Mills & Boon, £5.99, ISBN 978-0-263-93300-0
Historical Romance, 2018
Bronwyn Scott isn’t predictable, for what that is worth. She has written stories that I’ve found amazing, and she has also written some that made me cringe so hard that my facial muscles felt like they were on fire. One thing for sure, though: she likes to delve into her main characters’ heads, and there is an old-school Karen Ranney-like feel to her stories that, when done right, can result in beautiful feels. Awakened by the Prince’s Passion is somewhere in between the bad and the magical. It has its moments, but it also has other kind of moments too.
This is the third entry in the Russian Royals of Kuban series, although this one can stand alone quite well as there is minimal baggage from the previous books and, for the most part, the political situation in Kuban is still vaguely defined at this point that it is easy to catch up with the story without being bogged down by minute details like who’s who and what’s what.
Ruslan Pisarev is a Kuban exile living in London, as his family fell out of favor with the most recent royal family (to put it mildly) ages ago. The Kuban monarchy had since fallen to a military-driven revolution, and that’s how he finds Princess Dasha Tukhachevskenova – let me check, yes, I spelled that right – at his doorstep. Dasha is the only surviving member of the royal family, having been saved and smuggled out of Kuban by the royalist Captain Varvakis. Dasha has lost most of her memories of the past, however, and she could use a safe refuge while she recuperates. Both she and Ruslan are aware that Varvakis is ambitious and having an amnesiac princess under his thumb is not exactly the worst thing that can happen to him. She is frustrated by her inability to remember key things about her past, while Ruslan is driven to protect her, although he’s not sure whether it’s protection from him, Varvakis, or the new regime in Kuban who’d love nothing more than to see all the royal family dead.
There’s nothing wrong with the characters. Ruslan is a nice fellow – protective, gallant, and sweet in all the right ways. Dasha has a refreshing sense of self awareness about her predicament, and she’s certainly not a hapless damsel in distress. However, the first two-thirds or so of this story is a slough to wade through because the author has these two constantly indulging in circular introspection and conversations that touch on the same angst over and over. After a while, I feel boredom setting in, and I start thinking that those people in Kuban ought to send assassins over with more regularity to spice things up.
Things heat up finally – thank goodness – in the late third, and hurray, things finally happen. I give Dasha the side eye for her out-of-character whining about how Ruslan will surely dump her but still, I’m more relieved that these two main characters have stopped admiring their navels so much. It’s also nice to see a story that doesn’t blindly go the “any monarchy system is automatically good, because we all know that romance readers love the British royal family” route. While the whole “let’s reinstate Dasha as she is the only one who can bring peace to Kuban” thing feels hopelessly naïve (no one seems to consider what the common people in Kuban want, so what’s to stop another revolution from taking place), there is some pragmatism to the resolution that makes the whole premise feel not that simplistic.
As for the romance, it’s fine, and the two characters feel well-matched. Still, their constant gazing into their navels can make the whole thing too easy to put down.
All in all, Awakened by the Prince’s Passion is okay. The fundamental aspects of the romance is sound. It’s just that the main characters’ uninteresting and repetitive mental tango saps any momentum that threatens to build up. If the author wanted to go down that route, she should have injected more variation to the pacing and the nature of the things being boo-hoo-hoo’ed by these characters. As it is, much of the angst feels like padding to draw out a story that should have been about half its current length.