Today I am so pleased to welcome Lilah Pace to Joyfully Jay. Lilah has come to share an exclusive excerpt with us from her latest release, His Royal Favorite (which I reviewed here and loved). Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
HIS ROYAL FAVORITE finds James and Ben at the moment just after they’ve confessed their love for each other, right when they’ve decided to be together no matter what…and then starts showing them exactly what “no matter what” might mean. James, after a lifetime in the public eye, knows more or less what is about to unfold. However, Ben–despite being a career journalist–hasn’t really understood it yet. He gets his first hint in a pre-coming-out interview with James’ leading assistant and media consultant, Kimberley Tseng. Ben is an intensely private man; Kimberley a hyper-efficient woman whose sly sense of humor only occasionally slips through. So she’s essentially the sword that’s about to pierce all of Ben’s defense mechanisms at once. That kind of scene is always a joy to dig into.
“Do we have a few minutes?” Ben said as they stepped out of the car and headed back into Clarence House, through twin lines of servants and security staffers all pretending this was business as usual. But it so, so wasn’t. Ben knew that right now he and James badly needed some time to themselves, a chance to reconnect with the wild, boundless hope that had buoyed them last night.
But James shook his head. “You’ve got that meeting with Kimberley. And I know you’ll want to be at your flat tonight, getting things ready. Unless you want me to send someone to pack for you?”
“I’ll do it myself,” Ben said hurriedly. The idea of strangers pawing through his things, deciding what to take and what to leave, horrified him.
So he was already slightly unnerved as he walked into Kimberley Tseng’s office and took a seat. With only a few careful touches of decoration—a vase of fine Chinese porcelain, fresh flowers on a tabletop—Ms. Tseng had managed to make this small space feel both feminine and individual. Yet the relatively spare furnishings and the direct light made it clear that she did not see femininity and fierceness as mutually exclusive.
Ms. Tseng smiled politely, shut the door behind him, locked it, and said, “I need you to answer this first question truthfully, and in confidence. Your answer will remain between us.”
“All right,” Ben said, not sure where this was going.
Ms. Tseng sat in the chair next to him, her dark eyes meeting his unsparingly. “Do you love the Prince Regent?”
“Of course.” Was she about to give him some absurd relationship pep talk?
Instead she said, “If you do, then I want your word that you’ll abide by my recommendation at the end of the vetting process.”
Vetting? “I’m not sure I understand.”
“His Royal Highness is about to spend virtually every ounce of political capital he has to retain his place in the succession. He won’t have any left over to defend you. Do you understand?” From her designer tote bag, Ms. Tseng withdrew a laptop and an audio recorder, but the laptop remained shut and the recorder remained off. “We are about to review your entire background. It is absolutely critical that you be completely honest with me. I’m not about to go tattling any of it to the Prince Regent, the press or anyone else, so you should feel free to be candid. If we reach the end of this process, and I believe that there are elements in your past that would create extreme and unnecessary controversy, any hints of a scandal that could threaten the Prince Regent’s position, then I shall say that I think you should walk away from this, immediately, for his own good. And if you love him, you’ll do it.”
So now he had to get a seal of approval first. “Is this the normal sort of thing you do?”
“If you mean, am I overreaching my role? I am. If you tell the Prince Regent I’ve said any of this, he’ll probably give me the sack. But the next consultant he gets will say the same, unless they’re incompetent, and he can’t afford incompetence right now. Or scandal. In other words, Mr. Dahan, neither of us can fuck up.”
Simultaneously Ben felt insulted and as though, in slightly different circumstances, he would greatly like Kimberley Tseng. “I won’t make any promises. But I’ll listen to what you say.”
She sighed. “Very well.” She shut on the audio recorder and took up her laptop. “We need to put together a list of every man you’ve ever slept with.”
“…I beg your pardon?”
“Every man you’ve ever had sex with, however you would personally define sex—though for these purposes, that definition should be expansive rather than restrictive. Women too, if there have been any.”
“Is this necessary?”
“I need a list of people who could conceivably sell something true to the tabloids. You’ll have any number of fakers coming out of the woodwork; there’s nothing I can do about them except make it clear they’re liars when the time comes. The real ones, we should be prepared for. Don’t worry—I’ll delete the recording once I no longer need it for reference, most likely within twenty-four hours.”
Ben took a deep breath. He reminded himself that this was for James. And he started to talk.
James, Prince of Wales, is making history. He’s decided to come out to his subjects—and the world. However, telling the truth means exposing his relationship with lone-wolf reporter Benjamin Dahan. Although Ben never wanted commitment, the unexpected depth of his feelings leads him to join James in the media’s harsh spotlight.
When the news story explodes across the globe, Ben can endure the mockery and dirty jokes. But after his tragic past is cruelly revealed, his life begins to implode. Can even his love for James be worth this?
James has it no easier. His revelation divides the country and sparks turmoil within the royal family. He must struggle to defend not only himself and Ben, but also his younger sister, who hovers on the brink of a breakdown that could endanger her life.
Is Ben strong enough to survive the onslaught and stand by James’ side? And will James have to make a choice between Ben and the crown
Lilah Pace is a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling author. She is the author of His Royal Secret, Begging for It and Asking for It.