The Royals Next Door
The Royals Next Door is sweet and funny, but it also has body and substance. It starts out as extremely fluffy and lighthearted – very much a beach-read – but then it hits you with some surprising depth and truth. You might have to adjust your expectations with this one, but it’s worth the ride.
Spirited British Columbian second grade teacher Piper Evans comes off as your average, ordinary schoolmarm. But she’s a secret romance novel reader, yearning for more, and taking her opinions to the romance podcast she runs. The books are an escape from her real life.Her mentally ill mother struggles with bipolar disorder and her needs take up much of Piper’s time, and she’s still running from a regrettable engagement to a guy who continues to slander her in public after things went south; this last has sent Piper running back home and now she’s reluctant to leave it. She also suffers from Complex PTSD, which isn’t helped by the closed-minded and snobby people who inhabit the island where she came to live five years before.
Then Eddie, the Duke of Fairfax and his Duchess, Monica, move in next door to Piper on her little island, seeking privacy from the paparazzi, and Harrison Cole – their handsome, gruff, tattooed and glutually gifted bodyguard – keeps making Piper’s life difficult. He sees her as a security threat, but between her podcast and her starry view of royal life she doesn’t have a practical grasp on what it means to be a royal family member. They banter and snipe as Harrison tries to settle in.
In Harrison, Piper begins to get a taste of a real romance, and of a life beyond her books and her mother. The grumpy one of course melts for the sunshine one. But a storm-cloud brews on the horizon, threatening to take them both down.
The Royals Next Door has some well-researched rep for mental illness (the author herself suffers from C-PTSD; I didn’t even know that Complex PTSD was a thing, and I’m glad to have been enlightened.), but the conclusion to the mother’s bipolar disorder plotline is perhaps a bit too pat. Only a few weeks of online therapy turns a woman resistant to taking care of herself into someone with an online boyfriend ready to move out of her daughter’s house, which really didn’t work for me.
What did work for me, however; the central romance is naturally as cute as heck. Harrison and Piper are too sweet together, and the way his softer side and gentler interests emerge (he bakes!) is well-done. It’s pure grumpy-and-the-sunshine-one goodness, so if you hate that trope, stay away.
I liked Piper, even though her chirpiness could sometimes feel a bit… much. Her emotional scars feel all-too-familiar and the writer does excellent due diligence in regard to them. Harrison is your typical gruff diamond in the rough – and I liked his layers.
And of course, let’s be realistic – Eddie and Monica are thinly-veiled Meghan and Harry, Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Monica is a Black woman, a former singer who married into the British royal family and is now struggling with the viciousness of the tabloid press. Those characters are kind of bland, and they felt much too much like their source figures instead of unique people.
The small-town Canadian feeling of Piper’s island hometown definitely shines through, and I loved that the place wasn’t idealized like some hometowns are. It even has big box stores!
The Royals Next Door comes in at less than a DIK, but it’s just the right mix of light and fluffy and might appeal to those who want light with a little bit of substance.