Heidi Rice and Natalie Anderson: The Christmas Princess Swap

Heidi Rice and Natalie Anderson: The Christmas Princess Swap

We caught up with Mills & Boon Modern authors Heidi Rice and Natalie Anderson to chat about their upcoming duet, The Christmas Princess Swap.

HEIDI: Hi I’m Heidi Rice, coming to you live from London, England.

NATALIE: And I’m Natalie Anderson in Christchurch New Zealand. We’re very excited to talk to you today about our upcoming duo: The Christmas Princess Swap!

HEIDI: Featuring identical twin princesses who switch places during one eventful Christmas season — it’s basically a Princess Diaries/Frozen/Roman Holiday mash-up with added sexy times

What’s each book about?

HEIDI: My book is called The Royal Pregnancy Test. In it my rebel princess Juno secretly returns from New York to the Alpine kingdom of Monrova – her childhood home – and swaps places with her twin, Queen Jade, to stop Jade’s arranged marriage to neighbouring king Leonardo. Juno thinks Leo is an arrogant jerk… Unfortunately, Juno soon discovers Leo is a super hot arrogant guy who is actually not a jerk. And before you can say ‘Hot Christmas Mess’, they’re both in big trouble because totally the wrong princess might be pregnant with Leo’s heir! Oops!

NATALIE: My book is called The Queen’s Impossible Boss and features Juno’s sister Jade, the  Queen. Thinking she’s doing Juno a favour, Jade goes to New York masquerading as her sister. Only she encounters Juno’s alarmingly gorgeous boss Alvaro, and she finds herself having to pretend that she knows what she’s doing in Juno’s job. Which she totally doesn’t of course. Worse, she’s tempted for the first time in her life to do wickedly naughty things with the boss-who’s-not-her-boss… and wickedly naughty quickly becomes seriously intimate… and fun times ensue!

How did you come up with the idea?

Heidi: I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas book set in a fictional European kingdom, and when my editor suggested doing a duet with Nat, I knew this would be the perfect chance to sneak one past her. The festive theme worked perfectly with the idea of twin princesses who – like the Frozen girls – had been separated as kids and then swapped places a la The Prince and the Pauper. I was definitely riffing on The Princess Dairies too for my story because Juno has been living in New York since she was a teenager – so getting to be Queen for a couple of weeks is a chance for her to live the life she might have had, and prove she’s not a total screw-up.

Nat: It was Heidi who came up with the twins idea and I leapt at the chance! I actually have identical twin daughters but I’ve never written twins before so it was very appealing! And honestly, the whole swap thing is completely believable. My twins totally get mistaken for each other, I see it happen every day. And I love a “Royal Romance”, and was really keen to explore how my very dutiful Queen might struggle to have a fortnight to herself to do anything… fortunately she meets a very bossy guy who’s only too happy to help her out with that…

Favourite element that you wanted to write about?

NATALIE: I love writing those slightly uptight, rules-bound total pleasers of heroines who kind of need to unleash their inner animal and demand some fun in their lives for once… you know, figuring out that duty doesn’t equal doormat… and that they deserve to have something more. I really like exploring a heroine discovering her own strengths and I love pitting her with a hero who draws them out. Alvaro is determined and disciplined, like Jade, but he’s also a little more wicked. So the two need all their wits to match each other. It’s fun watching those sparks ignite.

HEIDI: I love writing bad girls. Because their tough exterior always hides a bruised and guarded heart. And Juno is no different. She’s fierce, she’s brave, she’s smart and she will do anything to protect her sister, but she is also reckless and impulsive and wounded… All of which is why she suggests the swap. She thinks Leo is as cold and arrogant as her father was – and that all he cares about is his duty to the Crown – which makes him all wrong for her sister. But what she doesn’t realise is that while Leo is certainly arrogant, he’s the opposite of cold (oh boy is he!) and beneath Leo’s duty-bound exterior is a man with a bruised and guarded heart, too. Which makes him right for Juno!

Favourite scene to write?

