24 February 2011

Please welcome Melissa McClone's Niko and Lizzie

Thanks for having me on your blog today. I brought along His Royal Highness Crown Prince Nikola Kresimir and Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Isabel Poussard Zvonimir Kresimir of Vernonia from Expecting Royal Twins! for a little Q&A session.

Are you ready to get started, Your Highnesses?

Princess Isabel: Please call us Niko and Izzy. We're not that big on formality and protocol around here.

Niko: At least not anymore.

Izzy: He used to be a lot stuffier.

Niko: That implies I'm still stuffy, Highness.

Izzy: Only a little, my love. So what questions did you have for us today?

Can you please tell us a little bit about where you come from?

Niko: Vernonia is located in the northeastern part of the Balkans, near the Romanian and Serbian border. We've been rebuilding following an internal conflict that ended five years ago. Our hope is to be invited into the European Union, but we have many projects still to complete before that becomes a reality. Natural gas is our most prized natural resource. Anything you care to add, Izzy?

Izzy: Vernonia is a charming little country surrounded by snowcapped peaks. It's full of dense forests and lush valleys. Many of the villages dot the mountainsides. A change for me coming from Charlotte, North Carolina aka NASCAR country. But I've fallen in love with the land and the people. Vernonians are loyal and passionate.

Niko: Izzy is also a Vernonian. She was just raised in America.

What's been the biggest challenge in going from a mechanic in Charlotte, NC to a princess of Vernonia?

Niko: Keeping the grease off her designer clothes.

Izzy: He's only half-right. I still enjoy working on cars, but I've learned to wear coveralls when in the royal garage. I'm still trying to get the hang of wearing high heels. I much prefer flats. Never twisted my ankle wearing my steel-toed work boots. All the make-up, hair product and jewelry have taken some getting used to, but there are days when I don't bother with any of that.

Niko: You look beautiful no matter. Izzy has redefined what being a princess is all about. She's a breath of fresh air to the monarchy.

Izzy: Tradition is deeply woven into the people of Vernonia. It goes beyond shooting off fireworks at the Fourth of July and eating turkey at Thanksgiving as I did when I lived in America. At first I didn't understand that, but now that I do it's made things easier for all of us.

Niko: We can move forward and respect the past at the same time.

Izzy: Exactly.

Niko: Tell them about your princess lessons.

Izzy: Well, Princess Julianna of Aliestle taught me what I needed to know about being a princess. At least she tried. She was so patient. I wasn't always the best student when it came to posture and protocol or how to eat properly at dinner. I always want to eat the entire dish of sorbet when you're only supposed to take a bite to cleanse your palate. But I did master the wave.

Niko: She's got the princess wave down.

Izzy: It's much easier to master than wearing heels. And dancing in them! Torture devices, I'm telling you.

So anything else you'd like to tell us?

Niko: Vernonia is the perfect place to visit if anyone is looking for an escape.

Izzy: Oh, yes. Please do! I never thought I'd wind up with a happily ever after there. Who knows what you'll find?


Suddenly a Princess...

It's not every day that a tall, dark, handsome prince strides into your workshop and announces he's your husband! Mechanic Izzy nearly drops her wrench. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she'd become a princess!
Independent Izzy struggles with exchanging her oil-stained overalls for silken gowns, let alone becoming responsible for an entire country! Yet her attraction to Prince Niko tempts her further into the fairy tale. And then two small surprises change all the rules of the game....

