Today's Reading

PROLOGUE

You already know the story of the American Revolution, and the birth of the American monarchy.

You might know it from the picture books you read as a child. From your elementary school performances—when you longed to play the role of King George I or Queen Martha, and instead were cast as a cherry tree. You know it from songs and movies and history textbooks, from that summer you visited the capital and went on the official Washington Palace tour.

You've heard the story so many times that you could tell it yourself: how, after the Battle of Yorktown, Colonel Lewis Nicola fell to his knees before General George Washington, and begged him on behalf of the entire nation to become America's first king.

Of course, the general said yes.

Historians love to debate whether, in another world, things might have gone differently. What if General Washington had refused to be king, and asked to be an elected representative instead? A prime minister—or perhaps he would have made up an entirely new name for that office, like president. Maybe, inspired by America's example, other nations—France and Russia and Prussia, Austria-Hungary and China and Greece—would eventually abolish their own monarchies, giving rise to a new democratic age.

But we all know that never happened. And you didn't come here for a made-up story. You came here for the story of what happens next. What America looks like two hundred and fifty years later, when the descendants of George I are still on the throne.

It is a story of soaring ballrooms and backstairs corridors. Of secrets and scandal, of love and heartbreak. It is the story of the most famous family in the world, who play out their family dramas on the greatest stage of all.

This is the story of the American royals.


CHAPTER ONE

BEATRICE

Present Day

Beatrice could trace her ancestry back to the tenth century.

It was really only through Queen Martha's side, though most people refrained from mentioning that. After all, King George I had been nothing but an upstart planter from Virginia until he married well and then fought even better. He fought so well that he helped win America's independence, and was rewarded by its people with a crown.

But through Martha, at least, Beatrice could trace her lineage for more than forty generations. Among her forebears were kings and queens and archdukes, scholars and soldiers, even a canonized saint. We have much to learn by looking back, her father always reminded her. Never forget where you come from.

It was hard to forget your ancestors when you carried their names with you as Beatrice did: Beatrice Georgina Fredericka Louise of the House of Washington, Princess Royal of America.

Beatrice's father, His Majesty King George IV, shot her a glance. She reflexively sat up straighter, to listen as the High Constable reviewed the plans for tomorrow's Queen's Ball. Her hands were clasped over her demure pencil skirt, her legs crossed at the ankle. Because as her etiquette teacher had drilled into her—by hitting her wrist with a ruler each time she slipped up—a lady never crossed her legs at the thigh.

And the rules were especially stringent for Beatrice, because she was not only a princess: she was also the first woman who would ever inherit the American throne. The first woman who would be queen in her own right: not a queen consort, married to a king, but a true queen regnant.

If she'd been born twenty years earlier, the succession would have jumped over her and skipped to Jeff. But her grandfather had famously abolished that centuries-old law, dictating that in all subsequent generations, the throne would pass to the oldest child, not the oldest boy.
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