LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-8439-6390-8
Contemporary Romance, 2010
I haven’t reviewed a book in a while because I’m currently in a pretty bad reading slump. When I stumbled upon Phyllis Bourne’s Operation Prince Charming in my pile of unread books, I thought perhaps this one can do the trick. I don’t remember buying this one, but I’ve enjoyed the author’s books before, so maybe this one will hit all the right spots. Well, as you can tell from the three-oogie score, it does and doesn’t at the same time.
After her divorce, Ali Spencer goes back to her hometown to assist her aunt run the aunt’s etiquette school. Aunt Rachel has built a good reputation for her school, but times have changed, and her aunt’s stubborn refusal to move with the times has resulted in low enrollment in a building that is slowly falling apart. Ali has managed to make some headway by getting her aunt to agree to some princess-themed classes for girls and such, which prove to be popular. Our heroine is making some good progress when in walks Hunter Coleman.
Hunter is a police detective whose girlfriend Erica has come into a big amount of money. Erica is now all about hanging out with socialites and what not, and she is becoming impatient with Hunter’s inability to fit in among her new BFFs. Hence, she enrolls him into Aunt Rachel’s school for some social polish, and he reluctantly agrees because he likes to make his woman happy. When Ali meets him in her aunt’s place – Aunt Rachel has some unexpected matters to attend to – he decides that he’d rather have Ali teach her stuff. You can guess what happens between teacher and student, I’m sure.
This one has everything I enjoy in this author’s works: vibrant banter that feels natural, likable main characters that are fun and free from weird hangups, believable chemistry, and non-intrusive secondary characters that actually have roles in the story. Not only is this book easy to read and digest, it’s also an entertaining one that balances humor and lightweight emotional drama very easily. The last chapter actually leaves me smiling, and that’s quite the feat considering that I am experiencing a reading slump.
So why three oogies then? This is a very personal peeve of mine: Erica. As you can probably guess, singularly unpleasant and mean other women always feel like lazy cop-out ways to drive home a heroine’s suitability, and Erica here crosses over into Looney Tunes territory way too often for my liking. Occasionally, the author seems to be making strides in giving this poor lady some depths, but no, Erica quickly backslides into cartoon histrionics territory quickly after. Worse, our non-heroine gets unnecessarily humiliated even after the hero has decided to go settle for the much nicer heroine. Why? Sure, she is rude and over the top cray cray to our hero, but is it so bad for her to want to step up in society? Instead of letting this poor darling exit the story with at least some dignity, the author basically has a septic tank explode over Erica’s head and then kick her out of the room to be laughed by everyone. All this feels just petty and tiresome, especially when it’s clear from the moment Ali and Hunter meet that Ali has already won.
Still, I feel that there is much to savor in Operation Prince Charming. The romance feels tainted by the presence of that cartoon character Erica, and so long as I can overlook that thing, the rest is actually rock solid good.