Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5141-9
Historical Romance, 2003
Beth Pattillo’s debut effort Princess Charming is like a zillion-karat diamond trapped in granite – to get to the good stuff, one would have to literally blow everything about this book apart first. It needs a rewrite, reedit, re-polish, or maybe a few more rounds of that process. The prose, characterization – everything about this book – is on the loose, flippant side, the heroine is an atrocious ultra-perky mega-girly type, the hero is a bewildering mess – rewrite, reedit!
The Prince of Santadorra – technically, he’s no longer a prince since those evil democratic anti-monarchy liberals sacked his land and all when he was a brat – Nicholas St Germain is living in England, far from home (see evil anti-monarchists above). He spends a quiet life doing good for his fellow man because he couldn’t help his mother and sister back then. He meets our Cinderella, Lucy Charming, when she slams the door into him while she’s trying to escape two spies set on her tail. Not only is Lucy living with an evil stepmom, one stepsister, and the other not-that-bad stepsister, she’s also involved in an underground movement to liberate her fellow women and other rot.
He immediately calls her “Princess” because the author tells me again and again that he’s attracted to her. I look at the screeching, flouncing, and outright immature shriekbat heroine and I really don’t see it, I really don’t. She, always the mature one, shrieks, yells, and plunges headlong into all sorts of horrifically stupidly dangerous situations with her head firmly stuck up her own butt, a heroine gone moron and never coming back. Nick is earnest, and that’s the kindest I can say about this hero who keeps putting his head on the line on the shriekbat gone ugly heroine. Of course, the heroine’s intelligent, he tells me. You’re both stupid, I tell them. The marriage based on a wager, the stupid reform actions – everything in this book could have worked if the author has the heroine pause, consider, think, and choose a path of good sense.
Also, there are some bewildering double standards in this story, the suffragist marrying a member of the elitist monarchy being the biggest of them all. Another is the heroine advocating equality and freedom while the story casting aspersions on her stepmom because – eeuw, she came from trade. I would have expected a suffragist to be more sympathetic to a woman who made her way to the top.
The dog, Wellington, though is cute.
There are a few amusing scenes and the underlying premise holds promise. But the execution of this book is typical of an overly earnest debut author who mistakes heroine behaving stupid as a sign of independence and outspoken intelligence in the heroine. Maybe with a little more consistent characterization and a little more emphasis on the romance as opposed to dingbat in distress scenarios, Ms Pattillo will go some distance in the future. As for now, Princess Charming fails pretty much in all the ways that really matter to be commended.