A Princess for Christmas
I’m honestly not a huge fan of books about royalty, but A Princess for Christmas was just the lighthearted romp I needed this month. It’s a book full of sweet characters who don’t take themselves too seriously, even joking that their lives are like something out of a Hallmark movie.
Princess Marie of Eldovia is extremely out of Leo Ricci’s league. She’s the heir to the throne of a small country in Europe which specializes in making luxury watches. He’s a building super and some-time taxi driver in NYC who abandoned a career in architecture in order to take care of his little sister after their parents died. The two meet by chance when Marie is desperate for a cab in heavy traffic – and they’re instantly smitten.
Marie’s purpose in coming to New York is ultimately to prove herself to her father. The King of Eldovia has been surly and somewhat depressed since the passing of his wife a few years earlier, and Marie is anxious to make her father proud by securing contracts with their important customers. On a whim, she hires Leo to chauffeur her around the city on her errands, as a way to help out the cabbie who did her a favor, and to enjoy more of his company. Even when some business visits end on a sour note, Marie enjoys the time with Leo, and he uses his downtime to pick her up little local New York treats. It’s easy to like these two – Marie is a bit like a puppy, always eager to please, while Leo is a faithful companion making sure she doesn’t get trampled.
Soon enough, though, Marie’s time in New York with Leo and his sister Gabriella comes to an end. Then on the cusp of a tragic parting, she decides to invite the Riccis back to Eldovia for Christmas; New York is only full of sad memories of their parents, while Eldovia will be lonely with just her and her father. To the displeasure of the king, Leo and Gabby show up and lend a relaxed air to the tense palace dinners. Yet no reader will be surprised as the king’s icy heart starts to melt, and Marie and Leo’s relationship starts to flourish, all amid the backdrop of a Christmas in the Alps.
While it would be very easy for a book like this to stray into sappy or outright cheesy territory, Holiday does a good job at walking the line. A Princess for Christmas has an obvious fairytale-like quality about it, as no real head-of-state would be abandoning their contracted car service to cozy up to a random cabbie for the week. (At least, I assume not!) But Marie and Leo are such sweet and lonely people, it’s easy to see the bond of friendship grow between them in a way that feels real, even if it is a little unbelievable.
The time in Eldovia was where things got dicey for me, as events begin to reach a dramatic crescendo involving the surly king, Marie’s long-expected engagement to a family friend, and a slightly drunken Leo ready to save the day with a marriage proposal of his own. The first half of the book really worked for me, when Marie and Leo were just a boy and a girl who liked each other. Throwing in Eldovian politics takes away from that central romance.
However, A Princess for Christmas ends on a strong note when Marie and Leo manage to diffuse the drama and find a happy ending without an over-the-top Grand Gesture. This turned out to be a fairytale, Christmas romance novel that was just self-aware enough to avoid the worst of the Hallmark stereotypes, and instead comes as a lovely escape from everyday life. It’s a satisfying holiday romance from Holiday. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)