The Doctor's Royal Love-Child

Available in stores

Mills & Boon Medical Romance

April 2008

ISBN: 9780263863147

 

Secret princess - doctor's bride!

Dedicated vet Melinda Fortescue has a secret. One she has kept from gorgeous doctor Dragan Lovak even though she's given him her heart. Now her duty is calling her, and she knows she must tell him the truth about who she really is.

It's enough of a shock for Dragan to learn that the woman he trusted and fell in love with is royalty! But HRH Melinda has been called back to her country to take the throne. Will Dragan let her go? Or will he fight to keep her by his side in Penhally Bay? Especially now he's learnt that she's carrying his child!

Also released in the UK as a hardback (February 2008, ISBN: 9780263198676) and a large print hardback (date and ISBN tbc). Also released in Australia in paperback (May 2008, ISBN: tbc).

 


Behind the Book

This was a bit different from the norm for me, as it's part of a Mills & Boon 12-book continuity set in the fictional town of Penhally in Cornwall. My book is the fifth in the series, and I was delighted when my editor asked me to take part because at last I get to write my vet book!

Melinda, the heroine, is the local vet and she's from the Italian principality of Contarini. Everyone in the village knows she's not local... but what they don't know is that she's a princess.

Dragan Lovak, the hero, is a quiet, well-respected but very private GP. He came over as a refugee from Croatia with nothing and has built a new life - and he falls head over heels in love with Melinda.

But when Melinda's pushed into the spotlight and expected to become queen of Contarini - given that he's a commoner and her family are royals, how are they going to make it work? Especially when Melinda discovers that she's pregnant?

It's dedicated to my editor, Sheila Hodgson, who gave me the chance to spread my wings a bit. She's a real joy to work with - she sees what I don't when I'm too close to the book, and she's also on the same wavelength as my agent, so it's a thoroughly enjoyable working relationship.

And the book's recipe - prawn, avocado and chilli salad - is one that I pinched from fellow Penhally author Caroline Anderson, who introduced me to this rather lovely combination. (It can't really be called cooking, but it's excellent if you want to prepare something swiftly for lunch when you're going to spend your entire time talking. . .)

There's a bit of a soundtrack to this book - fellow M&B authors Margaret McDonagh and Kate Walker introduced me to the music Josh Groban when I was writing this book, and 'Un Giorno Per Noi' and 'In Her Eyes' (from his album Awake) fitted this book perfectly.

Read a Bit

CHAPTER ONE

'Fancy seeing you here, Dr Lovak,' Melinda said with a grin as Dragan wound down the window of his car. 'Anyone would think I had matched my call lists to yours.'

Knowing that she'd done exactly that when she'd phoned him after her morning's surgery - except his first call had taken a little longer than he'd expected, which was why he was arriving at the boarding kennels just as she was leaving - Dragan smiled back. 'Tut-tut, Ms Fortesque. Suggest things like that and people might start to talk.'

'If they do, I'll just tell them I wanted to check on my favourite patient and see how her leg's doing. Isn't that right, Bramble?' Melinda looked over Dragan's shoulder at the flatcoat retriever they'd rescued a little over three months before, who was lying on a blanket in the back of his car.

The dog's tail thumped loudly, and she gave a soft answering woof.

'Hear that? Bramble says she'll be my alibi.' Melinda leaned in through the open window and stole a kiss from Dragan. 'Though I think people might have already started to guess, amore mio. Do you know how many people this last month have told me what a wonderful doctor you are?'

'Funny, that. People have been singing your praises to me, too.' He stole a kiss right back. 'But that's the thing about living in a place like Penhally. Everybody knows everything about everyone.' Or nearly everything. So, despite the fact that they'd kept their relationship low-key, he was pretty sure that everybody in Penhally knew that the vet and the doctor were an item.

For a moment, he could've sworn that worry flashed into Melinda's gorgeous blue eyes. But then the expression was gone again. No, he must be imagining things. And what did Melinda have to hide, anyway? She'd come to England on holiday years ago, had fallen in love with the country and decided to settle here and train to be a vet.

Not so very different from himself. Although holidays had been the last thing on his mind when he'd walked off that boat seventeen years ago, he too had fallen in love with England. And he was as settled here in Cornwall as he'd ever be anywhere. The wild Atlantic wasn't quite the same as the Adriatic, but at least the sound of the sea could still lull him to sleep at night.

'Do you have time for lunch?' she asked.

He shook his head. 'Sorry. I'm already behind schedule. And I really can't keep my patients waiting.'

'Of course you can't.' She stroked his cheek. 'I'll cook for us tonight, then. Your place.'

He turned his head to press a kiss into her palm. 'That would be lovely. Though you don't have to cook for me, Melinda. I'm perfectly capable of doing it.'

She scoffed and put her hands on her hips, shaking her head at him as he got out of the car. 'Dragan Lovak, you know as well as I do that you never cook. That if I let you, you'd live on bread and cheese and cold meats and salad - even in the middle of winter.'

