How to Propose to a Prince
2008, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Avon, $6.99, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061124877
Part of a series
While reading How to Propose to a Prince, the third in the Royle Sisters trilogy by Kathryn Caskie, I found myself cutting my lunch hour short. Since this is my prime reading time, I knew I was in trouble. This particular story didn't hold my interest. In a word, it was boring.
Even though this is the final entry in a trilogy, the author does not give enough information to entice a first time reader to go back and read the prior releases. There is very little back story, especially in regards to the other sisters. The sisters are triplets, but the author does not specifically say so in this book (see what I mean about missing back story?). It takes some deduction on the part of the reader to piece it together.
Rumor has it that the Royle sisters are possibly the illegitimate daughters of the Prince of Wales and Maria Fitzherbert. They are in London to find husbands and to discover the veracity of the rumors. It is an intriguing idea, but this novel fails to match the premise's potential.
Elizabeth, the youngest Royle sister, has a dream that she marries a prince. Elizabeth’s dreams have proven prophetic in the past, so she does not question its validity. When she catches sight of this dream man, she follows him into a jewelry shop. The man introduces himself as Lord Whitevale, but when he leaves, a talkative clerk informs her that the man is really Prince Leopold, who is in London to court Charlotte, the Princess of Wales. Unable to dismiss the dream, Elizabeth makes plans to throw herself into the path of the Prince.
Sumner, Lord Whitevale, is the identical cousin to Prince Leopold. A radical had taken a shot at the prince, so Sumner is taking his place at social gatherings. When he meets Elizabeth for the second time, he is attracted to her, but believes he must continue to play the role, especially as a second attempt has been made on the (faux) prince. The attempt also injures Elizabeth.
Elizabeth remains steadfast in her belief that she will be marrying her Prince, despite mounting rumors that he will marry Princess Charlotte. I am not sure she sees him as a person outside of being her dream man, and her unwavering belief in him seems childish, a teenager in her first throws of passion. Her actions were such that I believed her to be around 16 or 17 years old for most of the novel. I was surprised to learn that she was at least 20 (a fact not mentioned until nearly the last page).
Sumner never made much of an impression. He seems to be a handsome “Prince” in the early Disney mold, putting in an appearance, but not really having much to do but stand around and be princely. The love scenes Sumner and Elizabeth share didn't add to the story or the character’s connection to one another. They seemed mechanical in the sense that the author needed a love scene, so she slapped one in. And the question of how the cousin of a minor European Prince could be an English lord is not answered in a satisfactory manner.
As for the illegitimate plot line, Elizabeth’s contribution to finding the truth is staring at a laudanum bottle. During a brief appointment to a royal household, she has the opportunity to question Princess Charlotte on family traits and characteristics but does not do so. Nor does she scope out Charlotte’s house or question members of her household to gather more information. When she does finally figure out her clue, she fails to act on it, and as a result, the trilogy's story arc peters out.
Most of the minor characters, and their relationship to Elizabeth, failed to engage my interest, and the other Royle sisters are involved in only the most minor sense. When the villain was revealed, I had to double-check to see if he had made a previous appearance in the novel.
A few characters managed to make an impression - Mrs. Polkshank, the slightly shady housekeeper, and the creepy Sir Henry Halford - but I do not think the author used them to their best advantage. I also enjoyed the Author’s Notes. The writing is much livelier there than in the book. I only wish the rest of the story had been as interesting, but it wasn't. The plot was not intriguing, the characters were unmemorable and the conclusion was unsatisfactory. All of which made reading the novel a slog rather than a pleasure. However, now that I have finished it, I can look forward to longer lunches with (hopefully) a good book.
-- Carolyn Esau
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