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