Alexandra Benedict, $3.99, ISBN 978-1311973764
Historical Romance, 2015
The Princess and the Pauper is a misnomer because the hero Grey Rees is a pauper only for two chapters. During that time, he was indentured to the Wrights when his grandfather couldn’t pay off the debts owed to Augustus Wright. Over the following years, he and Augutus’s daughter Emily became BFFs, bonding over his talent of making music on his grandfather’s violin. When they eventually pawed and kissed one another, her father burst onto the scene and in the ensuing drama, the violin was broken and Grey was like OH HIS LOVE HAD TURNED TO HATE. Cue dramatic thunder crash.
Then we cut to the present day, when Grey is a celebrated violinist, his career blossoming thanks to his mistress who took him in ages ago and helped him get all his gigs. Is he grateful? Of course not. He’s tired of her, et cetera. This is why rich cougars should play it smarter and pick nicer boys to play with, I tell you. Grey visits a brothel and buys a virgin who is auctioning herself and oh, she turns out to be Emily.
Apparently over the years, Emily’s father had gone senile and flushed away their money. Everyone asked Emily to have her father declared senile but she couldn’t do that because she loves her father and, besides, she blames herself for making him mad by snogging Grey back then, just as she blames herself for making Grey hate her by getting her father to break his violin, just like how she blames herself for Grey being attracted to her. When her father was bankrupted, she let the man engaged to her go because she couldn’t burden him like that (despite her knowing that he only wanted her for her dowry – don’t ask). Then her father died. Despite knowing that her father was going senile, Emily didn’t do anything like save some pennies, so, surprise, she was left penniless. She still couldn’t do anything other than to wait until the landlady evicted her onto the streets. Finally, she decides to do something, and it’s the most drastic and stupid thing she can do to make money, because Emily’s sole talent and purpose in life is to make her life as miserable as possible.
Grey doesn’t hate her, but if he lets her go, there will be no story. So he acts like he wants her to earn out what he paid for her, but he doesn’t want her to sleep with him, oh wait, he does. He pities her, but he says mean things to her. He likes her, but a few pages later, he isn’t so sure. Meanwhile, he goes around acting like his mistress is such a drag, resenting the fact that he has to prostitute himself to her. Oh baby, we all make sacrifices to be happy, so I don’t know why he’s complaining. Emily, predictably enough, blames herself for every imagined slight she has caused Grey, all the while determined to earn her keep while bemoaning the fact that he doesn’t want her, oh wait, maybe he does but he wants her not because he loves her so OH LIFE IS THE WORST BUT IT IS ALL HER FAULT.
And then, they realize that her father may be poisoned after all. Emily has no home, no job, no money, but her new priority in life is to get justice for her father, mostly by whinging and whining to any guy that she can latch on to. Oh, and it’s her fault that her father was poisoned, and she is now so upset and angry because she believed that her father hated her when he died. How could she be so mean to think such a thing? Oh wait. he did think nasty things about her when he died? Oh, IT IS HER FAULT, she is now heartbroken again.
Surely you can tell by now that I am so, so, so tired of Emily’s utter uselessness in doing anything but to play the martyr 24/7 in the most overwrought, dam-bursting crybaby way. If I were a character in this story, this one would have turned into a horror story, as I lose it and start beating this wretch with a crowbar, while screaming “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”, until her head is a complete mess on the ground. Seriously, this creature is driven completely by her hysterical emotions. She has no money, nothing, but all she can think of is why nobody loves her, why her daddy hates her, and why everything is her fault.
Compared to her, Grey seems saner in comparison. That’s only in comparison; his behavior switches back and forth, his motives are all over the place, and he can’t make up his mind whether he should treat Emily nice or not. His inability to be consistent has its benefit – this story is as long as it is, a big part of that due to his back and forth behavior – but it also makes him look like someone who can’t hold on to a thought for more than five pages. He will think one thing, and then do something completely different from what he has decided, and after so many rounds of such behavior, I can only conclude that he’s as crazy as Emily. At least he doesn’t burst into tears and acts like a spineless lamprey seeking to latch on to some man for her next meal ticket.
The Princess and the Pauper could have been an interesting historical romance – the basic premise isn’t the usual stuff normally seen in the market – but the unhinged behavior of the main characters makes this one an excruciating read. That heroine… shudder.