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review 2019-09-01 06:11
A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3) - Alyssa Cole

Although you could potentially start the series with this book and manage okay, I'd recommend that folks at least read A Princess in Theory, which introduces Nya Jerami, the main character of this book, and shows readers the events that resulted in Nya's father being put in prison. I skipped A Duke by Default, Book 2, which, from what I could tell, resulted in me missing out on the introduction of Johan von Braustein, the hero of this book, but didn't otherwise interfere with my ability to understand what was going on.

Okay, so this book stars Nya, a shy royal who's trying to break away from her father's lingering toxic influence. Living in New York City for a while hasn't really accomplished much - she dated a bit but still feels like her same awkward self. She's now heading back to Thesolo for Ledi and Prince Thabiso's wedding, only to find herself face-to-face with Johan von Braustein, the sexy, womanizing step-prince of Liechtienbourg, the same guy that the character in the royalty-themed otome game she's currently playing in based on. As she spends time with him, she gradually realizes that the person the media sees is very different from the person he actually is in private.

I'm trying to review this after having finished it a couple months ago, and it's dawning on me how much of the story was focused on Nya and Johan just getting to know each other and become comfortable with each other, because I'm looking over my notes I can't figure out what else, if anything to add to my summary. I mean, Johan was also dealing with a Liechtienbourgian referendum to abolish the monarchy, and there was a fake engagement between him and Nya. And also some stuff related to Johan's suddenly strained relationship with his younger sibling, who was the reason why he constantly got himself into the tabloids - if they were speculating about him and who he was with, they weren't focused on Lukas.

I'm a big fan of "shy heroine" romances, as well as flirty heroes who are secretly vulnerable and insecure. This book definitely worked for me on that level. It also helped that some of my own geekiness overlapped with Nya's. I loved the brief reference to a game that sounded very much like Hatoful Boyfriend, the best joke dating sim in existence. And the game Nya was currently playing, One True Prince, had gameplay that was very similar to one of my top favorite otome games, Mystic Messenger. Both games have real-time gameplay that requires players to answer phone calls, texts, and chats from the game characters at various times throughout the day and night - which resulted in some misunderstandings on Johan's part, as he mistook her frequent phone checking for signs that she had a secret lover (meanwhile, I cringed in anticipated embarrassment at the thought of how Johan might react once he found out she was actually "dating" a fictional version of himself).

I preferred the romance aspects of this book more than in the first book in the series, although I wish there hadn't been quite as much sex (the sex at the opera just made me roll my eyes). Johan and Nya were usually a pretty sweet couple. The book's nonromantic stuff, like the referendum, was dealt with more happily and easily than I could quite bring myself to believe, however.

If there was anything that might have prompted me to quit reading, it was the linguistic aspects. Johan occasionally used Liechtienbourgian words and phrases. It was clear that Liechtienbourgian was at least somewhat related to French and German, and some words and phrases, when plugged into Google Translate, registered as Luxembourgish. However, it used French and German words in ways that didn't fit or make sense, seemed to be doing weird things with Luxembourgish (I don't know that particular language myself, so I'm basing this off of Google Translate), and wasn't even always internally consistent. Some examples:

On page 30, Johan sends this message to Lukas: "Ça va, petite bruder?"

So we have something that looks like a mishmash of French and German and treats what looks like the German word for brother as though it were a feminine word.

Also, there were a couple instances of a phrase that looked like it was supposed to mean "good day" and seemed to mean that in context as well. However, this phrase was inconsistently written:

"Gudde jour" (46)

"Gutten jour" (117)

Unless they looked similar but meant different things - but again, the context indicated that they both likely meant something like "good day." When I tried plugging them into Google Translate out of curiosity, I was amused to learn that, in Luxembourgish, the first phrase apparently meant something like "good news," while the second one meant something like "boys are on duty."

Thankfully, I eventually either adjusted to the linguistic stuff enough to ignore it, or Cole gradually cut back on it.

