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Prince of Secrets

Prince of Secrets, August 2013
By His Royal Decree
by Lucy Monroe

Harlequin Desire
Featuring: Prince Demyan Zaretsky; Chanel Tanner
192 pages
ISBN: 0373131690
EAN: 9780373131693
Kindle: B00BNRHKG6
Paperback / e-Book
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"His secrets are deeper than even he knows... she found his heart."

Fresh Fiction Review

Prince of Secrets
Lucy Monroe

Reviewed by Annetta Sweetko
Posted July 12, 2013

Romance Contemporary

An American, made a Baron for all he did for the country, Batholomew Tanner had helped found an oil company that the country and the royal family's wealth was built on. Now his great-great-granddaughter owns 20 percent of the very lifeblood of the House of Yurkovich and Volyrus. The only way to get that percentage back is by marriage.

Prince Demyan Zaretsky, adopted son of the King and Queen of Volyarus, will do what ever he has to do for his family and his small island country. He becomes a PRINCE OF SECRETS disguised as a geek he ruthlessly sets out to do what he must.

Chanel Tanner has no way of knowing that the man before her will cause such upheaval in her life and is ill prepared for his attention. She has spent her life believing she is a disappointment to her mother and stepfather; a scientist without any redeeming social graces. And Demyan is gorgeous and charming. So what could he possibly want with her? Very quickly they are both caught up with each other ... but which of them did the actual catching?

PRINCE OF SECRETS is a swift paced, more deeply emotional romance than expected. If the reader just skims this story it is sweet and expected. But if you really get into the characters, as I believe the author intended, and dig into the uncertainties that both Demyan and Chanel carry you will find something very special. Demyan refuses to believe he feels anything other than his duty but to his surprise she quickly becomes very important to him, not at all as he expected. Chanel believes in love and that is the only reason she agrees to marry him. I enjoyed watching Chanel make the prince face a few truths about himself as well as his feelings toward his adopted family, his biological parents and most of all for his new wife. I really got a kick out of Queen Oxana's little sneaky moves to bring happiness for all her children. This book is the second By His Royal Decree books with One Night Heir the first. It isn't necessary to read the first book to enjoy this one but you will want to grab it.

Learn more about Prince of Secrets

SUMMARY

Prince Demyan Zaretsky does whatever it takes to protect his country. So seducing Chanel Tanner will be easy. And marriage? An unfortunate side effect of duty. She unwittingly holds the economic stability of Volyarus in her hands...and he must secure it.

With his royal identity and intent disguised, Demyan sets about a ruthless seduction designed to make Chanle lose her mind with ecstasy. But when he discovers she is a virgin, he uncovers something in himself—a conscience. Now his plan takes a shocking turn—one this dark–hearted prince had never anticipated!

Excerpt

PROLOGUE


"What am I looking at?" Demyan asked his uncle, the King of Volyarus.

Spread before him on the behemoth antique executive desk brought over with the first Hetman to be made Volyarussian king was a series of photos. All were of a rather ordinary woman with untamed curly red hair. Her one arresting feature was storm cloud grey eyes that revealed more emotion in each picture than he would allow himself to show in an entire year.

Fedir frowned at the pictures for several seconds before meeting Demyan's matching espresso dark gaze.

Those who mistook Demyan for Fedir's biological son could be forgiven, the resemblance was that strong. But Demyan was the king's nephew and while he'd been raised in the palace as the "spare heir to the throne", three years older than his future king, he'd never once gotten it confused in his own mind.

Fedir cleared his throat as if the words he needed to utter were unpalatable to him. "That is Chanel Tanner."

"Tanner?" Demyan asked, the coincidence not lost on him.

"Yes."

The name was common enough, in the United States anyway. There was no immediate reason for Demyan to assume she was related to Bartholomew Tanner, one of the original partners in Tanner Yurkovich.

Except the portrait of the Texas wildcatter hanging in the west hall of the palace bore a striking resemblance to the woman in the pictures. They shared the same curly red hair (though Bartholomew had worn it shorter), high forehead and angular jaw (though hers was more pleasingly feminine).

