» They say that writing a series is like spitting upwind: don't do it unless you're ready to revisit what you thought was finished. I guess you could say I've experienced that irony firsthand. When I penned THE STAR KING, I never dreamed it'd launch a series.
THE STAR PRINCESS is my August release, my fifth book for Dorchester and the third installment of my Star Series, which is, so far, a trilogy. I say "so far" because I'd hate to see the end of this series. I've loved writing these books; they were all so different from each other: THE STAR KING was the book of my heart; THE STAR PRINCE was a plot-intensive tale that gave me fits at every turn; and THE STAR PRINCESS fizzed with happiness and bubbled with humor, even though I wrote it during one of the darkest periods of my life. Readers have asked me if THE STAR PRINCESS is the last of the Star books? The answer is no. There will be more! I love the characters and the world too much to stop the series altogether.
Ilana is as different from her brother Ian (THE STAR PRINCE) as night and day. I knew that long before she got a book of her own. The woman is such a kick. You can never be glum around her. Every time I sat down to write her, she made me smile. She's single and twenty-seven, living in LA, a confirmed bachelorette and filmmaker - and a fear-of-flying school dropout who happens to come from a family of pilots. I really wanted to find her a guy who'd knock her socks off and kiss the living daylights out of her. I knew that whoever could make Ilana see stars would be the one man capable of dragging her to the altar. But who? The answer came to me immediately: Ché Vedla, that hunk of an arrogant, bad-boy Vash prince rejected by Tee'ah from THE STAR PRINCE.
Now, see, therein lay the problem. I never intended to use Ché in a sequel, but the moment he appeared "onscreen" in THE STAR PRINCE, I fell in lust with him. A few writer's daydreams later, I was in love with the guy. I knew Ché was the one for Ilana, even though by writing him into the story I'd add so many tricky and sticky situations, namely Klark, his brother, who was, of all things, the villain from THE STAR PRINCE. Yeesh! As such, Klark ends up playing a big role in THE STAR PRINCESS, complicating Ché's life - and Ilana's. An author's nightmare. While plotting this book, I'd tell my writer friends that if I ever agreed to write another trilogy would someone please shoot me. But is real life ever simple? Not in my little corner of the universe, it's not. So, I rose to the challenge -- and had the time of my life doing it.
I've always had a thing for stories of royalty marrying commoners. It's an extension of the Cinderella fantasy, maybe. But more than that, I was always curious to know what happened "after" -- after the slipper went on the foot, after they slammed the castle door in my face. I loved pondering the sparks that such different upbringings would bring to a relationship, and I think that was the fun of doing THE STAR PRINCESS, bringing together characters who weren't meant to meet.
Ché is the epitome of a Vash prince: extraordinarily wealthy, conservative, and cultured. In his urbane and educated opinion, Ilana Hamilton stands as the shining example of the opposite of everything he'd ever want in a woman. Ha! Do I ever surprise him. But I'm the author, I have that right! It was such fun watching Ilana bring him to his knees - and visa versa.
I hope that if my books are new to you that you'll give THE STAR PRINCESS a try. As for my treasured readers who buy all the books I write, I hope you'll find Ché and Ilana's effervescent love story a worthy addition to the Star series of books.
Winner -- 2003 RIO Award of Excellence for Best SF/Futuristic (posted 4.1.04)
Winner -- RRA-L (the oldest romance Listserve) for Alternate Reality (posted 4.1.04)Winner -- 2003 PEARL Award for Best Futuristic (posted 4.1.04)
"The Star Princess is an excellent romance, the relationship between the hero and heroine a delightful sparring match similar to that of Gable and Colbert's in the movie It Happened One Night." (posted 9.2.03)
-- All About Romance
"[A] beautiful addition to Ms Grant's fabulous Star series. The talented Susan Grant has penned another keeper that will have her audience anxiously awaiting their next ride to her fabulous world." (posted 9.2.03)
-- Barbara, A Romance Review
"One of the most amazing sequels ever to be written in a book series. This book stands alone at the top of the pile, surpassing everything Susan Grant has written to date. A highly worthy addition to any true romance reader's "keeper shelf", this book is a testament to a talent, which just gets better and better with each new title she produces." (posted 9.2.03)
-- Katherine Schlem
"Witty dialog (sic), well-developed characters, and insightful explorations of cultural and class differences and political intricacies abound in this funny, sexy story." (posted 9.2.03)
-- Library Journal
"I look forward to anything she writes!" (posted 9.2.03)
-- Jane Bowers, Romance Reviews Today
"[A] spirited love story. The scenes in which Ilana introduces Che to human delights like corn nuts, carnival rides and movies steal the story, though Grant also pens some titillating love scenes. Readers who like their romances sprinkled with sci-fi elements will embrace this book, as will those who prefer exotic protagonists and offbeat settings." (posted 7.28.03)
-- Publishers Weekly
“Ché is one severely hot dude!”
