Return of the Duke Newlywed Game

cover the return of the dukeSPOILER ALERT: There are spoilers ahead for THE RETURN OF THE DUKE, so if you haven’t read the book yet, you may want to do so first! This interview takes place between the first and second epilogues of the book.

Without further ado, welcome to the Royal Castle of Hessenstein…

Today we are joined by Severin and Fancy, the Duke and Duchess of Knighton, for an episode of “The Newlywed Game,” exclusively shared with our beloved newsletter friends. Their Graces have been very busy as they are on their first visit to Hessenstein to reunite with Fancy’s father, King Ernst of Hessenstein, but they have graciously agreed to speak with us.

We are currently in one of the Royal Castle’s many sitting rooms. The Duke and Duchess are seated on a velvet divan across from me, and I am occupying a singularly comfortable chaise longue. Her Grace looks ravishing in a gown of delicate peony pink, an alpine rose pinned to her bodice, and His Grace looks his usual elegant self in a dark frockcoat and silver-blue damask waistcoat. Tea has been served, along with a delightful chocolate sponge and whipped cream confection that I am told is a specialty of Hessenstein.

Me: Thanks so much for meeting with me, Your Graces. I know you must be quite busy during this visit.

Fancy: Please do call me Fancy [smiles shyly]. All my friends do. Although it has been several months since my marriage to Knight, I’m still not used to being addressed as a duchess.

Knight: [looking amused] That is going to be the least of your titles, chérie. After your father makes his proclamation, you will be Princess Fancy I of Hessenstein.

Fancy: I hope I can live up to such an honor.

Knight: You have always been the princess of my heart. Even when I was too stupid to realize it. [Lifts Fancy’s hand and kisses the back of it above her ruby ring].

Fancy: [stares at him adoringly] And you were always my prince.

Me: [after I recover from swooning]: How has your visit to Hessenstein gone thus far?

Fancy: It’s a very friendly place. And I’ve enjoyed spending time with King Ernst—Papa, I mean. Even though we were separated for so many years, it seems like we somehow know each other anyway. Like we’re…

Knight: Family.

Fancy: Exactly. [Smiles.] The wonderful thing is that Da—who is also here with us—and Papa get along like a house on fire. You would never think that one was a tinker and the other a king. It feels like we are just one big family. Anyway, Papa has been showing us all the sights of Hessenstein. And this castle…well, look at it. [Eyes wide, she waves a hand around the grand chamber]. It is like something out of a faerie tale, isn’t it? And the children are having a splendid time…wouldn’t you say, Knight?

Knight: Splendid is one way to put it. [Addresses me in a dry tone.] Toby is obsessed with the royal menagerie, and we haven’t seen him for days. Eleanor has locked herself in the castle’s library, and she may never emerge. Cecily is flirting with all the courtiers—

Fancy: And Jonas is making quite an impression with the Royal Society for Advancement and Modernization. The leading industrialists of Hessenstein are quite intrigued by Jonas’s descriptions of the Jacquard device. He takes after you, Knight.   

Knight: God help us. [Amusement lights his eyes]

Me: Well, thank you for the update. Let’s start the game, shall we? I will ask each of you several questions. When it is your turn, you write down the answer, and your spouse has to guess what you wrote. Each correct guess earns you 1 point. The first question goes to Fancy. When did you begin to fall in love with Knight?

Fancy: [carefully scribbles something down] 

Me: All right, Knight. What did she write?

Knight: The day I found her trying to land a fish bigger than she is. 

Fancy: [blushing] That’s right. You saved me from falling into the river and gave me your jacket even though I was soaked. That night, I snipped that button from your jacket before returning it. I wanted to have a memento of you, and that was all I thought I would ever have.

Knight: [eyes smoldering] You have all of me, love. Heart, body, and soul.   

Fancy: [removes something from her pocket and holds it in the palm of her hand: it is Knight’s carved gold button] I still carry it around for good luck.

Me: Since you are about to become a princess and you have married the man of your dreams, I would say your token has worked smashingly well.

Fancy: I’m so lucky.

Knight: [says at the same time] I am the lucky one.

[They gaze at each other, their heads leaning closer…]

Me: [clearing throat] On to the next question. This one is for you, Knight. What is your favorite thing about your wife? Um…Knight?

