Royal Holiday: The ONLY romance you need to read this Christmas!, page 1
Copyright © 2019 Jasmine Guillory
Cover design by Vikki Chu
Author Photograph © Andrea Scher
The right of Jasmine Guillory to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First published in this Ebook edition in 2019
by HEADLINE ETERNAL
An imprint of HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC. A Penguin Random House Company.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
eISBN 978 1 4722 6497 8
HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
An Hachette UK Company
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ
Table of Contents
About the Author
Praise for Jasmine Guillory
By Jasmine Guillory
About the Book
You’re invited to join The Wedding Party
Read Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick The Proposal
Fall in love with The Wedding Date
Find out more about Headline Eternal
About the Author
Jasmine Guillory is the New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Date, The Proposal – a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick – and The Wedding Party. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Real Simple, OprahMagazine.com, and Shondaland.com. She lives in Oakland, California.
Visit Jasmine online at jasmineguillory.com, on Twitter @thebestjasmine and Instagram @jasminepics.
Acclaim for Jasmine Guillory and her delightful rom-coms:
‘What a charming, warm, sexy gem of a novel . . . I love a good romance and this delivered from the first page to the last’ Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author
‘I have to actively refrain from talking about Guillory and her novels IN ALL CAPS because I get VERY EXCITED – she’s that good!’ Shondaland
‘One of romance’s brightest new voices’ Entertainment Weekly
‘Everything Jasmine Guillory touches turns to gold, and The Wedding Party is no exception’ Cosmopolitan
‘It’s the perfect summer book’ Bustle
‘A bit of wisdom: when Jasmine Guillory comes out with a book, buy it’ Refinery29
‘It’s the most sweet, charming, and fun title yet’ HelloGiggles
‘Just as essential to a good summer holiday as SPF’ Grazia
By Jasmine Guillory
The Wedding Date
The Wedding Party
About the Book
When Vivian Forest gets the chance to tag along on her daughter Maddie’s work trip to England to style a member of the royal family, she can’t refuse. She's excited to spend the holidays taking in the magnificent British sights, but what she doesn't expect is to become instantly attracted to a certain private secretary, his charming accent and unyielding formality.
Malcolm Hudson has never given a personal, private tour in his time with the royals – until now. Intrigued by Vivian, he finds himself making excuses just to spend time with her. Soon, flirtatious banter, results in a kiss under the mistletoe sure to keep the frostiest winter chill at bay.
With Vivian’s return to the US fast approaching, she and Malcolm will have to decide if this is simply a holiday romance or a love affair to change their lives.
To my grandmother,
Thank you for everything.
Every book only comes to be because of hard work and help from many people, and that’s especially the case for this book.
I’m so grateful for my incredible agent, Holly Root, and my fantastic editor, Cindy Hwang, for their enthusiasm and support when I came to them with this idea. I’m thrilled and relieved every day that I’m going through this publishing journey with the two of you to guide me.
To everyone at Berkley, thank you for your hard work, energy, and ambition for me and my books, especially Jessica Brock, Fareeda Bullert, Angela Kim, Craig Burke, Erin Galloway, Kristine Swartz, Jin Yu, Megha Jain, and Vikki Chu. Thank you to Lauren Monaco, Jen Trzaska, and everyone on the incredible Penguin Random House sales team. And huge thanks to Kate Byrne and the entire Headline Eternal team for their guidance and enthusiasm.
I could never have done any of this without all the encouragement, support, and advice I’ve gotten from so many other writers. Amy Spalding and Akilah Brown, you’ve been there for me since the very beginning; I owe so much to both of you. Ruby Lang, thank you for everything. Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, you are two of the most delightful, inspiring, and helpful writers out there, and I’ve learned so much from both of you. Sarah Mackey, thank you so much for both your enthusiastic cheerleading and your American to British translations. Lauren Kiehna, thank you for the incredible website TheCourtJeweller.com—it’s helped me more than you can know. Jami Attenberg, Melissa Baumgart, Robin Benway, Austin Channing Brown, Kayla Cagan, Alexis Coe, Nicole Chung, Roxane Gay, Tayari Jones, Lyz Lenz, Caille Millner, Daniel Ortberg, Doree Shafrir, Kate Spencer, Laura Turner, Esmé Weijun Wang, Sarah Weinman, and Sara Zarr, I am so grateful to have you all in my life.