-- Rachel Gibson, New York Times Bestselling author
It was after eleven before Ilana finally pulled into the carport below her building, across the street from the beach in Santa Monica. There were twenty condominiums salvaged from what used to be an old office building. Although the building had a chronological age of seventy years, remodeling had made the condos feel closer to five years old. Ilana had lived in hers for three.
It was early — for a Friday night. Most of the other tenants' spaces were empty. She gathered her purse, slipped her shoes back on. Then she noticed an unfamiliar car parked by the curb.
The engine was off. The interior lights were on. A lone man sat inside, watching her.
Darkness shadowed his features. Cole? No. The guy didn't drive a black Porsche. Neither did any of the other men she'd dated recently...that she knew of. She had no idea who the dude was, only that his unwavering attention was doing a bang-up job of giving her the creeps.
She shoved her hair out of her eyes. Great, just great. A stalker would be the perfect ending to a perfect day.
Keeping an eye on the Porsche, she slipped her hand into her purse. Her fingers closed over a cold, metallic tube. With the can of pepper spray armed and ready, she opened the car door and stepped out.
The stranger's car door opened, too.
Shit. He was dressed from head-to-toe in black. The self-important way he carried himself spoke volumes about confidence in his strength — and his purpose; he was tall and solid enough to assure her that he could kick some butt if he wanted to.
Stop it. She was letting her thoughts run away from her. She did that when she was nervous. Nervous, yes. Not scared.
She slammed the car door behind her, locking it, and strode toward her front door as if she meant business.
Her condo was two staircases up. She reached the alcove where the stairs began, pausing to see if the man had followed her.
Her heart lurched, dumping a bucket-full of adrenaline into her bloodstream. But her mounting fear didn't come close to what she'd experienced in Flying Without Fear for Dummies.
Flying was a no-go. Pursuers, she could handle.
Yes, she acknowledged silently, pursuer. As far as she was concerned, he'd just lost the title of creepy stranger. No one who dressed in black and hunted women in the middle of the night qualified.
Adding to her heebie-jeebies were the sunglasses she could now see that he wore.
Shades. At night? Worse, they were mirrored wraparounds. But he hadn't tripped over the trashcan; nor had he stepped on any of the dog mines littering the wide swathe of grass that separated the sidewalk from the building. He must be able to see.
He was definitely smooth. He reminded her of a highly paid hit man — not that she'd seen one before, but she had a good imagination. Too good, and it was freaking the daylights out of her. Not that anyone she knew could afford a professional; they'd have hired some guy named Eddie, a down-on-his-luck ex-con with a potbelly and type II diabetes.
But what if someone she didn't know wished her harm?
Her thoughts sped off in a new direction. She was an heiress now. If the reporter saw her that way, others did, too. Heiresses got kidnapped and held for ransom. Her address was private, but it wouldn't be that hard to figure out.
Enough! She dropped a roadblock in front of her racing thoughts and hurried up the stairs. Halfway to the landing, she whirled around, dismayed to find that in only a few, long, determined strides the man had reached the bottom of the staircase, half-hidden in the shadow of the building.
Her grip on the can of pepper spray didn't waver.
“Ilana Hamilton,” he said.
His voice was accented, almost monotone. It was Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator , to a tee. A robotic assassin from the future, the Terminator had hunted down all the Sarah Connors in the Los Angeles phone book, each time asking, “Sarah Connor?” as confirmation before he blew their brains out. In Ilana's opinion, the similarities took this situation and dropped it solidly into the realm of bizarre. “This is a joke, isn't it?”