HEIDI: This is so tough. Can I have two favourite scenes? My first favourite scene is definitely the scene where Leo figures out who Juno really is… It’s full of drama and heat and heartbreak and more drama. Because Leo is absolutely furious and Juno is devastated at how furious Leo is … It was a great scene to write because it was so packed with emotion and passion and everything a Mills and Boon Modern should be. My other favourite scene is after that, at Leo’s secluded mountain cabin where he’s forced Juno to go until they can do a pregnancy test. Leo’s grumpy and frustrated, Juno’s tired of apologising for something she can’t change and they end up having an epic snowball fight, which leads to an epic something else entirely!! I loved writing that scene partly because it was such a relief from all the drama… But mostly because it was so hot and funny and then so tender. And hot and funny and tender is what falling in love is all about.

NATALIE: Oh this is hard because I don’t want to give important details away too soon! But I did have a lot of fun writing that initial scene where Jade arrives very early at her sister’s work—she wasn’t supposed to go to the office, they’d planned for her to “work from home” but there’s been a catastrophe, so she’s hoping to sneak in and out and get what she needs… and of course, she’s caught by the very intimidating, impatient frankly impossible Alvaro. I had a lot of fun putting poor Jade through hoops trying to act as if she knows what she’s doing in front of him… and then of course, the secrets are discovered and they have to figure out who they really are to each other. That bit’s always fun.

How did you decide on the settings?

NATALIE: I love New York. I was meant to visit again earlier this year but obviously with everything going on that didn’t happen. But I went there a few years ago when my husband ran the New York marathon. It’s the most amazing city, it truly is… I wanted to explore the kind of, coolness, that unique style. And then Alvaro whisks Jade to the coast and that was just a chance to go with lighthouse luxury—which is a thing, truly! I had a lot of fun with that setting.

HEIDI: For me, I went on a New Year Trip to Finnish Lapland in the early noughties and that definitely inspired me, because it had the same magical, winter wonderland type beauty I envisioned for Monrova – even though it was so cold some days my eyelashes froze!

Biggest challenge in writing this?

HEIDI: Well, London went into lockdown right in the middle of writing The Royal Pregnancy Test and while it was great having Monrova at Christmas and a really hot romance to escape into – particularly in those early days when everything was so scary and weird and uncertain (thank you, Juno and Leo) – finding the time and the energy to write in between all the panicking, and sanitising, and obsessive news checking, not to mention the endless catering requirements with three guys stuck in the house with me, was a major challenge, too!

NATALIE: Yes, it was lockdown here in New Zealand too and like everywhere, it was a very challenging, uncertain time. I have four teenagers so finding spaces for them to do their remote learning, as well as my husband who was then working from home too…that was interesting. I’m used to having the house to myself to write. On the plus side, we ended up comfort eating a whole lot of apple crumble.

Why do you think holiday stories are so appealing?

HEIDI: Because Christmas – and other holidays observed at this time of year – are already a celebration of love, add passion and romance to that and you have the perfect escape from real life! And, let’s face it, we need that escape more than ever at the moment.

NATALIE: We really do need that escape. And those holidays are definitely a time of year when family and love are at the centre of our lives… and maybe it’s also that we actually might get a few moments to curl up in a chair and read! I hope you guys get to anyway!

What’s your favourite festive tradition?

NATALIE: My family has a pretty strong Christmas tradition! Every year, we have a big dinner at my mum’s on Christmas Eve. We have dance party on the deck with awful music and its just full of anticipation and silliness. On Christmas morning we have croissants for breakfast and the more youthful like to jump off the wharf into the ocean… remembering its summer over here of course. In the afternoon we head to extended family—to a rural block where there’s far too much food and we play backyard cricket. It’s lovely.

HEIDI: I have a big extended family and we try to get together in some form or other every Christmas. Last year sixteen of us descended on my younger sister’s place in France for a whole week of fabulous food, fine wines (rather too much of those if I’m honest), parlour games, singalongs, Christmas cookie baking, a Disney trip and we even had a wig night… We may have to get together via Zoom this year. But whatever happens, the Elsa wig will probably get another outing!

HEIDI: I hope everyone has an amazing holiday season this year, wherever you are, whoever you’re with and whatever you’re having to do to stay safe… The Royal Pregnancy Test is in the shops and online from November if you need a little escapist romance to help you with that!

NATALIE: While The Queen’s Impossible Boss is available in December and from me to you too, I hope you have a wonderful, healthy and happy festive season.

HEIDI: Be sure to pick them up! Merry Christmas!

NATALIE: And Happy Holidays!!!