The Prince's Bride
This book is the third in Julianne MacLean’s Royal Trilogy series. I have not read the first two books in the series, but I do not believe that it would have helped in increasing this book’s appeal for me. It started off with a hint of promise, but by the middle of the book my interest had waned. There was both too much and too little going on: Too much in terms of storyline and too little real character development. The whole thing just fell flat and made this book a bit of a chore to finish.
Prince Nicholas of Petersbourg is in France for the peace talks following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. While at a masked ball he meets a lady who intrigues him and he ends up leaving the ball with her, assured of a night of pleasure. Unbeknownst to Nicholas, his drink has been laced with laudanum and instead of a night of sexual pleasure, he has been kidnapped by Veronique Montagne and her sister Gabrielle and whisked away to a remote estate on the coast of France. When the prince awakes the following morning, he is not happy.
Veronique Montagne is a reluctant kidnapper. Her father lost their home in a card game with their neighbor Lord D’Etremont. He has agreed to deed their home back to them if Veronique is successful in kidnapping Prince Nicholas and bringing him to his estate. She does succeed in her kidnapping plot, but regrets it almost immediately, especially since she is drawn to Prince Nicholas from the very beginning. However, she feels the future of her family is at stake and that she had no choice but to obey D’Entremont’s demand. When Veronique arrives at the estate with Nicholas in tow, her sister and co-conspirator Gabrielle is there to meet her. Lord D’Etremont however, is not. She is told that he will return in three days and until then his bastard son Pierre will be his guard. Pierre is a slimy character and it is his behavior that precipitates Veronique changing sides in the kidnapping game. Within 24 hours, Veronique has gone from kidnapper to rescuer.
There were quite a few things wrong with this book. Prince Nicholas is characterized as a rake with a vast number of conquests to his name, but he is instantly drawn to the virginal Veronique. I am just not a fan of instant lust for no discernible reason. Nicholas goes from throwing furniture out the window in his anger at Veronique to falling in love with her voice through a closed door. It just did not pass the reality test for me. The side story of Gabrielle and Robert had the potential to be quite interesting, but it was never fleshed out and ended much too quickly. In fact everything in the first half of the book seems to be resolved too quickly while everything in the second half of the book when the couple arrives in Petersbourg seems to drag on forever. The villain is uninteresting to the point of near pity. The angst Nicholas feels seem almost self-indulgent and Veronique’s character seemed a little flat and underdeveloped. There was just not enough interest in the main characters for me to care if they had their HEA or not.
On a positive note, Ms. MacLean does a very good job with descriptions and giving the reader a sense of place and setting. The second half of the book gave a little more insight into Nicholas’ character which was good if she had edited it with more care and not drawn out his self-loathing. I have read a number of Julianne MacLean’s other books and have always enjoyed them. However, this book is definitely an anomaly in that regard. Very little in this book rang true to me and I believe that it was because the author tried to go in too many different directions. She wrapped up everything with a bright red bow in the beginning and it seemed that she had to create additional conflict in the second half of the book to keep it going. Unfortunately that conflict was uninteresting and not enough to rescue the main characters from obscurity.