Inside Bay #2 at Rowdy's One Stop Garage in Charlotte, North Carolina, a Brad Paisley song blared from a nearby boom box. Oil, gasoline and grease scented the air. Isabel Poussard bent over a Chevy 350 small block engine. The bolt she needed to remove wouldn't budge, but she wasn't giving up or asking for help. She wanted the guys to see her as an equal, not a woman who couldn't make it on her own.
She adjusted the wrench. "Come on now. Turn for Izzy."
A swatch of light brown hair fell across her eyes so she couldn't see.
Darn ponytail. It never stayed put. If she had any extra money, she would get a short hairstyle so she wouldn't be bothered any more. She didn't dare cut it herself. For years her Uncle Frank had chopped her hair with whatever was handy, scissors or razor blades. She'd grown up looking more like a boy than a girl. Not that any dresses hung in her closest today.
Izzy tucked the stray strands behind her ear. She struggled to turn the wrench. Her palm sweated. The wrench slipped.
Frustrated, she blew out a puff of air. "No one is going to let you work over the wall in the pits during a race if you can't loosen a little bolt."
She imagined the start of the Daytona 500. The roar of the crowd. The heat from the pavement. The smell of burning of rubber. The rev of engines.
Excitement surged through her.
Being on a professional pit crew had been Uncle Frank's dream for as long as Izzy remembered. An aneurysm had cut his life short. Now it was up to her to turn his dream into a reality. He'd spent his life caring for her and sharing his skill and love of cars. More than once he'd had the opportunity to be on a pit crew, but he hadn't wanted to leave her. This was the least she could do for him.
As soon as she saved enough money, she would enroll in pit crew school. She wanted to put her days at dirt tracks and stock car circuits behind her and take a shot at the big leagues. For Uncle Frank and herself. She had bigger goals than just being on the pit crew. She wanted to be the crew chief. Izzy would show those kids who laughed at her grease stained hands they were wrong. She would do something with her life. Something big.
She adjusted her grip on the wrench and tried again. The bolt turned. "Yes."
"Hey, Izzy," the garage owner's son and her closest friend Boyd shouted to her over the Lady Antebellum song now playing on the radio. "Some folks here to see you."
Word of mouth about her skills kept spreading. She could not only fix old engines, but the new hybrids, too. Her understanding of the computer and electronics side of things coupled with a gift for diagnostics drew in new clients daily. Her boss Rowdy was so happy he'd given Izzy a raise. If this kept up, she could enroll in school in a few months.
With a smile, she placed her wrench and the bolt on the top of her toolbox.
Izzy stepped outside. Fresh air filled her lungs. Sunshine warmed her face. She loved spring days better than the humid ones summer brought with it.
In front of her, a black limousine gleamed beneath the midday sun. The engine idled perfectly. Darkened windows hid the identity of the car's passengers, but uniformed police officers stood nearby.
Not simply "some folks" wanting to see her. Must be a VIP inside the limo if police escorts were needed.
Izzy couldn't imagine what they wanted with her since the car sounded like it was running fine.
She wiped her dirty hands on the thighs of her cotton coveralls. Not exactly clean, especially with grease caked under her fingernails, but cleaner.
One of the police officers gave her the once over, as if sizing up her danger potential. A good thing she'd left the wrench in the garage.
A chauffeur walked around the car and opened the back door. A blond man exited. He wore a designer suit and nicely polished black dress shoes. With a classically handsome face and short clipped hair, he was easy on the eyes. But his good looks seemed a little bland like a bowl of vanilla ice cream without any hot fudge, whipped cream and candy sprinkles. She preferred men who weren't quite so pretty, men with a little more…character.
"Isabel Poussard?" the man asked.
She stiffened. The last time anyone used her real name had been during her high school graduation ceremony when she received her diploma. She'd always been Izzy, ever since she was a little girl. Uncle Frank had taught her to be careful and cautious around strangers. He'd worried about her and been very protective. She knew he'd be that way now if he were here.
Izzy raised her chin and stared down her nose. The gesture had sent more than one guy running in the opposite direction. "Who wants to know?"
Warm, brown eyes met hers. The guy wasn't intimidated at all. He looked almost amused for some strange reason. "I am Jovan Novak, aide to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Nikola Tomislav Kresimir."
Jovan's accent sounded European. Interesting since this was NASCAR country, not Formula 1 territory. "Never heard of him."
"He's from Vernonia."
"Vernonia." The name sounded vaguely familiar. Izzy rolled the word over in her mind. Suddenly, she remembered. "That's one of those Balkan countries. Fairytale castles and snowcapped mountains. There was a civil war there."
"Hey, Izzy," Boyd shouted from behind her. "You need any help?"
She glanced back at the bear of a man who stood with a mallet in his hands and curiosity in his eyes. A grin tugged at her lips. She appreciated how Boyd treated her like a little sister, especially since she had no family. Of course that made things interesting the few times she had a date pick her up after work. "Not yet, Boyd, but I'll let you know if I do."
Jovan looked like he might be in shape, but she could probably take him without Boyd's help thanks to Uncle Frank. When she was younger, he used to barter his mechanic skills for her martial arts class tuition. Now she worked out every day to get in shape for the work necessary by a pit crew member during a race.
"Isabel. Izzy." Jovan's smile reached all the way to his eyes. He bowed. "It is such a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Your—"
"Is this about a car repair?" He acted so happy to meet her. That bothered Izzy. Most customers limited their interactions to questions about their cars. Some simply ignored her. The men who went out of their way to talk to her usually ended up propositioning her. "Or do you want something else? I'm in the middle of a job?"
Not exactly the most friendly customer service, but something felt off. No customer would know her real name. And the guy smiled too much to be having car trouble.
"One moment please." Jovan ducked into the limousine.
Time ticked by. Seconds or minutes Izzy couldn't tell since she wasn't wearing a watch. She used the clock hanging in the garage or her cellphone to keep track of time while she worked.
Izzy tapped her foot. She had to get the Chevy finished so she could work on the Dodge Grand Caravan. Somewhere a frazzled mom with four kids was waiting to get her minivan back. It was up to Izzy to get the job done.
Jovan stepped out of the limo finally.
About time, she thought.
Another man in a dark suit followed. Izzy took a closer look.
The thought shot from her brain to the tips of her steel-toed boots and ricocheted back to the top of her head.
The guy was at least six feet tall with thick, shoulder length brown hair and piercing blue-green eyes framed by dark lashes.
She straightened as if an extra inch could bring her closer to his height. Even then the top of her head would barely come to his chin.
But what a chin.
Izzy swallowed a sigh.
A strong nose, chiseled cheekbones, dark brows. Rugged features that made for an interesting—a handsome—combination in spite of a jagged scar on his right cheek.
Talk about character. He had it in spades.
Not that she was interested.
Spending her entire life surrounded by men, car mechanics, gave her an understanding of how the opposite sex thought and operated. The one standing in front of her wearing a nice suit and shiny shoes was trouble. Dangerous, too.
The limo, expensive clothing, personal aide and police escort meant he lived in a completely different world than her, a world where she was seen as nothing more than a servant or wallpaper or worse, a one night stand. Having to deal with mysterious rich people intimated her. She wanted nothing to do with him.
But she didn't mind looking. The man belonged on the cover of a glossy men's magazine. He moved with the grace and agility of an athlete. The fit of his suit made her wonder what was underneath the fancy fabric.
Everyone else around her seemed to fade into the background with him around. She couldn't remember the last time she'd had this kind of reaction to a guy. No doubt the result of working too much overtime. Time to take a night off and have some fun. That would keep her from mooning over the next gorgeous guy who crossed her path.
"You are Isabel Poussard." His accent, a mix of British and something else, could melt a frozen stick of butter.
She nodded, not trusting her voice.
His assessing gaze traveled the length of her. Nothing in his eyes or on his face hinted if he liked what he saw.
Not that she cared. Not much anyway.
A hottie like him would never be interested in a grease monkey like her. Still he was a yummy piece of eye candy. One she could appreciate.
Izzy raised her chin again, but didn't stare down her nose the way she'd done with Jovan. She wasn't ready to send this one on his way just yet. "You know my name, but I don't know yours."
"I am Prince Nikola of Vernonia."
"A prince?"
She supposed a prince would have a police escort as well as an aide, but this was just the kind of prank Boyd would pull and kid Izzy about for the rest of her life. She glanced around looking for a camera. "Am I being punk'd?"

