Charming the Prince
Before I start this review, I would like to state a personal bias. I am not a reader who is fond of children as main characters in romance novels. I always try to set aside any personal prejudices while reviewing books, but could not for this story, because there was not just one child as a main character, but twelve.
Lord Bannor the Bold, cursed with an overabundance of virility, has a problem, twelve of them to be precise. His children have currently driven him into hiding in his own castle and little bundles of joy keep arriving on the castle doorstep. He cannot leave his tower without the rampaging horde attacking him. The humiliation is not to be borne! He is a warrior, how can he be expected to deal with children? The solution is obvious; he needs a wife. One, however, who will not tempt his lusts, which will in turn lead to even more children. Since he cannot leave the tower, he sends his faithful steward to search out a wife who will love and care for his children, leaving Bannor free to perform his duties, (other than marital ones, that is).
Lady Willow of Bedlington has also been cursed by children. Her father remarried when she was young, and Willow gained a horde of nasty step- siblings and half-siblings. Willow has been the caretaker for them for years, and is fed up with the situation. She wishes for a prince of her very own who will love her for herself, not for her child rearing abilities. She is gathering apples in the woods with her siblings when the steward spots her. She has just rescued one of her younger siblings from a tree, with threats to his life if he climbs it again.
What Hollis sees from a distance is a woman who is overweight, bedraggled, but yet lovingly holding onto a child she has just rescued, and also competently watching over a large group of other children. A perfect bride for his lord! He follows her to the castle to petition for her hand. Willow sees a chance for escape from her dreary and unhappy life and misunderstands why Hollis is petitioning for a bride. She agrees to the marriage and says the proxy vows, still wearing her bedraggled clothing and the apples in the cloth around her hips. Hollis almost suffers a bout of apoplexy when Willow removes the apples in her skirt and takes off her hood. She is young, and stunningly beautiful. However, the deed is done and they must travel back to Lord Bannor’s castle. Willow is humiliated when they arrive, and she realizes that all Bannor wants her for is to be a nursemaid for his children.
A majority of the story focuses on the children and their antics to get attention from Bannor, and then later after Willow arrives, he encourages them to drive her away. Bannor knows that he cannot keep himself away from her because of her incredible beauty. The children play cruel jokes on her, at one point dumping honey in her hair. Bannor lets them do what they will, until Willow finally decides to take action. Not until much later does the story begin to focus on the relationship between Bannor and Willow. So much time is spent building up Bannor and Willow’s relationship with the children, that by the time the story reached that point, this reviewer felt cheated. The antics of the children grew very tiresome, and more annoying was that all the girls’ were named Margaret – there was Mary Margaret, Meg, Mags, and Peg. This device grew more cloying than clever in no time at all.
Willow blossoms into a strong heroine after a very weak start. Once she challenges the children for the first time, she develops into someone who is willing to take risks to obtain her dreams. She wants a real marriage with Bannor and will do whatever is necessary to achieve it, whether Bannor agrees or not. Her character was one of the more enjoyable parts of the story. Bannor is one of those heroes whose motives are unclear for most of the book. When all is revealed, his reasons were noble, but why didn’t he explain things to his wife? This irritating Big Secret grew even more irritating as his efforts to conceal his motives increased. In fact, his effort seemed ludicrous.
When the author did bring Bannor and Willow together, however, the story flowed beautifully, with some hot and also tender moments. Teresa Medeiros is an excellent storyteller. However, because the focus was on the children for so much of the story, I never felt that the characters developed a relationship with each other. The elements that were present were excellent, but they came too little, too late.
If you like humorous stories based on the antics of children, with some hot moments between the hero and heroine mixed in, this might be a book for you. Since I own her entire backlist, and have enjoyed all of them, I’m going to stick with those.