Today I am one of the stops on the blog tour for The Pretender by Katie Ward. I will be sharing an extract from the novel. There is also an international giveaway going on!
France 2000: Two babies are born on the same day just two hours apart – but to very different lives. Isabella is a Princess and heir to the French throne, while Sophia is born into a life of poverty and abuse at the hands of her father. At the age of 18, Sophia runs away from home. That same night, Isabella is also fleeing from the burden of her royal life when she finds Sophia slumped at the palace gates. Amazed by how alike they look, Isabella proposes a daring plot – to exchange their lives for one week.
‘The Pretender’ is an emotionally intense and compelling story of friendship, love and the strange power of destiny.
Having now switched places with Princess Isabella, Sophia is faced with the problem of not knowing anyone or where anything is in the Palace, despite the fact she is supposed to have grown up there. Waiting until the middle of the night when everyone is asleep, Sophia sneaks out to try and find where everything is in the Palace.…..
Lying wide awake in the dead of night, I wait until the castle is sleeping before I set out to explore.
Tugging the bed covers aside, I creep towards the door and place my ear against it. There isn’t even the smallest sound from outside, so I open it quietly and slip out of Isabella’s room into the corridor. It’s imperative that I learn where everything is if I stand any chance of making this venture work.
The silver glow of the moon gives an unearthly feel to the palace as I begin to descend the staircase. Standing in the centre of the foyer I gaze towards the corridors leading off it. Which one should I take first? Am I going to get lost?
‘Ahem, Princess, isn’t it a little late for you to be roaming round the palace?’
I jump with fright. Stood before me is a portly little man. His glasses sit strangely on his long nose. I try not to stare but he has an almost comical appearance, with his stern demeanour in perfect contrast to his comical look.
‘I couldn’t sleep, sir,’ I manage to say. ‘I just needed to stretch my legs.’
‘Isabella, why do you call me sir? If your father heard you, I’d be in trouble. I’m here to serve you, not the other way around.’
I sigh deeply. It’s difficult to be treated as if you are on a pedestal. I never thought I’d say it, but I miss being treated like me.
‘If I told you a secret, would you promise to keep it?’ I ask him. ‘I need to tell someone or I’ll go mad – but you must promise you’ll never say anything.’ I’m taking a big risk, but I don’t see any alternative.
‘I’m the soul of discretion, dear Princess, and I swear I won’t reveal your secret to anyone. I tell you what, let’s go and have a cup of chocolat chaud and you can tell me all about it.’
He’s so comforting and kind. My spirits lift a little as I follow the man down to the kitchens, trying to discreetly make mental notes on how to get back. The man pulls out a chair for me at a table, quietly pottering around making the hot chocolate, bringing it to the table with some chocolate madeleines. He conveys an air of calm that helps me to relax slightly.
‘I thought you might like a little treat, Princess, you need to keep your strength up, and I know these are your favourites.’
‘Thank you, that’s so sweet of you.’ I am suddenly ravenous. I take a sip of the sweet chocolate drink and nibble on a delicious chocolate biscuit, all the while keeping my focus on the man and his kind face. Is it the right thing to do, to speak? Will he really keep my secret – or will I ruin everything?
‘So, Isabella, what is it that’s bothering you? I know your parents are very concerned, as you haven’t been yourself these past few days. Come on now, you can tell old Baptiste what the trouble is.’
I swallow a piece of biscuit and say: ‘Well, that’s just it. You see, I’m not who you think I am. The reason I’m acting so oddly is because I’m not Isabella and I don’t know anyone here. I’ve no idea who you are.’
A wary look crosses the man’s face, his penetrative stare maps my face trying to find a trace of difference in my face. His brow knits together as he fails to do so.
‘I can’t believe that. I’ve known Isabella since she was a baby and looking at you now I see the same child I always have. But your explanation does account for your odd behaviour – unless you are ill, my poor child. Oh, I just don’t know what to think! If it’s true, how could this have happened?’
‘Please don’t tell anyone,’ I beg urgently. ‘It’s a secret and it must stay that way. Promise me you won’t say a thing and I’ll tell you everything.’
‘As long as you are not in danger, of course, I won’t say a thing. To be honest, I don’t think anyone would believe me anyway. I’m not sure I can believe it myself.’
‘It happened the night that Isabella had the big argument with her father about going to Paris. She was really upset and decided to run away. We met at the palace gates, I had fled after my father attacked me, after Isabella found me crying at the gates she brought me to her room. When she saw how alike we looked, she suggested that we exchange places for a week.’ I gulp. ‘She was desperate for a taste of freedom and I was desperate for some security . . .’
I pull up my sleeves, showing him the bruises upon my arms.
‘My name is Sophia Lazarus. My family live on the Forest estate– after fleeing my home I had nowhere else to go so I came to the palace because it’s the only place I’ve ever felt safe.
The kindly man’s face goes pale. ‘Oh, my word. What a terrible thing to do to anyone, let alone your own child. I’m so sorry for you.’
‘Isabella was ready to make her escape, but when she found me there, slumped and weeping in pain, she got the guard to let me in and we climbed back up a makeshift rope to her room.’ I can’t help but smile at the memory. ‘It was one of the strangest nights of my life I still can’t believe that it really happened.’
‘I see. So that’s how she came to have a stranger in her bedroom when the King and Queen walked in . . . Things certainly make a lot more sense now.’
About the Author:
Katie Ward always knew she wanted to write for a living. However, she was told by her careers advisor that “it might be more appropriate for you to work in a shop”. When Katie didn’t get the grades she needed to get into college, she negotiated a three month trial. After successfully completing the course she secured a place at her first choice university to study Journalism.
After realising she wanted to be an author, Katie moved to Dublin where she worked her way up from receptionist to Executive Assistant at Merrill Lynch. Katie continued to write in her spare time, submitting her short story into the “Do the Write Thing” competition being run by Irish TV show ‘Seoige and O’Shea’. This story was originally written when Katie was 14 after she was inspired by an article in her favourite teen magazine. Katie was the only non-Irish author selected to have her story published in an anthology of the same name which reached 19 in the Irish Best sellers List. Katie was also shortlisted for a competition judged by MAN Booker Prize winning author Roddy Doyle which was run by Metro Eireann newspaper.
Katie currently lives in Devon with her cat (aka ‘Her Royal Fluffiness’) where she sings in a community choir and has recently taken up Archery. Katie’s favourite author has been Roald Dahl since she was a child as she loves the dark edge he brings to his books. On the flip side though, Katie loves Disney, magic, unicorns and a good rom com film at the cinema with her friends.
Win a signed original illustration from Emma Haines. She is the artist who drew the cover illustrations of The Pretender.
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