A Princess in Theory
I’m not sure if it was internalized misogyny or what that stopped me from seeking out romance novels. But I am so glad I got over that mental block, because I discovered The Royal We and The Wedding Date, two very addictive romance stories. And now, Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series!
The premise is simple (is it simple?): Naledi (Ledi) is living and working in NYC as a epidemiology graduate student, deleting e-mails from someone calling her the betrothed of an African prince. (Classic play on the “Nigerian Prince” scam). But, twist, that prince is actually real — Prince Thabiso of a fictional African country called Thesolo — and he arrives in New York to try and get to know Ledi, not as a Prince, but a normal dude. Obviously, shenanigans happen. You’ll find yourself rooting for Ledi and Thabiso, even as he continuously fucks up, and Ledi to claim her role as princess! This sounds so cheesy — “An arranged marriage, a mistaken identity, and a handsome prince from an imaginary country” — but Cole deftly upends these tropes.
For one, the heroine (Ledi) is believable as a real person and a struggling grad student and super-competent. (“I personally love really competent hero/heroines — there’s even a name for it: competency porn! There’s just something really sexy about characters that really know what they’re doing, and are just plain good at it,” explained Cole.) Kirkus calls it, “A delightful and sexy take on love between a suave African prince and a nerdy epidemiology student.” Hell yeah!
Obviously, I read the sequel immediately — it focuses on Ledi’s friend, Portia, trying to get sober and get her life in order so she takes an internship with a sword-maker in Edinburgh (yes, really), who discovers he’s a duke. (Reluctant royals is the name of the series, after all!) I wanted more of Ledi, but Portia was fabulous as well. (The corny texts/social media posts threw me off, even though I knew it was supposed to make the book more realistic.)
Anyway: very enjoyable romance novels. You won’t be able to put them down.