It’s a birthday, right? So there must be presents. As a special surprise – I am happy to present several small scenes from my upcoming retelling of the Frog Prince!
The Synopsis –
A reformed Burndee tries to fix some of the mistakes he made years ago—one of which was turning Martin Dane into a frog.
The problem is, Martin deserved it—and the spell can only be altered, not reversed. Until a maiden kisses Martin out of the kindness of her heart, he will remain a frog.
Unfortunately Martin—a fast-talking conniver—is not interested in romance . . . but then neither is Gwen, the no-nonsense soldierly maiden that he finds himself an unlikely ally to in a turn of events that no one could have anticipated.
And now, without further ado – the sneak peek!
“Excuse me, miss—are you quite all right?”
Gwen gasped and jumped to her feet, her hand flying instinctively for the knife at her belt as she looked wildly around the clearing. No one was there—no one she could see. Her skin crawled.
“Show yourself!” she demanded, drawing her knife and looking up at the trees.
“Not up there—down here.”
She looked down as a large frog hopped towards the hem of her dress, looked up at her, smiled and swept a bow. “How do you do?”
A startled squawk exploded from her lips and she leapt backwards, nearly tripping over a tree root.
“Whaaaaat?” her lips refused to form the words properly as she stared at the frog, still taking careful steps backwards.
“I said, ‘how do you do’. I am Lord Martin Carelston, formerly of Hollow Manor. And who are you, might I ask?”
“Gwen Everly of the House of Everly,” she answered automatically. You are talking to a frog, her brain formed the words slowly as if dealing with a small child but she couldn’t wrestle the vague thought into a manageable state. She was losing her mind.
“You? You are Gwen Everly of the House of Everly? You?” the frog spluttered his mobile face stretched in astonishment.
“Yes,” Gwen responded, glowering at him.
“You’re a merchant’s daughter?” the frog choked, eyeing her with what looked like a picture of surprise and discomfiture.
“I was, before the merchant died,” Gwen snapped, the old pain no more than a brief chill in the pit of her stomach, which was quickly warmed by annoyance. Even frogs apparently knew she wasn’t a Lord in her own right, just a helpless nobody hovering between daughter and heiress.
“I beg your pardon,” the frog murmured, obviously seeing that he had said something in bad taste. “I would have took you for a huntress, or even a soldier of some kind,”
Though the last suggestion was of course absurd, it was more gratifying than the ‘peasant’ she was positive had been poised on the tip of his tongue before he obviously corrected himself.
“That is to say,” the frog tried to dig himself out of the hole he was rapidly enlarging for himself. “You dress so practically and capably and handle weapons with such obvious skill.” He smiled; perfectly satisfied that he had turned the confusion into a compliment and eyed the weapon in her hand with more amusement than fear. “What are you going to do with that?”
She glanced at the knife she had drawn by instinct, twirling it by instinct and years of practice as she sheathed it. The frog looked impressed—not that she had been trying to impress him. “How do you know I’m not a frog hunter?” she asked dryly, getting vague amusement out of the sudden alarm on the frog’s face.
“You eat frogs?” he asked in horror.
“Never touch them,” Gwen said coolly, letting him off the hook.
The frog sighed and wiped his forehead delicately.
“My sister likes frog’s legs though,” Gwen added with a brief smile as she purposefully fiddled with her knife.
The frog backed away. “You’re not very well-mannered,”
Gwen suddenly realized what she was doing. Toying with a frog. How common. Wait, worse than that, she was talking to a frog. Had she lost her mind? No, she was absolutely certain she had not, but there had to be some other kind of explanation.
“Is this some kind of trick?” she demanded. “An illusion to distract me from an attacker?” She whirled and began walking the perimeter of the clearing, drawing her knife to swipe at the bushes.
“It’s no trick!” the frog protested, and Gwen noticed he winced every time her knife sliced through a branch. “At least not a trick on you,” he added. “It is rather a good trick on me, I suppose.” She turned and stared at him blankly and he blurted out. “I’m enchanted, you see.”
“Enchanted!” Gwen scoffed, with a sarcastic bark of laughter.
“Can you think of any other reason why an amphibian would be talking to you right now?” the frog said impressively.
That was a fair point. She acknowledged it with a slight nod and folded her arms, as she stared at him curiously, only just now remembering his introduction. “Wait . . . Lord Martin Carelston of Hollow Manor. Didn’t he disappear a while ago?”
“My circumstances had been altered slightly,” the frog said with a touch of wryness.
“Just supposing . . . that I’m not insane and that I believe you,” Gwen squinted at the frog. “Why were you turned into a toad?”
That was clearly not the question he wanted to be asked, but his smile was game and charming. “I’m a frog, actually. I ran into a bad-tempered fairy. I was minding my own business and somehow offended him and—poof!—here I am.” He wiggled a flipped wryly.
