Mills & Boon, £5.99, ISBN 978-0-263-93308-6
Historical Romance, 2018
The manic pixie dream girl is a trope that describes this perky, vivacious woman who serves to exist as the love interest of a brooding, moody edgelord hero. Or, in other words, any heroine in a John Green novel. It is tempting to call heroine Anna-Maria Petrova one, but I don’t know. If she is real, she would smell of at least twenty different variants of restraining orders.
Our heroine and Prince Stepan Shevchenko of Kuban are not-so-willing expatriates in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex. Our hero’s family was kicked out of Kuban by reeking too strongly of socialist fumes, while Anna-Maria is the sister of his fellow exile Prince Dimitri. Today, Stephan has built a fine smuggling operation in this part of England, with a coterie of kids at his command. Wait, don’t judge, people: he’s a smuggler because the high taxes are making it very hard for the common people to buy nice things legally, and those kids love their jobs and smuggling helps build character. So he’s a good guy, alright?
He had also in the past rarely look at Anna-Maria in a shaggable light, but she’s determined to change that. Now 19 to his 31, she is determined to have him – all of him, right to the hilt, and it’s never going to come out ever because he’d be hers, forever and ever and ever. So, while Stepan does his socialist employer of the year and protector of the purchasing power of the common people thing, she is tailing after him. She gets his people to help her sneak into his room and read his journals. She tails after him and demands to know inappropriate things like whether he’s been tupping some mistress before he shows up at her family’s place. She’s almost – brace yourself, people – determined to seduce him, make him love her back like she loves him oh so much, and – this is the scariest one of all – help him regardless of whether he wants her to or not.
The thing is, our heroine isn’t as dumb as she is naïve, and she shows some smarts here. It’s just that the author had opted to portray Anna-Maria as this insufferable meddler more creepy and obsessive than anything else, and this causes me to gape at our heroine every few pages. Anna-Maria straddles that thin line separating pro-active go-getter and a creep begging to be served with a restraining order, and I have a hard time getting into the story because the heroine is too busy making me feel so sorry for the hero. Even the love scene isn’t a culmination of a beautiful relationship as much as it is me shaking my head and telling the hero, “No you’ve done it, sticking it into crazy. Good luck!”
The more rational part of me feels that Seduced by the Prince’s Kiss isn’t too bad a read. The plot is okay, the social justice nice guy action hero is alright (he’s capable, mostly sweet but can be ruthless when the situation demands it, and good in bed – what’s not love, really), and there is some decent chemistry in the romance here. But for the most part, an alarm goes off in my head every time the heroine does her thing – “CRAZY ALERT! BEEP BEEP BEEP!” So yes, is it an okay read? Maybe, but oh god, I’m too busy cringing to be certain.