The book included some LGBTQIA+ rep I wasn't expecting but thought was nice to see in a mainstream romance: Johan was bisexual, something I caught hints of early on in the book and that was unambiguously confirmed later on, and another character was nonbinary. Johan's bisexuality was worked into the text so smoothly that I found myself wondering whether homophobia and biphobia just didn't exist in this world. The stuff with the nonbinary character was a lot more heavy-handed, like when books introduce asexual characters with a chunk of unnatural-sounding "Asexuality 101" dialogue.

All in all, this was a nice entry in the Reluctant Royals series. I liked Johan and Nya as a couple more than Thabiso and Ledi, although this book's story was a lot weaker than the overall story in A Princess in Theory. I'm looking forward to reading more of this series, but I still have zero desire to go back and read A Duke by Default. I'm guessing that Sanyu and Shanti will be getting a book soon. They seemed miserable in this book, so it'd be nice to see them either fix their marriage or end up happily married to other people, if that's what Cole has planned instead.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-03-29 05:36
A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole - My Thoughts
A Duke by Default - Alyssa Cole

So this is a daunting book only because it's one of the darlings of 2018.  EVERYONE loves this book and it's a darling of Romancelandia.  So I was a little wary going into it.  The last time I read a book that was so universally loved, it was The Bollywood Bride, and I hated it.  Did not see what any of the fuss was about.

Thank God, this book was a different experience.

So, I had been advised that I didn't need to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one, but I'll tell ya, I wish I had.  There were so many instances where the heroine's past was mentioned that had important bearing on the plot but were never explained that my wondering took me out of the story.  And the story was GREAT, so this was quite bothersome.  I STILL don't know the deal with Portia's (the heroine) sister.  And it BUGS me.  So YES, READ THE FIRST BOOK.

So, Portia is a screw up, who, it turns out, suffers from ADHD.  This explains many things about her and her issues.  I liked her.  I liked her a lot. I liked that she was smart and clever. I liked her smart mouth and like many of her friends and her sister, I often wanted to shake her to make her believe she wasn't the mess she thought she was. 

I liked the hero, Tav, the Duke by Default of the title.  He was older, 37 to her 30 (THANK GOD for mature characters!!) and your typical taciturn Scot.  And he was HOT.  And he forges weapons, swords, daggers, axes... the whole thing!  That's darned sexy.  Anyway, he hit all the right buttons for me. 

From my lofty 62 years of life, I thought that if they only would take an hour or two to actually talk about all these things that bothered each of them about themselves, the whole emotional mess could have been dealt with quickly and easily.  But we wouldn't have a story then.  *LOL*  And it was a good story, maybe a little heavy at times with the ADHD and the immigration problem, but the author's writing style is breezy and fun (a big reason why AC is a fave of mine.) which saved it from being too lecture-y. 

In the end, it was a really good romance.  I totally enjoyed it and I can easily see how it garnered so many accolades and such noisy support. Just read the first book first!

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review 2019-03-17 04:19
A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3) - Alyssa Cole

Title : A Prince On Paper Series:

Reluctant Royals #3

Author: Alyssa Cole Pages:

Genre:Romance

Harper Collins Publishers

Book synopsis

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.

 

My thoughts Rating:4 Would I recommend it? Yes Would I read anything else by this author ?Yes Stars off slow but that's because the Main Character Nya is like a cry baby ,all she can think about is.her father ,and.it's like it's all about me ,because of that it took me a little while to get into the story and once I did I actually started to like it . I loved the male character Johan and I started to even liked the interacting between the 2 which surprised me with that said I want to thank Netgalley for letting me read and review it exchange for my honest opinion.

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review 2018-12-10 17:27
when first you practice to deceive...
A Princess in Theory: Reluctant Royals - Alyssa Cole

... expect to be called on it.

 

Naledi Smith has been recently getting emails from someone who claims to be from an African country, who has a prince that she's supposed to marry.  Yeah, right.  She's too busy trying to work two jobs, fend off her co-worker that wants to give her all the work and take all the glory himself and trying to keep her friend Portia happy too.

