fingertips, and I hiss in pain, dropping what’s left of the burning paper. As Headmistress Thompson and I both watch, it floats down onto the desk—and lands right in the middle of the grade book.
Within seconds, the entire school’s math grades go up in flames.
Headmistress Thompson gasps, her face now a sickly mottled color. “The fire extinguisher! Where—”
But as she darts back into the hallway, clutching her curlers, I’m rooted to the spot—by shock or disbelief or dissociation, I don’t know. All I can do is stare as the hungry flames grow bigger and brighter, until they spread to the pile of dry timber that is Mr. Clark’s desk.
I rip off my cardigan and try to smother the flames, but they’re too strong, and all I accomplish is setting my school-issued sweater on fire. A spark jumps onto my skirt, threatening to catch, and I bat it away, my pulse racing.
It was only supposed to be a page.
“Evangeline!” booms Headmistress Thompson from the doorway. “Get away from there!”
“I—” I begin, not sure if I’m about to apologize or insist that I can put it out with my smoldering cardigan, but it doesn’t matter. Headmistress Thompson surges through the thickening smoke and seizes my elbow, yanking me away from the blaze.
There’s a dull roar in my ears, drowning out whatever it is she’s shouting at me, and as she drags me into the dark hallway and toward the nearest exit two corridors down, I glance back at the classroom. The fire is spreading, faster than the single missing fire extinguisher could handle, and I’m dimly aware that the anemic alarm going off is identical to the bell that rings when class begins. I don’t know much about buildings, but I’m pretty damn sure that none of this is up to code.
At last, as Headmistress Thompson shoves me through the side door and into the cool night air, I take a deep gulp and stumble across the grass, my lungs burning and my eyes streaming. We turn back toward the school, and our mouths hang open as flames shatter the stained glass windows of Mr. Clark’s classroom in an explosion of rainbow shards.
Well. At least it’s spectacular.
Watch out, Britain! We’re less than a month away from Princess Mary’s eighteenth birthday, when the traditional media coverage restrictions on underage royals are lifted, and the world is champing at the bit. What kind of juicy gossip will rise to the surface? After a lifetime of private tutelage and being sheltered from the limelight, is our enigmatic future queen ready for the scrutiny she’ll face now that the silk gloves are coming off?
We’ll certainly see plenty of her in the weeks to come, as Her Royal Highness has reportedly already sat her A levels and is expected to make a splash during the jam-packed social season this summer. Trooping the Colour, Royal Ascot, Wimbledon—according to our royal sources, she’ll be there for them all.
What will she wear? Will she have a date? And most important, how long will it take for our beloved princess to headline her first royal scandal?
—The Regal Record, 6 June 2023
I’m sitting inside an interview room at the police station, staring at my haggard reflection in what must be a two-way mirror, when the door opens for the first time in hours.
A brawny officer stands on the threshold, a deep frown etched onto his bulldog face. We lock eyes, and even though I’m nauseated from exhaustion and the fear that’s been simmering in the pit of my stomach all night, I keep my expression painfully neutral. I know better than to say a word without a lawyer present, but it also means that he and the rest of what passes for a police force in the tiny town near St. Edith’s all believe Headmistress Thompson’s highly dramatized story about what went down in Mr. Clark’s classroom. And while I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing the entire scintillating tale, judging by her wails the night before as another officer took her statement, it doesn’t exactly paint me in the best light.
I brace myself, expecting yet another round of questions I won’t answer, but instead the officer crosses his arms over his broad chest. “Evangeline Bright,” he says gruffly, “you’re free to go.”
I stare at him, not sure I’ve heard right. After nearly ten hours in this room with only a plastic water cup and a ticking clock for company, I’m expecting handcuffs and a court date, not freedom. But before I manage to form a question I shouldn’t be asking, the officer steps aside, revealing a balding Englishman with a trimmed salt-and-pepper beard. And suddenly I understand.
“Jenkins!” I leap to my feet, even though my whole body aches after spending all night in an agonizingly uncomfortable chair. “The police said they couldn’t get ahold of you—”
“Your headmistress contacted me first,” he says, stepping past the officer as if he isn’t even there. “I was already on the plane when they called. Are you hurt? When is the last time you had anything to eat or drink?”
I shake my head, suddenly aware of the fact that my mouth tastes like a dirty sock. “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What happ—”