Monday, June 1, 2009

"She's No Princess" (Book Review)

"She's No Princess" by
Laura Lee Gurhke

Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (May 30, 2006)
Is it lame to review a book that’s not exactly new? Would you forgive me if I did, anyway? I lost my momentum with “What Would Jane Austen Do” and found myself at the used bookstore last Friday. Needing something new, but facing an AMAZINGLY HUGE wall of books that were all facing spine-out. How do you choose from there? Used bookstores often lack “showcases” of new/interesting books and you’re left with the incredibly sophisticated art of picking spines at random and hoping you eventually find something interesting.

Enter one Laura Lee Gurhke. Who is this author? And why haven’t I heard of her before? How has she managed to fly under my radar for so long? She had quite the expanse of shelf real estate at TitleWave, and I managed to nab “She’s No Princess” (SNP). I liked the cover, it was pink, I was in that sort of mood, and I went with it.

It seems that “SNP” is actually book four in a related series, with a name that I have yet to figure out. From the writing, you can tell a few couples make appearances in the story as cameos and I got the feeling they had their own novel a few years back. (A little research proved me right. Daphne and Grace both have their own stories.) It didn’t matter too much that I didn’t already “know” the cameo characters. I wasn’t jarred or left wondering who they really were. It worked.

Characters: Lucia. Oh, Lucia, Lucia. You were a feisty one. Half-Italian and the illegitimate child of a Bolgheri prince. Lucia is a hellion and determined to embarrass her royal father and listen to absolutely nothing he says. His solution? Marry the wild child off.

Enter Ian. (I even like the guys name.) A very upstanding British ambassador assigned to smooth relations with Bolgheri and find that wild, enticing Lucia a suitable husband from among the British peerage. Not so easy when the girl's got a scandal sheet four feet long. (I did like how Lucia’s actions caused her embarrassment and shame somewhat…all too often, heroines act out and crazy and there are no consequences…in this story, her consequences are a vital part to her character development and you really feel for her as she second guesses all her hell raising and what it really has cost her.)

Ian was sort of a stick in the mud to me, but also believable. He had his passionate side (eventually), but it sure took some reading to get there. And that’s ok.

Do you ever get frustrated by the stories where our leads fall in love and get naked within minutes of meeting? Seeeeriously? I roll my eyes when I come across those stories because none of us are ever perfectly poised and radiant when we happen upon a stranger in a glen (we’re usually caught picking our nose when someone rounds the corner, and who really hangs out in a glen, anyway?), we’re sure not always on our best behavior, and for the most part, we don’t meet a person and know RIGHT away that they are the ONE. Our loins don’t ache upon the first handshake, and we don’t break out into a glistening, sweaty sheen when they say our name. (Unless we’ve been at a bar far too long and had too many Coronas…but that’s another story in another genre altogether.)

Anyway, bottom line was Lucia + Ian ≠ Love at First Glance. He was bossy. She was stubborn and wore her gowns too revealing on purpose. It was great.

And their happy ending? Well, they got it, but the best part about this story was that they got it a little too soon and neither one was really prepared for it. Their “happy ending” wasn’t quite so happy at first and they really had to earn it. It was kind of uncomfortable to read for a while (in a good way) and you felt bad for these two. Like, "C'mon, get over it already and be happy!" Which made for good reading. Definitely 4+ stars.
Bottom line? "She's No Princess" was no run-of-the-mill romance. Sure, Ian's an alpha male and Lucia's a wild child, but Gurhke's got a way with her characters. They're not carbon copies of every other hero or heroine you've met. And that's a good thing, right?

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