If you think about it, most romance novels are variations of a fairy tale theme. There is the Cinderella theme of a lord saving a common girl. There is the beauty taming the beast, be it a tortured soul or a true beast. But Nicole Jordan’s new series takes the idea of a fairy tale love to a disturbing level in Princess Charming
Ashton Wilde, the Marquis of Beaufort, is the eldest of a group of cousins and siblings who all lost their parents in a freak shipwreck. One day, his younger sister decides that the secret to the happiness of the group is to find their true love through literature. At first, I thought this was a neat set up. Until the sister actually believed this nonsense and it went from a suggestion of the fairy tale to an order to her older brother to actually act out the story of Cinderella with her best friend, Maura.
Maura Collyer has had a difficult few years. Her father died from a heart attack suddenly and left her with a step mother, two step sisters (who are not the evil ones you would expect), and a vicious enemy in Viscount Deering. Deering wants her family’s prize stallion, Bold Emperor, and he will stop at nothing to get it – including accusing her father of cheating at cards which caused the scandal that led to the heart attack. Now, Maura’s evil step mother Priscilla has sold Emperor right out from under Maura and it will take all of Maura’s ingenuity (actually much more than she possesses, but that is a separate issue) to get Emperor back.
Maura is clearly a TSTL heroine. She is trying to bargain with the viscount to convince him to sell her horse back to her, so what does she do? She humiliates him twice, in public, and just about ensures he would never do anything to help her unless she is willing to warm his bed. Then there are TSTL heroes. And Ashton is one of them. Not only did he very quickly start to believe he needed to act out his sister’s ridiculous idea of playing a prince to Maura’s Cinderella, but he decides to help her steal back her horse, making the two of them horse thieves. But as this story progresses, it is clear that this is more a case of a couple that is Too Stupid to Get Anyone Else to Tolerate Them, when Ashton sends for the Bow Street Runners and tries to convince everyone that Deering lost the horse to him at cards and Maura goes along with his plan and his “fake” betrothal. Which of course in Ashton’s mind, is not all that fake.
As for the romance between the couple I can’t say that there seemed to be any reason other than his sister’s crazy idea that brought Ashton to decide he wanted Maura. The author set the story up so that Maura was the sister’s best friend from school and it would have been very easy to give the couple some sort of history together to make the idea of them coming together as a couple so quickly more convincing, but she chose not to. As a result, Ashton and Maura went from near strangers to destined legendary lovers in no time flat and the romance seemed forced and one step shy of laughably unrealistic.
If all this wasn’t enough, there was just way too much focus on the horse. I was hoping the viscount would take the animal and Ashton and Maura would just get on with the story. The horse was nothing more than a plot device (coming up lame when the couple needed to conveniently become stranded together) and I felt no interest in the creature and saw no genuine affection between Maura and her horse. The horse was supposed to be a beloved pet, but all I saw in the relationship between the two was Maura’s hope for financial independence.
Overall, this first foray in the Legendary Lovers series left me very unaffected. I have little interest in most of the other siblings/cousins, which surprised me, because I am generally a fan of series romances. I was very surprised that the author even told us, by about the third or fourth chapter, what most of the other tales would be. Now, you may want to see how she creates a Romeo and Juliet, a Pygmalion, a Beauty and the Beast or a Taming of the Shrew, but for me, after seeing Jordan’s version of Cinderella, I think I will be passing on the rest of the legends.