by Susan King, historical (2003)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20883-8
After the subpar Taming The Heiress, Susan King is back in top form with Waking The Princess. This book is a love story in every sense of the word: the main characters fall in love without having to catch thieves, solve a murder, or help the heroine's bankrupt father. On the downside, the conflict towards the end feels tacked-on for the sake of conflict alone and the characters behave quite out of character.
Christina Blackburn is a widowed woman working as an antiquarian for the National Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. A few years ago, she posed nude for her husband's paintings. There's a good reason why Momma always warned their daughters that while it is okay to do all sorts of nasty with the boyfriend, they must never ever leave anything incriminating in print. In this case, the painting ends up being put up for public display. The ensuing scandal forces Christina to live a quiet life and to downplay her beauty. Her boss sends her to Dundrennan House to take a look at some of the recent historic finds there, and Christina reluctantly agrees. Alas, straight into the arms of Aeden Arthur McBride she goes, and lucky her, Aeden has the painting she is trying her best to forget ever existed.
Since Scottish pornography must be rare in those days, Aeden has always been besotted with that princess in that portrait, so he isn't too displeased when the model for that painting walks into his house. He doesn't believe in love, she feels trapped by her beauty, and so there they go, falling in love despite their best intentions. There are times when their conversations feel very stilted and artificial to me, but I don't mind them too much really. Aeden and Christina start out as stereotypes but their love story allows them to develop a little deeper than superficial. There's a paranormal element to their story - these two and a Druidic warrior and his lost love from generations ago are karmically related.
A minor conflict towards the end is as far as this book goes when it comes to providing external conflict in the story. I don't find this conflict well-done. I find it somewhat out-of-character that after all that's been said and done, Aeden suddenly remembers that he doesn't believe in love and everyone starts acting strange. Thankfully, this conflict is resolved quickly and the ensuing scenes bring a smile to my face.
Waking The Princess is a romantic drama that's a little slow at times, but the love story is good and well-written enough to bridge the gap between the last Karen Ranney book and the next.
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