Monday 15 July 2019

#CBR11 Book 40: "A Prince on Paper" by Alyssa Cole

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 3 stars

#CBR11 Bingo: Birthday (Alyssa Cole's birthday is August 12th)

From Goodreads:
Nya Jerami fled Thesolo for the glitz and glamour of NYC but discovered that her Prince Charming only exists in her virtual dating games. When Nya returns home for a royal wedding, she accidentally finds herself up close and personal—in bed—with the real-life celebrity prince who she loves to hate.

For Johan von Braustein, the red-headed step-prince of Liechtienbourg, acting as paparazzi bait is a ruse that protects his brother—the heir to the throne—and his own heart. When a royal referendum threatens his brother’s future, a fake engagement is the perfect way to keep the cameras on him.

Nya and Johan both have good reasons to avoid love, but as desires are laid bare behind palace doors, they must decide if their fake romance will lead to a happily-ever-after.

I keep reading such effusive reviews about Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals series, and I really do want to like the book. At it turns out I like this better than A Duke by Default, but it still took me nearly a week to read it, which is an really unforgivably long time, considering the book has fewer than 400 pages, and shows that the book just isn't capturing my attention all that much.

The heroine of this book is Nya, who is very sweet and possibly a bit too perfect. She is inexperienced and has grown up very sheltered, because her father would actually secretly poison her every time she showed any signs of independence. She'd get ill and feel insecure, and only after her father was arrested after some sort of nefarious plot in book one (which I still haven't read) did Nya realise the truth and come to see that she needed to expand her horizons. Due to her sheltered upbringing, she doesn't really want to put herself out there, and plays a number of fantasy romance games on her phone instead of talking to, you know, real men. While Nya was clearly very kind, and open minded, and altruistic and understanding and so forth,  I wanted her to maybe be a bit more flawed, and have more of a personality. She was just a bit dull, if I'm completely honest.

Oh, the thing that annoyed me the most about her - while we're not quite in the realms of Anastasia Steele, who can't even think about her lady parts except as "down there", Nya is apparently so "charmingly innocent" that she seriously refers to sexual organs as aubergine and peach emoji. This would MAYBE be ok if it had happened once, but nope, it's a recurring thing throughout the book, and completely took me out of the scene every time. Not sexy in the slightest.

Johan, is the playboy prince with a bunch of emotional baggage because of unresolved issues after his Mum died. He as a very public persona that he uses to keep the press attention away from his younger brother, but doesn't actually speak with said brother all that much anymore and as a result, they've grown apart. Johan spends most of his free time working with charities (but doesn't want public to know he's actually a super good guy, because that would interfere with his shallow himbo image). In truth, Johan is really very private and dealing with a lot of anxiety - he's terrified to properly love ever again because the loss of his mother still affects him so much. He should clearly desperately see a therapist. Of course, for all that he is terrified of attachment, he clearly cares deeply about his brother and is upset about their estrangement, and he's a very caring and considerate fake boyfriend to Nya, letting her set the pace and making sure he has her enthusiastic consent for every new step of their relationship.

This book is pretty much the contemporary equivalent of the rake and the wallflower (to the point where Johan calls Nya "wallflower" for part of the book), but it was a lot less interesting to me than most historicals with the same trope.

Johan's stepfather is the king of the little fictional European country of Lichtenbourg. The country is about to have a big referendum about whether to abolish the monarchy once and for all, and one of the primary reasons given for Nya and Johan to have their big, public pretend relationship is so the Royal family gets positive press. There is a subplot involving  figuring out who's been working to sabotage the referendum, with anti-Royal graffiti and a number of negative and hostile posts on social media. I don't even want to call it a mystery, as it's really extremely obvious who the responsible individual is.

I don't really want to spoil the nature of the identity crisis that Johan's younger brother is experiencing. Suffice to say, he feels that Johan and his dad, the king, have unrealistic expectations of him, and doesn't feel like he can talk to his brother. Because of this, he is acting out in creative and pretty typical teenage ways, but when the fate of the future monarchy is at stake, having a public temper tantrum may not be the best idea.

Nothing in A Prince on Paper evoked anything like the stabbing rage I felt when reading the previous book in the series, but there were things that made me roll my eyes a lot. Nya's aforementioned inability to refer to human sexual organs by their actual names; the fact that "Lichtenbourgian" was really just a hodge podge of French and German (although this is actually jokingly acknowledged in the book) and Johan's weird tendency to go Oh la la (sometimes with a lot more las). Also, I just super hate the nickname Jo Jo for Johan. It's the opposite of sexy.

I should probably just accept that when it comes to Alyssa Cole, her historical romances are more my jam than her contemporaries. She's not on the "stay away at all costs" list, like Bella Andre and Sonali Dev (they know what they did). I still own the first book in the series, though, so will probably end up reading it at some point. My expectations will not be swayed by gushing internet reviews anymore, though.

Judging a book by its cover: For all that I seem incapable of feeling anything but fairly lukewarm towards these novels, I cannot deny that the covers for this series are excellent. Ginger romance heroes aren't exactly the norm, so it's always nice to see an attractive redheaded dude on a cover (and in a book). The dress that the female cover model is wearing is utterly gorgeous (and I love that Alyssa Cole wore it for at least one of her promotional appearances for this book).

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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