In the Prince's Bed
Sabrina Jeffries is an author I can always count on for an enjoyable read. But to date she has not truly dazzled me. With each new book, I hope for excitement because of her very solid efforts in the past. And each time the enjoyment is there, but the thrill of a DIK is not. Continuing that trend In the Prince’s Bed is a well-written, engaging romance and one that didn’t quite grab my emotions as completely as it could have.
Alec, the Earl of Iversley, just inherited his father’s properties and his debts. He’s also recently learned that he is one of the bastard children of Prinny, the Prince of Wales. Though he’s got every reason to resent and hate the responsibilities thrust upon him by his “father’s” death, Alec is determined to bring the family estate back to what it once was. And the only hope he has of accomplishing that feat is to convince an heiress to marry him. With the help of his two recently discovered half-brothers (also illegitimate children of the Prince and future Jeffries heroes) he sets his sights on Katherine Merivale.
Katherine Merivale has a fortune being held in trust for the day she marries. The money was left to her by her grandfather, who considered her a much more responsible recipient than any of the rest of her family. Since that family is now in need of the money, Katherine has set her sights on Sir Sydney Lovelace. Sydney is a man whom she respects and likes. The problem is that Sydney has been reluctant to come up to scratch. When the very charming and infuriating Earl of Iversley proposes that he pretend to court her to make Sydney jealous, Katherine is reluctantly intrigued. And when their play-acting leads to a more serious connection, she has no idea that Alec was initially interested in her because of her fortune.
This is pretty standard stuff from a Regency-historical, and initially I had some misgivings. When Alec meets his two brothers in the first chapter it’s obvious each will get his own book. Alec is honorable and must marry for money, the second brother owns a gambling den and is dangerous to know, and the third is a Duke who is on the outs with society but who has a younger sister who’ll have to be presented. And when Alec dubs them the Royal Brotherhood of Bastards, the sinking feeling in my stomach grew. All that being said, Jeffries manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of the generic regency. The brothers have a minimal impact and they certainly don’t mention their “club” in every other breath. That alone engendered my gratitude.
Truly, though, the strength of Jeffries writing lies in her ability to make the characters and the plot her own. The back cover blurb describes this as a romance between a fortune-hunter and woman determined to marry for love. Neither is quite true and it’s in this fact that a story is built. Katherine isn’t looking for love – she doesn’t believe in love – and when she finds herself falling, she doesn’t trust it. And her reactions are realistically drawn. Her father was a serial cheater and her mother knew it. That’s what Katherine knows of love and marriage.
Alec is drawn equally well. The man he knew as father treated his mother terribly and sent Alec away at the first opportunity. Instead of becoming the brooding, bitter rake romance readers know so well, he got a job and he supported himself as best he could. And when that father died and left him indebted, Alec decided to do something about it. No useless railing against the fates for him. He gets on with it and that alone makes him something of an original.
If all of this sounds pretty glowing, it is. So what’s my beef? At the end of the book the author lost sight of her protagonists to serve the purposes of the plot. And that let this reader down just when I was hoping to feel the most. Ms. Jeffries did too good a job of drawing these intelligent and thoughtful characters for me to believe that they’d behave the way they did in the last thirty pages. In the end, In the Prince’s Bed remains another strong entry by a quite consistent author, but I’m still waiting for Jeffries to write me a DIK.