Bride by Royal Decree
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want a really good Harlequin Presents read. I want the tropes to be laid on thick, I want to laugh at the outrageousness of most of it, and I want to lose myself in a world of pure imagination. When I don’t want that itch scratched, HPs are annoying and so I read them selectively. I’m so glad that Bride by Royal Decree is a fab example of the line and that my Christmas break provided an excellent opportunity to enjoy it.
Maggy is an orphan who survived the foster care system to land in Vermont, and now works at a café. Her PoV is busy telling us how hard her life has been, how much she’s struggled, and how proud she is of herself for getting this far when the door of the cafe opens and in walks a chiseled god of a man. Maggy, not one to suffer fools, is annoyed. She informs him that the café is closed, and he informs her that she’s coming with him.
She barks out a laugh and goes back to mopping and telling him to get the hell out of there, when he tells her she’s actually the long-lost princess of Santa Domini and she’s betrothed to him, Reza Argos, the king of The Constantines. Both countries are neighbors and nestled in the European Alps. They make their money in banking and skiing and generally sound too good to be true (because they are).
Maggy is skeptical at best and furious at worst. She agrees to meet Reza later that evening to get a blood test so that the matter can be put to bed. Of course, the blood test confirms (instantaneously! Because that’s how DNA works!) that she is Princess Magdalena Santa Domini and they must depart the U.S. immediately so she can assume her duties quickly.
Their chemistry, in case you were wondering, is instantly smoldering. They are well on their way to true love before they even board the plane. The PoV switches frequently, so we get inside both of their heads, which adds to the sense that this story just wraps itself around your brain. This fantasy world is sumptuous.
First of all, Maggy has to go to princess school so that she can get made over both inside and out. She has to learn diplomacy, royal history, and posture, alongside proper care of one’s nailbeds if one is going to be photographed constantly. She also has to learn how to not be the scrappy orphan she’s been for most of her life and go back to being the princess she was for her first ten years. That was when her parents were killed in a car accident and everyone thought she was with them. Instead, she was secreted off to the U.S. and put up for adoption. So, the accident was no accident and was instead a hit! She was supposed to die, but was spared instead. In this, Bride by Royal Decree borrows a lot from both Anastasia and Pygmalion.
Reza, for his part, has been king since he was twenty-three. He has learned to ruthlessly suppress his humanity and focus entirely on being a proper ruler. When his attraction and love for Maggy threatens to force his humanity to overrule his royalty, he panics completely. Can they overcome his panic and find the true love that will unite both their countries into a peaceful harmony? (Of course they can. It’s a HP novel.)
Y’all, when it comes down to it, this book is exactly what it says it is and is properly delightful. If you’re into the royals trope (which I am) or the arranged marriage trope, and are in the mood for a well-executed contemporary romance, then one-click this, pour your favorite frothy beverage, run that bubble bath, and enjoy.