Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6921-9
Historical Romance, 2001
Once a Princess is not too bad. It’s not that good either because like too many average Regency-era historical romps, the heroine tends to be on the selfless, timid, overly bluestocking, no life side, as if the author is afraid that I would overlook the heroine’s complete lack of personality and charisma. To top it off, the heroine Princess Leonie spends most of her time either calling herself weak and pathetic, cowering from danger, or trying to work up a nerve to do something remotely more exerting than emoting, in beautiful italics, I am so weak and pathetic! Nice.
Add in that annoying limp in the leg thing every author loves to use to mask her character development deficiency, and Leonie’s subsequent insistence that she is ugly and deformed, well, I think I’ll need to go bungee-jumping down the Niagara falls.
And it doesn’t help that when hero Randall Darnley first sees Leonie, he thinks that she is a delicate 12- or 13-year old boy. Hence when he gets the hotties for her, eeeeuw. Not that I am above seeing two guys in action, but really, a thirteen-year old boy?
Anyway, Randall isn’t that old. He’s not bad too. The author uses the prologue and reams and reams and reams of words telling me about Randy’s sad past that I am afraid he will act like a jerk. Because his mother is evil or something like that. Oh yes, in this book, an absent father is better than a perfectionist-psycho and sour-faced mother – breaking of your vow to cherish and love is a lesser crime than being the woman the man doesn’t love – slut, burn, burn, burn! Oh my head.
Okay, the plot, the plot. Randy is sent to protect Leonie and her brother, the Prince and heir to the throne of Mirandau. Leonie and her nine-year old brother Jamie are the kids of the woman Randy’s father loves (but they’re not his kids though, thank goodness). Leonie learns from her hysterical aunt that her uncle (aunty’s hubby) Roderick is planning to kill Jamie. Leonie, in this unusual situation, rushes away in denial. She decides to return the next morning, sit Aunty down, and ask her calmly, “Are you sure Uncle Roddy is really trying to kill my brother?”
Needless to say, Aunty is soon “not available for visitors”. The fact barely registers in Leonie’s mind – she is too busy blinking and biting her outrage because Randy is flirting with her and she doesn’t think he’s a nice, nice man at all. I wonder whether he still thinks she looks like a twelve-year old boy.
What happen next? How can the insane, cackly Roderick manage to get people to overlook his evil ways? Will Leonie grow some brain and spine? Will Jamie be any more irritating? Will Randy’s sad family story keep unfurling?
For the first half, at least there is danger to keep me occupied. Leonie is nitwit, but Randy’s good and I can always hope Leonie will be roadkill soon. Then the danger is gone – for a while – and everyone starts whining and dithering. This gives Leonie plenty of chance to do her “Oh, no, no, I’m so stupid, ugly, pathetic, moron…” act as everybody tries to reassure her that she is not. Hey waiter, another heroine who needs Ribena here! They keep spawning like salmons nowadays, don’t they? It seems as if authors slapping some selfless, Daddy-pleasing, braindead super martyr behavior is what passed off as “writing good, real characters” nowadays.
Once a Princess is readable, but it isn’t remarkable in any way. It irritates me, but not enough to stop me from going to the shop to replenish the toilet rolls in the house despite a handy alternative being so within reach. I guess I can say this book is one of those books stuck in the limbo called “Gee, I really cannot remember that book…” Hell. Some might argue that’s the worst fate possible for a book. Oh well.