Dear Reader,

I adore fairytales and make no secret of the fact that I still read them. I refuse to accept that there must be a cut off point for the story of the ordinary girl meeting a prince, falling in love, fighting for what she believes is right, and finally having the magical wedding we all dream about, to the man she loves, after which they will bring up a family and live happily ever after.

In The Prince's Arranged Bride, I combine my love of fantasy, passion and glamorous locations with a hot Italian Prince searching for a bride. Alessandro of Ferara is hot and impatient and irresistible- and I based many of the scenes in the book on my trips to Italy, a country I love.

Oh, and did I mention chocolate? Who can resist a hero who insists on taking the heroine to a chocolate festival? Not me!

Which is perhaps why I felt I must include a recipe with this newsletter- not chocolate, but something sweet and naughty and deliciously addictive- just like The Prince's Arranged Bride.

I do hope you enjoy the pudding and the book!

With my very best wishes to you all,


The Prince's Arranged Bride
Susan Stephens
Harlequin Presents
November 2008
ISBN: 0373823789

Crown Prince Alessandro Bussoni Ferara needs to make a purely practical marriage—and he's found the perfect bride!

Emily Weston agrees to the prince's proposal. But once Alessandro's wedding ring is on her finger, it's revealed that Alessandro must provide the principality of Ferara with an heir.

Heartbroken to find she's just a bride of convenience, Emily decides she must leave Ferara and Alessandro—without telling him she's expecting his baby...

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© Susan Stephens, November 2008

Alessandro still said nothing, and just stared at some point over he left shoulder.

Slowly Emily turned around, her eyes widening when she saw what he was looking at. A beautifully upholstered taupe suede viewing seat was angled to face a large entertainment system. Nestled in the corner of the unusual triangular-shaped seat rested a violin, propped up between two cream silk cushions. ‘Should it be out of its case?’ she mumbled foolishly, sinking down on the sofa again.

‘I imagine that’s the only way it’s ever going to be played,’ Alessandro said, leveling a long, steady gaze at her.

Emily’s heart was thundering so fast she could hardly breathe. She had to turn round to take another look, just to make sure she wasn’t dreaming—to prove to herself that she really was in the same room as the violin Miranda had played in Heidelberg.

‘But you told me it was a museum piece—beyond price,’ she said, not caring that her battered emotion were now plainly on show. ‘I don’t understand.’

‘Everything has its price Emily,’ Alessandro said with a small shrug as he regarded her coolly.

He was waiting. For what? For her to say something? But how could she when her brain had stalled with shock and her whole body was quivering from some force beyond her control? To make matters worse, Emily couldn’t rid herself of the idea that she too was a prize exhibit—and with a rather large price tag dangling over her nose.

‘You bought it?’ she managed finally.

‘I bought it,’ Alessandro confirmed.

‘But why on earth—?’

‘As a bargaining counter.’

‘A bargaining counter? Emily spluttered incredulously. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘Will you allow me to explain?’

Emily clenched and unclenched her hands. She didn’t like the look on his face one bit. ‘I think you better had,’ she agreed stiffly, feeling as if she was clinging to Miranda’s dream by just her fingertips now.

‘It would be far better for your sister if she had enough money to continue her studies without the distraction of working with the band.’

‘Well, of course,’ Emily agreed. ‘But—‘

Alessandro’s imperious gesture cut her off. ‘Let me finish, please. It would be better still if she could have the use of that violin behind you—‘

‘Is this before or after she wins the Lottery?’ Emily demanded, rattled by his composure.

‘What if I told you that I am prepared to give the violin to your sister… on permanent loan?’

A thundering silence took hold of the space between them—until Alessandro’s voice sliced through it like a blade. ‘Well, Emily, what do you say?’

‘What would she have to do for that?’ Emily demanded suspiciously.

‘Your sister? Nothing at all.’ Alessandro’s mouth firmed as he waited for Emily’s thought processes to crest the shock he had just given her and get back up to speed.

Emily’s eyes clouded with apprehension as her brain cells jostled back into some semblance of order. ‘What would I have to do?’

A smile slowly curled around Alessandro’s lips, then died again. She was so bright... so vulnerable. It was as if he had spied some rare flower, moments too late to prevent his foot crushing the life out of it.

Standing up, he crossed the room. He needed time to think... but there was none. Opening a door, he reached inside the small cloakroom where he had been keeping the flowers. He had ordered the extravagant bouquet to seal their bargain. As he grabbed hold of them he realized that his hand was shaking. He paused a beat to consider what he should do. He could ram them in the wastebin, where they belonged, or he could keep on with the charade...

Turning to face Emily, he held out the huge exotic floral arrangement. There was real hope in his eyes, and a sudden tenderness to his mouth.

‘I’m sorry, Emily, I meant to give these to you earlier.’ She looked so wary, and Alessandro knew he was the cause. What had started out as a straightforward business transaction had developed into something so much more. If Emily Weston accepted his proposal he would be the luckiest man in Ferara… No—the world, he thought, trying to second-guess her reaction.

‘For what?’ Emily said, glad to have the opportunity to bury her face deep out of sight amongst the vivid blooms as he handed them to her. ‘I’ve never seen such a fabulous display,’ she admitted, forced to pull her face out again when they began to tickle her nose.

‘For agreeing to become my wife,’ Alessandro said softly.

For a full ten seconds neither of them seemed to breathe and then Emily whispered tensely, ‘Are you mad?’

Alessandro’s rational self gave a wry smile, and told him she might be right. But thirty generations of accumulated pride in Ferara insisted that no woman in her right mind would refuse the opportunity to become princess of that land.

