A Princess in Maine

A McCullagh Inn Story


By Jen McLaughlin

Foreword by James Patterson

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The McCullagh Inn is hosting the event of the century.

Chelsea Holland is used to dealing in secrets, and this one’s proving to be the most exciting one yet: her old friend Grace is marrying a European prince, and Grace wants to host the wedding at the McCullagh Inn. But is Chelsea willing to put herself and her inn in the public eye — especially after being on the run?

BookShots Flames

Original romances presented by JAMES PATTERSON

Novels you can devour in a few hours

Impossible to stop reading



Dear Reader,

I have a lot of favorite books, and all of them have two things in common: a fast plot with twists and turns, and a big cinematic concept that I can immediately visualize. That's why I enjoy the McCullagh Inn in Maine series by Jen McLaughlin. Her books have both of those elements.

Once you turn this page, you'll be transported into the small town of Hudson, Maine. There, Chelsea Holland and her husband, Jeremy, own an inn and host beautiful weddings. Every time I pick up one of Jen McLaughlin's BookShots, it feels like coming home to that comforting place. And it's a feeling that's hard to resist.

But A Princess in Maine is about more than just the sweet town of Hudson. In this book, Chelsea and Jeremy will take on a royal wedding. When someone starts to sabotage the wedding, Jeremy flips back in DEA Agent mode, while Chelsea looks to her dark past for answers. And amid the stress of it all, they question the strength of their relationship.

I'm proud to present you with the next book in Chelsea and Jeremy's love story. Since the start of the series, they've conquered so much together, and I hope you enjoy reading about their next endeavor.

—James Patterson


Is this a good idea?

Grace settled back on the couch, smoothing her black dress over her thighs. Across from her, with only a small coffee table separating them, was Chelsea O'Kane—wait, no.

Chelsea Holland. She'd married Jeremy Holland last year.

No big surprise there.

Everyone knew Chelsea and Jeremy were in love in high school, whether the couple admitted it or not. Now, it looked like they'd finally seen the light. Chelsea had on a dusting of makeup, but that wasn't what provided the ethereal glow on her cheeks, and in her bright blue eyes. No, that had to be happiness.

It was a feeling Grace was ready to embrace.

Chelsea looked at her and smiled, and Grace smiled back immediately. After glancing around the room, she said, "You did great here, Chelsea. The inn is gorgeous. I love the bright-pink door. I'm glad you kept it."

"Thank you," the other woman said, smiling wider. "Jeremy and I did a lot of renovations. It was definitely a lot of work, but we're really happy with the way it came out."

"I can see why," Grace said, surveying the living room again.

She picked up the decaf coffee Chelsea had made her, wrapping her hands around it and bringing it chest level. As she reclined against the cushions, her gaze turned toward the foyer. Light-yellow walls. Painstakingly polished wood floors. Elegant furniture. Fancy chandeliers.

This inn could have easily been in Talius.

"So. A wedding? Congratulations!" Chelsea said, clearly trying to steer the conversation where it was supposed to go.

"Yes." Grace glanced down at her ring with a soft sigh. "We were hoping for something small. Private. Quaint. Romantic. Private."

It hadn't been a mistake that Grace said private twice.

Nodding, Chelsea opened her notebook. It had a wedding dress on the front. Grace watched as Chelsea jotted down her name, Grace Grigoris, but then hesitated over the second line. Smiling again, she lifted her head and fixed her blue eyes back on Grace. "Absolutely. We can do all those things, and we'll get started right away. What is your future husband's name?"

Grace licked her lips, hesitating, and adjusted her grip on the mug. "About that…it's not…that is…I'm not…"

Chelsea waited with a patience Grace didn't remember her having. When she didn't finish her sentence, Chelsea rested her pen on her notebook. "Or is it your future wife?"

"What?" Grace laughed. "Oh! No, I'm not marrying a woman. My best friend did that a month ago, but that's not why I can't seem to put a sentence together."

