Princes and Princesses

willkate I’ll put it right out there – I own a commemorative mug of Charles and Diana’s wedding. I also still own a book commemorating the event. I tell myself these might be worth something someday (hence my need to keep them) but the fact is, fractured though the fairy tale was these items still remind me of those moments when I, as a young girl, dreamed that Prince and Princess stories could take place in real life.

Kate and William are doing it for me far less. For starters, I’m older. I watched two crash and burn divorces among the royals, which while not embittering me certainly enlightened me that riding off in a carriage didn’t guarantee happiness. Sure, I will DVR the wedding, eat scones and generally pretend to be excited on Friday (mainly to give myself an excuse for putting on a fancy cream tea for friends.) But their sweet, realistic and much more likely to make it romance does not have the feel of a fairytale – or even a really good romance novel.

Which got me to thinking – do I read royal wedding tales in my romances? The quick answer is not contemporary ones. While Harlequin seems to put out at least one of these books every couple months, using a word like prince, royal or highness in a title is likely to keep me from picking up the book. The few I have read have bordered on ludicrious (imo) although I think that is less their fault and more because they were never intended to be what I was looking for to begin with. You see, I don’t want to read a practical story about a guy and girl falling in love. I want what Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty gave me. The contemporary prince and princess stories with their down to earth (or occassionally silly) plot lines simply don’t have that fairy tale feel to them. Books like Her Royal Bodyguard (see Blythe’s review) feel less like Rapunzel and more like, well – a standard Harlequin with a prince and princess for leads.

I suppose an argument could be made that all romances are fairy tale re-tellings, modernized and tweaked. Fairy tale themes like modern day Cinderella’s (aka the many takes on the Billionaire Marries His Secretary) or historical or contemp takes on Beauty and the Beast do abound (which we have discussed before here but they normally aren’t stories about royalty. Some will be about the aristocracy, most will include the wealthy and beautiful but the royal titles tend to be missing. So, fairy tales they might be but prince and princess stories most assuredly not.

The exception, of course, is fantasy romance. These novels tend to stay far closer to the original Grimm tale, which means they offer up a nice share of royalty. Luna, Harlequin’s fantasy imprint, launched the line with Mercedes Lackey’s wonderful The Fairy Godmother – a story of a woman, a prince and a whole new look at the fork in the road Cinderella would have taken if the prince in her kingdom had been less than thirteen. Kristine Grayson has also done some contemporary twisting and retelling of the standard fables in her books. For those not finding enought in the adult market, the YA market is booming with current takes on the old tales. Alex Flynn, the reigning queen of the Grimm re-do, has been reviewed here favorably several times for books such as A Kiss in Time and Beastly.

The royalty in these tales make being royal very much a job. In Flynn’s A Kiss in Time, Princess Talia uses skills learned as a future ambassador in her everyday life. She and her family also take a great deal of responsiblity for their people, very aware of how lives depend upon how they govern. For the princess in Lackey’s The Sleeping Beauty, the princess’s choice of husband must not only be a good match for her but a good match for her people. She is aware of her duty at just about all times. In Princess of the Midnight Ball, Jessica Day George showed how important relationships with neighboring kingdoms were. The emphasis on marriage as alliance makes a romantic, falling in love story all the sweeter. I think this is one of the things that really ties these romances back to their fairy tale roots – fairy tales are actually stories with pretty serious consequences for doing the wrong thing, and pretty good rewards for doing the right. In this format royalty becomes relatable because they are more about being the best you can be at your given tasks then about being wealthy and privileged.

So – what are your thoughts on Prince and Princess themes? Like ‘em or hate ‘em? Most especially, if you read the Harlequin royal titles what most attracts you to them? And finally – are you planning to watch on Friday?

– Maggie Boyd

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24 Responses to Princes and Princesses

  1. bungluna says:

    I don’t read contemporary royal stories because I feel royals in present day are more like PR peons to their countries than relevant players. Thus there’s not a great deal at stake.

    I love the Luna books you mentioned, precisely because there is a great deal at stake. The characters’ actions have grave concequences for their world as well as their own future, and so the triumph of love is sweeter, imo.

  2. MB says:

    I enjoyed Sherwood Smith’s ‘Coronets and Steel’ a lot. It is a contemporary romance with slight fantasy elements. (I’m not going to go into the plot because I know I would accidentally spoil it for others.) But it fits into this theme.

    I recommend it. And there is to be a sequel, I believe.

