Desert Isle Keeper
Going to the Castle
Antony diTalora, the crown prince of San Rimini, has a problem. At 34 he is getting a lot of pressure from his father and his nation to marry and produce a male heir. He’s been coerced into meeting and dating a lot of women in search of the perfect bride, hence the media has dubbed him the playboy prince. In reality Antony is devoted to charities and working on economic plans that will help his tiny nation, which is nestled between the Balkans and Italy. Unfortunately all his planning may be for naught when his ailing father announces that Antony has one year to find a bride of noble blood. If he doesn’t, his father threatens to skip him in the line of succession in favor of a younger brother who is already married and produced two male heirs.
This ultimatum comes right after Prince Antony meets the intriguing Jennifer Allen. Jennifer is an American relief worker who runs a refugee camp in the war-torn country Rasovo, just over the San Rimini border.
Prince Antony goes to visit the camp to offer a donation on behalf of the nation of San Rimini. Unfortunately, nothing goes as planned. First, he misses Jennifer’s introduction due to the whirring of helicopter blades and assumes she’s a driver. Secondly, the trip was thrust upon him last minute, leaving no time to familiarize himself with the cause. His faux pas in the beginning leads Jennifer to believe he’s just a shallow celebrity looking for a photo op. When he questions the lack of media at his arrival she’s positive of it. Then Antony surprises her by his kindness towards the refugees and she can’t help but be intrigued by his good looks and sexy accent.
Jennifer’s regard for Antony increases when, instead of throwing money at her need for aid workers, he comes up with a practical solution. And Prince Antony finds himself with a dilemma: he must choose between doing his duty towards his country and marrying the bride his father has chosen, or following his heart and pursuing the woman he loves.
This modern fairy tale about a charming prince who puts the woman he loves before duty is a refreshing romantic fantasy. Burnham takes a standard story and breathes life into it with her likable characters and a little role reversal. Here it’s Antony who’s the hopeless romantic who will only wed for love with the overbearing father trying to marry him off, and Jennifer who’s the commitment-shy cynic.
Jennifer was raised by relief workers and saw politicians make promises to help the Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees her parents worked with, only to forget the promises when the cameras were gone. She’s not going to let her heart be broken by a prince looking for a headline. Jennifer’s devotion to her work is thoughtfully portrayed and never takes a backseat to her making goo-goo eyes at the handsome prince (although she does that as well, because she’s only human).
Not only is he handsome, but Antony is truly sweet, with a habit of bungling American cliches (another a feather in the author’s cap, as this trait is never overdone and allows for some amusing exchanges). He’s slightly clueless as how to break the rules to pursue the woman he loves. He actually believes it is his duty to help those less fortunate than himself, but he’s presented realistically when he’s surprised to learn money isn’t enough to solve the world’s ills. He grows through his relationship with Jennifer.
If you’re looking for a story set someplace besides Britain or America, the tiny fictional Balkan kingdom of San Rimini is a terrific place to start. I guarantee Going to the Castle is just the relaxing and escapist fantasy a body needs after a long day at work or fighting their way through holiday crowds at the mall. This is a terrific debut romance from an author I look forward to reading again.