The Stolen Princess

Anne Gracie
2008, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Berkley Sensation, $7.99, 356 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425218988
Part of a series

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Warm

Did you know we've granted Anne Gracie DIK status 4 times?

Lately, Iíve been in something of an average book slump. Books have excited me with very strong, interesting beginnings, convincing me that I finally found one to pull me out of the ditch. Then, small but consistent problems chip away at potential greatness, leaving something that isÖwell... pretty average. I didnít want that to be the case with The Stolen Princess, especially considering the authorís past greatness, but this book just didn't inspire me.

Callie is the English-born princess of Zindaria and when someone tries to poison her son Nicky, the crown prince, she grabs him and escapes to her birthplace. Callie doesnít have any friends in England except her old governess, Tibby, so she heads for Tibbyís home by the sea. Along the way, however, she is basically thrown off the ship she was sailing on and stranded on a beach. Knowing she is close to her destination, Callie urges her stoic, crippled son up a cliffside, where they immediately meet a rider galloping along the cliff road.

Gabe is recently returned from war and currently living in a house near the cliffs that his great aunt left him. Heís been somewhat antsy of late and is thrilled to find a sodden woman and her child in need of help. A good problem will keep him occupied and as an added bonus, this woman is about the most beautiful thing heís ever seen. Despite the womanís misgivings, he whisks them away to his house and provides dry clothes and food. Soon, however, he realizes that these two will cause more trouble than he anticipated Ė a count who wants the crown for himself is chasing them across the globe to remove any obstacles to the throne.

This book had a lot of humor and most of it came from Gabe. Heís a smooth-talker who deliberately takes what people say the wrong way to either make situations lighter or to get his way. He does this often with Callie, but sheís not so appreciative since men have controlled her entire life - first her father and then her husband. Because her first marriage caused her extreme pain, she has sworn off men, although she canít help but notice that Gabe is a fine specimen, full of compassion and laughter. The only problem with the humor is that much of it feels very contemporary. Gabe often comes across as a modern man, using modern phrasing and jokes that I couldnít reconcile with the time period.

Itís hard to pinpoint exactly what makes this book more average than not, mostly because the problems lay in a lot of little things that added up. I never felt I really knew Callie or Gabe. They both had problems in their past that tormented them (although we never see evidence of Gabeís demons), but it just seemed to be a necessary ingredient to make three-dimensional characters. Gabe and Callie didnít appear to know each other any better than I did. They simply bickered a bit over trivial matters and thought the other was attractive, so when they get married it seems that the only connection they have is sex and a desire to protect Nicky.

Callie had a major problem with inconsistency, which is another reason why I felt I didnít know her. Everything I did know about her changed repeatedly throughout the book. She would make a decision and moments later pull a complete one-eighty. One minute sheís stalwartly declaring that she will never marry again or tie herself to a man in any way, but pages later, with very little nudging, she agrees to a marriage with a virtual stranger. I took the first couple of turnabouts as a womanís prerogative, but after many such instances, I realized that I did not know what this character stood for or believed. With no plan in life but independence (which she basically gave up when she married Gabe) and running from the count (and really, how is fleeing your whole life a plan?), Callie didnít seem to have any focus and that extended to the rest of the book.

The Stolen Princess is the first book in a new series involving three of Gabeís friends who returned from the war and are trying to fit into normal society now. The other three were introduced, although they didnít do much more than stand there and declare, ďI have a book coming up.Ē The author did not delve into any of their personalities, and I didnít really enjoy this installment, so I feel no burning need to get my hands on the next books in the series. However, some of Gracieís DIK graded books are on my tbr pile, so perhaps Iíll pick them up and look for inspiration there.

-- Andi Davis

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