  3. Karen says:

    I am a bit of a royalty junkie. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I secretly read Hello! magazine and follow some of the European royals on Facebook, even though I know it’s a bit silly. (Some of the European royals have more interesting back stories than the British ones.) But I’ve been frustrated by most royal romances. As Maggie described, a lot of them seem like any other romance except that the hero is called Prince instead of CEO. There’s no real exploration of what being a prince or a princess might mean in the modern world.

    Historicals are more likely to explore those themes – the Duke who is torn between love and duty, the Earl who has to marry to keep the title from passing to an evil relative. I think it would be fascinating to read a contemporary romance that really delved into that storyline – how duty and family and obligation play out in the modern world. But for the most part, “royal romances” don’t do this. They’re just regular romances with a tiara thrown in.

  4. It doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid. Knowing how the royals manipulated and used Diana, even to the extent of her future husband keeping his mistress from her, took away any pleasure in the event.
    At least we don’t have a sweet virgin this time.
    Oh yes, and did you realise that there are to be two royal weddings this year? no? Princess Anne’s daughter Zara (a sports champion in her own right) is marrying the man she’s been living with for the past few years, rugby captain Mike Tindall. Their engagement pictures are lovely, I think.

    Prince and princess romances rarely do it for me, but I’ve read the occasional one that I’ve liked. I tend to avoid them, as they don’t seem to behave like princes and princesses, more like businesspeople or aristocrats. And there is a huge gulf between being a royal and being an aristocrat. When the story actually tackles the problems of the status, then it can be interesting.

    The wedding? I’m British. We get the day off. I’ve saved the first series of “Boardwalk Empire,” and that’s what we’re going to be doing that day. Not because we’re defying anyone or anything, but because it is so boring. But then, I find most ceremonies boring, royal or not.

    In real life, the royals are way overpriced. They’ve hung on to everything they had when Britain had the biggest Empire in the world for far too long. The little dribs and drabs we’ve had back just aren’t enough and now, frankly, they’re too expensive.

  5. Veronica says:

    Ok, so I DO like the story of the current king of Morocco marrying one of the girls in the call center of his corporation. But normally… I think you’re right. Modern-day royal romances are too bland & ordinary. They need the magic of a fairy-tale to make them interesting!

  6. Maria D. says:

    Modern day prince/princess stories don’t do it for me at all…they are not royal in my opinion. I will DVR the event this Friday, only because I really hope that William and Kate’s marriage has better lasting power than some of the others. I have to agree with Lynn when she states that Diana was manipulated and while I don’t always agree that she made good choices – she was too young and not sophisticated enough to deal with their machinations.

    I do read historical books with royalty in them- they acted so much more like what I think of as royal. I’m going to have to check out the Luna imprint at Harlequin and see if I like their take on it.

    Great post!

  7. Leigh says:

    I do like the Lackey’s books but since they are fantasy I can suspend belief. I just seem unable to do that in contemporary books.

    I might watch the wedding (probably record it) I read that it was costing 35 million dollars just in security? Seems like such a waste. . .

    While I can understand Diana’s charisma, I have never understood the more negative view of Charles cheating vs. Diane cheating on him. I realize that many people believe that Charles never gave up his mistress, and understand that. And I do realize that her age, and not being brought up as a royal was a definite handicap. And agree that to a girl of 20 finding out that your husband loves someone else is earth shattering. But at age 36 Diane still seemed like a very confused and trouble woman. I don’t think all of that can be contributed to her marrying Charles or the media or the royal family. . . Just my two cents.

  8. maggie b. says:


    This is where my moral warpedness shows: -) I totally understand the second partner cheating (do not approve) but understand because your selfesteem has received a terrible blow and you want to feel like somebody finds you attractive. From all I’ve read it took Diana a while to really accept that she was beautiful. I imagine having your husband cheat in the first year of marriage wouldn’t exactly boost your self-worth.

    My problem with Charles has always been that he feels his birth gives him privileges. I’ve read that he writes heads of state to voice his opinion on a subject. Were I them I would send him back the post card most of us citizens get which basically amounts to “thanks for writing.” He is not an elected official – and I just hate it when anyone who isn’t an elected official tries to assert themselves into politics. We have enough trouble controlling the ones we vote in – the others we have no control over.

    Also (and I don’t have time to look this up but I read it in the news) Charles was jealous of Di’s popularity. At one point he mentioned that he was glad Camilla would never steal the limelight. That just struck me as so immensely immature. He seems very stuck on protocol and his place in the world. From the Queen I accept that – her generation was different. But from someone the same age as my dad? Uhm, no. Not OK.