Melissa's website: http://www.melissamcclone.com/
You can by Expecting Royal Twins at Amazon

Thank you for joining us today Melissa and introducing us to Nikola and Izzy. And best wishes with your latest book :-)


Melissa McClone said...

Good morning! We've got a snow day today! The call just came in so I'm up a little early. My kids are going to be so excited! Thanks for hosting me on this stop of my virtual book tour, Sherry!

Lois said...

Hi! :) Definitely love the sound of this one -- the Harlequin Romance line is one of the lines that I love. And those stuffy princes in any of them, Presents, Desire or Romance. ;) Will be looking for this one; especially since Izzy sounds a lot like me (though I prefer spaceships over cars, but that's just me LOL)! :)


Sheena said...

Hi! We've had two snow days in the last three weeks, and it looks like we might have another one tomorrow...they're calling for 4-7in of snow! On top of the 8-10in we got this past Monday lol. Expecting Royal Twins sounds yummy...can't wait to get my hands on it! I love reading romances, and alpha males (esp if they are royalty) with strong heroines are a major reason why. Definitely sounds like Izzy and Niko's story will have to make it into my collection!

Alexis said...

I agree with the previous comments. This book sounds very good and I will certainly be looking for it. I've always been a sucker for the true fairy tale romance. The average josephine being swept away by a handsome prince to live happily-ever-after. This book is my type of read and as soon as I send this comment I'm going to go write the title down so I don't forget!

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks for the comments!

@Lois - Thanks! I'm a former engineer. I had big dreams of space and a job offer from Hughes, but after the Challenger went another direction-engines! It's always nice to meet another fan of the HR line. Even though I write for them, I love to read them also!

Sheena - Wow! That's a lot of snow. We don't have that much, but it's so pretty! And thanks! I love romances with prince heroes. Something about royalty tugs on the heartstrings for me. I really had fun writing this one.

Natalie - thanks so much! I appreciate it. When I was in college, a crown prince was attending the business school there. I was a huge romance reader even then: Silhouette & Harlequin Romance, Presents, Loveswept. Let me tell you there was a lot of daydreaming about what you described;)

Sarita Leone said...

This sounds like another fantastic book. Congratulations, Melissa!

Melissa McClone said...

Sarita - thanks so much! I appreciate you stopping by here and commenting!

Anonymous said...

So cute! Loved the interview with Izzy and Niko :D And thanks for sharing the blurb.
I can't wait to start reading "Expecting..." :)

Melissa McClone said...

Limecello - Thanks! Sherry was the one who suggested I interview my characters. So glad that she did and that you enjoyed the interview. Hope you like the book!

Sherry Gloag said...

Melissa, it's been a pleasure having you here. I hope you are feeling a lot better.
I loved the interview between Niko and Lizzie and your excerpt captured my attention.
Good luck with Expecting Royal Twins.

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks, Sherry! It was fun. I appreciate you having me here so much!

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