Prince Diego Navarro is the “spare” to his brother’s “heir”. While Raoul performs his crown prince duties with the appropriate sense of nobility and poise, Diego’s garnered a bit of a reputation as a playboy – despite the good he does behind the scenes with his favorite charities.
But when tragedy strikes and his sister-in-law is killed in a car accident, Diego knows it’s time for the playboy to step up. If not for his brother, then for his niece and nephew, who now find themselves without a mother.
Which is where Rose Walters comes in.
Rose isn’t intimidated by money or glitz. The veteran nanny has worked for the rich and minimally famous, but a manor house is no comparison to a castle… or the handsome princes who live there. However, the worst thing she could possibly do is fall for the gorgeous playboy with a surprising heart of gold. He’s a prince; she’s the help. He lives in the tabloids; she loves her privacy. But when her two darling charges start to play matchmaker, Diego and Rose don’t stand a chance.
The Playboy Prince and the Nanny is the first book in Donna Alward’s royal duology.
The noise and hubbub in the West Sussex pub was so deafening that Diego nearly missed the silent flash of the Breaking News banner across the TV behind the bar.
But he saw it out of the corner of his eye. Frowned. Turned his head away for a moment, then felt a queer lift in his gut, like something was very, very wrong.
“Diego. Hey, Diego.” His pal Ryan elbowed him in the arm. “Shite. You’d better look at this, mate.”
He turned back to the screen and the lift in his stomach dropped to his feet.
The headline scrolled along the bottom of the screen. White words against a blue background, innocuous compared to the aerial view of the scene. He didn’t need to read the banner to recognize the mangled car, one of the black limousines his father insisted they ride in when home in Marazur. If there was any doubt, it was banished by an up-close shot of a small red and yellow flag with the green coat of arms hanging limply from the front corner of the crushed vehicle.
“Diego.” Ryan’s voice was gentler now, his hand resting on Diego’s arm rather than elbowing him roughly. “It’s not your da. Or your brother.”
Diego dragged his gaze to the flash along the bottom of the screen. No, it wasn’t his father or his brother. There was no need for Diego to worry about them, or who was next in line for the throne. But tears stung his eyes as he read the names: Cecilia Navarro. Mariana Cortez.
His sister-in-law, and the nanny to his niece and nephew.
His phone buzzed. It had been doing that all night and he’d chosen to ignore it, wanting to avoid another argument with his father and spend the evening kicking back with his friends to celebrate the start of the UK polo season. Now he felt unbearably guilty as he pulled his mobile out of his pocket and looked at the screen.
Lucy, or rather, Princess Luciana. His half-sister, who he knew was visiting Marazur right now on one of her biannual trips. He took a deep breath, then hit the talk button. “Give me two seconds to go outside where it’s quiet,” he said loudly.
Leaving the gruesome news report behind, he pushed himself away from the bar and weaved his way through people until he reached the door. Outside, the English spring evening was gentle and mild. He closed his eyes and let out a breath.
“How bad is it, Luce?”
“Bad.” In that one word he could tell she’d been crying. Oh God . . .
“Gone, Diego.” Her voice caught on a sob. “Mariana too.”
For once the news had it right. His sister-in-law and Mariana—the nanny to his niece and nephew. His heart stuttered. He’d hoped there’d been a mistake. The paparazzi couldn’t be trusted with the truth, as he well knew. What a time for them to be right.
“The children?” he asked as he said a silent prayer that they hadn’t been in the car. He couldn’t think about Max and Emilia too much; he kept them at the edge of his mind and heart right now. The thought of losing them was terrifying and he steeled himself against the emotion.
“Bruised. Scared. But alive.”
He let out his breath, felt a sob escape, and gulped it back. He couldn’t lose his grip.
“We tried calling you for the last hour,” she said. “Your brother . . .”
His brother would be a wreck and expectedly so. His wife had just died. Perhaps a lot of royal marriages weren’t based on love, but Raoul’s had been. He’d doted on Ceci and the kids. Mariana, too, had been like part of the family. Hell, she’d been with the palace since . . .
Since Diego and Raoul had lost their own mother nearly twenty-five years ago. Mariana had raised them. She treated Raoul and Ceci’s children like grandkids. Grief struck him, sharp and sure, a painful ache around his heart. Mariana had been family.
“I’m sorry,” he replied, pressing the fingers of his left hand to his temple. Those were two words he said often when it came to his family. Now, though, he really meant them. “I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“I know you will,” she said gently. Of the whole family, Lucy was the one who was easiest on him, who understood him best. Maybe because she hadn’t been raised in Marazur. It afforded her a clarity that others didn’t have. “I’m so glad I’m here right now. Papa . . .” Her voice broke again.