The stranger looked confused. Ah, he was good, really good; probably an actor, making some weekend money while he looked for work. “Come on,” she wheedled. “This is Flash's idea, right?” Her friend had a habit of practical jokes, most that only he thought were funny. The year she'd moved in, he'd paid a Mexican trio from a local restaurant to sing cheesy love songs — she wasn't fluent in Spanish and took his word for it — under her balcony. One birthday, he'd sent a male stripper who'd peeled off his clothes right down to the cluster of prettily curled ribbons he'd tied on his —
She gave her head a shake. The neighbors had loved it. But delivering a dark stranger to scare her late at night when he knew she was alone? Flash wouldn't.
“Flash...” The stranger brought his hand to his chin.
It was a suave, almost-aristocratic-looking gesture. There was something vaguely familiar about the way he moved. Maybe she had dated him, she thought. No, he exuded sophistication, confidence. And sex. She would have remembered him.
He dropped his hand slowly. His mirrored glasses glinted. “My apologies. I don't have all my English yet.”
“Well, good luck in finding it,” she called cheerily and clicked the digital keypad on her keychain. Above, just beyond the landing, her front door unlocked with a sharp click. Her escape route was ready.
Breathless, she turned back to the man, who stood way too-few steps below her. She'd have bolted into her condo if he'd made any attempt to charge up the stairs; but he didn't.
The porch light made a circle of brighter illumination near the base of the stairs, and he stepped slowly into it. She squinted at him, trying to discern features, scars, tattoos, any identifying characteristics that she could pass along to the police when they asked.
He had an angular jaw and sculpted cheekbones. His smooth skin reminded her of the color you turned when you overdid the sunless tanning cream. But there were no streaks. His was the real thing. In contrast to his bronzed skin, his hair was blond, but warm and dark like cinnamon sticks.
Exactly the color of her stepfather Rom's hair.
Her heart rate picked up. With those glasses covering his eyes, he could pass for a Vash Nadah .
She almost snorted. Right. Vash Nadah didn't bebop around Santa Monica on a Friday night. Or any night.
Despite the ridiculousness of the idea, she took a closer look at him.
He was dressed expensively and well — Armani, if she wasn't mistaken — the suit black and conservatively cut. But it was more than the clothing that unnerved her — he carried himself with the aloof arrogance characteristic of galactic royal men.
Or rich sheiks from Arabia. Hmm. Good point. That he was a wealthy foreigner was more likely, though no less bizarre. No Vash Nadah would chase her down at night, alone, unless his intent was to assassinate her, a theory too farfetched for even her worst-case-scenario mind to consider. She wasn't a threat to the Vash Nadah ; she wasn't even a blip on their xenophobic radar. Unlike the rest of her family, she stayed out of politics and palace affairs. She lived anonymously on Earth, and intended to continue doing so. The Vash would have figured that out by now.
Oblivious to the fact that she'd just processed five hours of mental information in 3.0 seconds — “thought warp,” Ian called it — the rich sheik/highly-paid assassin/garden-variety creep wrapped his hand around the banister.
She aimed the pepper spray. “Talk to me from there.”
He obeyed her with the utmost deference. “Ilana Hamilton.” He sounded less sure now. “She lives here, yes?”
“She is to assist me.”
I am ? “You have fifteen seconds to tell me why you're here and what you want, and then I'm shutting the door.”
He hesitated long enough to worry her. “Ian did not tell you?”
“Tell me what?” She gripped the can of pepper spray so tightly that she briefly wondered if she'd squeeze out the gas with force alone. Women had been known to lift cars off injured children. It could happen.
The man rubbed his face as if he were exhausted. Well, that made two of them. If it weren't for him, she'd be in bed by now.
“Ah, I see this problem now,” he said.
“What freaking problem?” Her patience was shot.
“You did not expect me. My apologies.”
Off came the glasses, revealing a pair of startlingly pale gold eyes. She wanted to suck in a breath, but her diaphragm didn't seem to be working.
Pressing one fist over his chest, the man bowed his head. “Ché, firstborn prince of the Vedlas.”
Ché? Ilana's finger convulsed over the can of pepper spray. A burst of orange-red gas hissed out.
“Oh —!” She released the button, dropping the can. Too late.
As the cylinder bounced down the stairs toward Ché, a sea breeze pushed a small but rapidly dispersing cloud of mist in precisely the same direction.