A Princess By Christmas by Julia London
This is the third book in this series, and if you haven’t read the previous two, I absolutely do not recommend that you pick this one up and start here. Far too much has happened in the previous two books that is lightly referenced here, and if you haven’t read them I think you’d find this extremely confusing.
As it happens, I have read the two previous books, so I was already familiar with Mrs Hollis Honeycutt, the widow who is the heroine of this book. Having inherited her husband’s gazette, she now writes and publishes it herself, including household tips and political gossip to intrigue her readers. With her sister married to the Crown Prince of Alucia, Hollis is invited to court when the foreign royals pay a visit to England, which is where she meets Marek Brendan, a lowly trade attache who nevertheless attracts her attention.
Marek is extremely complicated - I don’t think it spoilers anything to reveal that he’s actually lost royalty, having been kidnapped as a child. Marek is the only person who knows that, at least until Hollis figures it out. This is honestly where the book lost me. Perfectly fine if Marek chooses not to claim his birthright. But why title the book ‘A Princess By Christmas’ if the heroine is not, in fact, going to get to be a princess?
I wanted to like this so much. Marek is disabled (fully deaf in one ear, partially in the other) and there is some great LGBT representation in Donovan, Hollis’ close friend/employee, but I haven’t quite bought into Hollis and her gazette from the beginning. Mainly because I just don’t think you can write, publish and distribute any sort of weekly publication without a staff, of which Hollis has none. And yet the gazette was still somehow magically published when she was out of England on a trip to Alucia to celebrate her sister’s wedding.
I’m not sure if there’s more planned for this series, or if it ties in to any of the author’s other works - Beck, for example, definitely deserved his own book, and if the rushed side romance he got here is all we’re getting, I feel extremely let down - but if this is the finale of a trilogy, it ends in a weird spot, and the conclusion felt very rushed. The Alucia/Wesloria issue isn’t really resolved in any meaningful way, and I’m puzzled as to how it can be, since all the eligible princes are now married off and the two princesses are both too young - unless there’s a significant time skip before the next book, if there’s to be another in the series.
I’ve enjoyed this series, but if this is the last one, I’m afraid it fell a bit flat for me. Three stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.