Title: The Resolute Prince
Author: Nana Prah
Series: Royal House of Saene #5
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tropes: royalty, sports, in disguise
Release date: July 30, 2021
Book Depository: http://ow.ly/w9rH50FGSIV?
As head of palace security Prince Zareb Saene lives to protect the Royal House of Saene. Between his work and coaching competitive fencing, he has no time for relationships. That is, until he meets the beautiful and headstrong Malika Ahvanti. She scales his carefully constructed walls and lands squarely in his heart. If only he could shake this unwarranted, illicit pull towards her younger brother, the new fencing protégé that he’s been charged with training.
Malika dreams of becoming an Olympic gold medalist and is determined to succeed. Training with the Lion of Bagumi is her only chance, but after past deceptions, he refuses to coach females. Getting what she wants comes at an uncomfortable price. With great risk she presents herself as a young man with promising skill. The guilt of lying compounded by her undeniable desire for Zareb puts her future in jeopardy and her heart in danger.
Zareb bowed to the High Queen of Bagumi.
Seated on a gold-maroon loveseat in her suite, she offered her cheek for his kiss. He obliged before stepping back to have a more detailed look at the person he’d initially taken to be a female sharing the couch with his mother.
Delicate features of high cheekbones and a narrow-bridged nose which widened gently at the nostrils, in the middle of a slim face with no hint of stubble, had deceived him. He now looked directly at the stranger who had stood and bowed. The traditional male-style smock, a close-cut fade, and the flat chest indicated that their visitor was a young man, albeit an effeminate-looking one.
“Good evening,” Zareb greeted.
“Dear heart, won’t you have a seat,” his mother said with a wave towards an armchair closer to her than her guest.
He struggled to maintain an indiscernible expression. The use of anything but his name meant she wanted something from him that he wouldn’t readily give.
“Thank you, Mama.”
He chose to sit in the centre of the couch across from the duo to best observe them.
His mother turned to the young man and touched his shoulder. “This is Maliq Sule Ahvanti. Everyone calls him Sule. Meet Prince Zareb Aamori Saene, my third child. Son of the King of Bagumi and head of security here at the palace.”
Zareb’s ears sharpened with interest at the pride in his mother’s voice.
Sule’s angled dark brown eyes stayed on him. A brush of heat licked at the back of Zareb’s neck, and he raised his hand to rub it as his muscles tensed.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness.”
The young man’s voice held minimal huskiness as if he hadn’t yet gone through puberty. Perhaps he’d overestimated the boy’s age.
Instead of responding in a like manner, Zareb tipped his head.
Sule’s mouth tightened into as straight a line as a person with such full lips could achieve. His gaze never wavered as Zareb studied those feminine features. The boy’s insolence intrigued him. A strong individual. Most people would be fidgeting or have looked away from his concentrated perusal.
“Sule is the child of a close friend. A sister.”
He yielded to his mother’s control of the stare-off by allowing himself to focus on her.
“We attended the same boarding school and had maintained our friendship ever since. Do you recall Eshe’s visits here and us to her?”
“I do,” he replied, remembering how happy she’d been with her friend. “You two giggled and gossiped the whole time you were together.”
To his horror, his mother’s eyes watered. She plucked a tissue from the box on the coffee table and dabbed the tears away before they could slide too far down her cheeks. “She was a wonderful woman.”
His mother’s grief when she’d heard of her friend’s death had placed a pall of sorrow over the palace. Zawadi, Amira, their half-brother Zik, and his stepmother had escorted her to the funeral. The crushing empathy Zareb had felt at his mother’s anguish had made it impossible for him to travel with the delegation.
He clawed fingers into a fist to keep from rubbing his chest at the lingering hurt on behalf of his mother’s loss.
The grim smile she shared with Sule emphasized her heartbreak. “Four months gone, and I miss her terribly.”
Sule’s smooth throat bobbed with his hard swallow as his eyes glistened before he bowed his head. “She spoke highly and often of you, Your Majesty.”
The heft of mourning lifted when the queen cleared her throat before clapping her hands once.
“My sweet son, my guest would like to be trained in fencing. It would give me great pleasure if you were to guide him as his personal coach.”
Now she was spreading it on a little too thick. Rather than deny his mother’s request outright, which would turn into a battle of wills, he decided to influence the young man to change his mind. “How old are you?”
His narrow, slumped shoulders straightened. “Eighteen.”
Zareb scoffed. “What happened to your voice? You sound like a girl.”
He lamented his comment at his mother’s chastising gasp. She’d taught him to be dignified. It didn’t do to insult her deceased friend’s son.
Sule’s nostrils flared for a brief moment.
“It hasn’t changed yet. I’ve been tested, and there isn’t anything medically wrong with me. I’m producing male hormones, just not enough to have me develop at the rate of my mates.” He shrugged. “My father told me that his voice didn’t deepen—” he touched his cheek, “—or his facial hair grow until he was a few months past eighteen. I resemble my father in many ways. This is one of them.”
For the boy’s sake, Zareb hoped the pre-pubescent face would harden. Unless he knew how to fight, he’d doubtlessly been teased without mercy at school for his slight frame and effeminate looks. Facial hair and broadened jaw muscles would go a long way to distinguish him as a male.
Rather than apologise for his rudeness, Zareb went on with his line of questioning. “How long have you studied fencing?”