Sometimes I want to read a decadent, implausible love story that is pure entertainment , and nothing satisfies this craving quite like the tale of a prince form a fake country who sweeps a girl off her feet. This is exactly what I got in Royally Screwed, the first book in Emma Chase’s Royally series – and why I loved it. Reading it feels like an indulgence, and I eagerly awaited the second book in the series, Royally Matched, ready to wallow in more frivolous fun. Unfortunately, this prince’s story is a bit too silly and unbelievable, and I found it more frustrating than entertaining. And because this is a review of the second book in a series, there may be spoilers here for the first.
You do not have to read Royally Screwed beforehand, but if you do, you’ll understand why the Crown Prince of Wessco suddenly abdicates the throne making his younger brother, Henry Pembrook, the heir. Royally Matched picks up soon after that event as Henry grapples with the realization that he will one day be King. He’s the second son and never envied his older brother’s position, spending the majority of his twenty-five years pursuing pleasure without being overly weighed down by royal responsibilities and relishing his own carefree lifestyle. He is well-liked, has no shortage of female admirers and is often the life and soul of the party, but he must now give all of this up. Few people – including his grandmother, the Queen – believe he will take his new duties seriously and doubt he will succeed in his new role. Even Henry isn’t sure he can do it, but he is attempting to behave more like the Crown Prince, which just reminds him of how little fun it is to BE the Crown Prince. He’s frustrated and increasingly resentful about his change in circumstances.
The Queen sends Henry to an isolated royal castle to take a break and pull himself together, but he considers it a punishment and the resulting isolation makes him miss his old life even more. He’s approached to appear on the reality show Matched, where noble, single women will live at the castle and compete for his heart with the hopes of one day becoming his wife – like an aristocratic version of The Bachelor – and Henry, seeing the show as an opportunity to return to the good old days of women and parties, signs up.
Lady Sarah Von Titebottum – yeah… I assume it’s supposed to be funny – accompanies her younger sister, Lady Penelope, as her chaperone and assistant while the latter is a contestant on the show. Sarah is very quiet and shy, has never been able to talk easily with strangers, and will do almost anything to avoid speaking in public. She’s a librarian and an avid reader who lives a happy but fairly dull life in a small, remote village in Wessco. She’s cautious and chooses to experience things through the stories she reads – books are literally her life.
While hanging around the castle reading, Sarah captures Henry’s attention, and he engages her in conversation. She doesn’t suffer her usual communication problems when she’s around him, and they form an easygoing friendship as he begins to frequently seek her out while he’s off camera. She is attracted to the very handsome and charismatic prince, but she doesn’t believe there is any chance that he would ever be interested in someone like her.
Henry is surprised to discover that he desires and is intrigued by the bashful, virginal Sarah, and he wants to spend more and more time with her and less with the contestants. He starts sleeping with her – platonically – in her room because the television cameras mounted in his make too much noise. Every night they spend time in bed before falling asleep sharing intimacies and getting to know each other, and they develop a tight bond. They both feel like they truly understand each other and are steadily falling in love.
Of course, Henry is still filming the dumb reality show and dating multiple women, and it understandable makes things difficult between him and Sarah, especially when they mix sex into their bedtime routine. Sarah doesn’t have the greatest self-confidence, and it becomes very hard for her to deal with Henry being a part of Matched. This conundrum should be easily solvable considering Henry is going to be a darn king and should have some power over television producers, but it’s not that straightforward in Royally Matched.
The idea that a crown prince – even one from a fake country – would ever do a reality show (unless it was some kind of charity gig) is absurd, and it takes all of the romance out of having a prince as the hero, making Henry look like a regular dude trying to date multiple women and get laid. He appears even less of a Prince Charming when he pouts that he’ll never have fun again, and he cannot continue to use the excuse that he didn’t expect to inherit the throne to justify his tantrum. Even though he never thought he’d be a king, he did grow up as a prince and the concept of duty can’t be completely alien to him. It’s also hard to swallow that someone as shy and reserved as Sarah could ever be with Henry because he has such a public life.
And speaking of Sarah, that ridiculous last name gets purposely butchered to create such nicknames as “Teet-bottum,” “Tight-butt-um,” and “Titty-bottum,” but you would think these juvenile games are reserved for children. Well, Crown Prince Henry frequently calls her dumb names that play off Titebottum, as well, which is not only not at all funny, but makes him look even more immature and even less princely.
The most enjoyable parts of Royally Matched are the references to classic novels and their characters that are made throughout. Since Sarah lives through her stories, books are a central theme and their clever inclusion adds charm and a dash of maturity that is otherwise missing. I was disappointed that I didn’t love Henry and Sarah, but I am not giving up on this series – although I could only suggest reading Royally Matched if you do not have any royal expectations of your prince.