“He’s a lumberjack and a computer programmer?”
“Well, it’s hard to make a living as a lumberjack.” – the royal sisters of Estau
The two sisters who head up the novella Bad Princess are both aware of and yet participatory in the ridiculous yet heartfelt curveballs the narrative throws at us. The book is a lot of fun and contains engaging characters, but its breakneck pace means that it suffers in the storytelling department
The gorgeous but extremely bad-tempered Princess Brinley Cantrella is in a pickle. Her gorgeous, sweet-tempered, groomed-for-the-throne older sister, Elle Vida, has abdicated and run away with her lumberjack/hacker lover, leaving foul-mouthed, twerking Brinley as next in line for the throne of Estau. And the last thing Brinley wants is to be hemmed in by royal responsibilities.
The presence of Elle’s former betrothed, Prince Finian (Finn) Bellamy of Lenora in her life might make things bearable, though. Finn’s heart has been broken by the runaway princess – a fact that agonizes Brinley, who’s had a crush on Finn since she was a young girl. But the proper Finn has never seemed a good fit for the wild child princess, even on a general social level. At least, that is, until they get drunk together in a royal library while their parents negotiate a forestry treaty elsewhere in the palace, nearly have sex and instead get caught by a bunch of tourists. The horrified royals think the best way to avert the burgeoning scandal would be to marry off their heirs. But one quickie wedding later, two fundamentally different personalities are left to forge a marriage from the ashes or face the tough choice of a quickie divorce.
Ms. Keyes has something special going for her – she knows how to bring to life amusing and likable characters, even in a brief novella such as this one. Brinley is a winning heroine, and Finn is funny and enjoyably handsome as he blooms into someone warm and giving. The author expertly captures that sensation of battling to keep your own head above water when you’re constantly under the microscope, but her biggest enemy here isn’t her technical work. It’s her pacing and plotting.
This story is so fast-moving that it doesn’t allow for time to establish the setting so instead we’re subjected to leaden info dumps that employ very little logic. It feels rushed, and all of this breakneck pacing leaves the characters and their romance up to the tortures of narrative fate.
The plot is pretty faulty once you sit back and think about it. The notion that our hero and heroine will somehow dodge a scandal by getting married after getting caught together half-dressed in a library is fallacious – the press would instantly speculate that she’s pregnant and the scandal would only grow! This development is washed away by the idea that a quickie, quiet divorce would somehow pass by without causing an even bigger press uproar. The tabloid media is many things, but stubbornness is its chief characteristic, and Brinley is the kind of woman who accidentally hit the Swedish king with an airplane. The author DOES eventually have this idea blow up in the palace’s face, but it was a bad one to begin with; and then something even sillier happens to ‘disgrace’ Brinley. This is a woman who once ate mushrooms because they ‘looked pretty’ and was hospitalized as a result. I think the press would have fun with what happened but they wouldn’t find it to be Brinley’s Ultimate Disgrace. Then the author injects yet another plot twist designed to save the story – but doesn’t quite pull it off.
Bad Princess isn’t a bad book but a little more patience and a longer length might have paid dividends. I enjoyed it in spite of its formulaic, sit-com-like feel, but can’t really recommend it.