How to Find a Princess
How to Find a Princess is one of Alyssa Cole’s more lighthearted books – but it’s also the weakest romance I’ve read from her so far. I don’t think it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination – its warmth earns a B and a recommendation from me – but pacing problems keep this one from getting a higher grade.
Makeda – Keda – Hicks loses out on a position as assistant manager of a GrabRite supermarket – and then is let go. It’s the first time she’s been fired; usually she’s too useful to be put in such a situation. Her selflessness, ability to please people and insert herself as a helpmeet has gotten her called a “doormat” before, and it leads to her girlfriend, Steph, breaking up with her. Steph keeps the apartment, and Keda moves back into her Grandmore’s bed and breakfast in New Jersey.
Makeda’s Grandmore brooks no BS, and she flat out informs Makeda that she can do better. In fact, according to Grandmore, Keda is a princess of the kingdom of Ibarania, the product of a torrid affair between the gloriously honest Grandmore and their Prince Keshan. Makeda’s mother believed Grandmore’s every word, and her attempts to verify her lineage led to an alcoholic downward spiral, a gambling addiction, and her eventually abandoning Keda for a new life. Keda, therefore, rejects any talk of her possibly being part of any royal family.
It turns out Keda’s Grandmore’s naughty stories might have some element of truth to them. Beznaria – Bez – Chetchevaliere, investigator for the World Federation of Monarchists, long ago vowed she’d find the lost royal family of Ibarania. Bez’s family has a connection to what happened; her grandmother’s betrayal of its queen led to the house crumbling. Restoring the royal line is thus a matter of familial pride and redemption for Bez. When her supervisors hand her the case, she eagerly decamps to America to track down some leads. Keda is one of those leads, but is she truly royalty? To determine that, Bez heads to Jersey and tries to persuade Keda to come with her to Ibarnia.
That’s a harder task than anticipated. The idea of following up on her grandmother’s princess myths, the very thing that destroyed her mother’s life and resulted in Keda’s public humiliation, finally causes Keda to draw a personal line in the sand and say ‘no’ to somebody. But eventually, Keda does agree to follow Bez – mostly so Grandmore might be able to have money to repair the B&B and clear up a lien against it with the $15 thousand participation fee the WFoM offers.
But to get to Ibarania, Bez and Keda will have to take a cargo ship to the small island nation. That involves sharing a bed, pretending they’re newlyweds, and dealing with shipboard shenanigans. Bez and Keda begin to fall in love, but can they beat the odds and stay together?
Frolicsome is a wonderful word to use to describe How to Find a Princess. Generally lighthearted, though it addresses some serious subjects, it manages to find a good, even keel between humor and drama.
I really liked Keda, who has to learn that selflessness has its limits. Bez is bold and driven by honor; she’s neurodivergent, and though I am not, I felt that Cole presented Bez well. Their romance builds slowly and tenderly, and while Keda finally finds someone she can gently assist, Bez also becomes Keda’s protector. They both have their needs fully fulfilled.
I adored Keda’s Grandmore, who is one of my favorite Alyssa Cole characters ever. I am willing to get on my knees and beg Alyssa Cole for a sequel centered around her (certainly there has to be a gentleman out there in the world who can keep up with Ora!). I liked the complicated, imperfect way Keda and her mother finally reunite and talk out Keda’s old trauma.
But the novel’s pacing is unusually awkward. We spend over half of the novel with Bez and Keda in a holding pattern at the bed and breakfast, having repetitive circular arguments. Their relationship finally gets more romantic past the halfway point as they’re on the boat, but only a teeny part of the novel takes place on Ibarania, with the princess mystery being wrapped up in two chapters at the end of the novel. Cole is so well-known for her worldbuilding; that we spend little time with the WFoM or Ibarania feels like a waste of time.
That’s enough to take How to Find a Princess down to a B, but it’s a solid B. It’s not Cole’s best, but it’s still a darn good romantic adventure yarn.