Thank you so much to all of my friends who put up with me when I fell off the face of the earth to write this book, especially Jill Vizas, Nicole Clouse, Simi Patnaik, Janet Goode, Melissa Sladden, Jina Kim, Lisa McIntire, Ryan Gallagher, Sarah Tiedeman, Kyle Wong, Julian Davis Mortenson, Nanita Cranford, Joy Alferness, Alicia Harris, Toby Rugger, Rachel Fershleiser, Maret Orliss, Maggie Levine, Sara Kate Wilkinson, Kate Leos, and Lyette Mercier. And special thanks to Lindsey Kistler for literally putting me up in London while I did research, and for all of our discussions about the U.K. and the U.S.—this book is better because of you.
To my family, especially my parents and my sister, I love you so much. Thank you for always being in my corner and by my side.
Nicole Cliffe and Samantha Powell, our royals group chat has brought me so much joy in the past few years, and I’m not sure this book would have happened without the two of you.
Thanks to Meghan and Harry, just because.
And finally, Margaret H. Willison: You’re the real MVP. Thank you for
Vivian nudged her daughter as they walked out of the customs area at Heathrow Airport.
“Um, Maddie? Do you think Ms. M. Forest and Ms. V. Forest are us?”
Vivian gestured at the man in the suit, holding the sign with their names on it.
Maddie turned in the direction Vivian was looking and grinned at her mother.
“Let’s do this, Mom.”
Vivian looked around and laughed to herself before she grinned back at Maddie.
She still didn’t exactly know how she’d gotten here. It had all started with a call from Maddie a few weeks ago.
“Hey, Mom, I need an answer fast—do you want to spend Christmas with me in England?”
Vivian had laughed. What else was there to do when your thirty-four-year-old daughter asked something so ridiculous?
“Sure, I do. I also want to spend Thanksgiving with you in Hawaii, New Year’s Eve with you in Paris, and Easter with you in Rome.”
But Maddie didn’t laugh at that.
“No, really. I’m serious. You remember my old mentor, Amelia Samuels?”
Vivian looked away from her computer screen.
“The one who’s now the stylist for the princess?”
“Duchess, but yes. Well, Amelia was supposed to go to England at Christmas to help prepare the Duchess for all of the royal Christmas festivities—apparently, there are lots of them—but Amelia is pregnant with twins and just had to go on bed rest. Her doctor says she’s under too much stress and can’t work at all.”
“Oh no, really? Poor Amelia; I didn’t know she was pregnant! Please tell her I’m thinking about her.”
Vivian had only met Amelia once, that time she’d gone down to visit Maddie when she’d been living in L.A., but she’d really liked her. And Amelia had done a lot for Maddie and her own stylist career.
“I will, Mom, but let me finish. Since Amelia can’t fly to England for Christmas, she wants me to fill in for her, because both she and the Duchess want someone she trusts.”
Vivian dropped her pen on the floor.
“Maddie! Oh my God! Are you serious? My daughter is going to be so famous! You’re going to England to work with a princess? You’ll be all over People magazine! Oh my God, I can’t wait to tell everybody!”
“You can’t tell everybody yet, but I know, I’m blown away. But wait, we can be excited in a second—I want you to come with me.”
Vivian got up and closed her office door.
“Come with you . . . to England?”
Maddie started talking faster.
“It means I’ll be there for Christmas, and I don’t want to be alone with a bunch of strangers at Christmas. I already asked if you could join me, and they said yes. So . . . can you?”
Vivian looked around at the piles of work on her desk, and in the direction of her boss’s office, with their last conversation about his future—and hers—ringing in her ears.
“Maddie, I don’t know about this—I have a ton of work at this time of year, and today is especially wild around here. What about Theo, did you already talk to him?”
Vivian already adored Maddie’s boyfriend, Theo, even though they’d only officially been together for a few months.
“I told Theo about the offer, yes, and he’s thrilled for me. But if you mean did I invite Theo to come to England with me already, absolutely not. I love Theo, and I can’t wait to spend New Year’s Eve with him, but I’ve never spent a Christmas without my mother, and I don’t intend to start now. So, are you coming?”
Vivian grinned to herself. She couldn’t deny it warmed her heart to know her daughter still wanted her mom with her for Christmas.
But to go all the way to England for Christmas? That far away from work, the rest of the family, and everything?
“I’d love to come, but I can’t make a decision like this right now,” she said to Maddie. “Let me think about it and we can talk about this in a few days.”
Maddie’s voice got louder.
“There’s no ‘a few days.’ I have to make this decision now, and I’m going to decide for both of us. You need this. You haven’t gone on a real vacation in years.”
How had she managed to have a daughter who thought she could boss her around like this?
