Romance Review Roundup: Vol. 8

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole (Reluctant Royals #1)

Publisher: Avon on February 27, 2018

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince.

What if those persistent emails you got from someone claiming to be a Nigerian prince were actually legit? In A PRINCESS IN THEORY, Ledi Smith is dogged by emails from the assistant of Thabiso, Crown Prince of Thesolo, a small but flourishing African nation. Dismissing the emails as a scam, Ledi never expects the prince himself to show up in NYC looking for her.

Alyssa Cole consistently writes some of the best heroines I’ve ever encountered in romance and Ledi is no exception. Orphaned very young, Ledi has no ties to her heritage and no living relatives…that she’s aware of. Ledi’s future career and her current work as a graduate student are the most important things in her life, aside from her relationship with Portia, her only real friend. Ledi is guarded, gritty, and vulnerable, and I couldn’t help but love and root for her.

Thabiso is a little less likable, at least initially; not unexpected, given that he’s an incredibly wealthy and handsome prince. He’s never worked a service job and has a poor opinion of those who do, which at first includes Ledi, since they meet while she’s working a catering gig (she has major side hustle). Thankfully Thabiso wises up pretty quick, and we get to see the better side of him, the one who genuinely cares for his people and tries to negotiate trade deals that will protect their economic and environmental futures.

Ledi and Thabiso are something of an “odd couple” in terms of their respective circumstances, but they’re very good for one another. Ledi helps Thabiso open his eyes to the world around him, and Thabiso helps Ledi take better care of herself and open up to people. I liked seeing the two of them work as a couple, but more than anything I loved seeing Ledi grow more confident and comfortable with who she is.

A PRINCESS IN THEORY has great representation (both protagonists are black) and tackles some pretty serious issues, like the exploitation of women of colour’s labour in the workplace. I also appreciated the representation of female friendships, and I’m really looking forward to reading Portia’s story next.


A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase (Difficult Dukes #1)

Publisher: Avon on November 28, 2017

Source: Library

Hugh Philemon Ancaster, seventh Duke of Ripley, will never win prizes for virtue. But even he draws the line at running off with his best friend’s bride.

A DUKE IN SHINING ARMOR is a fun, frothy historical road trip romp. That’s right y’all: road trip romance.

To guarantee the futures of her many younger siblings, Lady Olympia Hightower has agreed to marry one of the infamous dukes known as the Disgraces (heh). The only problem? Turns out that Olympia really doesn’t want to be her fam’s sacrificial lamb, so she gets trashed on her wedding day and literally escapes out of a window. Unfortunately for Olympia, there was a witness: the Duke of Ripley, one of the Disgraces. And he’s in hot pursuit.

Loretta Chase writes some of my favourite romance heroes: they’re funny, charming, and they always realize the superiority of the women around them. A winning combination, if you ask me! Ripley is much the same, and he clearly knows that Olympia is way too smart and full of life to marry someone who doesn’t love her…even if the intended groom is his best friend.

Olympia is a total bluestocking, and she’s obsessed with libraries. She even developed her own unique system of cataloguing books! In other words, Olympia is my kind of heroine. Ripley is a lovable scoundrel who helps Olympia loosen up a bit, and they worked beautifully together.

Given that they fell in love over the course of a few days, the romance between Olympia and Ripley might have seemed rushed; but Loretta Chase makes it clear that despite the fact that the pair had never spoken before, they had their eyes on one another for years. The spark between the two of them is ignited when they start spending some quality time together on the road.

This one wraps up well, especially considering the complexities that arose between Ripley and Olympia’s original intended. I’m excited to learn more about the other members of the Disgraces!

 


Roomies by Christina Lauren

Publisher: Gallery Books on December 5, 2017

Source: Library

Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient. 

Holland Bakker is drifting. Living in NYC in the apartment her uncles pay for, working at the theatre that one of her uncle’s works at, and avoiding the novel that she’s meant to be working on, Holland is stuck. The one spot of brightness is the musician who she goes out of her way to see performing on the subway platform a couple times a week.

When one of the stars of her uncle’s musical unexpectedly up and quits, Holland knows that the street musician she’s been eyeing would be the perfect fit. But could she really do something as crazy as marrying a complete stranger she’s lusting after just to help her uncle? The answer, as it turns out, is yes. Holland marries Calvin so that he can legally work in the U.S., and the two of them have to pretend to be a genuine couple for a year.

Fake relationship and forced proximity are two of my favourite romance tropes, but they can be whack when they’re not done right. Thankfully, Christina Lauren pulls both off very well, going for a happy medium between super serious and overtly silly. And I liked the fact that the power dynamics of the situation, with Holland having power over Calvin’s ability to work in the show, were explicitly stated and explored. And I have to admit, they were very cute and steamy together.

That said…I don’t know. There’s something about the whole immigration fraud angle that made me uncomfortable. Calvin’s a highly educated white guy from the UK with a unique skill set; there’s a pretty high chance that he’d have been successful if he applied for a work visa. His choice to stay in the U.S. illegally and without even attempting to get a visa wasn’t explained to my satisfaction. Meanwhile there are people in less privileged or even desperate situations who play by the rules (as messed-up as they are) and never make it to the U.S. or Canada. Given the current political climate, it rubbed me the wrong way.

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