Knight: [brows drawn, turns to me] Did you say something, Ms. Callaway?

[I repeat the question.]

Knight: How do I just pick one thing? I love everything about Fancy.

Me: She is quite loveable, isn’t she? Do your best.

[Sighing, Knight scrawls something down]

Me: All right, Fancy, what do you think he wrote?

Fancy: [nibbling on her lip] I can’t say it aloud.

Me: Why not?

Fancy: [looks furtively around the room]: Because, well, it’s um, private.

Me: Now I’m intrigued.

Knight: [looking amused] So am I. What are you thinking, cherie?

Fancy: [cheeks red as apple, whispers to him] You told me what your part favorite was…just this morning. You’ve mentioned how much you like this, um, part of me rather repeatedly.

[She twists her ruby ring, and Knight’s eyes light up with laughter. A lazy smile crosses his lips. The temperature in the chamber seems to go up.]

Knight: Well, that is true. I adore that part of you. But that is not what I wrote down.   

Fancy: [tilts her head] What did you write down?

Knight: My favorite part of you, sweeting, is your generous heart.

Fancy: Oh, Knight…

Knight: [Looking somber] If it were not for your loving nature, I might have lost you. You forgave me for not knowing my own heart. I still cannot forgive myself for not realizing how much I loved you, how you gave me everything I needed, right from the start.

Fancy: Neither of us were upfront about our feelings, Knight. [Takes his hand.] And how can you blame yourself for not recognizing happiness when it was new to you?

Knight: [looks reverently into her eyes] I hope you never stop seeing the best of everyone. I love you so damned much, Fancy.

[I look away while they share a private moment.]

Knight: [clears his throat] Are we finished yet, Ms. Callaway? I just remembered Her Grace and I have, ahem, an appointment.

Fancy: [furrows her brow] We do? I don’t remember any…oh. That appointment.

Me: One quick final question then. Fancy, what do you think readers will love best about The Return of the Duke?

[Fancy carefully writes down her answer.]

Me: Knight?

Knight: Sweeting, please say you did not write down Bertrand.

Fancy: [giggles] Well, he does steal the show a bit, doesn’t he? As Da always says—

Knight: There’s no better friend than a donkey. I know. [Rolls his eyes.] Since Bertrand did lead me to you, I suppose he deserves some credit.

Fancy: He does, but he isn’t what I wrote down.

Me: Knight? Any guesses what Fancy thinks is the best part of your story?

Knight: It could be any number of things. The way my beautiful wife became a duchess while remaining true to herself. The way our friendship blossomed into love. But, I know, for me, my favorite thing is…

Me: Yes?

Knight: Our story is about love conquering all. It is about not giving up and instead fighting for your happily ever after. If you believe in the truth of your heart, it will lead you to happiness.    

Fancy: [beaming] That is very close to what I wrote, see? [Shows her paper, which reads, “The best part of our story is that it proves that if you believe in yourself and your dreams, you will find your happily ever after.] Does that count for a point, Ms. Callaway?

Me: Yes, indeed. Now before the two of you dash off to your appointment, may I ask if you have any future plans that you would care to share with our readers?

Fancy: [blushing, looks at Knight] As it happens, we do have a, um, project in the works.

Knight: We are expecting a child. [Pride and awe glints in his grey eyes] If it is a boy, we will name him after Fancy’s papa…or, rather, after both of them. If it is a girl… [his voice catches]

Fancy: [takes his hand] If it is a girl, we will name her after both our mamas. Two strong and loving women.

Knight: Yes. [Clears his throat, gazing at Fancy.] I hope we do have a girl with your eyes and sweetness of spirit, cherie. And also your handiness with a tinker’s friend.

Fancy: Well, I am rather good with large tools, aren’t I? [winks flirtatiously at him]

Knight: Pardon, Ms. Callaway. [He abruptly hauls Fancy to her feet.] We have that appointment.

[Knight drags Fancy out of the room…although she isn’t resisting. She and I exchange a friendly wave, and then she and her beloved disappear out the gilded door.]

Me: Thank you, gentle readers, for joining me in The Newlywed Game: THE RETURN OF THE DUKE edition. Until the next time, wishing you all the love and happy reading!