Author: Sophie Page (website)
UK Publisher: Arrow/Cornerstone Digital
Genre: Romance, contemporary fiction
Bella Greenwood isn’t a fairytale girl. If pushed, she’d probably tell you that her perfect wedding would involve a handful of close friends and family. But as she’s never met anyone she’d like to marry, it’s a moot point.
Until, in a midnight garden, Bella is helped out of an embarrassing situation by a tall, dark, handsome man with laughing eyes. And suddenly her life changes for ever, because the man is the world’s most eligible bachelor: Prince Richard, heir to the throne.
Richard sweeps her off her feet, and before she knows it they’re engaged. Which is when Bella’s problems really begin. Suddenly she is public property, and as if it isn’t enough to have her every move watched – while also learning to curtsy and negotiating the etiquette of how to address her future mother-in-law – she soon finds herself embroiled in bridesmaid politics, a right royal hen night, and a wedding dress controversy that causes a national scandal…
Can this ordinary girl survive the preparations for her very own Royal Wedding?
This was another impulse purchase in the Christmas sale with a gift card, because I do love an aristocratic romance. As you may have seen in this blog, I’ve been burned a little with some of the romance books I’ve tried, so I will admit to approaching this with some caution. But, actually, this time my purchase paid off.
Isabella Greenwood returns to London after a year away on a tropical island turns out to be less than paradise. To cheer her up, her friend invites her to a swanky party where she meets a mysterious stranger after accidentally trashing an ornamental garden. She is smitten, only to discover he is the Prince of Wales, and things are more complex than initially anticipated.
This book has a number of strengths. Firstly, it is set in the UK, in an ‘alternate timeline’. The author’s website details where she changed history to bring us the royal family with Prince Richard, so it is clear she has researched and knows her stuff. It comes across in the writing, with nothing feeling absurd for a royal romance or social behaviours. The practicalities are considered clearly and work as a brilliant plot dynamic. Secondly, Bella is consistent and true to her character all the way through – at no point are there bizarre behaviours where she appears to lose all sense of herself or reason. She’s a delightfully pragmatic and grounded character, and her traits and flaws are integral to her. Yes, she is clumsy – the character flaw often played for cuteness, and the least offensive of the potential character flaws – but she is legitimately, repeatedly clumsy, in a way which furthers the plot but doesn’t feel contrived. And this clumsiness feeds into her character development and some of the conflict in the plot. Bella isn’t sure she can date a prince because she is so completely unsuited for being in the public eye, and the idea makes her uncomfortable.
These are very human reasons for it, and it grounds the novel and makes it feel realistic. The conflict in the novel isn’t contrived of misunderstandings or love triangles, but simply on the barriers and the culture shock of suddenly finding yourself part of the public conscious and royal life. Which is plenty meat enough for a romance novel, and god it’s refreshing to find a romance where the couple seem to actually trust and like each other. Instead we find them dealing with the security issues, the scheduling conflicts, the public reaction, adjusting to royal protocol, but doing it within a full and trusting relationship.
The side characters too actually fit the story well. Bella’s father is an anarcho-communist travel writer who is disgusted with the relationship, whilst her mother is nervous and socially-minded, desperately trying to keep in good with her local golf club. Her grandmother is a triumph as a stylish, widowed Southern Belle slash environmental activist, and instead of feeling like afterthoughts and baggage like the side characters in other romances I’ve read, the round it out wonderfully and they’re utilised well. No-one is extraneous, and any side plots are only brought up if it makes sense for them to weave into the main plot.
Perhaps my only gripe with the story is that Bella and Richard go from meeting to proposal in about three months, and then are married within nine months of their first encounter. That’s really quick. I find it very hard to get behind couples which move so quickly, for me I like romance that has time to bed in and the characters get to fully know each other. But I am aware that there are restrictions on the length of the book and if you want the initial meeting and romance, plus the wedding, then things have to necessarily be on a fairly quick timeline. And naturally because this is fiction, their chemistry is immediately apparent and trust and love come extremely naturally. To give the author her further due, that doesn’t mean things are always perfect, and you do see personality clashes and fights. It reads very true to life in that respect, whilst still ticking all the boxes for a solid romance.
- A romance with a strong female lead who has a developed and consistent character, and doesn’t seem to take breaks from reality as a result of the romance.
- It’s refreshing that the conflict isn’t manufactured between the two romantic leads, but from the situation around them which they face together.
- The whole book feels so solid and grounded in fact and research whilst ticking the fantasy boxes that you want from this sort of romance, and I’m so happy to have found one that I can really enjoy.
- Of course the relationship runs at a gallop, but it is a romance.
Rating: 4/5 – this ticked just about every romance box I had, aside from my true burning passion for a slow-burn building romance; and I do still think that a 9 month relationship is very quick before marriage!