I admit to a sneaking fondness for Cinderella-type stories. There’s something about the dowdy underdog who comes out on top that is perennially appealing – the number of nobleman-marries-governess stories around is undoubtedly testament to that. But in order to carry off that sort of story in a market that is stuffed to the gills with the “retellings” and “re-imaginings” of such tales, there has to be something to raise it above the ordinary in terms of the storytelling or characterisation. Sadly, Abducted by a Prince is little more than run-of-the mill, suffering from a lack of depth in the characterisation and such repeatedly stupid behaviour on the part of the heroine that it made me want to stomp on the pair of bejewelled dancing slippers she is given near the beginning of the book.
This is the third in Ms Drake’s Cinderella Sisterhood novels, which are linked by the presence of a Fairy Godmother-type figure in the person of Lady Milford. She was, we learn, a Cinders herself, ill-treated by her step-mother and two foul-tempered step-sisters, who got her HEA – although not in quite the manner one might have expected. Now, she spends her time helping other young women in less than auspicious circumstances to attain theirs.
Ellie Statham’s ambition is to become an author/illustrator of children’s books. She lives with her uncle, the tight-fisted Earl of Pennington whose family treats her as an unpaid governess, companion, and servant, and she longs for her independence. A talented artist, she works on her drawings in secret in the little spare time afforded her, and dreams of one day making enough money from her books to enable her to live comfortably in a little cottage somewhere.
The eponymous Prince is actually Mr Damien Burke, the owner of a luxurious London gaming establishment. He was given the nickname “The Demon Prince” by Ellie’s obnoxious cousin Walt whilst they were at Eton, and at the beginning of the story demands that Walt return a key that he stole from him when they were at school. Walt refuses – but Damien is determined. That key could lead him to valuable information about his parentage, and he’s not going to accept Walt’s whining evasions as to its whereabouts. If the key isn’t returned forthwith, Damien threatens to abduct Walt’s sister, Lady Beatrice, and will demand the key as ransom.
Damien is sure that the Penningtons will do anything to protect Lady Beatrice – but when the deadline passes and the key is not returned, he has no choice but to go through with his plan.
The problem, though, is that he inadvertently kidnaps the wrong woman, and snatches Ellie instead of her cousin.
Ellie is – naturally- furious when she discovers she has been drugged and then transported to a castle on a remote Scottish island. But it takes all of about two days for her to go from “how dare you kidnap me, you beast!” to “I want a night of true passion before I settle down to my lonely, spinsterish existence.”
Not only that, but she absolves Damien of any responsibility should she become pregnant as a result of their night of true passion.
My eyes rolled so hard, it’s amazing they’re not permanently deformed by now.
I never fail to be amazed at the number of well-brought up young heroines who are prepared not only to throw themselves into the hero’s bed with gusto, but who then refuse to marry him because they were only in it for the sex. Ellie doesn’t want to give up her idea of independence and supporting herself by writing and publishing her books.
Clearly, she’s never heard of rejection letters because she hasn’t even paused to consider what her options will be if Plan A doesn’t work out.
And as for Damien… well, he’s your typical tall, dark and handsome, but is otherwise a bit nondescript. The blurb spouts:
A notorious seducer of women – and a scoundrel to boot – Damien Burke has earned his nickname as The Demon Prince
Er. Really? How? We’re told that he’s an orphan, there’s some mystery surrounding the identity of his parents, that he’s made his own fortune and now owns a club and has various other business interests. There was a scandal about his first marriage, it’s true, but there’s nothing in the book to suggest he’s a “notorious seducer”. We’re never told how he got his start or made his money and for a man who is supposedly a shrewd businessman, his failure to plan for every possible contingency when it came to carrying out his kidnap threat is rather laughable.
There’s no real sense of period about the book, although from the vague mentions of certain conventions I’m guessing it’s set in the early part of the nineteenth century. The cover doesn’t help pinpoint it either; to my mind it looks more like a contemporary/paranormal than an historical romance. The reason Abducted by a Prince isn’t getting a D grade is because, despite the issues I had with the characterisation and storytelling, the principals are basically likeable, the writing itself flows well, and those parts of the book that work – the first twenty-five percent or so – work well. But the romance is not properly developed; Ellie goes from being a young woman with the determination to get herself out of drudgery to one who is verging on the TSTL, and the ending is almost farcical.
Sorry, Cinders. You won’t make it to the ball in this pumpkin.
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