by Anna Randol, historical (2013)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-223140-6
Sins Of A Wicked Princess is what I'd call a "point and stare" book. I don't know what to make of it because it's just so... so... well, let me give you the synopsis of this story and, hopefully, you will see what I mean.
Juliana Castanova is the princess of a country that is no longer a country. After Napoleon has been given the boot from the mess he had made in Europe, Lenoria is getting carved up and divided among Spain and France. As the eldest daughter, Princess Juliana is basically the ruler of her rag-tag followers and family members that have seek refuge in England, and she is a princess only in name, basically.
Ian Maddox, the Wraith, is a former spy. After the events in the previous two books in the author's Sins series, Ian suspects that Juliana is part of plan to kill him and his buddies. So he does what every spy would do - he charges into her bedroom, mauls her, and ends up telling her a few things that she really shouldn't know while going, "Oops, my bad!" It's a good thing that Ms Randol spent some time assuring me that Ian is really a spy and not, say, Johnny English, because it is so easy to think poorly of Ian's abilities due to his actions in this story.
Meanwhile, Juliana is, as I've said, a ruler in name only. The big decisions are made by her aunt or other assorted people around her, while she tries not to gulp for air like a befuddled goldfish too much. When she discovers that her ninny brother has put them all into a mess that requires spy-ninja intervention, she comes up with the most sensible plan ever... no, not hiring some secret spy ninjas to clean up her mess. That is for losers - independent feisty misses don't do that kind of nonsense.
No, she will get that spy ninja guy that manhandled her and thought her a Mata Hari to teach him ninja tricks, so that she can personally "retrieve" those incriminating documents that got them all into their current mess. She can't even dress herself without her maid's assistance and she stammers like someone is deep frying her tonsils every time she tries to come up with a lie, but honestly now, how hard can a little spy ninja trick be, right?
Meanwhile, things are rosy in this story. Juliana is supposedly important to her people, but she is only guarded by young men that get inebriated and useless too easily. These people can spend money on her dresses and what not, but who cares about making sure that she doesn't end up a dead princess, right? Meanwhile, our princess who has been through so much still wants to marry for love when it should be obvious to anyone that getting pawed by an old but powerful politician on the way down the aisle may be the best bet to restoring her kingdom like she claims to want to do so much. A lot about Juliana's "feisty" and "assertive" nature, that Ian claims to be the primary fuel for the his rocket jet in his pants, comes off as nothing but half-hearted and even bratty assertions of a very silly and naïve young girl.
Ian isn't any better. He is supposed to be this tough and hardened guy that has done things that many people don't want to think about, but he behaves more like a hormonal teenage boy here. As a spy who knows how messy things can get on a political front if Juliana discovers the full extent of the behind-the-stage chess game that resulted in the carving up of her country like a pie, he sees no problems in enabling Juliana's delusions of being Britney Spears in her Toxic music video as long as he gets to paw her. And, come on, she's a princess, given asylum by the government. Won't they be thrilled to see him sticking his fingers down her cleavage? He is trying to get them not to terminate him and his fellow ex-spies, and I guess boinking a princess is just the way to do that.
Sins Of A Wicked Princess could have worked as a really ridiculous campy story. Indeed, this story has all the absurd hallmarks of a popcorn classic. Unfortunately, the author exhibited no self-aware humor that would have cued me to not take this story seriously. Ms Randol's approach is deadly sober, and her characters frequently praise one another for being so smart and capable and brave when all I see are two silly bumpkins that, in real life, would probably trip over their shoelaces and fall to death down a ravine the first time they try to leave the house. And the author wants me to believe that one of them is a hardened spy, oh dear. Juliana as a sheltered girl may be easier to accept if the author hadn't had Ian informing me constantly about how smart and strong that dingbat is.
At the end of the day, it's all about style. If the author had indicated in even one instance that she is going full speed ahead on the crazy and she doesn't care if nothing makes sense because she just wants everybody to have fun, then yes, I'd embrace the crazy and maybe even have a good time. Everything about this story suggests that I should take it seriously instead, and I just can't, not with all the absurdities in this story. There's a fatal disconnect between tone and story elements here.
This book at Amazon.com
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