Her lips, unadorned by color or gloss, were a soft pink and bow–shaped. Bartholomew's were lost beneath the handlebar mustache he sported in the painting. While his eyes sparkled with life, hers were filled with seriousness and unexpected shadows.

Bartholomew Tanner had helped to found the company on which the current wealth of both Volyarus and the Yurkovich family empire had been built upon. At one time, he had owned a significant share in it as well.

"She looks like Baron Tanner." The oilman had been bequeathed a title for his help in locating oil reserves and other mineral deposits on Volyarus by King Fedir's grandfather.

Fedir nodded. "She's his great–great–granddaughter and the last of his blood line."

Relaxing back in his chair, Demyan cocked his brow in interest, but waited for the king to continue rather than asking any questions.

"Her step–father, Perry Saltzman, approached our office in Seattle about a job for his son." Another frown, which was unusual for the king, who was no more prone to emotional displays than Demyan. "Apparently, the boy is close to graduating university with honors in business."

"Why tell me? Maks is the glad hander on stuff like this." His cousin was also adroit at turning down requests without causing diplomatic upset.

Demyan was not so patient. There were benefits to not being raised a Crown Prince.

"He is on his honeymoon." Fedir's words were true, but Demyan sensed there was more to it.

Otherwise this could have waited. "He'll be back in a couple of weeks."

And if Mr. Saltzman was looking for a job for his son, why were there pictures of his stepdaughter all over the conference table?

"I don't want Maks to know about this."

"Why?"

"He will not agree to what needs to be done." Fedir ran his fingers through hair every bit as dark as Demyan's, no strands of grey in sight. "You know my son. He can be unexpectedly...recalcitrant."

For the first time in a very long while, Demyan had to admit, "You've lost me."

There was very little his cousin would not do for the country of his birth. He'd given up the woman he wanted rather than marry with little hope for an heir.

Fedir stacked the pictures together, leaving a candid shot on top that showed Chanel smiling. "In 1952, when Bart Saltzman agreed to help my grandfather find oil on or around the Volyarussian islands, he accepted a twenty percent share in the company in exchange for his efforts and provision of expertise, a fully trained crew and all the drilling equipment."

"I am aware." All Volyarussian children were taught their history.

How Volyarus had been founded by one of Ukraine's last Hetman, who had purchased the chain of uninhabited and most believed uninhabitable islands with his own personal wealth from Canada. He and a group of peasants and nobles had founded Volyarus, literally meaning free from Russia, because they'd believed it was only a matter of time before Ukraine fell under Russian rule completely.

They had been right. Ukraine was its own country again, but more people spoke Russian there than their native tongue. They had spent too many years under the thumb of the USSR.

Hetman Maksim Ivan Yurkovich, the First had poured his wealth into the country and become its de facto monarch. By the time his son was crowned King of Volyarus, the House of Yurkovich's monarchy was firmly in place.

However the decades that followed were not all good ones for the small country and the wealth of its people had begun to decline, until even the Royal House was feeling the pinch.

Enter wildcatter and shrewd businessman Bartholomew Tanner.

"He died still owning those shares." Fedir's frown had turned to an all–out scowl.

Shock coursed through Demyan. "No."

"Oh, yes." King Fedir rose and paced the room, only to stop in front of the large plate glass window with a view of the capitol city. "The original plan was for his daughter to marry my grandfather's youngest son."

"Great Uncle Chekov?"

"Yes."

"But..." Demyan let his voice trail off, nothing really to say.

Duke Chekov had been a bachelor, but it wasn't because Tanner's daughter broke his heart. The man had been gay and lived out his years overseeing most of mining interests with a valet that was a lot more than a servant.

In the 1950s, that had been his only option for happiness.

Times had changed, but some things remained static. Duty to family and country was one of them.

King Fedir shrugged. "It did not matter. The match was set."

"But they never married."

"She eloped with one of the oilmen."

That would have been high scandal in the 50s.

"But I thought Baron Tanner left the shares to the people of Volyarus."

"It was a pretty fabrication created by my grandfather."

"The earnings on those twenty–percent of shares has been used to build roads, fund schools...damn."

"Exactly. To repay the funds with interest to Chanel Tanner would seriously jeopardize our country's financial stability in the best of times."

And the current economic climes would never be described as that.

