A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of reading Nicole Burnham’s debut novel, Going to the Castle, and was pleasantly swept away into a modern day fairy tale. Since then I’ve felt that she was one of those great undiscovered treasures, and was excited to see her spreading her wings outside her Silhouette Romances to young adult romantic comedy as Niki Burnham. Once again she gives readers a solidly enjoyable story with Royally Jacked.
To say Valerie Winslow is having a bad week would be an understatement. Not only has her mom come out of the closet, moved in with a woman that Valerie can’t stand, and announced she’s divorcing Valerie’s dad, but now Valerie has to choose between her parents. Neither option is good as far as Valerie is concerned. Live with her mom and her new girlfriend and go to a new school; or move with her dad to the small European country of Schwerinborg where he has a new job as protocol advisor to the royal family, live in the castle, and go to a new school. The new school thing is her major issue because it means leaving behind not only her friends, but David Anderson, the guy she’s had a crush as long as she can remember, and who has finally noticed her.
Valerie decides to move to Schwerinborg with her dad, rather than stay in Virginia and explain about her mom being a lesbian. Once she gets to Schwerinborg Valerie wonders if she’s made the right decision. The place seems dark and gloomy and she knows no one. Then into her life enters Georg, a hottie who isn’t much older than Valerie, and he lives in the castle too. He’s sweet and funny and he’s a prince. But is he really interested in plain old Valerie Winslow from Vienna, Virginia?
Valerie is a fabulous heroine. Like most teenagers everything in life is a crisis and melodrama, but Valerie narrates her story in a sharp, witty manner so it doesn’t seem filled with angst. While she’s focused on her own personal issues, Valerie never comes across as shallow, and though she’s upset with her mother and how her new life affects Valerie, it’s clear that she loves her mom a lot and wants her to be happy. Valerie also has a great relationship with her dad. Most importantly, though, she comes across a genuine teenager: discussing music, email, sneaking cigarettes, boys, her chances of getting some action, and basically discovering life is unfair and griping about it.
While Georg is the hero of the piece, he’s really just a secondary character. How realistic he is as a member of a royal family is up in the air, but he’s very sweet and kind and a lovely hero. He’s attracted to Valerie because she sees him as a person first and royalty second. He’s also impressed by Valerie’s skills and intelligence and loves to talk to her. He respects her and doesn’t talk down to her, which is one of the things Valerie finds most attractive about him. Well, that and the fact he’s a total hottie.
If there’s any drawback to this story it’s the end. It stops abruptly and I was going “what? Wait? This can’t be it?” Yes it is a good idea to leave a reader wanting more, but you don’t want to have them looking at the page and the back cover thinking “This is it? What about…?” Fortunately the rest of the book was strong enough to make up for the abrupt ending, and I have it on very good authority that the sequel (which I will buy the minute it comes out) is in the works.
If you’re looking for a fun romantic comedy, whether you’re a teenager or an adult, definitely check out Royally Jacked.