‘Not as far as I am aware,’ he said coolly.

‘I think you must be.’

‘I said I had a proposition for you. I made no secret of it.’

‘Yes, a recording contract... for my sister—from Prince Records,’ Emily said, thrusting the bouquet away from her as if she felt that by accepting it she was in some way endorsing Alessandro’s plunge into the realms of fantasy.

‘I have no connection whatever with any company called Prince Records,’ he said, brushing some imagined lint from the lapel of his jacket.


‘You assumed I was a recording executive,’ he elaborated. ‘I allowed you to go on believing that... while it suited me.’

‘I see,’ Emily said, finding it difficult to breathe. ‘And now?’

‘The deception is no longer necessary,’ Alessandro admitted. ‘Because I have something you want and you have something I want. It’s time to cut a deal.’

Emily felt as if her veins had been infused with ice. She might be twenty-eight and unmarried, but when her prince came along she wanted more than a business deal to seal their union... she wanted love, passion, tenderness and a lifetime’s commitment—not a charter of convenience to close a cold and cynical deal. ‘So, who the hell are you?’ she demanded furiously.

‘Crown Prince Alessandro Bussoni di Ferara,’ he said. ‘I know it’s rather a mouthful—Emily?’

Snapping he mouth shut again, Emily whacked the bouquet into his arms. ‘Take your damn flowers back! My sister might be in a vulnerable position right now, but let me assure you, Alessandro, I’m not.’

‘Your sister put herself in this position—‘

‘How dare you judge her?’ Emily flared, springing to her feet to glare up at him. ‘You don’t have the remotest idea how hard she works!’

Alessandro felt as if he had been struck by a thunderbolt, and it had nothing to do with the fact that no one— absolutely no one— had ever addressed him in this furious manner in all his life before.

Just seeing Emily now, her eyes blazing and her hair flung back, her face alive with passion, intelligence and a truckload of determination, he felt a desperate urge to direct that passion into something that would give them both a lot more pleasure than arguing about her sister.

Was he falling in love? Could it be possible? Or was he already in love? Alessandro forced a lid on the well of joy that threatened to erupt and call him a liar for wearing such a set and stony expression in response to her outburst, when all he wanted to do was to drag her into his arms and kiss the breath out of her body. Had the thunderbolt struck the first moment he saw her, commanding that gaudily decorated state... putting the harsh spotlights to shame with her luminous beauty— a beauty that had refused to stay hidden even under what had seemed to him at the time to be a half a bucket of greasepaint?

‘If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and call my car for you,’ he said steadily, revealing nothing of his thoughts. ‘I can see you’re upset right now. We will discuss this tomorrow, when you are feeling calmer—‘

‘Don’t waste your time!’ Emily snapped defenisively.

‘With your permission,’ Alessandro said, swooping to retrieve the discarded bouquet from the floor by her feet, ‘I’ll have these couriered to your mother.’

‘Do what the hell you want with them!’

But as she calmed down in the limousine taking her safely home through the damply glittering streets, Emily was forced to accept that without financial assistance Miranda would never achieve her full potential. A grant might be found to cover her lessons with the Japanese violin professor, but no one was going to stump up the funds necessary to buy her a violin of real quality.

But how could marriage to a stranger provide the answer? She gave her head an angry shake, then began to frown as she turned Alessandro’s preposterous suggestion over in her mind. With the right controls in place it might be possible… it would certainly secure Miranda’s future.

The ball was in Alessandro’s court. If he was serious he wouldn’t be put off by her first refusal; he would be back in touch with a firm proposition very soon… Very soon. How long was that? Emily wondered, feeling a thrill of anticipation race through her.

Excerpt © Susan Stephens, November 2008

Indulge your sweet tooth with Susan Stephens!

flan 1
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Raspberry Flan

5 ounces ground almonds
5 ozs self raising flour
5 ozs butter
5 ozs Caster sugar.
Raspberries, or any other 'soft' fruit to taste
1 level tsp cinnamon (optional)
Sliced almonds
Icing sugar

A shallow flan dish - about 10''

1. Butter the base of the dish lightly.

2. Whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Mix self-raising flour, ground almonds, and- if you like- cinnamon together in a bowl and then fold into the butter and sugar mix.

4. Press enough of the mixture into the base of your flan dish until you have covered it.

5. Scatter fruit on top. (no need for extra sugar)

6. Dot the rest of the pastry mix over the top of your fruit. No need to make it neat or cover it completely. You can also sprinkle some sliced almonds on it if you like.

7. Bake in a hottish oven- top oven in an Aga, or Electric oven at 350* for around fifteen minutes, then cover top loosely with foil and bake for another ten minutes or so (I go by smell- when I can smell it, it's ready!). Then remove foil and crisp up for a couple of minutes.

8. Serve warm or cold with cream or custard- I prefer Creme Fraiche.

9. You can sprinkle with icing sugar once the pie has cooled. (if you sprinkle when warm sugar melts and disappears) And you can also sprinkle with a liqueur such as Amaretti - but I prefer not to.

10. Gather round with friends and family and Enjoy!

Cook's Note: This flan tastes really good with ice cream too. The raspberries work really well because they're tart against the sweetness of the crumble mix.


Susan is giving away books from her backlist!

Entering the contest is easy!  Just email us with the title for her March 2009 release. You'll find the answer here. Be sure to include your full name and address in the email. On November 3rd, Susan will pick 5 winners who will each receive a copy of Desert King, Pregnant Mistress.

Winners will be notified via email.

Good luck!

Oh and don't forget Susan still has the Treasure Hunt on her website! You could win a $50 gift certificate from Barnes and Noble. Stop by and find out how!


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