Desert Isle Keeper
His Royal Secret
His Royal Secret could have been so cheesy; maudlin, sentimental and coarsely gossipy, like the gutter press depicted so unflatteringly within its pages. Yet, somehow, Lilah Pace—a new author to me—manages to give us a romantic story that looks hard at two young men who fall in love under remarkable circumstances, and unravels their hearts and minds to let us see inside.
There is no tawdry speculative fiction here; Pace has created an entirely different British royal family, based on an historical event that didn’t happen, so the reader cannot draw parallels between the royals as they are in real life versus those in the book. This is important because it allows the reader to embrace this plausibly fictional house of Hanover in all its own complex truth. There has been a great deal of speculation in my lifetime about the idea of one of the heirs to the throne being gay. Without the distraction of pinpointing a possible candidate from reality, the reader is allowed to embrace the fantasy with an open mind and an open heart.
Prince James is the heir presumptive to the British throne, having lost his parents in a tragic accident while at university, thus losing the generational buffer that would have allowed him to come out in his own time and with the support of his parents. Left with only his elderly, chilly grandparents, and his hostile uncle-who-would-be-king, James is suddenly faced with a much unhappier scenario for his future private life.
Benjamin Dahan, on the other hand, is an intentionally rootless Israeli/German/American journalist who long ago learned that being tied into any relationship is ultimately an unacceptable limitation on his freedom.
When the prince and the journalist are brought together by some bad weather in a Kenyan game park resort, a series of events unfolds that puts both young men in a situation offering disaster and happiness as the two sides of a double-edged sword.
These are not damaged guys, crippled by their misfortunes; but they both have grown to believe that they cannot have what they most desire. James feels that his political situation will make it impossible for him to ever live openly with another man, while Ben believes that his own experience has proven that commitment to another person would strip him of his independence. Neither feels broken; both of them simply think that they understand the reality of their lives.
Pace’s writing is literate and tempered with a gentle sense of humor. She takes enormous pains to paint all of her characters—including James’ complicated family and Ben’s co-workers—as believable, dimensional people. I wish the author had given us a little more about James’ grandmother, Queen Louise. Because she is so clearly NOT the real reigning Queen of England, it would have been nice to understand her story a bit more. Indeed, there is a bit toward the end where I think the author skipped over a bit of family business that shouldn’t have been elided so quickly.
But in the end, Pace gains our sympathy and puts it where she wants it, and presents a surprisingly emotional romance in a setting that could have devolved into farce and stereotype. There is a second book coming in August, 2016 – His Royal Favorite. Good show!
As noted in this book, Lilah Pace is a pseudonym for a “New York Times Best-selling author.” I can’t help but wonder what she writes when she’s writing literature under her own name.