romance · romantic suspense

Palace of Deception: a romantic suspense novella

I’m thrilled to announce my new release, a romantic suspense novella called Palace of Deception, is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Hooray! Here’s the fabulous cover, which was designed by the lovely Charlotte Volnek:

romantic suspense, helena fairfaxWhat do you think? As usual, Charlie was great to work with, and the cover is an excellent reflection of the story.

This is what the story is about: a young actress called Lizzie Smith is given the most dangerous role of her life when she’s asked to stand in for Princess Charlotte of Montverrier. The princess has vanished in mysterious circumstances shortly before her Investiture ceremony. Women are very much second-class subjects in the ancient principality of Montverrier. There are many men who would hate for a woman to become ruler…and they’ll stop at nothing to stop the Princess’s ceremony from going ahead.

With a sinister housekeeper shadowing Lizzie’s every move, her only confidant is her quiet bodyguard, Léon – but what secrets is he keeping from her? And what has become of the real Princess?

* * *

I loved the cover because it reflects an important part of the story. Lizzie’s bodyguard tells her repeatedly not to go too near the window in her suite of rooms. The cover shows Lizzie ignoring Léon’s orders. Here’s an extract from the book:

I knew in my heart I had done all I could, and that not even the Princess’s closest friends would guess at the deception. And yet despite this, I was filled with the most crippling fear, far worse than any stage-fright I’d ever yet experienced. I dropped my hand from the window, shivering with cold. What if something went wrong?

A step sounded behind me. ‘I warned you to stay away from the window, Your Highness.’

I leapt round with a guilty start. I’d been so enveloped in my fears, I’d failed to hear Léon enter. One look at his face showed me he just how upset he was at my disobeying his instructions. ‘But they’re so far away, Léon – ’

He reached across without speaking and drew the heavy curtains closed. His unusual brusqueness caused me a twinge of shame at causing him concern. I covered it by blurting out the first thing that came to mind. ‘Isn’t it strange, Léon? All those people will be sleeping soundly on the pavement tonight, and I’ll be up here in my soft bed, wide awake, worrying about everything that could go wrong.’

He switched on the lamp at the desk, then returned to tug at the drapes, making sure no chink of light could get through. ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,’ he quoted absently, his hands busy with his task.

‘Henry IV.’ I glanced across at him. After all these weeks thrown together, Léon was still full of surprises. ‘I had a role in that play once when I was at drama school. My first big production. The night before I didn’t sleep a wink.’ I went to the desk, and my eyes fell on the lines of the ceremony. I twisted my fingers together. ‘How I wish I were back in my flat in Edinburgh right now, and with all this over.’

Léon didn’t reply. Ever since I’d arrived in Montverrier, he’d been a constant presence. Silent, reliable, ever watchful, and rarely showing any emotion. Today would be our last evening together. I took in Léon’s dark features, the slight hook to his nose, the grace in his movements as he straightened himself, and knew just how much I would miss my faithful shadow.

‘How about you, Léon?’ I asked on impulse. ‘What will you do after the ceremony?’

He raised his head, regarding me for a moment or two before revealing, ‘I have a house on the west coast of Italy, between the sea and the mountains. I’ll ride down the coast road on my motorbike, the smell of the sea and the bougainvillea in my nostrils, looking forward to a meal of steak and red wine, and to a few weeks doing nothing but swim in the Mediterranean.’

I smiled, a broad, un-Princesslike grin that almost reached my ears, and banished the fear I’d been feeling. ‘That sounds perfect,’ I said. ‘I didn’t know you had such a poetic soul.’

‘A man would have a heart of stone not to feel the poetry in such a place.’ He hesitated a moment or two before adding softly, ‘But in fact, I have nothing against being here, in this present moment.’ 

* * *

I hope you like my cover and extract. I based the fictional principality of Montverrier on the very real county of Monaco. (Although of course, my characters are purely fiction!) Here’s a photo of the Palace at Monaco:

monaco, romantic suspense, helena fairfax
Image courtsey of Pixabay

and the Palace guards parading:

monaco, helena fairfax, romantic suspenseand the wonderful view over the harbour:

monaco, romantic suspense, helena fairfaxIt’s a beautiful location for a romance, and the setting makes Palace of Deception perfect for a summer read.

You can pre-order my romantic suspense novella on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Amazon IN and all sorts of other Amazons. For those that don’t have a Kindle e-reader, it will be available from other online retailers after ninety days. (I’m sorry I can’t make it available for all e-readers straightaway.)

* * *

I hope you enjoyed my extract. Do you like the cover? And do you enjoy reading romantic suspense? Who are your favourite romantic suspense authors?

If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!

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14 thoughts on “Palace of Deception: a romantic suspense novella

    1. Thank you, JQ! It’s a story (trope?) that’s been done before, for example in The Prisoner of Zenda, but I really did have a lot of fun writing it. I hope it’s fun to read, too. Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so glad you like the sound of it!

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  1. Love the sound of this, Helena, and look forward to reading it. I love romantic suspense and grew up on the books of Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and then added Phyllis Whitney to the mix! Beautiful cover.

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    1. I love Mary Stewart, Rosemary! I wish I could write like her. I’ve never read any Phyllis Whitney, but now I’ve added her to my list. I look forward to checking her out. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. The cover is beautiful and so evocative, and the extract just makes me want to read the full story! I have already pre-ordered it and can’t wait to get started. I visited Monaco once, a long time ago, and the older part of town and the palace looked just like a film set. It was lovely, and as you say, a great setting for a romance. Congratulations and good luck with it!

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  3. Congratulations on your new release, Helena! I love the storyline and the cover is stunning and true to the theme. I’m just putting the finishing touches on a novella that starts in Genoa and ends in the south of France. I agree with you — a wonderful, romantic part of the world for a love story. Wishing you best of success with this new story! I’m off to pre-order my copy!

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    1. Oh, I can’t wait to read your novella, Gemma! I once took a train trip that involved travelling from Genoa to Nice. It was wonderful! Fabulous setting. I’m excited about reading your book! Thanks so much for dropping in!

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