Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86505-5
Contemporary Romance, 2017
Can a story set in the present day can pull of a premise in which the hero wins the heroine in a card game? Perhaps, if the author is sneaky enough, but AC Arthur isn’t that author. Prince Roland DeSaunters winning Valora Harrington that way comes off as so ridiculous here that I wonder whether the whole thing is even legal. Not to mention, there is the whole unfortunate implication of our hero – a member of the royalty, mind you – consorting with people who does what is basically flesh trafficking over a card game. The kingdom of Grand Serenity Island may be in the Caribbean, but its top dogs in the palace are channeling both alleged Middle-Eastern sheikh and 19th-century English noblemen in a club realness.
Because Val is now his, she has to spend time with him. Plus, the hero has been seen kissing her in public, so ooh, everyone now expects them to get married. Val wants to marry for love, though, and her father and an ex had her convinced that all men are assholes. How wonderful that she finally meets a good man to love in a promiscuous gambler who won her from her father! As for Roland, he sighs as he drives his Ferrari, because being a promiscuous gambler who never has to be held accountable for his actions is very hard. Really, it’s a very hard life. Our hero has to take time to sort out his head before he can decide that Val is different from the sex-hungry, cleavage-revealing hos he usually cavorted with and hence is worthy of being his wife.
The unfortunate thing about Prince Ever After is that it is the closure of a trilogy, The Royal Weddings, and if I look at it in the context of the other two books, the trilogy pushes forth the ideological double standards of the genre that I personally find distasteful: women who have ambitions and take actions to achieve those ambitions are villains, while similarly inclined men are portrayed as hero materials with a slice of attractive promiscuity at the tip of all that twenty-inch wonder. Valora has some sassy quips here and there, but the sass is a well-used device by romance authors to hide the fact that heroines like Val has very little agency of their own. Val’s desires, destiny, and wants are all dictated by the plot as well as the hero.
And throughout the whole story, Val is just a prop. The author focuses instead on Roland’s coming of age journey. He is promiscuous and loves the gambling tables – always attractive traits in a romance hero, of course – and he has to sort out whom he wants to be at the end of the day. Only, given all the double standards in the entire trilogy, the conclusion of Roland’s arc is basically a justification of him being a promiscuous gambler – if a sassy but virtuous heroine like Val can see the goodness in him, see, he’s not bad at all!
And then there is poor Malayka. Since the first book in this trilogy, she has been the target of venomous insults from the heroes of the trilogy. There is nothing hypocritical at all about manwhores accusing a woman who loves to show off her cleavage and speaks her mind for being immoral and unworthy of being their father’s bride! Nonetheless, the author has Malayka always fighting back, and in this one, she gives Roland such a glorious dressing down for his pathetic, boring “LOLOLOL YOU DIRTY WHORE!” rant about her. For a moment, I thought AC Arthur would buck the trend and have Malayka getting a happily ever after with King Rafe DeSaunters. Nope! Of course not, what was I thinking? LOLOLOLOL THAT DIRTY WHORE!
Oh, and there is a bonus of all these privileged twats sneering at Malayka for being born on the wrong side of the streets. Nothing distasteful or off-putting about that at all! Ugh, stories like this are starting to turn me into a socialist.
Sigh. The double standards that permeate the trilogy are especially overwhelming here, since the hero’s coming of age arc is basically a doubling down on these double standards. Love the man for his ways, but let’s all stone the woman for having the same traits! The author’s treatment of Malayka is an eye-rolling cop-out, and that is the nail on the coffin where I am concerned. Roland is an ass, Val is a boring enabler, and I hope the peasants rise to throw these annoying royal family people off the island and into the sea one of these days.