"Your best friend…Sherri?"

"Yes," Grace said, her smile widening at the memory of how pretty Sherri had looked on her wedding day. Both brides had worn dresses. For some reason, thinking of her best friend's wedding put Grace at ease.

Enough pitter-pattering about. It was time to just say it.

"I'm so happy for her," Chelsea said, her smile genuine. "She was always nice to me."

The tension that had been building in Grace's shoulders went away, and she laughed. "She was nice to everyone."

"Agreed." Chelsea pursed her lips. "What's up, Grace? What do I need to know about your fiancé? Whatever it is, I've got it covered—unless he's an asshole. If he is, you can do better."

"No, he's not an asshole," she said, laughing a little, like Chelsea had probably wanted. "I was thinking about how to word this correctly, but I think it's best if I just say it. My fiancé isn't American. He's…well, he's a prince, actually. Prince Phillip Michael Marcus Randall the Third, of Talius. And once we're married, I'll be a princess."

Chapter 1

I'll be honest. It took me a second to recover from that one. It explained the two people standing on our porch, in suits and sunglasses, whom she'd introduced as her "friends" Michelle and Joseph. They were clearly her guards. Ten million things ran through my mind at the same time. How the hell did a girl from the tiny town of Hudson, Maine, land a prince? Where did they meet?

And why the hell were they getting married here, in Maine, if he was a prince? Shouldn't their wedding take place in a castle, or an ancestral church of some sort? Crap, I didn't know where royal weddings took place.

But they didn't happen here.

In Hudson.

"I…uh…I see. Let me just…jot that down." Clearing my throat, I wrote down "prince" in all capital letters, with five exclamation points, and doodled a crown next to it. "I hope you don't mind my asking…but why do you want to have a wedding here, in America? I mean, shouldn't the royal wedding take place in, you know, Talius?"

Somewhere a heck of a lot more exciting than here.

"Traditionally speaking? Yes, it should." Grace laughed and tucked her hair behind her ear. "But you see, we're not exactly traditional. Most princes don't meet American girls who are working at a charity gala, let alone marry them. We've already veered from the societal norm."

I stared at her. Though she said that with a smile, she held her lips tightly in place. I might not be as good at small talk as Jeremy, but I could read people. "I'm guessing there are people who aren't too happy about that?"

"Conservatives, yes. When news broke about our relationship, the press was all over it. They never leave us alone over there, but here…."

"No one even knows where Talius is," I finished for her. "Let alone that it's a country."

"Exactly." Grace smiled and smoothed her fashionable black-and-white designer dress over her thighs. Her long blond hair fell over her shoulders in soft waves, and she looked slightly out of place sitting on the cozy brown couch. Her skin was faintly tanned, and she wore a thick white headband that should have looked ridiculous on a full-grown woman, but I secretly wanted to try it on. "Talius is such a tiny country, tucked away near France, that it's hard to find it on a map. Phillip's father tries to keep its politics as private as possible, since he likes to think of it as a secret jewel of Europe. Phillip has promised to do the same when he takes over."

"Is that going to be soon?" I asked.

"Yes, actually. His father is going to step down to enjoy some time in his country, and then Phillip will be a king…" She stopped for a second, and let out a nervous laugh. "Me. Married to a king. It's crazy, right?"

She wants to talk about crazy?

How about a future princess who wanted to have her wedding at my inn?

I mean, it's not like our little inn wasn't incredible. It was. Ever since Jeremy and I had pulled off the wedding of the century, which happened to be our own, business was booming at the McCullagh Inn. We were nearly full most weekends, and we'd hosted a handful of other weddings.

To be honest, I'd found my niche in planning, with a side of flowers and turtledoves. In the back of my mind, I could hear my father's voice from my childhood: If you have something to love, you have something to lose. But I wasn't afraid to love anymore. I had Jeremy and the inn, and they both made me happy. I refused to be ashamed about that. Happiness isn't a weakness. It takes strength to let someone in like that. Jeremy makes me stronger.

