The Royal Treatment
The Royal Treatment is a book with a great deal of style and very little substance. That may not sound like much of a compliment, and for many readers it won’t be. But anyone willing to accept the book for what it is – slick, goofy, occasionally bewildering, but mostly fun – should find it a good read.
The story takes place in a fictional version of our world. Just about everything is the same, except that Alaska is a separate country, never having been purchased by the United States. The country is ruled by an eccentric royal family, including a king who likes to go out and take groups of commoners fishing. Never mind that his beard never fools anyone and he’s always recognized. That’s how Christina Krabbe (the e is silent) first meets him.
As an American, she may be the only person on the boat who doesn’t figure out who he is. She was a cook on a cruise ship until her boss tried to grope her and she decked him. Now stranded in Alaska, she finds herself on board the fishing boat trying to figure out what to do next. Then the stranger she meets on the boat offers her his card and a place to stay. Only then does she learn he’s King Alexander.
The king likes her spirit and immediately decides that she should be his son, Prince David’s, future queen. Before long, Christina finds herself caught up in the whole royal process, on her way to marrying David, a marine biologist obsessed with penguins. She meets the other royals, including a prince who only speaks in haiku and a princess who keeps throwing food at her. But the more time she spends with them learning to become a royal, it becomes clear she may fit in after all.
This is a very difficult book to review, because it’s lacking most of the things that are generally considered necessary for a good story. There’s no real conflict. There’s no real plot or a coherent narrative. The chapters are very short. The story often just bounces from scene to scene like a frog on speed. It’s about as deep as a puddle. That goes for the characters too, who don’t have much dimension at all. Their motivations are often mystifying. David asks Christina to marry him out of nowhere. Her acceptance later is almost as jarring. The love story is just as baffling. David and Christina go at it like rabbits (although, it should be noted, for a Brava release the sex scenes are all very short and are a very small part of the story), but their sudden declarations of love at the end are real headscratchers.
And yet, in spite of all of that, I’m recommending this book. It’s definitely the kind of book where the reader can’t nitpick and just has to go with it. It’s a story that isn’t asking to be taken seriously, and shouldn’t be. Often, that’s the rationale used to excuse really bad, really stupid comedy. The difference here is, The Royal Treatment is not stupid. It’s actually very smart. The story abounds with clever bits and unexpected moments of wit. The dialogue is very sharp and often quite funny. As hard as it occasionally is to follow the story from scene to scene, those individual scenes are all well-crafted and nicely done. Maybe it’s better to think of this book as a series of vignettes that rather loosely manage to tell a story than the usual kind of narrative.
The characters aren’t deep, but they are likable. Christina is actually a great heroine. She’s tough, she’s foul-mouthed, she’s ballsy. She’s also kind and considerate and basically a very good person. Unlike so many romance heroines, she knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to speak it. I liked that a lot. I don’t think she had a single stupid moment. I liked that even more. The romance doesn’t contain a drop of emotion, but there are nicely emotional bits involving the royal family and some of the other characters. One scene involving the mother of one of the bridesmaids stands out as particularly excellent. Some of the subplots are nicely played. It may be a silly story, but it also has an unexpected sweetness and there are many affecting moments. There are several great secondary characters, especially Edmund, the majordomo whose very dry sarcasm is so often right on target. Of course, one plus about a story that races along at a particularly hyperactive pace is that it certainly isn’t boring.
I had no idea what grade to give this book, but while it certainly won’t work for everyone, it set out what it intended to do: it entertained me. I know a lot of readers don’t like too much wackiness in their romantic comedies, so this may not be a good choice for them. But I have a fairly high tolerance for it as long as it’s done well, and here, it is. It’s light, it’s fun, it’s silly, it gets the job done. If that’s all you’re expecting or looking for, you may like it too.