My Wicked Prince
He was my stepbrother.
My Prince Charming.
My fairytale gone totally wrong…
My mother marrying the king was supposed to give my mom and me our happily ever after. But my life has never been a bedtime story and no prince with a fancy shoe is turning me into a Cinderella.
I had big plans outside of my small but powerful country. But Gunnar, the wicked prince in a gorgeous package, was temptation too strong for me to resist. His sweet lies and sweeter kisses pulled me back into his arms over and over again until his cold cruel heart finally broke mine for good.
Now he’s going to be King and he wants me back in his country, his palace…and his bed.
And we all must bow to the King.
AAR staffers Caroline Russomanno and Em Wittmann got together to discuss My Wicked Prince, the latest novel from popular contemporary romance author Molly O’Keefe.
Em: Caroline, news of a new Molly O’Keefe contemporary romance is always good news in Em-ville. And I think Ms. O’Keefe’s twist on the royalty trope is a gem. The set-up is initially familiar – he’s a handsome, wicked, bad boy prince with complicated daddy issues; she’s a brilliant commoner who never expected to become a princess. But then the author adds one more twist/trope to the mix: they’re also step-siblings! I loved this opposites attract pairing and the odd circumstances that bring them together – did you?
Caroline: Yes, I definitely think the author did a great job convincing me that a gorgeous playboy prince would find something not only admirable and loveable but compellingly sexy in Brenna, who is a six-foot tall, full-figured Valkyrie and total policy nerd. She makes Gunnar want to be better and models for him how to do it.
Em: Yes! I love this description of her. I also imagined her this way!
Caroline: What about the sex scenes and the chemistry? O’Keefe is known for her hot sex scenes, and I think this book completely lived up to that standard.
Em: I don’t want to say they’re the best part… but I loved them. She’s so good at building tension and lust and attraction and then giving readers totally satisfying sexy times. I thought the slow burn in this one – despite the relatively short length of the novel, split PoVs and time frame jumps – is perfectly paced, and when these two finally ‘do it,’ the scene was all I could have hoped for.
Speaking of the time jump and PoV changes – did they work for you? I was a bit lost in that first scene and flipped back to the start because I thought Brenna was a man! In the end, I liked how she told the story with help from flashbacks of their early interactions.
Caroline: I don’t really care for opening scenes that spoil the flashback (Brenna telling us that Gunnar had rejected her and been horrible), so I would have preferred less detail there.
Em: It was confusing and it predisposed me to dislike Gunnar; she redeems him by the end though.
Caroline: How about the supporting characters – particularly the parents (Gunnar’s dad, the king, and Brenna’s mom, the queen?) I had trouble warming up to Gunnar because his brattiness and hatred of his father were not substantiated – from the first flashback, that’s how he is, and we don’t have a good reason why.
Em: I don’t read a ton of royal romances mostly because of the issues you raise. There always seems to be daddy issues and without fail, the king is a jerk. I actually thought Ms. O’Keefe did a good job defining Gunnar’s relationships (with Brenna and with his father), but she largely neglects the one between Brenna with her mother. Did you feel like the character was underdeveloped? Every once in a while we see glimmers of a woman with few options and little opportunity who made the best of a tough life. Aside from that, I’m not sure I knew her at all. Did you?
Caroline: Agreed. I wanted more there. I read in the intro that this book was grown out of a novella – for it to be a DIK, I would have liked it to grow one more time – an extra hundred and twenty pages would have made a world of difference. The author could have used some of that word count to describe the court more thoroughly. I love a bitchy high-school society vibe, but for all that the characters ‘tell’ us about the toxic court culture, the only court bad guys we see are Gunnar’s relatives and one royal reporter. I also felt that the depiction of the palace (so big Brenna gets lost in it) unrealistic for a country we are told has twenty-four thousand people.
Em: I hear what you’re saying. Was it a poor country or merely a poorly managed country? Why didn’t the citizens have a problem with the king’s excesses? What made this royal family so beloved by its people? I thought Ms. O’Keefe wanted to go deeper into the political machinations with all the references to divided loyalties among the king’s advisory board, but the divisions lacked substance – maybe because of the shorter length?
Caroline: That being said, I loved everything else about the setting. The political maneuvering around the oil, and the Russian company angling for it, felt believable. The geography of the setting was well depicted – the wind, the air, the summer that Gunnar compares Brenna to in her yellow dress. I loved it when the small-town mayor got snarky with Gunnar. I even liked the detail to have Brenna go to the University of Edinburgh, not Oxford/Cambridge – there’s such a long historical connection between Scotland and the islands of the north Atlantic, and the choice made sense.
Em: Alright, we agree that Brenna and Gunnar had excellent chemistry in bed and out of it. But what did you think of the trajectory of their relationship (notwithstanding the awkward opening sequence)?
Most authors would have gone for the obvious, making Brenna a shy, ugly duckling wallflower, but as usual, Ms. O’Keefe goes in a different direction. Brenna isn’t a great, obvious beauty or the super fashionable, popular, life of the party heroine. Her beauty is less obvious, and she’s completely comfortable in her skin. Her greatest strength is her intelligence and love of her homeland; although she’s still plagued with familiar insecurities when faced with a handsome ladykiller like Gunnar.
Caroline: Brenna is that girl who is so awkward when she’s younger, and I just wanted to tell her, “Hang in there. You are not meant to peak at sixteen or twenty-two. You will grow into yourself, and the people around you will mature and realize that your gifts are more worth admiring than the things they prioritize now.” Being born a prince nearly ruined Gunnar, but joining the royal family is an opportunity for Brenna, and she’ll do whatever it takes to make it a success. I was cheering for her so hard and it was incredibly satisfying to watch her win.
Em: I also thought Gunnar was more than the stereotypical bad boy. He’s sensitive and damaged (okay, those are still stereotypes)… but curious. Brenna is the ‘smart’ one, but Gunnar’s intelligence is different. He understands people and relationships, and he’s honest enough to admit he can learn from Brenna and not too proud to do so. I loved that about him.
Caroline: I do see that, but to me, he was much more of a stock character than Brenna. I see Gunnar as the nerd-girl fantasy of the hot guy who can choose any woman becoming utterly smitten by a competent, managing brainiac. And I’m okay with that!
Em: I had high hopes for this surprise (to me) novel from one of my favorite authors. If it was slightly longer I think it would have been a DIK. As it is, it’s still pretty great and it’s a solid B+ from me.
Caroline: My Wicked Prince is sexy wish-fulfillment fun. Definitely enjoyable. I give it a B+, too.