Penelope and Prince Charming
Penelope and Prince Charming is a Regency-set, paranormal, fantasy, romantic suspense, Cinderella fairytale. Unfortunately, all these disparate elements never quite meshed together to form a coherent story.
Damien is a prince in exile, dodging assassins sent by his mad father while making a reputation for himself as the greatest lover in Europe. When his father finally dies, Damien returns home to Nvengaria to assume his place as Imperial Prince, only to find that the country has been taken over by the Council of Dukes. The Council is headed by Duke Alexander, who controls the military, but who is willing to allow Damien to remain as a figurehead. But Damien has an ace up his sleeve. Nvengarians place great store by the Council of Mages and the ancient prophecies which state that when the ruling Nvengarian Prince marries the princess from the long-lost branch of the Nvengarian royal family, the reunited crown will bring peace and prosperity to the land. Damien departs to find his princess, but knows that, even if he finds her and brings her back, it will be very hard to wrest control of the country from Duke Alexander.
Damien’s search for the princess brings him to Little Marching, England and to Penelope Trask, who has already jilted two fiancés and is happy to remain single. She doesn’t believe in love and is very cynical when it comes to men, and though she collects and translates fairytales into English, she is a far from believing that she is Damien’s long-lost princess. However, there is her mother’s ring which has been in the family for hundreds of years and which matches Damien’s. Then Prinny himself shows up in Little Marching to vouch for the truth of Damien’s story. And there is the fact that Damien and Penelope fell in love at first sight and were doing some heavy petting within moments of having met each other. Perhaps she is the princess after all and her destiny lies with Damien and Nvengaria.
I didn’t buy the love at first sight line, especially when it came to Damien. He is a known womanizer – the prologue has him in bed with a married woman when he receives word that his father has died – so his protestations of love sounded like just another line to get what he wanted. However, there is a prophecy that covers this exigency (there are many prophecies in this book) and so we are supposed to believe it’s true. And Ashley eventually convinced me that Damien did love Penelope, for as they got to know each other, each found character traits to admire in the other. But Damien and Penelope’s initial interactions had me shaking my head in disbelief.
Most of the book centers on Damien trying to convince Penelope to marry him and return to Nvengaria, and he has his work cut out for him. I settled in for a conventional Regency-set romance, but then all these odd elements would pop up out of the blue. There is the mage traveling with Damien’s entourage who interprets Penelope’s every move as the fulfillment of a prophecy. And then suddenly, a half-human, half-demon creature attacks Damien in a ballroom. And there is a huge build-up for the return to Nvengaria storyline. Time is short, the trip to Damien’s home will be perilous, there is sure to be a pitched battle when he arrives – all this urgent build-up and Damien and Penelope don’t even leave England until page 300, leaving very little page space left for all this promised suspense. It’s a huge build-up with very little payoff.
There were some things I enjoyed about the book. Duke Alexander is a three-dimensional villain, and not wholly bad. He loves his country and is trying to pull it back from the brink of disaster to which Damien’s father brought it. He just doesn’t believe that Damien is the one to do it, expecting him to be like his father. I could see Future Hero emblazoned all over Alexander. I enjoyed Damien and Penelope’s relationship after all had been settled between them, and they are committed to each other, but it took a long time for that to happen. Until then, Penelope’s stubbornness and Damien’s highhandedness were a bit hard to take.
A word about the sensuality rating: the attitude of most everyone in Penelope and Prince Charming toward sex is of the earthy and frank variety, bordering, at times, on being crude. There are also two scenes with oral and manual anal action, which bumped the rating to Burning to my mind, though this book could by no means be labeled Erotica. Save these two instances, it has a solid Hot rating.
If you’re looking for a sexy read with some unusual elements, you may enjoy Penelope and Prince Charming. In the end, I found the book to be too disjointed, with no real focus. It is frustrating to read a book that is not sure what it wants to be.