It didn't mean I was blind to the ugly things in life, though.

Dad hadn't raised me to be a fool.

"So you want to have the wedding here to avoid the press over there?" I said.

Hence Grace's double mention of the word private.

I hadn't missed that one.

"Phillip's political opposition and the press, yes." Grace took a sip of coffee. Her lipstick was still flawless, and there were no pink lip marks on the rim of the white mug. Just as you'd expect from a future princess. "As I said, complete privacy is a must. Absolutely no one outside the wedding planning circle can know about it…especially your father. No offense."

"None taken," I assured her with a smile. "I'll make sure he doesn't know."

Dad was in Florida, out on parole with orders not to leave the state. It was better this way. We'd come a long way, he and I, but I still didn't trust him.

Especially not with something this juicy.

Grace smiled. "There should be no expenses spared for this wedding. Flowers. Dress. Food. Cake. Venue. Only the best."

My heart warmed up at the idea that she considered my little inn to be in that category of only the best. The business part of my brain got excited when she lumped the words no expenses spared together like that. I hadn't gotten where I was in life by being a complete softie, after all. "Absolutely. I wouldn't have it any other way. Now, about dates—"

"July," Grace answered immediately.

I opened my planner and flipped forward to July of next year. "Summer weddings are the best. Which weekend—?"

"No, you misunderstand me." Grace reached out and flipped backward, landing on July of this year, and then pointed at a date on the calendar. Her manicured finger landed on the last Saturday of the month. "I meant this July."

I blinked down at the little suitcase I'd drawn on every day of that week. Jeremy and I were supposed to…"That's less than two months from today."

Chapter 2

Grace's diamond ring sparkled in the sunlight as I tried to process the fact that she wanted to throw a royal wedding at my inn in less than sixty days. I absentmindedly toyed with the back of my own wedding band. My engagement ring had been stolen right before my wedding and the culprit had never been found. We'd never located my ring, and I'd refused to let Jeremy get me another one. If I couldn't have the one he gave me—my mother's ring—then I didn't want one at all.

I missed it.

It had been so impossibly romantic of Jeremy to give it to me.

So very Jeremy.

"I know this is short notice," Grace said. She smiled at me, and two dimples appeared. "But is it going to be a problem?"

"Well…" I stared down at the calendar, guilt choking me. "I…"

The thing was, Jeremy and I never went on a honeymoon. It never bothered me that we didn't take one, since I didn't really have a romantic bone in my body, but Jeremy did. He wanted to go, so I'd finally agreed. We'd picked the last week in July for our long-awaited trip, and now Grace wanted the week for her royal wedding.

Refusing a royal wedding would be career suicide, but skipping out on our honeymoon…that was something my dad would do, and we all knew how well his marriage worked out.

"Why the rush?" I asked slowly. "I mean, if you really want a no-expenses-spared wedding, wouldn't you rather take your time in the planning?"

Grace pursed her pink lips. "We need to move quickly. The faster, the better. Phillip originally wanted to do June, but—"

"Jesus," I blurted out without thinking. "Sorry, so sorry. It's just…a month of planning for a wedding of this magnitude is insane."

"That's what I said, so he pushed it back to July."

Thanks for the extra month, buddy.

Grace readjusted her position on the couch. "We're prepared to offer triple the cost of whatever you normally charge, to make up for the short time period. But it has to be July. No exceptions. So if that's a problem…?"

Triple the cost. Triple the trouble. I thought of Jeremy, and the trip we'd whispered about just last night, after we'd made love. He'd wanted to go someplace warm and sunny, so we booked a resort in Santa Barbara. But if we pulled this wedding off, and raked in triple the amount of cash we normally made, especially on a week where the inn had no reservations…

Maybe we could cancel our reservations, and go somewhere even better. Like Hawaii. That was the ultimate honeymoon destination, right?

Jeremy deserved the best of everything, too.

