Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Always a Princess by Alice Gaines

TITLE: Always a Princess
AUTHOR: Alice Gaines
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 83k)
GENRE: Historical romance
COST: $5.39

When Philip Rosemont, Viscount Wesley, spots the princess at a ball, he knows immediately she’s a fake. The question is, why is she pretending to be an Eastern European noblewoman and how quickly can he get her to himself? He doesn’t expect to find her trying to pilfer their hostess’s jewels, especially since he’s just taken it for himself, but by the time she shows up at his home the following day with the intent of blackmailing him to keep his secret, he’s already decided they’d make a fabulous team, both in thievery and elsewhere…

I had a splendid experience with a book I read by this author last year, and this second effort proved just as entertaining.

The delight starts early and swiftly. We open at a ball, where Philip, the Viscount Wesley, has spotted a woman who is clearly an imposter, pretending to be a princess from a small Eastern European country none of the simpering men surrounding her have even heard of. Philip has, however, and much to the woman’s chagrin, he’s intimately familiar with it. He quickly discovers that she’s at the party for the same reason he is – to steal jewels from their hostess. Where his motivation is sheer boredom, Eve – the imposter princess – is doing it in retaliation after having lost her position as governess when her employer’s son had her take the fall for a cameo he stole from his mother. Eve’s rationale is that since she’s already been accused of thievery, she might as well do it. So far, her plan has worked well. But then she met a man who’d actually been to the country in question, and now everything is in disarray. In an attempt to keep control of the situation, she decides to blackmail him, to force him to pay her to keep his secret that he’s really the Orchid Thief. Philip laughs at the offer. His reputation is the last thing he worries about. But he’s got a counter offer in mind, one that poses them as partners rather than adversaries.

I was laughing at this wonderful farce almost from the start. Philip is roguish and intelligent, with just enough determined swagger to keep him edgy and the right balance of manners to keep him from going over the top. His dialogue, no matter who he’s addresses, comes fast and furious, leaving no room for skimming for fear of missing something he’s said. He typifies the farcical nature of the entire story, and honestly, what a breath of fresh air it was. There isn’t nearly enough farce in romantic fiction, probably because it’s hard to do well. This succeeds. Very, very well.

Is it the most original story? Well, no, but that doesn’t matter when the dialogue and hero sparkle as much as they do. The set-up, taken outside of the context of farce, would be hard to tolerate, because a reader would be left with abundant questions on how so much could get handwaved away (Eve’s acceptance into the ton as nobility before the Rosemonts vouch for her, for one). But farce demands a stretch of that acceptance, and as long as you’re prepared to go that far, it works anyway. The chemistry between the two leaps off the page, mostly as a result of Philip, and the sex when it comes is scorching.

The complaints I have are few. First of all, Eve isn’t quite as entertaining as Philip, but then again, he tends to get the best lines so it’s easy to get eclipsed by that. I did find her ultimate secret a tad banal considering the nature of the story, and it veered dangerously close to more dramatic historical romance as a result. It felt out of place in a story that was so outrageous already. There’s also a point just over halfway through when Philip lost his shine and turned into one of the simpering men who’d been fawning over Eve at the start. It’s just when he’s begun to realize the depths of his feelings for her, and his behavior becomes uncomfortable to witness. It doesn’t last, thank goodness. If it had, it might have been hard to finish.

But what a joy it is to find a book that has me laughing and smiling as much as this one did. While humor can be quite subjective, especially in written form, I think it’s safe to say that this author’s style of it definitely works for me.


9/10 – Far-fetched, but funny with witty banter you can’t take your eyes off


9/10 – Except for a brief period where he turned into one of the simpering fools from the beginning, delightfully roguish and witty


7/10 – Not as consistent as the hero, and her secret is a little banal in light of the farcical nature of the story

Entertainment value

8/10 – Delightful and funny, as long as you accept it as farce

World building

7/10 – Stretches credibility, but then again, that tends to be one of the requirements in farce



1 comment:

Alice Gaines said...

Hi, there,

Thanks for the review. I'm so pleased you liked the book.