To Wed a Wicked Prince

Jane Feather
2008, European Historical Romance (Early 1800s [Georgian] England)
Pocket, $7.99, 496 pages, Amazon ASIN 1416525521
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

To Wed a Wicked Prince features an enjoyable romance marred only by a marriage under false pretenses and a too-long page count.

Lady Livia Lacey enjoys the independence she finds in owning her own home in London, a home left to her by an eccentric distant relation, Sophia Lacey. She loves the excitement of the Season, has good friends and is sought after by eligible men despite her lack of fortune. Then her world is turned upside down by the arrival of Prince Alex Prokov of Russia and his determined pursuit of her.

Alex, one of the minor, dime-a-dozen princes Russia produces, is in England with many objectives to fulfill. He is part of a group of Russians in England upset with Tsar Alexander who has just signed the Treaty of Tilsit with Napoleon, which has resulted in the severing of all diplomatic ties with England and much of Europe. This group of men has decided that Russia would be better off without the tsar and are quietly working on an assassination plot. Alex Prokov is a part of this group, all the while juggling correspondence with the tsar who views Alex as his eyes and ears in England. It is a dangerous game Alex is playing.

He has another motive for being in England: Alex's mother was the English mistress of his father who took Alex away to Russia shortly after his birth. Alex's mother is none other than Sophia Lacey, the woman who left her home to Livia. It turns out that the house was given to Sophia by Alex's father for her lifetime only, and so wasn't legally hers to bequeath. Alex wishes to claim the house, but when he learns that Livia believes she owns it, he decides to gain the house by marrying her. Having a wife and an establishment in London is also good cover for his role as princely dilettante. He considers it a bonus that he actually likes Livia and very quickly falls in love with her.

Alex overwhelms Livia with his charm and his determined pursuit - it is all very flattering and exciting and their fun and sexy courtship takes us half-way through the book. Alex is fascinating and Livia is a practical woman who is being swept off her feet and enjoying every minute of it. The relationship is sweet, with a nice undercoat of heat, and I easily bought that they fell in love so quickly. However, it is at this point, after the marriage, that I start having some problems with the story.

Alex is a prince; he is someone who is used to having his own way and having people obey him without question. Feather did a good job of showing that Alex's actions are those of a prince, rather than just a jerk, even if his high-handedness got to be too much at times. Livia, though, is one of those heroines whose IQ drops once they have been bedded. She frets about her husband's mysterious comings and goings, with no word of explanation as to what he's doing; there are rooms of the house she cannot enter, guests to whom she cannot speak. She puts it all down to having to learn to adjust to another person's ways, persevering with the relationship even when things are not exactly to your liking. All well and good, but it is Livia's passivity that grates on me. She was not a passive person before the marriage, but she sure becomes one after the wedding, happy to be distracted by great sex and redecorating, while Alex tells her not a blessed thing about his mother, the house, or his mission.

Part of what made this section of the book difficult to enjoy was the length. At almost 500 pages, there are just too many similar kinds of scenes that left me shaking my head at Alex's arrogance and Livia's meekness. Then, the end of the book got very exciting when all of Alex's secrets are exposed and danger abounds resulting in lots of action and a Big Finish.

So, while I had problems with the middle section of the book, the writing, the characters and the satisfying conclusion push To Wed a Wicked Prince into a book for which I can give a qualified recommendation.

-- Cheryl Sneed

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