Another of the lovely royal romances by Barbara Cartland, published in 1977.
When Zenka’s parents were murdered by an anarchist, she came to live with her father’s best friend, the Duke of Stirling in Scotland, as his Ward. His wife treats her like their own daughter, but when she dies and the Duke remarries, life is not as good anymore to Zenka. The new Duchess is very beautiful, but Zenka is more pretty and the Duchess refuses to play second violin to Zenka, especially as Zenka is a Princess and she only a Duchess, and not even born in the aristocracy. So Zenka will have to go! And Duchess Kathleen sees her chance when at Queen Victoria’s golden jubileum, the Duke is told by the Queen that she has arranged a Royal match for Zenka: King Miklos of Karanya. A little county in the Balkan not far from where her parents lived in Hungary.
Zenka will have nothing to do with this marriage, her parents married for love, and so will she! But the Duchess tells her: it is marriage to the King and be a Queen herself, or the convent! And as she wraps the Duke around her finger, pleading with her Godfather has no use at all. So Zenka is determined: if she is to suffer, so will the King. She will become the Hell-Cat the Duchess finds her.
She has already heard al kinds of gossip about King Miklos, and is certain he will just go on with his mistresses and leave her be. And if not, she has her little pistol, and she knows how to use it.
What Zenka did not realize, was that the King had no more choice about this than she did. To save his country from being annexed by Austria or Turkey, he had to marry an English princess. And so he got her. He doesn’t care for a young schoolgirl, he prefers the company of older women who share his interests!
But the country is beautiful and Zenka soon loves it. It reminds her so much of her home, she is feeling really lonely. After a few days in the capital, they leave for the Castle in the mountains for their honeymoon, and there Zenka can finally read the horses again she missed so much! Then she is being kidnapped by the Zyghes, mountain bandits. That is when she realizes she has fallen in love with the King after all. It was his company that made her happy, not just the beauty of the land, the kindness of its people.
So when she is rescued later by the King himself, she wants him to stay with her, to give her a child to ease her loneliness. And then she finds out, that he saw her a year ago in London, and has asked for her specifically. He fell in love with her, but she was so young then. So he just had to try to make her jealous, to get her attention and her feelings.
A really nice little book, easy to read, perfect for a few hours in the bathtub. No love scenes either, just some kisses.