Mundie Moms

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

ROYAL DECOY by Heather Frost | Blog Tour: Chapter Reveal #RoyalDecoy

Welcome to today's ROYAL DECOY blog tour stop! Today we're thrilled to give you an exclusive first look at Chapter 1 in Heather's newest book. First, here's a little bit about the book:

A SERVANT blackmailed into becoming a princess’s decoy.
A BODYGUARD determined to keep her alive.

A PRINCE forced to execute his father’s brutal laws.
A PRISONER used to keep him compliant.

A WORLD on the brink of war.

In one horrible night, Clare goes from kitchen maid to royal decoy. She has three months to become the princess's perfect double so she can ensure her betrothal to an enemy prince. Desperate to survive, Clare throws herself into self-defense training, taught by her distractingly attractive bodyguard. The danger increases when a ruthless assassin begins stalking her, intent on ending the tenuous peace.

Across the northern mountains, Prince Grayson is his father’s ultimate weapon. He carries out the king’s harsh orders because the one person he cares about is his father’s prisoner. Grayson's silent obedience is tested when his father plans to exploit the marriage alliance between two of their greatest enemies. If Grayson submits, the blood of thousands will spill. If he resists, the girl who means everything to him will die.

The fate of Eyrinthia hangs in the balance. Some want peace. Some want war. All will be thrown into chaos.

Exclusive: Chapter 1 of Royal Decoy

Clare called a farewell as she left the castle kitchen, a fire still dying within the scorched hearth. Cook Towdy gave his usual grunt, hunched over the thick wooden counter, his apron dusted with flour. He didn’t look up from tomorrow’s menu as he made final adjustments. Clare was the last maid to leave; even after working under Towdy for ten years, she still felt like that eight-year-old girl with too much to prove. 
The heat of the castle ovens clung to Clare’s skin as she entered the deserted corridor and stretched her tired arms. Errant strands of brown hair brushed her cheeks, her long braid swinging against her back. Her aching feet didn’t relish the long walk to Lower Iden, but she was anxious to see her brothers.
Silence reigned in the servant’s passage this time of night, the quiet scuff of her worn boots the only sound aside from the guttering torches. Flames leapt in the evenly spaced iron sconces, forcing the shadows to dance back, forever a servant to the light.
Clare knew how the shadows felt.
Somewhere down the hall a door slammed open, wood thudding against stone. Clare’s head jerked up, though she couldn’t see anything around the hallway’s bend. Rapid footsteps clipped against the floor and a male voice drifted around the corner, his tone wry. “Perhaps you want to slow down.”
“No.” The woman’s deep voice was sharp with annoyance. “If you’ll recall, I wanted a private walk in the gardens. That means without you, Bennick.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t accommodate, Princess.”
Clare froze, stomach dropping. Princess? Fates, kitchen maids weren’t supposed to be seen—especially not by the royal family. She fell back a step, eyes darting to the nearest door. She grasped the cold handle, but it caught.
Clare pressed her back against the closed portal, cheeks burning as she ducked her head. Her palms skated over her stained apron and she hooked loose curls behind her ears before her hands fell, fingers twitching at her sides.
When the princess and her three bodyguards stepped into view, the princess’s cutting gaze caught Clare in an instant. 
Even with a scowl, Princess Serene was beautiful. Sheathed in a dark purple gown that brushed the floor, she walked with regal grace, her chin lifted. Her dark brown hair was twisted into a braided bun at the back of her head with loose curls styled artfully around her face. The nineteen-year-old princess was half-Zennorian, her skin a rich and beautiful brown. It was a shade darker than Clare’s, but their deep blue Devendran eyes were nearly an exact match.
The princess was well-loved in Devendra for her charitable work, but everyone in the castle knew of her legendary arguments with her father. Even tonight the kitchen had buzzed with talk from the servers who claimed Serene had stormed out of dinner while the king yelled after her. Gossip had been so consumed with the dramatic scene that no one had even mentioned the Mortisian emissaries who had been the focus of rumor since they’d arrived at the castle a month ago. They’d been sent by Serjah Desfan Cassian, who currently served as regent since his father, the serjan, was reportedly ill. A chill raced over Clare’s arms whenever she thought about the Mortisians living in the castle, and she knew she wasn’t the only one uncomfortable with their presence. Rumor had it Serene herself was quite upset about it. 
Seeing the princess for the first time, Clare could easily imagine her being upset with all four kingdoms of Eyrinthia. Her frown was severe, her eyes hooded, and her steps deliberate as she stalked forward. Her bodyguards only added to the intensity of the moment. Two walked in front of the princess and a third was behind her. 
The bodyguard in the lead noticed Clare first, his long strides continuing easily even as his sharp gaze assessed her. His spine was stiff, his brown hair brushing the collar of his dark blue uniform. He looked to be about thirty and had a thin scar slicing over his right cheek.
The bodyguard behind him was easily twice as wide as anyone Clare had ever seen, and he stood head and shoulders above the two other guards. As if the man’s hulking stature wasn’t distinctive enough, a dozen or more pox scars dug across his rugged face. He was probably in his late forties and everything about him was hard, from the stern cut of his mouth to the steel-gray hairs at his temples.
The third and youngest guard strode behind the princess. He was probably about the same age as the princess he guarded, which meant he must be highly skilled. Broad shoulders strained against his fitted uniform while his hands hung relaxed near the hilts of his sheathed weapons. There was controlled power in his gait, a surety and confidence in each step. Torchlight flickered on his golden skin and caught the sand-colored hair curling over his brow. Stubble lined his angular jaw and his strong nose was slightly bent, as if it had been broken once. When his crystal-blue eyes found Clare, she was surprised to see warmth there. The corner of his mouth lifted, curving his lips into a half-smile.
She was staring. 