He flapped a dismissive hand. 'Well. Food doesn't have to be hot. It's fuel.'

'It's much more than that,' she told him. 'You don't just shovel down calories like a Ferrari taking on petrol at a pit stop. Food is a pleasure. Something to be enjoyed.'

Since Melinda had been in his life, Dragan was beginning to appreciate that. Not only because she was a fantastic cook: her enjoyment of food had taught him to notice flavour. Texture. Aroma. Things he'd blocked out in the dark days and that he'd more or less trained himself to ignore since then. 'Are you on call tonight?' he asked.

'No. It's the turn of the other practice to cover, tonight. What about you?'

'No. And I'm not on late surgery, either.'

'So we have the whole evening to ourselves. Bene. ' Her eyes sparkled. 'I'll pick up something at the Trevellyans' farm shop and bring it over to cook when I've finished surgery, yes?'

Recently she'd spent more nights at his little terraced cottage in Fisherman's Row than at her own flat above the veterinary surgery, just round the corner. Maybe, Dragan thought, it was time that he gave Melinda her own key. Time that they took their relationship to the next level. Time that he asked her to move in with him.

Though it was taking one hell of a risk. Since his family had been killed during the war in Croatia, he'd kept people at a distance - just close enough to be polite and pleasant and easy to work with, but far enough away to keep his heart safe. He reasoned that if he didn't let people too close, he wouldn't get hurt if he lost them, or if they walked away.

He'd kept his private life extremely private - until Melinda Fortesque had walked into his life. With just one smile, the Italian vet had cracked the fortress round his heart wide open, and she'd walked straight in.

But although part of him wanted it so badly - to ask her to live with him, be his love, make a new family with him - the fear flooded in and stopped the words before he could say them. What if it all went wrong? What if he lost her? He didn't think he'd be able to pick up the pieces again. Not this time.

He shivered.

'Dragan? You are cold?'

On a sunny spring day like this? Hardly. He summoned a smile. 'No. I'm. . .' No. This wasn't the right time or the right place for that particular discussion. '. . .late for my appointment,' he finished wryly. 'I'll see you later.'

'OK. Ciao. ' She blew him a kiss. 'Zlato.'

His mouth must have dropped open, because she laughed. 'You're not the only one who can speak several languages, you know.'

Italian was Melinda's native tongue and he knew she also spoke French and Spanish as well as English, albeit with a slight Italian accent.

But she'd just called him 'darling' in his own tongue.

Croatian.

How many years had it been since he'd heard that word spoken?

'Dragan?' She was looking worried. 'What's the matter? I said it wrong - it doesn't mean what I think it means and I've just mortally insulted you?'

'No.' He forced himself to smile. 'You said it perfectly. I wasn't expecting it, that's all.' And it had brought back memories he usually kept locked away.

She shook her head. 'I can see it in your eyes. I hurt you. I didn't mean to -'

'Hey.' He got out of the car and slid his arms round her, held her close. Rested his cheek against her soft, silky hair and breathed in the sweet scent he always associated with her. 'I know you didn't, piccola mia. It's all right.'

'I looked it up on the internet. How to say "amore mio" in Croatian. I just wanted to. . . well, to please you,' she said softly.

'You did. You do.' He was so close to telling her how much she meant to him. How he really felt about her. Just how much he loved her. But the first time he said those words, he wanted it to be perfect. Romantic. At the top of the cliffs, with moonlight shining over the Atlantic - or maybe at sunrise. A new dawn, a new beginning. He hadn't quite worked out the details. But the middle of the car park of the local boarding kennels really wasn't the right place for a declaration of love.

Especially when he was supposed to be working. And so was she.

He let her go. 'I'll see you later. Have a nice afternoon.'

She lifted herself on tiptoe and kissed him. 'You, too.'

The touch of her mouth against his made him forget his good intentions. He wrapped his arms round her again, let the kiss deepen. Lost himself in the warmth and sweetness of her mouth.

Until a polite cough interrupted them.

From the book The Doctor's Royal Love-Child by Kate Hardy.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance
Publication Date: April 2008
ISBN: 9780263198676
Copyright © 2008 by Pamela Brooks
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to http://www.eHarlequin.com

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Reviews:

From Romantic Times:

When the story starts these two wonderful characters are already in a loving relationship and it is great to see them learn more about each other. Readers will love spending time with Melinda and Dragan and will be especially pleased with the story's heartwarming happily-ever-after.

From Cataromance:

You can always count on award-winning author Kate Hardy to write a heartwarming romance that will tug at your heartstrings and make you cry buckets and in The Doctor’s Royal Love Child, she has once again penned a moving romantic tale of secrets, second chances and new beginnings that you will want to read again and again.

What they’re saying on e-Harlequin

  • Oh wow, what a nice story this one was. Melinda is a wonderful sounding vet with a great boss. Dragan I have liked throughout this series. I loved her sister.

Stories by Kate Hardy with GP (family doctor) settings

 

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