“Is Brody there with you?” Lucy and her family made their home in Canada, on Brody’s ranch, but visited often. Right now Diego found himself beyond thankful that she was there now to help his father and brother navigate the next few days. Papa would know what to do . . . he’d been here before.
A man shouldn’t have to face this kind of tragedy more than once in a lifetime.
“Brody’s here. He’s looking after Alex now so I can be there for Raoul and Papa.”
Lucy would be keeping everyone cared for and fed and nurtured, because that’s what she did. Diego rested his shoulders against the brick wall of the pub and sighed. Raoul, the crown prince, the responsible ruler-to-be, fair and just. Lucy, the mothering figure who cared for the family’s simpler but no less important needs. And then there was Diego. Where did he fit? In the stables. At parties. In fast cars.
In other countries. With firm admonishment to not be an embarrassment to the family.
“I’m here. I’m going to go, though, Lucy. I need to make travel plans. I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“What should I tell Papa and Raoul?”
“Nothing. I mean, just tell them you were able to reach me. I’ll look after the rest.”
There was a pause and Diego wondered if his sister was making that terrible disapproving face he hated or if she was simply emotional.
“I love you, Diego. Please fly safe.”
Emotional, thank God. He wasn’t sure he could take criticism right now. He nodded even though she couldn’t see him. “I will. I promise. See you soon.”
“E-mail your plans and I’ll have a car waiting for you.”
“You worry about yourself, and not me,” he ordered. “Love you.”
He hit the button on the phone, ending the call, and when he looked up he saw Ryan standing by the back door of the pub, watching him sadly.
“It’s bad, eh?” he asked, his brown eyes wide and too knowing.
“Cecilia,” Diego admitted. “And the nanny. The kids though . . .” Emotion swamped him and he drew in a shaky breath. “Thank God the kids are okay.”
Ryan came forward and clamped a hand on Diego’s shoulder. “Looks like you have to go back to your castle then, doesn’t it?”
Diego smiled grimly. “I can’t stay away forever. And they need me. Of course I’m going back.” It had nothing to do with duty and everything to do with family. Of course, many believed that Diego didn’t value the idea of family as much as he should.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
He looked over at Ryan. The two of them had been best friends since he’d gone to Cambridge for his postgrad and joined the polo club. Diego, in a moment of hubris, had made an offhand remark about an Irishman playing polo, and the next thing he knew he’d been dusting the dirt off his perfectly creased trousers. Then Ryan O’Toole had held out his hand, pulled Diego to his feet, and said, “Come on, Your Highness. Let’s go get a pint.”
It had been many years since then, but the offer had been made several times, particularly when Diego needed it most. Tonight, though, it wouldn’t help.
“Anything I can do for you?” Ryan asked.
Diego smiled grimly. “The blonde at the bar. Go buy her a drink. I’m going to duck out early.”
Ryan nodded with a crooked smile. “Call if you need anything.”
Ryan went back inside, while Diego lifted his phone again and scrolled through until he found the number of his assistant. Not that he gave her much work when he was away from home, but tonight everyone on the staff would be up and alert.
And Diego would be going home.
One Month Later
Rosalie tried to focus on the words on the page, but they were all a blur. With a sigh, she closed the book and rested her hands on the cover, then turned to look out the airplane window. She wasn’t usually nervous before meeting a new family, or the children she’d be caring for. This was different, though. When the agency had called about her new placement, she hadn’t expected the job to be for the Royal Family of Marazur. She’d worked for minor nobility and rich families, traveling with them when the occasion warranted, but she’d never been to Marazur and she’d definitely never worked for a prince.
She knew of the island principality, of course. And she’d even had an encounter with the younger of the princes once, though he wouldn’t remember. Diego, she recalled, and shook her head. It wasn’t Diego she was going to work for. It was Raoul. She had been hired as a nanny to the crown prince’s children. The heirs.
“Ms. Walters? Make sure your seatbelt is on. We’re going to begin our approach soon. Can I get you anything before we land?”
Rosalie looked up at the sharply dressed attendant. Raoul hadn’t sent a royal jet or anything, but he had chartered a private flight. It was beyond anything Rose had ever experienced. “No, thank you,” she said with a smile. “I’m fine.”
“Very well. We should be on the ground shortly.”