“I see,” said Gwen, feeling her forehead tighten as she squinted down at him.
“I must beg you for your assistance,” the frog’s voice quivered and he clutched his front flippers and held them out beseechingly. “As you can plainly see, this slimy skin hides a nobleman, I was not born a frog—nay—I am an enchanted being. Cursed to take on the form of a frog through no fault of my own.”
“Why can’t your fairy godparent help you?”
The frog gave an audible sniff. “Alas, I inhabit a fairy netherworld, and find myself without a magical keeper. The fairy that enchanted me was breaking some great rule and my previous godparent retired, so I am currently at a loss for help. Unless . . .” he snuck a quick glance at her.
Uh-huh. Here it comes . . .
“What was that?” Ella gabbled, leaping to her feet in a mad dance the pillow she had been playing with flying out of her hand and landing on Martin, flattening him to the floor.
He peeled his face off of the cold stones, faintly hearing Ella’s frantic tirade. “I saw something move across the floor, I know I did!”
“Probably a mouse,” Gwen said, sounding vaguely astounded by Ella’s uncharacteristic hysteria.
Martin pushed against the softness but the pillow merely sprang back at him, smothering him. He was going die because some girl had thrown a pillow on top of him. How ignominious.
“A mouse?” Ella gasped and there was a horrible screech of hinges; she must have leapt up onto the sofa. “Oh, where? Where, where?”
MOVE THE PILLOW, he thought. Move the pillow, move the pillow, move the pillow.
“I think I did see something,” Gwen was saying loudly, “Yes, I believe that pillow is moving.”
There was a wild screech and the sound of stampeding feet then the sound of a heavy wooden door swinging open.
“Out of my way!” Ella wailed, followed by the startled squawk of some newcomer, doubtless a servant, who had presumably been heading in the other direction from Ella and been bowled over.
Just when he thought he wouldn’t draw another breath, Martin felt the pillow being plucked carefully from him and Gwen leaned down in a swift motion, scooping him into her palm.
“Are you all right?” she asked and he chose to be touched by her question, even though her tone had the pinched sound of suppressed amusement.
Martin tried to raise a flipper but found that he couldn’t.
“I’ll just dispose of this,” Gwen said loudly enough for Ella to hear, agitation jumping in her voice as she scooped up Martin and moved swiftly into her bedroom, closing the door.
“Martin! Martin? Say something,” she demanded. “Are you all right?”
Martin opened his eyes and managed to smile at her. “Slightly crushed in mind and body but I shall survive,”
“I don’t like this,” he whined.
“You think I do?” Gwen snapped. “I just love have big, slimy lumps in my pocket.”
Martin bristled, trying to come up with an appropriate comeback but Gwen kept talking before he could muster a response. “But you know what I’ve decided? I’ve decided that I do love having thinking, talking toads in my pocket that can retrieve information I can’t in my pocket. So why don’t you decide that you love riding in pockets to accomplish the task that will return you to your original form?”
Martin took a moment sorting out the rapid fire, expressionless words and was just about to agree and compliment her positive attitude when Gwen added. “And while you’re thinking about how lucky you are, how about keeping your big mouth shut?”
“You are a very rude young woman,” Martin huffed into the folds of her pocket.
“I’m not wearing that,” she said flatly, glaring at the hat.
“I don’t like it.”
“But you’ve never tried it,” Martin pleaded. “How can you know you might not discover some fabulous new fashion that you can’t live without?”
“I thought this was for spying purposes?”
“It is,” Martin said stiffly. “Surely you realize how much more practical this hat is.”
“It would look suspicious,” she said picking up her letter again. “Everyone knows I don’t dress like that.”
“Well, maybe you should!” Martin said, losing his temper.
Gwen blinked, stared at him then gave a loud laugh. “I hardly think a toad is any in position to give me fashion advice.”
“A frog,” Martin said with as much dignity as he could muster. “And I was considered one of the very princes of fashion before my transformation, not to mention, a bit of a connoisseur of women.”
“What is it you’re trying to say?”
“I hate riding in your pocket!” Martin exploded.
“It can’t be that uncomfortable,”
“It makes me feel small and ridiculous,” Martin blurted and wished he could suck the words back in as easily as he could nab a frog with his tongue.
“How appropriate,” said Gwen, “since man or frog, that’s precisely what you are, just as I am an unattractive, unpopular, old maid.” She rose to her feet. “It takes more than gold to transform some things, Martin—some things cannot ever be changed.”
Well, what did you think of the excerpts, dear readers? What do you think of Gwen and Martin? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!
As a note – while The Frog Prince IS book two in the Tales of Ambia series – it will probably be released after book three – there are good reasons, I promise, and you’ll have to forgive me for the wait.
Hopefully, it will be worth it!
One last thing, while you’re here, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the first Tales of Ambia book, The Reluctant Godfather – as well as a bundle of other fun goodies!