“Oh, you have to go. Life is too short not to take incredible opportunities like this! But I don’t think I can—”
“I’m definitely going, and you’re definitely coming with me. You never take enough time for yourself; you know I always tell you that. You spend all your time working or helping me or helping out with Aunt Jo. I know you don’t want to leave Aunt Jo, but you need a break.”
“Maddie . . .”
“Great, it’s settled. Talk to you later!”
And with that, Maddie had hung up, and two days later they had plane tickets. Vivian hadn’t even known until they were about to board the flight that they were first-class tickets.
She laughed to herself just thinking about that flight. The last time she’d been on an airplane, she’d felt lucky to be in an aisle seat. She’d had an aisle seat this time, too—a huge, futuristic, podlike seat, with room not only to stretch her legs, but to lie almost flat. With just a wave, she could summon champagne and snacks to her side, and for all she knew, there was some secret button to give her a massage, too. She and Maddie had spent the first two hours of the flight just looking around and giggling with each other.
Despite how amazing the flight had been, Vivian still wasn’t sure she should be here. She was with Maddie, but what about the rest of her family? Her sisters needed her, especially her sister Jo. And she’d never been away from the Bay Area for Christmas in her life. What was Christmas going to be like without her great-aunt Shirley’s ham, or her cousin Loretta’s greens, or those dinner rolls her cousin Marilyn always said she made but everyone else knew she got at Safeway?
But then . . . she hated those greens. There was never enough pork in them and way too much vinegar. It might be nice to have a change of pace for Christmas, even though she had serious doubts anyone in England knew how to make a sweet potato pie.
The very polite man in the suit escorted them to a waiting SUV, and Vivian and Maddie kept making faces at each other as he offered them three different kinds of bottled water and told them how to turn on their heated seats.
Maddie opened a bottle of water and handed it to Vivian.
“It’s supposed to take a few hours to get there, so . . .”
“What?” Vivian stopped her. “A few hours? Where are we going?”
“Didn’t you read the email I sent you about that? The royal family always spends Christmas at Sandringham. It’s in the east of England but a bit north of London.”
Like she’d had time to read Maddie’s lengthy emails. She’d gotten herself packed and to the airport, hadn’t she?
“I had too much to do in the last few weeks; I had to get ready for a last-minute international trip, remember? Plus, your emails are too long.”
“I should have known. Anyway, Sandringham is a big estate; there are a bunch of royal residences on it, and then lots of trees and land; at least, that’s what the pictures online look like. I guess we’ll see for ourselves shortly.”
Vivian sat back against the plush heated seat.
“I still can’t believe we’re really staying with the Duke and Duchess.”
Maddie had told her this for the first time about a week ago, and like everything else Maddie had told her about this trip, it sounded as though it couldn’t be real.
Maddie shook her head.
“I know. The Duchess insisted. She said it would be easier if I was right on-site, and that there’s plenty of room in their cottage on the estate for us. When she was s
This all seemed surreal. Vivian really couldn’t believe she was about to meet someone she’d read so much about.
She was a social worker from Oakland, for God’s sake! How was this happening?
Speaking of her job . . .
“So, I haven’t told you this yet,” Vivian said to her daughter, “because I wasn’t sure if it was really going to happen, but Darren made the announcement before I left the office yesterday: he’s retiring. And he wants me to get his job. He first talked to me about it a few weeks ago, and yesterday he brought it up to his boss when I was right there, so I guess he means it.”
“Mom! Oh my God! I can’t believe you’re just telling me this now! This is so exciting! What’s the title, director of social work?”
Vivian nodded slowly.
“Yep. He’s leaving sometime in February, and the hospital director already told me they probably won’t get the hiring process started for a few months, so they’re going to make me the acting director as soon as Darren retires.”
“Wow.” Maddie put her water bottle down and pulled her mom into a hug. “I’m so thrilled for you; this is such great recognition after all of your hard work.”
The recognition had felt satisfying, even though she was still in shock about all of this.
“That’s true, though it means I’ll be jumping into a job with lots of hard work, and I won’t get to see patients nearly as much . . . or maybe not at all. But it’s a big honor”—she grinned—“and more money.”
Maddie settled back against the car seat.
“Well, I’m even more glad I made you come on this trip with me. I’m sure you’ll take even fewer vacations once you’re the big boss.”
That was probably very true. Yes, she was glad she’d come on this trip with her daughter. She hadn’t been on vacation—a real vacation, not just a few days off work—in a year and a half. The only other time she’d even been out of the country was that trip she’d taken with her friends to Mexico for her fortieth birthday, and that had been well over ten years ago.