Rose sat back in the comfortable leather and looked out over the Mediterranean. It had been nearly a month since televisions, newspapers, and magazines had been abuzz with the death of Princess Cecilia. They’d shown pictures of the funeral at the cathedral in the capital, a week after the accident. It had nearly broken her heart to see the crown prince, looking harrowed and drawn, holding the hand of his daughter while his son rested on his arm. King Alexander had looked tired, and Prince Diego had been uncharacteristically solemn as he sat with Princess Luciana and her family.
Once the funeral ended, though, so did the news story, and very little was heard of the family, left to heal their wounds in relative private. The media had moved on, but Rose knew the royal family were people like anyone else. Children who, when it came down to it, had lost their mother. All the wealth and privilege in the world couldn’t make up for that, and Rose knew she had her work cut out for her.
The plane landed smoothly at the relatively small airport. When she unbuckled her seatbelt, the flight attendant was at her side once more to collect her carry-on. Rose only had to grab her purse before she exited the plane, holding on to the railing as she descended the stairs to the tarmac.
A liveried man waited at the bottom of the stairs, and touched his hat as he greeted her. “I’m Marco. I’ll see you through customs and on to the palace.”
Good heavens. This was a tad surreal, wasn’t it?
She smiled politely at him. “That would be lovely, thank you, Marco.” The warm, moist air was perfumed with the scent of salt and flora that she knew must be present but couldn’t be seen here in the secure, paved area of the airport. The aroma clung to the warm rays of sun that were somehow far more penetrating than any in England.
It reminded her of the school trip she’d taken when she was twelve. It had been four days in Rome and she’d loved every colorful, rich, vibrant moment of it. It had been a long time since she’d visited the Mediterranean, and she was more than ready to leave the damp and fog of England for time in the sun.
She was here to work, but couldn’t escape the thought that this was also a bit of a fairy tale, really. Her assignments through the agency had been posh indeed, but nothing on this scale.
“Miss? If you’re ready.”
Marco had both of her cases and waited for her to make her way through the doors. To her continued surprise, she was escorted through customs without any wait or trouble, and in mere minutes found herself ensconced in the back of a limousine.
She was starting to get nervous now, and twisted her fingers together. Drew them apart again and wiped them on her black trousers, then regretted that too. She had to keep calm, cool, professional. This was her job. It wouldn’t do to be flustered and nervous.
The airport was on the outskirts of the city, and she peered out the window at the narrow streets and charming houses stacked on the hillside. Oh, on one of her days off she’d have to come down here and discover all the nooks and crannies. Have coffee or a glass of wine at a little cantina along a cobbled street. She was still thinking about it when the car began to climb and wind its way out of the urban area and along some of the most beautiful landscape she had ever seen.
Marco slowed and stopped at a huge set of gates, which swung open at their arrival. They crept at a sedate pace along a paved lane flanked with what looked like some sort of oak. Then she caught sight of it. The castle—home of King Alexander of Marazur. Turrets rose up, pinky-beige against the blue of the sky and the green of the manicured grounds. A hedge formed a kind of maze in the U-shaped drive, carefully trimmed and pruned. It was smaller than some of the manor houses she’d visited in England, but there was a grandeur to it just the same. And a hominess that she hadn’t expected. Perhaps it was due to the color of the stone, warmer and more welcoming than the cold, gray-white granite she was used to.
She ran through names in her head, desperate to make sure she adhered to the proper forms of address. King Alexander—clearly Your Highness. And how often would she see him anyway? Hardly ever. She’d be with the other household staff. She’d have to communicate with Raoul, she supposed. She would be required to curtsy. He was the crown prince and would be addressed as “Your Highness” as well. If the press was to be believed, Diego wouldn’t be home much and was unlikely to be around. The Sun had just posted pictures of him somewhere in South America.
After Marco pulled to a stop, Rosalie’s door was opened by another liveried staff. “Good afternoon, Miss Walters. Welcome to Marazur.”
She pasted on a smile and let out what she hoped was a centering breath. “Thank you.”
“His Highness is looking forward to meeting you at four o’clock in the blue salon.” Perhaps he’d noticed her shaky exhale, because the man dropped his stiff formality for a moment and smiled. “Don’t worry, Miss.” He held out his hand and gallantly helped her out of the car. “The prince is really very nice. And we’re all so glad you’re here.”
Before she could ask what exactly that meant, he dropped her hand and moved to collect her bags. She looked around, marveling at the calm beauty of the grounds. It was like a beautiful oasis, more lush than the surrounding countryside, with shrubs, graceful trees, and gardens of rioting blossoms. She gawked around her as they made their way down a neat path leading to the far side of the castle. And when the man opened the door to the north wing, Rose was relatively sure she’d just arrived in Paradise.
