By JoEllen Conger
The Queen of Candelore Series, Book 3
Historical Fantasy, 316 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud
Prince Anthony of Candelore becomes crowned High King of Brightland on his wedding day to Princess Bodicca of Castlerald. Together, they begin their royal family, while he governs all the united realms, she proudly begins her battle training kennels for Irish Wolfhound war dogs.
Suddenly, a distraught nine-year-old run-away bride, Princess Lena Maria appears at their gates, seeking sanctuary. Anthony and Bodicca swear they will never permit Lena’s cruel bridegroom-to-be to capture the young Princess and drag her unwillingly to his realm in the frozen northlands.
Fifteen year old Prince Anthony II, born in the new city of Candelore, tugged downward on the hem of his formfitting brocade jacket and studied his reflection in the full-length mirror. Never before had he been dressed so auspiciously. Caressing his skin-tight burnished-leather leggings, he admired how his high-topped, black leather boots joined them just below the knees. He scanned his likeness and marveled at the length of his muscular legs. Until this very moment he hadn’t really appreciated just how tall he had grown.
Then he turned first one way and then the other, appraising his image. He loved the cut of the high collar, and the way it accentuated his broadened, war-trained shoulders. He was still too gangly to be mistaken for a man. He sighed in resignation. That day would come soon enough, he counseled himself. Today he would be wed, followed by the coronation. He had time enough then to become a man.
He turned to his longtime Royal Companion. “Gallagher, I am still amazed that all the kings and clan chieftains actually avowed me to become the H-i-g-h K-i-n-g Dar-k-dra-g-on, of A-L-L Bright-land,” Anthony emphasized with a grand flourish.
“It’s yer birthright, Anthony. What’s not to approve?” questioned Gallagher, who watched his royal charge from the window alcove. “Ye have already set yer reputation during the battle at Kamlaird, and have truly worked diligently to become worthy of this day. Everyone be talking about how much ye look like yer departed da… Now, ye shall become the great leader himself. That’s quite an accomplishment, Yer Highness, even for a man of so few years. It be said ye truly be as worthy a diplomat as yer sire before ye.”
Anthony drew in another deep breath. “Just look at me. I feel like a pampered parade pony,” he grumbled, surveying his elaborate coronation attire once again.
“Speaking of horses,” Gallagher went on as though he hadn’t noticed Anthony’s petulant mood, “I instructed the livery to bring our Iberian-trained stallions up from the stables for the procession. I hope that meets with yer approval.”
“Good thinking, Gallagher. I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”
Gallagher leered. “That’s why ye have me,” he teased.
Anthony sighed once again. I should have guessed it would take all day just to dress for the most important day of me life. Reluctantly he sat in a straight-backed chair to allow his dresser to secure the thin gold crown, pressing it firmly into his thatch of wiry golden curls. Then his royal dresser went off on his way, this job concluded.
Gallagher stepped over to Anthony and massaged the back of his neck. “Relax, Yer Highness. At this rate ye will have yer shoulders clean up to yer earlobes by day’s end.”