    Anyway, they aren’t my royals so I should probably only worry about the Obamas but Charles just gets on my wrong side.

    maggie b.

  9. MMcA says:

    @Lynne: I’m always interested in the money part of the argument, because I’ve never seen figures. Pundits either claim they’re astonishingly good value, at only 65p each a year (or whatever, I’ve no idea) or ridiculously expensive. But it must be possible to cost it out – if we replaced them on a like-for-like basis with a non-executive presidency – what would be the difference? Some costs – state visits – would presumably be the same, some – royal weddings – would disappear, and others – presidential elections – would be new.
    Just ignoring the ‘but they’re so good for tourism!’ argument – the costs and benefits that can’t be quantified – I’d like to read an article that properly tried to cost both systems. (I know when my daughter got the topic of the future of the Monarchy in Debating Society, we tried to find something of that sort and couldn’t.)

  10. @MMcA oh, so would I! But these days only avid monarchists claim they’re value for money. Monarchies in other countries, like Norway and The Netherlands, even the monarchy in Spain have cut back. Only the British royal family still carries on as if the country is as wealthy as it was in Victorian times.
    They have a huge personal fortune, even personally owned palaces. The late Queen Mother’s massive debts have been more or less written off, as none of her family offered to pay them.
    The 65p refers only to the Civil List, I’m guessing, which has been cut down, but other assets are usually disregarded, like, um, Cornwall.

  11. bobbi says:

    Hi, I saw this post because a friend sent it to me. We were recently talking about how we felt ‘way back when’ when Charles & Diana got married. I don’t think I’ll watch the wedding – I’m sure I’ll see snippets of it here and there, and I may have to make scones in its honor. But I do have to say, it seems like these two young(er) people seem to have much a much healthier attitude and a more solid and real relationship going in. I certainly hope so.

    But since the post was also about royal romance stories I thought I’d add that I just read a cute contemporary ‘royal wedding’ story by one of my favorite writers, Christine Merrill. (She’s a HQ historical author, so this is a little different for her, but I’ll read anything she writes. I love her!) Anyway, it’s kind of an interesting take on the idea – in order to help his country financially, the Prince of a tiny rural kingdom agrees to a PR move to marry a Brittany Spears kind of character, who gets into a cat fight while they’re filming the engagement video. Prince convinces an American tourist who looks a lot like the actress from a distance to stand in for video shots until his fiancee can be seen in public. It’s called The Tourist of Zenda, and it was a quirky take on a few different interesting modern themes all ties up into a cute, hot romance. I thought it was worth mentioning.

    Happy Royal Wedding watching!

  12. dick says:

    I’ll not watch it, but will probably get called in by my wife to see bits and pieces. I don’t read stories about contemporary royals, although I think their lives must be repetitive and boring. What do they do all day?

  13. bungluna says:

    maggie b.

    I’ve always felt sorry for Charles. He’s neither fish nor fowl, brought up to a world that no longer exists, with no occupation until mumsie dies, and unable to make any decision for himself.

    • maggie b. says:

      bungluna: maggie b.I’ve always felt sorry for Charles.He’s neither fish nor fowl, brought up to a world that no longer exists, with no occupation until mumsie dies, and unable to make any decision for himself.

      I can certainly see your point in terms of waiting for his poor mother to die in order to get his job (could anything be more awful???) But I think he is as much a part of the problem as victim of it. Prince William is actually working. He gets up and does the job of a rescue pilot almost everyday just like all his coworkers. Kate actually keeps house – not all the cleaning but the cooking and other things. They seem determined to have a life before having the throne.

      I know Charles was born in another era but he was certainly willing to break with tradition for his own happiness (re to be with Camilla) but seems far more reluctant to actually break with it for anything else.
      I think this is my main problem with him. He actually seems attached to his lifestyle and unwilling to join the rest of us in this more modern time. For the queen, who is quite elderly, I have compassion. Her generation actually saw a shocking change in the structure of their lives and she has done her best to adapt. Charles is far younger, he has had far more time to get out there and see what the world is really like. (She on the other hand inherited young.) I think he has in many ways chosen his gilded cage. More importantly, when his wife wanted to break free of it he joined the chorus of wanting to punish her for it, not join her in it.

      Sorry to go on so long, I guess I just have strong feelings on how it was really his generations job to change the look of the monarchy and instead he left that for the kids. Missed so many opportunities in the 1960′s and 1970′s when the whole world was moving forward to move forward with it.

