A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London
If you missed the first in this series, (The Princess Plan), the basic gist is that Sebastian, Crown Prince of Alucia, fell for and married Eliza Tricklebank, an Englishwoman of no particular consequence. A Royal Kiss and Tell commences at their royal wedding in Alucia, full of pomp and circumstance. Lady Caroline Hawke is Eliza’s best friend and the heroine of this story, and honestly, she’s absolutely refreshing, in that she’s probably the most confident period romance heroine I’ve ever met. She knows, with complete certainty, that she’s beautiful, clever and charming, and she takes anyone who fails to recognise her as such as a personal challenge. Prince Leopold doesn’t even seem to be able to remember her name, so he’s the biggest challenge of all. Honestly, Caroline would be easy to dislike as a person in real life - I think I’d find her brash and obnoxious - but as a character, she’s certainly fascinating to read about.
Leopold’s the ‘spare’, and he’s never had to take anything seriously. Told about a shocking plot against his country and the dreadful plight of some young women sold into slavery in aristocratic English homes, he finds he wants to help, but doesn’t know how. He manages to bumble his way into a scandal, and eventually, ends up asking Caroline for help.
I really don’t get why Leopold didn’t just ask someone for help earlier. Caroline’s brother, for example, with whom he was such great friends. Hell, his bodyguards - he trusted them with his life, but not this secret? That didn’t make sense. Too much of the sub-plot about the trafficked women and the plot against the Alucian crown happened offscreen, including the resolution, which was just handwaved away as Leopold going off to fix things and then returning for Caroline. I wanted to see them fixing it together, not her sidelined and basically sitting around waiting for him to fix things so they could maybe, eventually, get together.
Too many things just didn’t gel here for me. I like Julia London’s writing style and despite Caroline’s character being very different from the expected Regency heroine, I really enjoyed reading her. I even believed in the way Leopold slowly but inevitably fell for her. But the sub-plot was just a hot mess and being on such a significant topic of human trafficking, the resolution mattered. Overall, I’ll give this three stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.