The tips of Clare’s ears burned as she dropped her gaze, fingers knotting in her skirt. What had come over her? She knew better than to draw attention to herself.
It had been a long day. That was the only explanation.
She kept her head bowed, eyes trained on the gray stone floor until the moment the princess and her guards passed and she could escape.
Clare had only taken two steps when the click of a lock disengaging made her look over her shoulder. Her eyes briefly caught crystal-blue ones as the youngest bodyguard also twisted to track the sound.
The door Clare had been leaning against burst open and six men exploded from the room, long knives spinning in their hands and catching menacingly in the torchlight.
Clare stumbled back, fear strangling the cry in her throat as the men crashed into the princess’s guards. Even surprised and outnumbered, the three bodyguards leapt instantly into action. Grunts, hisses of pain, and angry snarls filled the corridor. Fists pounded flesh. Steel clashed against steel. The tang of blood flooded the air, changing the space completely in a matter of seconds.
Adrenaline shook through Clare and throbbed at her temples. Her muscles twitched, but she was unable to move. Sweat coated her palms and her lungs locked. She’d lost sight of the blue-eyed bodyguard, the pox-scarred one taking up most of the space in the narrow hall as he shoved into two of the attackers, pushing them back with his dominant size. As he plowed them into the wall, Clare finally saw past him.
The princess stood in the middle of the corridor, eyes narrowed on the fight, a long, thin dagger clenched in her hand. Where had that come from? Had the princess been carrying a weapon in her own home? 
Someone yelled for the princess to run—the guard with the scarred cheek?—but Princess Serene ignored him. She was searching for an opening, a place to join the fight.
Was she insane?
Clare could ask herself the same. She should be running. If not for safety, then for help. But before she could move she spotted an attacker creeping behind Serene, the princess wholly unaware as he lifted his knife.
Clare reacted without thought, diving around the scarred giant and running for the princess. 
Serene’s eyes rounded a second before Clare slammed into her, shoving them both against the wall. Clare swore she felt the whisper of the assassin’s blade as it flew past her neck, barely missing her. 
Serene’s breath rattled out, her eyes burning Clare with a mix of fear and rage.
Before Clare could even open her mouth, a strangling hand caught her upper arm, shooting pain all the way to her fingertips. She cried out as she was ripped away from the princess, her shoulders cracking against the wall a second before a hand grasped her throat. 
The pox-scarred soldier glared down at Clare, his hot breath searing her face. Fury blackened his fierce gaze and a muscle in his rigid jaw flexed as he squeezed, pinching off her breath.
Clare scratched the hand that crushed her entire neck. She kicked him, but his body was as immovable as the castle wall biting into her spine.
Her vision wavered and blood roared in her ears, muting the crash of steel that still filled the hall.
“Wilf!” the princess shouted. “They need you!”
The grip around Clare’s throat clenched fiercely, lancing pain through her neck and down her spine. He was going to snap her neck. 
Through watering eyes, Clare caught sight of the blue-eyed soldier as he looked up from the body sliding off his long knife. 
The young bodyguard’s eyes widened. “No! Wilf!” He lunged toward them, but it was too late.
The giant drew back a fist and knuckles as solid as stone hit Clare’s temple.


