LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52541-0
Sci-fi Romance, 2003
I hope Wal-Mart is happy with The Star Princess. LoveSpell has given it what is possibly the most boring cover in the universe (complete with amateur Photoshop fonts) and the plot is much slower than what I’m used to from Susan Grant. This one probably won’t get the Wal-Mart moral police into a trouser-frenzy about the corruption of its clients’ sensibilities. Unfortunately, it doesn’t drive me into any sort of frenzy either. I find this book, while good, a little too slow. My attention often wanders.
Ilana Hamilton, the twin sister of the hero of The Star Prince, is living on Earth, happily single, happily a movie maker. However, with her being the sister of now the Crown Prince of a distant planet, the media is increasingly focusing its attention on her. The last thing she needs is a visit from her brother’s wife-to-be’s ex-fiancé (no, really) dropping by unannounced for what seems like a search for the best stag party ever. Ché Vedla is still smarting from his bride-to-be’s marrying whom he perceives as an Earth barbarian. His clan decides that it’s best he get married before his ex-fiancée marries her true love – that way, they can save face while preventing the more close-minded members of their clan from causing trouble to the newlyweds. Naturally, his handlers and advisors will do all the searching and negotiating for the cow, er, bride. Fatigued by the sheer effort he has to exude to nod his head and agree to the proposal, exhausted, overworked, and stressed-out Ché decides to head off to Earth for some much-needed R&R. He’ll crash at Ilana’s place, naturally. He hopes she has a chaperone.
When Ilana learns that Ché is going to be shackled into an arranged marriage, she’s mad. She also decides to help him find a good time before he gets shackled. Here’s my first problem with this book: I don’t understand why Ilana takes Chê’s predicament so personally, acting as if he is being treated very unfairly. Surely she’s not so naïve as to assume that the member of the royalty is free to love and marry at will? But apparently she does, hmm. It’s also a hard sell that she cares so much about the fate of the man whose brother tried to kill her brother. Also, Ilana spends way too much time moping about her father, her mother, and her commitment issues for my liking.
Ché is better off, often mischievous and roguish, but I’m also puzzled at how fish-out-of-water he is at times. It is hard to imagine that the Earth’s paparazzi is something so unique to Earth only that he doesn’t know how to handle them, for example. Also, it is a really, really, really hard sell that Ian Hamilton wants Ché to fall in love with his twin sister. While it is magnanimous that he spares a thought for his sister while juggling his time between his duties and his upcoming nuptials, I do wonder about a guy who’s into matchmaking. Something about this aspect of Ian, the matchmaking aspect, doesn’t seem to be in character at all.
The story becomes more interesting when subplots come in – a sabotage thingie and Ian’s loyal buddy Muffin’s adventures. This is because while I do enjoy Ché and Ilana’s romantic interactions that make up the bulk of the story, I also find it hard to actually buy these two’s romance, not when I already have problems with the motivations underlying the attraction. The chemistry and the romance is there, but I just can’t be convinced, alas.
There is much to like about this book. Ché and his clan, for example, have strict and even rigid notions of honor, but the depiction of this clan is real instead of coming off as mere caricatures of Sino-Japanese seppuku-type weirdos. The conflict that divides our leads is real, which only makes Ilana’s naive assumption that Ché is being unfairly treated even more befuddling.
Still, after all’s done, The Star Princess still remains one of the better offerings in the apparently imagination-free stagnant futuristic romance subgenre. The emotions are there, the character development is there, and as usual, Susan Grant offers a futuristic romance that is the closest one can get to the best deal in the genre. No barbarians, no pathetic virgin healers, no destiny, no prophecy preordaining the joining of genitals to produce sons that will Break An Evil Curse, no “LadyBaron T’Al’andria’s ChairTable flying out the WindowOpening of her ManorHouse in VillageShire” nonsense – just a smart and readable futuristic romance that knows what it is telling its readers. And that’s good, if you ask me.