      Thanks so much though for sharing your thoughts. I do know there is another side to the story, I just get on my soap box about my side far too easily. :-) I’ll let it go now.

      Again, thanks for sharing.

  14. maggie b. says:

    RE:Wedding cost Here is an article stating that the Middleton’s will pay for some.

    The royal family is to pay for the wedding – ie invitations, food, flowers etc.

    The security and clean up from the crowds etc. will be paid for by the government.

    Last time, with Charles and Di, the full price was paid for by the government, so this is some small improvement. :-)

    maggie b.

  15. MMcA says:

    Lynne, I’m a monarchist, but not avid – if Prince Andrew was next in line to the throne I’d be a happy republican.
    I’m just suspicious, I think. I think Tony Blair et al would happily move into Buck House, telling the people how much better and fairer and cheaper a Presidency would be, and then twenty years later it would emerge that actually – oddly enough – this new dispensation would be costing us as much as the old one ever did, and we wouldn’t even have the fun of the occasional wedding.
    I’m probably a cynic: terrible admission for a romance reader.

  16. I have the same mug! Plus my English mother has china tea cups from other royal weddings and coronations which are 50+ years old.

    If CNN is starting the broadcast at 4 am EST, that’s 10 pm in Hawaii. I’ll probably watch the first hour and tape the rest. I can skim through it Firday at my leisure.

    Our local paper featured tidbits from the last Royal Wedding in Hawaii – King Kamehamha IV and Queen Emma in the 1860s. They would ultimately become friends with Queen Victorial and Prince Albert.

  17. Sarah says:

    “Only the British royal family still carries on as if the country is as wealthy as it was in Victorian times.
    They have a huge personal fortune, even personally owned palaces. The late Queen Mother’s massive debts have been more or less written off, as none of her family offered to pay them.”

    The Queen settled her mother’s debts after her death. During the past decade, she has also assumed a lot of expenses, both for herself and for royal family members who perform official duties, previously paid for out of the Civil List and other monies. Much of the wedding cost will be paid for by her, Prince Charles, and the Middletons. In short, the British royal family are NOT “carrying on” as they supposedly did in Victorian times.

    Yes, they have personal wealth, and yes, Prince Charles does receive revenue from the Duchy of Cornwall. However, the Civil List amount has remained the same since 1991, and it is to be abolished in 2013. All royals, except for the Sovereign, pay taxes.

  18. lauren says:

    I think the nicest thing about Kate and William is that they truly LIKE each other it shows in their eyes and their expressions…it bodes well for a long marriage.

    I think that Diana would be proud of William he chose an equal…and they will make very pretty babies!

    But a marriage whether royal or not is hard work and the fantasy of princess and prince is best left for the world of make believe and stories!


  19. Kim T says:

    I’ve never been in to royal watching, but I’ve been pulled in to they hype around Will and Kate. Enjoyed watching the wedding, even bought a tea cup and coaster (though those were also for an exhibit I did at work on English royal weddings of the past). I was only 5 when Charles and Di got married, but I remember watching the funeral when I was in college and being amazed at how emotionally involved I felt. I agree with an earlier poster that Diana was tragic from the beginning, marrying too young, etc. However, now that I think about it, I sympathize with Charles as well. He’d met and fell in love with Camilla way before Diana was in the picture and you have to admire that kind of love and loyalty. No excuse for the mentality and sense of entitlement that allowed him to carry on an affair with her well married, but I kind of think his upbringing and position made him the man he is today and that’s kind of tragic, too. We’ll never truly know how they all are behind closed doors, but I’d like to think that he’s been a good parent to his sons. Though Harry seems like a wild one! (I don’t think I’m the only one thinking that if Harry and Pippa got together that would be awesome…his current girlfriend is a hot mess!).

    As for royalty in romance, I’ve been trying to think about any that I’ve loved in the past. Victoria Alexander had a few titles in her Effington series that were successful. And I suppose I’ve read a few other historical romances with royalty that I enjoyed. Generally, I seem to like the royals as secondary characters in my romances.

    That being said, I just ordered a couple of category titles with modern royals from paperbackswap because I was inspired by the royal wedding. I’m expecting not to like them much, but thought I’d try. I agree with others here that a modern romance that actually explores the responsibilities of a royal in a serious manner might be interesting.

    I do have one very fun recommendation for royalty in the genre: /Mary Janice Davidson’s Alaska Royals series! It was hilarious!

  20. Audra Sparacio says:

    @clonetrooper250 *horrified face* ‘Why would certainly, there get anything this way?? ‘

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