The Trouble With Princesses

By: Tracy Anne Warren


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


Sincerest thanks to my wonderful editor, Wendy McCurdy, for all her support and also to the team at Penguin and my publishers, Leslie Gelbman, Kara Welsh, and Clare Zion. Deepest appreciation to Helen Breitwieser for our years together and her unwavering belief in my writing and all that the future may hold. And finally to Les, who keeps me going even on the toughest days.





Chapter One





London, England

May 1820

Princess Ariadne of Nordenbourg—a nation that now existed only in memory and history books—took a sip of lemonade as she surveyed the crowded ballroom. Couples whirled past on the dance floor, the waltz being all the rage, especially since it had earned the approval of the powerful Almack’s patronesses half a decade earlier.

But Ariadne wasn’t interested in dancing—at least not unless it furthered her objectives. She had far more important matters on her mind. She was on the hunt, but not for the usual matrimonial prize that most unmarried young ladies pursued during the Season. No, Princess Ariadne prided herself on being anything but ordinary, and for her, the usual social expectations and restrictions held little sway.

After six fruitless Seasons she had decided to give up the notion of searching for a husband. What she sought now was a lover.

Since he would be her first, she needed to be selective. But not just any man would do. And thus, the reason for her hunt.

She remembered her friend Emma’s reaction when she had confided her plans.

Her Highness, Archduchess Emmaline of Wiessenschloss, née Princess Emmaline of Rosewald, had tossed back her head on a rippling laugh, grinning at Ariadne from her place on the sofa in the Lyndhurst House family drawing room. “Arie, you say the most outrageous things. You must lie awake at night trying to dream up ways to surpass your last bon mot.”

But when Ariadne did not join in the laughter, Emma’s smile began to fade. “You are jesting, surely?”

Ariadne calmly gazed at her friend. “No. I am completely serious.”

Emma’s mouth fell open briefly before she snapped it closed again. She laid a hand against her bosom, still ample since the birth of her second child three months earlier. “But you cannot take a lover! You aren’t even married.”

“Nor do I plan to be.”

“Arie—”

“Oh, don’t act so shocked. It’s not as if I’ve made a secret of my opinions on marriage and men over the years. I am four-and-twenty and only a few months from coming into my full inheritance. I’ve decided it’s high time I enjoyed myself and found a suitable cher ami.”

“Arie, as much as I sympathize with you about the freedom and rights of women, you cannot pursue this insanity. You will be ruined, utterly and forever. There will be no going back. The scandal alone will rock the very foundations of Society. You will end up becoming notorious.”

“I should certainly hope so,” she told her friend as she studied her elegantly manicured nails with a nonchalant air. “I not only plan to be notorious but the most notorious woman in all of the modern world. Madame de Pompadour will become but a mere cipher when compared to me.”

“Madame de Pompadour was a common harlot who wormed her way into a king’s bed and thus into a position of power. She wasn’t royal. She was not born a princess like you.”

Ariadne waved a dismissive hand. “Have you not yet learned, Emma, that it is not who we are born, but what we make of ourselves that matters most? Everyone remembers and admires Madame de Pompadour, regardless of her origins. I plan to be remembered as well.”

Remembered as my family is now forgotten. Valued for who I am as an individual and not for what I can provide as yet one more lonely pawn in men’s eternal games for wealth and power.

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