Copyright © 2017 by Donna Alward and reprinted by permission of Swerve.
Who doesn’t love a royal romance? This girl sure does and The Playboy Prince and the Nanny is a perfect summer read.
Diego is the playboy prince, the spare heir, who is always in the public eye partying all over the world. So when his sister-in-law and former nanny die in a car accident, he rushes home to help support his brother, and takes on the task of hiring the new nanny for his niece and nephew. Despite what outward appearances may look like, Diego is committed to his family and only wants the best for everyone and takes what royal duties he does have very seriously. Once he gets everything situated at home for his niece and nephew, he’ll do what he does best… leave to help take the public eye off his brother and family. But then he meets Rose, and there is something about her that draws him in. There is instant chemistry between the two and Rose is the first person who truly seems to get him.
Rose is smitten with the charming Diego, but then again isn’t everyone? Little does he know that they had meet once before but as she spends more time with the Prince, she finds that there is more to him than meets the eye. But she also knows that there can never be anything between the two of them… or can there be. Diego is determined to show Rose that it doesn’t matter that she’s the nanny, but can Rose handle the scandals that dating the prince would bring to the not only the royal family but to her own?
I absolutely adored Rose and her gentle and caring nature. Her number on priority was and is always the children, which makes Diego fall even more for her. I loved the back and forth between Diego and he laid it all out for Rose. There are some truly swoon worthy moments and I loved the chemistry between these too.
I can’t wait for the second book in the series!
Q: Where did the idea for the plot come from?
A: The actual plot is a bit of a mashup, really. I wanted to write the stories about the two princes for a long, long time. In fact, I once proposed a version of the story to the Harlequin UK office when the Modern Extra line happened (I wasn’t a good fit. It makes sense now). At first there were no children in the stories, and the heroine was in the country on business… but then at some point it morphed into needing a nanny. It was one of those plots that evolved over time until I was ready to finally sit down and write it.
Q: Who is your favorite character? Why?
A: I really like Stephani. She’s a minor character in this book, and the heroine in the next one. She’s a bit of a mystery, really. Horribly efficient and flies under the radar a bit as Raoul’s Executive Assistant. She also plays fairy godmother to Rose, and I had a lot of fun with that.
Q: Who is your least favorite character? Why?
A: There’s only one character I don’t like, and I’m not telling because that would be a huge spoiler!
Q: Which is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
A: The fountain in the garden on her first night at the palace. To be honest, when Diego looks down and sees her walking, it reminds me of Captain VonTrapp watching Maria in that oh-so-pivotal scene in The Sound of Music.
Q: What do you most like to do when you are not writing?
A: Read, knit, walk, yoga…anything that can chip away at my stress level. J
Q: What’s the story behind why and how you became an author?
A: In 2000, I ended up with a horrible case of Post-Partum Depression. About 14 months into my recovery, I was lamenting being “bored” – which had little to do with not having anything to do, and was really about not feeling challenged or inspired. My sister suggested I stop whining and write a book. So I did. And I fell in love with writing again (I have a degree in literature) and never looked back.
Q: What is your favorite movie? Why?
A: Oh my. Love Actually is one of my faves, but I really have SO many. Just last night I re-watched The American President. I love The Holiday. And Also The Last Holiday and Roman Holiday… hmmm, maybe I just like escapism? (Clearly with a palate cleanser of Sorkin dialogue!)
Q: Are you thinking of releasing any more books anytime soon?
A: Of course! You can look for a holiday novella on October 3, DECK THE HALLS, which is part of my Darling, VT series, and then the follow up to this release, THE CROWN PRINCE’S BRIDE, is out on January 9.
Q: Nice cover! What’s the inspiration behind it?
A: A Mediterranean destination, a castle, and a little intimacy during the off-hours? Heck yeah!
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
A: EUROPE. Lots of countries in Europe. I want to go on a European Tour (said in poncey accent). Seriously, though, I’d like to see more of the UK, then France, Germany, Italy, Spain… I’ve heard Prague is stunning and then there’s Portugal and Greece…
Q: Which part of the book was the most difficult to write, and why?
A: Actually, it was toward the end, when I had to pull Diego and Rose apart for a short time. It’s hard to keep the tension going when they’re on different continents! Thankfully it wasn’t for very long and Diego had to come home and face the music.
A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west. She is the author of Somebody Like You, Somebody’s Baby, and Someone to Love.
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