Okay, petals, let me get this out of the way immediately; Royal Scandal requires a level of suspension of belief usually reserved for fantasy novels. I’m convinced anyone’s ability to enjoy it is based on how much you buy into the main conceit, and ultimately, it’s frothy and far-fetched, although with some moments of delight.
At the beginning of our story, Prince Colin Sinclair has just bought a house in a secluded hamlet in North Carolina. In addition to some adult-aged siblings, he has two babies in tow and he is desperate to take care of them now that he is in exile from his home country. He’s in the middle of solving his childcare problem when a very cross young woman comes stomping across the yard towards him. Della Hughes thinks the new owner is evicting those who live in the cottage and is about to give him a piece of her mind. She’s stopped in her tracks by the clearly flummoxed Colin trying to feed the baby twins. Melting immediately, she offers to help and the two become non-romantic co-parents.
Here’s the conceit: when we fast-forward to the main plot, which picks up about a decade later, Della has no idea Colin is a prince. Nor does anyone else. ANYONE. The entirety of this supposedly small town has not tried to deduce why a handsome man with a British accent has wound up with twins on their doorstep? They’ve never been tagged by a single tabloid? No one from their home country (the Isle of Man, for those keeping track) has gotten curious about the very clear lies the populace were told about Colin and his siblings and gone digging? The internet doesn’t exist?
And that’s not all. Ms. Valentine’s Isle of Man has absolutely NO discernible connection to the real Isle of Man. I am charitably going to assume this is because the whole book takes place in an alternate reality – again, crown princes living outside of Charlotte for a decade with no servants and going undetected demands my complete suspension of belief. One cannot be sure, however, since the explanation of the decision is not explicit in the copy I received.
If you rolled your eyes clear out of your head on both counts, then stop now, this isn’t the book for you. It’s also not for you if you can’t buy that Della has been in love with Colin for almost ten years and has said nothing, but just quietly pines while co-parenting with him.
If you’re still with me, then you are Ms. Valetine’s audience for this frothy and fun romp through scandal and family drama.
The Isle of Man’s succession rules dictate that its queen is actually the head of state. Therefore, for Colin to fight for his crown back, which is the main event for most of the book, he must marry. The timeline, of course, is tight, so he needs to marry someone suitable, and quickly! Who better than his platonic life partner, Della? No one, that’s the answer. So the poor girl has to wrap her brain around Colin being a prince, marrying Colin but not really having a marriage, and being a queen in about two pages. She’s a better woman than I – I would need significantly more gin to process all of that.
What happens for the rest of the book sets up a lot of the rest of the series. We learn why the siblings are in exile (this plot comes with a villain who literally twirls his moustache), about Colin’s future role, and how it’s all going to fit together. I rolled my eyes a few times, for sure, but it was still a lot of fun. The chemistry between Della and Colin is lovely and I’m a sucker for unrequited love becoming requited. The siblings are super fun side characters that I’m kind of excited to see get their own stories.
In summary, if Royal Scandal was a Harlequin Presents title, none of us would bat an eyelash at its madcap-ness. Because it’s not, I had to mentally adjust a few times, but it’s a fun read for reality-escaping purposes once you buy into the world.