Shy Queen in the Royal Spotlight
Shy Queen in the Royal Spotlight is book three (of eight) in the Harlequin Presents Once Upon a Temptation Series. The series seeks to retell and modernize fairy tales – in this case The Ugly Duckling. While it was a fast read with likeable characters, it sadly did not bring anything new to the story of ‘Prince meets girl and transforms her into a Princess’. I felt like I had read the story several times before.
Prince Alex of Triscari is in a bit of a pickle. An archaic law in his kingdom states that he must marry before being crowned King. His father died ten months earlier and Alex still has no desire to surrender his bachelor, party-boy lifestyle, but time is running out for him. On a quick trip to visit his sister – who is studying in the States – Alex meets her assistant, Hester Moss. Although melting inside as a result of Alex’s stellar good looks, Hester remains cool, composed, and somewhat aloof – traits that intrigue Alex. After talking for a few minutes, Alex is convinced he’s found his bride of convenience. He proposes a deal to Hester – they marry for one year (in a loveless, sexless marriage), he gives her a large amount of money, and after the year, they divorce and go their separate ways.
A truly terrible temptation swirled within her and with it came a terribly seductive image. She shook her head to clear it. She couldn’t get mesmerised into madness just because he was unbearably handsome and had humor to boot. “It’s impossible.”
“I think you could do it.” His eyes gleamed and she grew wary of what he was plotting. “If you don’t need the money…” he trailed off, his voice lifting with imperceptible disbelief “…then give it to someone who does.”
His gaze narrowed instantly. “What’s your favorite charity?” He sounded smoothly practical, but she sensed he was circling like a shark, in ever-decreasing circles, having sensed weakness he was about to make his killer move.
Hester is convinced Alex is pulling her leg and resists. But the temptation of having all that money to help others in need is too much for her. She agrees to marry Alex and off they go to the Island of Triscari for a quick, royal wedding. Spoiler alert – it pretty much proceeds exactly like you expect from here.
Both Alex and Hester are likeable characters. They have been misunderstood and ill-treated by family members and, at least initially, don’t feel like love is on the cards for them. Alex comes off as cocky, but we quickly realize his heart is in the right place. Hester is harder to warm to but the story explains why later on, and she becomes more relatable as the tale progresses. It’s a sweet if somewhat predictable romance. My biggest issue with the book is that I am not a fan of the ‘Ugly Duckling’ scenario; while Alex enjoys Hester’s company from the beginning, it isn’t until she receives her makeover on the airplane ride to Triscari that he starts to want her. I would have loved for Alex to come to see the beauty in Hester before lusting after her physical beauty.
Bottom line – if you’re looking for a quick, sweet romance that won’t overtax your imagination then this might fit the bill. If you feel you’ve had enough ‘makeover Princess’ stories in your life, then please pass on this one.