When I remained silent, Grace sighed. "Look, our relationship has constantly been fodder for the press. Our courtship overseas is about as notorious as any Taylor Swift fauxmance is here. They never leave us alone. Everywhere we go, they're already there with their cameras. Every secret we try to keep, they uncover it." She fidgeted with her purse, reluctantly meeting my eyes. "This wedding? It's ours, and only ours. The best way to keep it like that is by doing it fast and under the radar. I need your help to make this day as magical as any other girl would want it to be."

Well, when she put it that way, how was I supposed to say no? I loved making dreams come true and the thing I loved most about weddings was organizing them. If anyone could pull off a rushed royal wedding in less than sixty days, it was me.

"We are concerned about security, and we have a few trusted bodyguards, two of whom you met. But we will need additional guards while we're staying here and for the wedding itself, if you can arrange that," Grace said. "We'd rather not bring more of our own, since we don't want to risk a leak in Talius."

"Jeremy is ex-DEA, so he might know some guys we can trust to help out." I scribbled Jeremy DEA??? before focusing on her again. "Aside from the paparazzi, is there anything else we need to know about?"

Grace tapped a perfectly manicured finger on her thigh and rested her other hand on the handles of her Louis Vuitton purse, shifting slightly on the couch and glancing to the left. "I don't think so. I know it's a lot, but I promise to make it as easy as possible on you. I'm prepared to write you a check for a deposit right here, right now."

Smiling, I crossed off the tiny little suitcase in the corner of the date Grace wanted for her wedding, and drew a big crown instead. After closing the planner, I stood up. "I don't know how I could possibly say no to a royal wedding. I'll go get the contracts."

Chapter 3

The hot afternoon sun shone down through the sparse clouds. Jeremy took his Patriots hat off, swiped his arm across his sweaty forehead, and then set it back in place with a grimace. The calm breeze didn't do a hell of a lot to cool him off, but at least it was something. It was easily nearing eighty degrees, and it wasn't even officially summer yet. Maybe he and Chelsea should rethink their honeymoon destination.

The Arctic seemed pretty damn nice right about now.

Paul, Chelsea's older brother, had been ranting for a while now, and to be honest, Jeremy only caught about half of the shit he'd said. He grunted in agreement every now and then, since that was all the response Paul needed. Everyone who knew Paul knew he was happiest when he was unhappy.

And Paul had been perfectly happy to stand here talking, watching Jeremy dig up this stump that Chelsea had been asking him to take care of. She said it was unsightly for lounging by the pool. He didn't care how much work it was—he just wanted her happy.

It had taken almost two years for Paul to forgive Jeremy for not telling Chelsea he was DEA when he came back into her life, but it seemed like Paul finally accepted him as his brother-in-law. Jeremy didn't want to screw that up.

"—right?" Paul asked.

Shit. He had no idea what Paul had been talking about. "I don't know. What do you think?"

"I don't know, either, but they're going after local businesses, and I swear I saw one of the Sullivan lackeys hanging around in the woods when I came over last week. They denied it, but I think they're lying out of their asses."

Ah. The Sullivans. They were the largest crime family in Maine. They were impossible to get rid of, like roaches. Paul was convinced they were up to some criminal activity in Hudson. The O'Kanes had a beef with the Sullivans going back decades. And most recently, the Sullivans came after Chelsea because her father had something valuable of theirs that he wouldn't give back. Jeremy hadn't seen anyone lurking around, but he wouldn't be surprised if Paul was right. The Sullivans had been quiet for too long. Crime families were never quiet. "Come on, let's go inside. Cool off." He started walking around to the front of the house, Paul close behind him, before he continued, "You think they're going to come after us for money or something?"

"Maybe," Paul said. "Did you ask Chelsea what she thought about it?"


On Sale
Jul 3, 2017
Page Count
144 pages

Jen McLaughlin

About the Author

Jen McLaughlin is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestseller lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency. She loves hearing from her fans and you can visit her on the web at JenMcLaughlin.com.

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