The SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS column on Mondays and Wednesdays is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website showcasing books from a variety of fiction genres, with an emphasis on interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better.
Today, we look at THE PRETENDER.
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About the Book
by Katie Ward
Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling
Release Date: September 2018
In rural France, two babies are born just two hours apart but to two very different lives. Isabella is born as a Princess into a life of opulence and love while Sophia is born into a life of poverty and abuse at the hands of her father.
‘The Pretender’ follows the journey of Isabella and Sophia as their paths cross and after discovering how alike they look, they decide to switch places with each other. Sophia is seeking sanctuary from her abusive home while Isabella is seeking freedom from the tightening burden of her Royal title.
‘The Pretender’ is a story of friendship, love and the strange power of destiny.
Excerpt from the Book
Chapter 4 – Excerpt
At this point in the story, Sophia has fled her abusive home after her father attacked her. While Isabella, having undertaken her first solo royal engagement is feeling trapped by her title. Isabella bravely tries to discuss this with her parents.
‘Look, I want to be honest with you and Daddy. The truth is, I’m not happy. I want to have the chance to go to Paris, to be given time to live anonymously, just a normal teenager without the burden of my royal status. Kind of like a gap year I suppose but I only want a few months and I’d be staying in the same country. Please, can you let me go to Paris?’
My parents and siblings turn to look at each other in utter shock. The baffled expression on my father’s face then turns to anger.
‘What the hell has gotten into you, Isabella? How could you be so ungrateful! You’re next in line to the throne and quite frankly it’s insulting to hear you speak such nonsense. Your face has graced every magazine and television outlet in the world since the day you were born, so answer me this: how can you be anonymous: how can you ever be normal?’
I lower my head as my hopes and dreams desert me. Daddy’s reaction is not wholly unexpected but it is disappointing. Is a little understanding too much to expect?
‘I never asked to be a princess,’ I say choking back my tears. ‘How was I to know that in order to wear the crown I had to throw my whole life away. Did you ever ask me if that was OK? Did you ever ask me what I wanted? All I’m asking for is the chance to find out what it’s like to live beyond the prison gates of this place.’
‘Insolent girl! I can’t talk to you right now or I’ll lose my temper completely.’ Fury dances across my father’s face, his jaw hardening as he turns away to leave the room, slamming the door behind him. My tears fall as I realise that my whole life will be dictated by duty and protocol. That I’ll never be free.
Giving my sisters permission to go to their rooms, my mother passes me a tissue and allows me to pull myself together before walking me back to my room.
‘Love, I do understand how you feel. I’ve long seen that you inherited that restless part of my nature, the part that seeks adventure and excitement. But your father’s right, you can’t be the ordinary person that you want to be – not because of the title we placed upon you at birth – but because of the public’s expectation of you. You’re not a princess just in title, Isabella, you’re a princess in the hearts and minds of a nation. That’s what makes you so special, and that’s why you can never know what it’s like to be normal.’
I see that there are tears in her own eyes; that she too has sacrificed her freedom for her marriage to the King.
‘Oh Mama, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but these walls feel like a jail. I can’t leave without permission, I can’t do anything without permission!’
‘The world is a cruel place at times, love. What you don’t realise is that for every person who stands in adoration of you as a member of the royal family, there are many others who would wish to hurt you for exactly the same reason. We spend a fortune on security because it’s necessary. You’re not a prisoner, Isabella, but you can’t just wander out on your own because the danger is too great.’
‘If I’m honest, Mama, the way I feel right now, I’d take the chance.’
‘Oh Isabella, you’re far too much like me for your own good,’ she says, looking at me sympathetically. She promises: ‘I’ll have a word with your father, maybe see if we can arrange a trip to Paris for you. I’m sure we could tie it in with some engagements. It’s the best we can do, my love.’
‘Thank you, Mama.’ I yawn and cover my mouth. ‘It’s getting late. I think I’ll just go to bed if you don’t mind.’
My mother nods then kisses me good night before leaving my room, I feel the weight of her gaze upon me before she closes the door behind her.
Lying on my bed, I replay the evening’s events. A sudden thought crosses my mind. Racing to the window, I look down at the ground outside my bedroom. It’s not too far. Then, before I can change my mind, I whip off my sheet and duvet cover, knotting them together, along with a big towel from my bathroom, attaching my homemade rope to a bar on my window. Tucking my credit card into my jeans pocket, I stand on a chair, climb out backwards and carefully descend to the ground, clinging to the rope, my heart pounds a million beats to the second. Once on the ground, my knees shake slightly as I set off out into the night.
The cool summer air surrounds me as I hurry towards the palace gates before someone can stop me. I’ve no idea what I’ll do when I’m on the other side of the gates but I don’t care. I want my freedom and I won’t take no for an answer. I’m an adult, aren’t I? Surely, I get to make my own decisions now.
Just as I reach the gates, however, I see an unexpected sight: a slumped figure lies sobbing in front of them. I approach gingerly.
‘Are you OK?’ I ask.
The figure quickly rises, wiping away the tears before turning around to face me. I see that it’s a frightened-looking girl, around the same age as me.
‘No, not really. I’m sorry, I had nowhere else to go and this felt like the safest place to come.’
The girl seems sincere. ‘Don’t apologise,’ I say, not wanting to see her cry. ‘Why do you have nowhere left to go? Can’t you go home?’
‘Home? No, my father kicked me out.’
About the Author
Katie Ward always knew that she wanted to write for a living. After completing a degree in Journalism at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, she moved to Dublin. While there, she had a short story published in an anthology titled Do the Write Thing which was part of a competition being run by Irish TV show Seoige and O’Shea. This story was originally written when Katie was 14 after she was inspired by an article in her favourite teen magazine. The anthology reached the Irish Bestsellers List. Katie was also shortlisted for a competition judged by Man Booker Prize-winning author Roddy Doyle a few months later.
The Pretender is her first Young Adult novel.
Twitter – @KatieWWriter
FB – @KatieWWriter
Instagram – @KatieWWriter
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