Clare shivered awake, blinking against the pain in her aching head. The left side stabbed with agony. She swallowed, but that only made her cringe at the burn in her throat. She reached to feel her bruised neck and chains rattled, dragging at her wrists. 
They were shackled in front of her. 
Her heart stopped. Her eyes cut over her surroundings, her pulse tripping as she realized she was in a small cell. Torchlight flickered over the glaring emptiness. There wasn’t even a chamber pot. The stones were grimy and an unpleasant moistness clung to the air. 
She was in a prison cell.
Horror washed over her as memories crashed into her. The ambush. The fact that she had slammed the princess into the wall. It would have looked like an attack, not a rescue. Especially if they hadn’t noticed the attacker sneaking up behind the princess.
Clare trembled, the cold stone floor leeching all warmth from her body. She needed to speak to someone. To tell them what had happened. That she was innocent. 
She had no idea how long she’d been unconscious, but it had been long enough. Her brothers would be worried. Thomas was barely thirteen and Mark only ten. They might even go to Eliot’s barracks, and her older brother couldn’t afford to be pulled into this.
The cell door grated open and the lone torch guttered. Clare hitched to her feet, nausea rolling in her gut as pain sparked in her head. The chains swung from her bound wrists and she stumbled from the dizziness that hit her. She leaned against the wall, jaw clenched and head pounding as she watched three men file into the cell. 
The man in the lead had a gold rope on the shoulder of his uniform, marking him a commander. His lined face was indistinct in the flickering light, but Clare thought he was middle-aged. His hair was light brown with silver strands sprinkled throughout and his eyes cut to Clare, hard and cold.
Her stomach dropped.
The two men behind him fanned out on either side of her, raising the hairs at the back of her neck. The cell door clanked shut and she swallowed thickly. “Please.” Her voice cracked and she cleared her throat with a wince. “There’s been a mistake.”
The commander’s thick brows slammed down. He jerked his chin and the two men grabbed Clare’s arms. They hauled her toward the commander, putting them a mere pace apart. He towered over her and her breath stuttered but she bit back a whimper. She didn’t want to reveal her fear, even though she was exploding with it.
“You were the lookout, I presume.” His hard voice was chillingly quiet. “Once the princess passed, you gave the signal and the other rebels attacked.”
“No, I—”
He backhanded her and pain burst across her cheek, radiating through her aching head. Hard fingers dug into her arms, holding her upright as the commander glared down at her. “Don’t waste my time with denials.”
Clare blinked against the tears stinging her eyes. “I swear to the fates, I was only trying to save the princess. There was a man behind her with a knife. Just let me talk with her and—”
The commander grabbed her chin and forced her head back so their eyes met. “You’ll never get close to her again,” he sneered. “You failed. Your accomplices failed. So tell me everything about your friends.”
“I’m not one of them!”
His jaw flexed. “I have the power to make your death swift or agonizing. Now, answer me.”
A tremble shook her, but Clare tried to remain calm. It was hard with the commander breathing down on her, fingers digging into her chin, while the other two soldiers held her firmly. She swallowed hard but her voice still sounded too thin, too ragged, as it came up her abused throat. “I had nothing to do with the attack. I’m not a rebel. I work in the kitchen—I’ve worked there since I was a child. Ask Cook Towdy. He’ll tell you who I am.”
The commander’s face was unreadable as he studied her. Then, without warning, he shoved her face away and she would have stumbled if the guards hadn’t been holding her arms.
The commander took a step back and Clare would have felt relief, except for the darkness swimming in his eyes. “Very well. I will test your story.” His eyes bored into her, and she struggled to keep breathing as he continued. “I’m going to learn everything about you, girl. And you’re going to regret ever stepping foot inside this castle.”


Heather Frost writes mostly YA fiction and has a soft spot for tortured characters, breath-stealing romance, and happy endings. She is the author of the Seers trilogy and the Fate of Eyrinithia series. She has a BS in Creative Writing and a minor in Folklore, which means she got to read fairy tales and ghost stories and call it homework. When she’s not writing, Heather likes to read, travel, and hold Lord of the Rings movie marathons. She owns two typewriters, sings in the car, and dreams of living in a castle someday. She currently lives in a beautiful valley surrounded by towering mountains in Utah. To learn more about Heather and her books, visit her website:

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Exclusive Pre-Order Gift!

Pre-order ROYAL DECOY and you can receive an exclusive bonus short story!

Grayson is his father's ultimate weapon--but he wasn't always. THE PRINCE AND THE PRISONER is the story of how a young Grayson met the little girl who would change his life forever.

To claim your gift, simply pre-order ROYAL DECOY and fill out the form linked below. (You will need to upload an image of your pre-order receipt.) After ROYAL DECOY releases, you will receive via email THE PRINCE AND THE PRISONER!

NOTE: Since you can only pre-order the Kindle edition of ROYAL DECOY at this time, I will also extend this to any physical copy purchases made on release day, June 18th!

Claim your pre-order gift here:

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