Naledi (Ledi) Smith has been on her own for most of her life, bounced around in foster care after her parents were killed in a car crash. Now she's a grad student with multiple jobs and a supposedly upcoming epidemiology internship that she still hasn't been contacted about. The spam emails she keeps getting that say she's betrothed to a Prince Thabiso from some country called Thesolo do not amuse her.
As it turns out, the emails aren't spam. Prince Thabiso has been looking for his betrothed for years. He hopes to find her and either bring her back to Thesolo or finally convince himself that they aren't soulmates the way he'd been told as a child they were. His assistant, Likotsi, tracks her down, but their first meeting doesn't go anything like Thabiso expected it would. Ledi mistakes him for a new waiter named Jamal, and rather than clear up the misunderstanding, Thabiso decides to just go with it. He'll get to see how Ledi behaves around him when she's unaware that he's royalty, and being a waiter can't be that hard, right? (Ha!)
I pre-ordered this because both the cover and publisher's description made it look cute and fun. A contemporary romance in which an ordinary woman learns she's actually a princess sounded like it'd be right up my alley.
The setup was excellent, and the sample "spam" emails made me laugh. I loved Ledi, who was afraid to let her guard down and who worked so hard and was still worried that none of it would be enough. She relaxed her guard around Thabiso a bit more quickly than I would have expected, although that could have been due to the way he subconsciously reminded her of things from her childhood.
Plus, Thabiso had some great moments. He listened to and remembered the things she said. Because he knew she was always taking care of herself and everyone else, he tried to set up times that were solely about her and taking care of her. The bit with the grilled cheese sandwiches was cute (although the way the next chapter started made me think he'd accidentally burned the apartment down).
I winced every time he put off telling Ledi the truth, although I could usually understand his reasons for doing so. There was one scene that really bothered me, though. He arrived at Ledi's apartment, fully intending to tell her the truth, only to have her start kissing him. He wasn't so overwhelmed by her kisses that he couldn't think - he actually did slow things down enough that he could have stopped everything and told her right then. Instead, they had sex, he worried that she'd call him Jamal, and he figured he'd tell her sometime after they were done. It made it seem like he cared more about having sex than he did about Ledi.
This part upset me so much that I spent the rest of the book mentally rewriting it. I came up with a couple alternatives that would have still led to Ledi being hurt and angry enough for the rest of the book to happen, but would have made Thabiso a little less horrible. Unfortunately, the scene happened the way it happened. Cole dealt with it by having Thabiso make Ledi an offer she couldn't refuse, something that would force her to spend enough time with him that she'd eventually soften towards him and forgive him. She did, of course, and I could understand why, for the most part. Unfortunately, I never quite forgave him.
Although I was upset with Thabiso in the second half of the book, I still really loved the "royal life" scenes. Ledi's trip to the airport, in particular, was great. I loved her meetings with family members - I wonder if Nya will ever get her own book? - and I was glad that Thabiso defended Ledi whenever his mother started to act horrible.
For the most part, this was a really good book. It would have been an excellent one if it hadn't been for the last "trying (but not really) to tell her the truth" scene, which unfortunately slightly soured the rest of the book. Oh, and one little slightly spoiler-y complaint: why did Ledi, who should have known better,
keep taking pills without ever once asking (or even wondering) what was in them?
I'm going to wait and see what reviews say about the next book before deciding whether to get it. I'm iffy about Portia, Ledi's friend and the next book's heroine. Almost every time Portia was mentioned, Ledi worried about the amount she drank and whether spending time with her would mean more work and anxiety than relaxation. A Princess in Theory ended with her in therapy and hopefully drinking less, but I'm still wary. Meanwhile, I'm crossing my fingers for a future book starring Likotsi, Thabiso's well-dressed lesbian assistant.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
I'm still debating my final rating, but I've finished the book and have earned the Orient Express card.
The next book, starring Portia, doesn't come out for a while. I won't be pre-ordering that one - I'll wait to see what reviews say about it. On the plus side, she's now seeing a therapist and hopefully drinking less.
The biggest blemish so far has been that scene I griped about in my earlier status update. I keep coming back to that stupid scene - with a little bit of tweaking, Thabiso could have come across less like a sex-crazed ass while still resulting in the kind of emotional blow necessary to lead to the next part of the book.
But the scene is what it is. The rest has been pretty good. Thabiso made Naledi an offer she couldn't refuse, even though she was mad and hurt, (most unusual
fake engagement enticement ever: disease
) and I've really enjoyed some of the "royal life" scenes that have happened since then. Ledi is currently learning how to use the palace Segways.
The multi-page "I'm definitely going to tell her the truth, but oh no we're kissing, whoops missed that opportunity" scene that just happened is probably going to have an effect on the final star rating. It was especially frustrating because there were a couple times in this scene when Thabiso paused and started to tell her like he'd intended, only to allow himself to get swept up again. And seconds before they had sex, he worried that she'd call him Jamal because he still hadn't told her. Like, I know he's hot for her, but if he really cared about her, this was absolutely the moment he should have followed through and told her. There probably wouldn't have been any sex afterward, but that's just too bad.
Likotsi feels like "voice of the reader" right now. And ugh, it looks like Ledi is about to learn the truth in a very public way. :-(