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She hadn't yet met these noblemen, but she could already guess what they were like: the same type of spoiled, self-absorbed young men who'd been circling her for years. The type of guys she'd been carefully turning down at Harvard, each time they asked her to a final club party or fraternity date night. The type of guys who looked at her and saw not a person, but a crown.

Sometimes, Beatrice thought traitorously, that was how her parents saw her too.

The king braced his palms on the conference table. Against the tanned skin of his hands glinted a pair of rings: the simple gold of his wedding band and, next to it, the heavy signet ring marked with the Great Seal of America. His two marriages, to the queen and to his country.

"Our hope for you has always been that you might find someone you love, who can also handle the requirements that come with this life," he told her. "Someone who is the right fit for you and America."

Beatrice heard the unspoken subtext: that if she couldn't find someone who checked both boxes, then America needed to come first. It was more important that she marry someone who could do this job, and do it well, than that she follow her heart.

And truthfully, Beatrice had given up on her heart a long time ago. Her life didn't belong to her, her choices were never fully her own—she had known this since she was a child.

Her grandfather King Edward III had said as much to her on his deathbed. The memory would be forever etched in her mind: the sterile smell of the hospital, the yellow fluorescent lighting, the peremptory way her grandfather had dismissed everyone else from the room. "I need to say a few things to Beatrice," he'd declared, in that frightening growl he used just for her.

The dying king had taken Beatrice's small hands in his frail ones. "Long ago, monarchies existed so that the people could serve the monarch. Now the monarch must serve the people. Remember that it is an honor and a privilege to be a Washington and devote your life to this nation."

Beatrice gave a solemn nod. She knew it was her duty to put the people first; everyone had been telling her that since she was born. The words In service to God and country had literally been painted on the walls of her nursery.

"From this point onward you are two people at once: Beatrice the girl, and Beatrice, heir to the Crown. When they want different things," her grandfather said gravely, "the Crown must win. Always. Swear it to me." His fingers closed around hers with a surprising amount of strength.

"I swear," Beatrice had whispered. She didn't remember consciously choosing to say those words; it was as if some greater force, perhaps the spirit of America itself, had taken temporary hold of her and snatched them from her chest.

Beatrice lived by that sacred oath. She had always known that this decision was looming in her future. But the suddenness of it all—the fact that her parents expected her to start picking a husband tomorrow, and from such an abbreviated list—made her breath catch.

"You know that this life isn't an easy one," the king said gently. "That it often looks so different from the outside than it really is on the inside. Beatrice, it's crucial that you find the right partner to share it with. Someone to help you through the challenges and share in the successes. Your mother and I are a team. I couldn't have done any of it without her."

Beatrice swallowed against a tightness in her throat. Well, if she needed to get married for the country's sake, she might as well try to pick one of her parents' choices.

"Should we look through the candidates before I meet them tomorrow?"she said at last, and opened the folder to its first page.

This excerpt ends on page 12 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book Titans by Kate O'Hearn.
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