Desert Isle Keeper
His Royal Favorite
His Royal Favorite is the second book in the duology that began with His Royal Secret. As it’s a direct sequel, it’s advisable to have read the first book before embarking upon this one, and also means that there are going to be spoilers for His Royal Secret in this review.
The story in His Royal Favorite picks up pretty much where it ended in the previous book. In a Britain in which Queen Victoria and the House of Winsdor never existed, the reigning monarch is the elderly King George IX of the House of Hanover, and the next in line to the throne is his grandson, the handsome, popular, twenty-nine year old James, Prince of Wales. But James is gay and very firmly in the closet, believing that the British people will not accept a homosexual as their next king, and also well aware of the political and religious issues that would arise as a result of the fact that the monarch is also Head of the Church of England and of the Commonwealth.
But James’ life got even more complicated when he met and fell in love with Benjamin Dahan, an Israeli born German national who is also a journalist. Given the circumstances, the couple were happy to settle for a no-strings sex-only affair at first, but it wasn’t long before the relationship turned into something more emotional as both men realised that they had found something very special in the other, someone to talk to and laugh with, someone who understood them on an almost instinctual level. At the end of the book, James had finally decided that enough was enough and that he didn’t want to live a lie any longer. Knowing that Ben doesn’t want commitment, that putting a partner through the horrors of the media circus that was bound to follow his announcement would be extremely unfair, and, ultimately, loving Ben enough to let him go, James resigned himself to going it alone. I admit I had a lump in my throat when Ben told James he was in it for the long haul and that he was going to stand beside him through whatever was to come.
His Royal Favorite starts with James telling his PR people that he is going to be coming out as a gay man in an existing relationship and follows the two men through the ensuing months, which are going to prove incredibly difficult for both of them and will test them to their limits.
Lilah Pace has done a fantastic job in both books of portraying the way that tradition and protocol still play such a huge role in the life of the modern royal family, and also of the way the tabloid press, gossip rags and paparazzi operate. James gives a wonderful, heartfelt speech at his press conference, and while the public’s initial reaction to the fact that he is gay is generally positive, it’s Ben who suffers the real slings and arrows. He had some idea of what might be awaiting him from the media – people camping outside his flat, his place of work and following him wherever he goes – but nothing could have prepared him for what actually happens, which is incredibly nasty and intrusive.
Ben had led a rather nomadic existence up to now, his work as an economic and financial journalist taking him round the world. He loves his job and plans to continue it, but after he is revealed as the Prince of Wales’ lover, it becomes impossible. Sure, his phone calls are taken by everyone now, but nobody takes him seriously, and when he discovers that someone at the office has been leaking comments to the press, it’s the final nail in the coffin and he resigns, planning to work on his next book instead. But things don’t quite work out that way. Ben feels adrift – his life has changed in ways he couldn’t have forseen and he starts to question his decisions and even to wonder if he knows who he is any more. An uncomfortable distance begins to grow between him and James, but neither knows how to cross the breach.
James may have been born to a life of immense wealth and privilege, but he has problems, too. His uncle, Prince Richard, is stirring up trouble within the Church by speaking to the Archbishop of Canterbury about the incompatibility of James’s homosexuality with his (possible) future position as Head of the Church of England; his sister, emotionally fragile at the best of times, is showing signs of becoming more unstable; and Ben is pulling away from him. Added to all that is the fact that James knows that there are soon likely to be calls for him to be removed from the line of succession. While he can’t deny that the idea of stepping aside and being able to have more of a private life, is an attractive one, being king is the job James was born to do, and has been trained for all his life. Moreover, he wants to do it; he loves his country and he wants to play his part in shaping its future.
All the secondary characters, even those that only appear briefly, are carefully crafted to be individuals rather than stereotypes, and I particularly enjoyed Ben’s interactions with the formidable Queen Louise and his developing friendship with Cass, the young woman who had acted as James’ girlfriend for years. Ms. Pace writes with warmth, humour and poignancy; and if the ending is a little bit fairy-tale… well, that’s what handsome princes are for, right?
His Royal Secret and His Royal Favorite (and I have to wonder why, as they’re both fairly short books, the whole story wasn’t published in one long one) tell the story of two people who fall in love under extraordinary circumstances and are prepared to go the extra mile to make it work. It’s not easy; both make mistakes and Ben is often overwhelmed by the complexity of James’s life, but it’s obvious that in spite of their massive difference in status, Ben and James are equal partners in their relationship. Both are fully cognizant of what they have found in each other and the way they support one another through some truly difficult times and experiences is a real joy to behold.
His Royal Favorite provides an excellent conclusion to this sexy, heart-wrenching and quite unique tale, and I’m already looking forward to reading the whole thing again.