"She has no idea of her legacy, does she?" If she did, Perry Saltzman wouldn't bother to ask for a job for his son, he'd be suing Volyarus for hundreds of millions. One of the few countries in the world that did not operate in any sort of deficit, that kind of payout could literally break the Volyarussian bank.

"What's the plan?"

"Marriage."

"How will that help?" Whoever she married could make the same claims on their country's resources.

"There was one caveat in Bartholomew's will. If any issue of his ever married into the Volyarussian royal family, his twenty percent would revert to the people less a sufficient annual income to provide for his heir's wellbeing."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"It does if you know the rest of the story."

"What is it?"

"Tanner's daughter ended up jilted by her lover, who was already married, making their own hasty ceremony null."

"So, she still could have married Prince Chekov."

"She was pregnant with another man's child; she'd caused a well–publicized scandal. He categorically refused."

"Tanner thought he would change Uncle Chekov's mind?"

"Tanner thought her son might grow up to marry into our family and link the Tanner name with the Royal House of Yurkovich for all time."

"It already was, by business."

"That wasn't good enough." King Fedir sighed. "He wanted a family connection with his name in–tact if possible."

"Family was important to him."

"Yes. He never spoke to his daughter again, but he provided for her financially until she remarried with only one caveat."

"Her son keep the Tanner name." It made sense.

"Exactly."

"And he presumably had a son."

"Only one."

"Chanel's father, but you said she was the only living Tanner of Bart's line."

"She is. Both her grandfather and father died from dangerous chemical inhalation after a lab accident."

"They were scientists?"

"Chemists, just like Chanel. Although they worked on their own grants. She's a research assistant."

The woman with the wild red hair in the pictures was a science geek?

"And no one in the family was aware of their claim to Tanner's shares?"

"No. He meant to leave them to the people of Volyarus. He told my grandfather, that was his intention."

"But he didn't do it."

"He was a wildcatter. It's a dangerous profession. He died when his grandson was still a young boy."

"And?"

"And my grandfather provided for the education expense of every child in that line since."

"There haven't been that many."

"No."

"Including Chanel?"

"Yes. The full ride and living expenses scholarship she received is apparently what gave Percy Saltzman the idea to approach Yurkovich Tanner and trade on a connection more than half a century old."

"What do you want me to do? Find her a Volyarussian husband?"

"He has to be from the Yurkovich line."

"Your son is already married."

"You are not."

Neither was Demyan's younger brother, but he doubted Fedir considered that fact important. Demyan was the one who had been raised as "spare to the throne" almost a son to the Monarch. "You want me to marry her."

"For the good of Volyarus, yes. It need not be a permanent marriage. The will makes no stipulations on that score."

Demyan did not reply immediately. For the first time in more years than he could remember, his mind was blank with shock.

"Think, Demyan. You and I both know the healthy economy of Volyarus sits on a precarious edge, just like the rest of the world. The calamity that would befall us were we to be forced to distribute the funds to Miss Tanner would be great."

"You are being melodramatic. There's no guarantee Maksim the First's duplicity would ever be discovered."

"It's only a matter of time, particularly with a man like Perry Saltzman in the picture. His kind can sniff out wealth and connections with the efficiency of a ferret."

"So, we deny the claim. Our court resources far exceed this young woman's."

"I think not. There are three countries that would be very happy to lay claim to Volyarus as a territory and the United States is one of them."

"You believe they would use the unclaimed shares as a way to get their hands on a part of Volyarus."

"Why not?"

Why not indeed. King Fedir would and come to it, Demyan wouldn't hesitate to exploit such a politically expedient turn of events himself.

"So, I marry her, gain control of the shares and dump her?" he asked, more to clarify what his uncle was thinking than to enumerate his own plans.

He would marry one day. Why not the heir to Bartholomew Tanner? If she was as much a friend to Volyarus as her grandfather had been, they might well make an acceptable life together.

"If she turns out to be anything like her grasping step–father, yes," Fedir answered. "On the other hand, she may well be someone you could comfortably live with."

The king didn't look like he believed his own words.

Frankly, Demyan wasn't sure he did either, but his future was clear. His duty to his country and well–being of his family left only one course of action open to him.

Seduce and marry the unpolished scientist.


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