 

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo and he wants to track Naledi down and convince her to do her duty, not realising that her family died when she was quite young and all of this is news.  She thinks he's a new hire in her catering job and it's easier to go with the flow..  

 

Now they're both attracted and he has no idea how to tell her the truth.  Her friend Portia forces the issue and everything starts to get more complicated.  There are people from her home village dying, as an epidemeoplogist she has a chance to save people's lives.

 

It was a fun read, you could see where the problems were coming from.

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review 2018-11-10 06:50
I Knight Thee Good Fun
A Princess in Theory: Reluctant Royals - Alyssa Cole
A Duke by Default - Alyssa Cole

I started reading Alyssa Cole sometime last year. I think I saw her name on a list of women of color writing contemporary romance, and given how tragically white much romance is, I thought I should give her a shot. I read her Off the Grid series, which, in addition to being both science fictional and post-apocalyptic (these things are not necessarily the same things, a distinction I'm happy to fight about), also include a gay romance and one with and Asian dude as the hottie. Oh, and Cole is clearly a nerd and a geek, and she is not afraid of some pop cultural jokes. Really good stuff. 

 

I didn't read more, at the time, because I'm, like, not as interested in modern day princess stories. I once went regularly to this open mic at an Irish bar run by a Welshman, and there was this woman who showed up regularly in full on tartan explosion. (Yes, I recognize that's all very Celticly confused, but this is America; deal). She tended to sit in the booth behind mine, and we were nodding acquaintances. She drove me absolutely fucking bananas with her bullshit.

 

See, she claimed to be some sort of Scottish royalty, like maybe not a duchess, exactly, but more like a countess? Honestly, I find it hard to give a fig about titles so none of that stuff is going to track for me. Anyway, she had this younger dude who liked to do sweeping bows and a bunch of hand-kissing, probably because he spent too much time at the Ren Fest. Once, he tried to drag me into it, and I was like, sorry, I live in a representational democracy and have zero interest in kowtowing to someone because of who their grandparents are.

 

There was a record scratch noise and some people got pissed at me, but fuck royalty. Some of my people were hapless drunks, others were fleeing various wars, some just hated their hometowns. I feel neither pride nor shame about my ancestors; they were just people: good, bad, and indifferent.

 

Point being, I have something of a chip when it comes to the concept of hereditary monarchy. Sure, fine, if they're figureheads like in Denmark (though I'm still not bowing and scraping), but actual ruling dynasties like the al Saud family are monsters, as one recently brutally murdered journalist could attest if he hadn't been dismembered and murdered, not exactly in that order. 

 

Which is to say, I'm a fucking crank about a little subgenre of romance novels with lighthearted wish fulfillment about being a princess. I recognize I have issues. 

 

So, it came as something of a surprise when I actually earnestly enjoyed Duke by Default. Cole dives right into the class issues of the peerage, and doesn't cut those assholes any slack. Her Duke character is actually the child of a Scottish Duke and a refugee, raised by a step-father and with half siblings who are straight up black. He's not some ponce, and more's the better. Oh, and his love interest is coming to terms with an ADHD diagnosis, which was sensitively written. All told, well done. 

 

Princess in Theory, less so. (Note: I read these books out of order.) The main character, who has aged out of the foster care system and is struggling to make it in the STEM field as a black woman of no means, was a fucking great character. Prince what's his face from an imaginary African country, him I did not like much at all. Sure, some of this is intentional: he's to have a redemption arc from being a rich dickhead to monarch with a heart of gold. But I just couldn't get on board, though of course some of this is my aforementioned issues. And Princess in Theory is still a well written novel with an admirable heroine, so do not credit my bitching too much. 

 

Anyway! So, one which didn't work so great for me (due mostly to me), and one which knocked it out the park. I would totally read number three. Alyssa Cole is pretty great. 

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