Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

💙 I read this for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2018 Reading Challenge, for the category of: African American Romance. For more info on this challenge, click here. 💙

As soon as I stopped screaming over the cover for this book, I immediately started screaming over the synopsis. Princess Diaries all grown up, featuring a smart black lady in STEM? Oh, YOU KNOW I was going to be all over that like cute baby goat pics on Tessa Dare's Twitter feed. (And then I saw the cover for the sequel, A DUKE BY DEFAULT, and the screaming began anew.) Hoarse, exhausted, and delirious with joy, there was nothing to do, post-scream fest, except patiently await the 2018 release date.

The precious arrived for me yesterday at the library and I finally was able to sit down and read it. It was a quick read, and I finished it in just under a day, but deciding on a rating for this one was really difficult because there were things I liked & things I didn't.

Positives first. The story is fluffier than pancakes and has great rep. The heroine, Ledi, is studying to be an epidemiologist and we get to see her at work, interacting with coworkers, showing off her smarts. She's sex positive and has a not-exactly-healthy friendship with her BFF, Portia, but a big part of the story isn't just about her development with the male lead, it's also about learning to make her relationship with her BFF healthier, while also setting up boundaries and learning how to say "No."

Thabiso, the hero, is also great. He's a spoiled prince, which is one of my favorite tropes, but he's not an a-hole. He's just hilariously entitled and out-of-touch. We get to see him at work, too, which is great, because a lot of stories about royalty kind of just feel like they're royal in title only, and more about the glitz and glam - more like A-list celebs, in other words, than heads of state. His interactions with his (GAY!) personal assistant, Likotsi, were great and I loved their relationship so much.

The Cinderella storyline really mirrors Princess Diaries, except instead of a made-up European country (Genovia), Thabiso hails from a made-up country in Africa, Thesolo. Ledi is his betrothed, who disappeared with her parents when they mysteriously fled, only to die inconveniently in the U.S., dumping poor Ledi into the foster system. When Thabiso tracks her down to the restaurant where she works to pay off rent and grad debt, she mistakes him for the server who's supposed to be hired that day. Thabiso allows this case of mistaken identity to continue, because it's refreshing to get to know someone and have someone be attracted to him without the burden of his crown.

The downsides are that this story felt really unrealistic at times, and I think that's because Thesolo just wasn't very developed. I would have liked to have learned more about Thesolo. This book came out pretty close in time to Black Panther, and the country of Wakanda in that movie is basically a character in and of itself. I feel like Alyssa Cole had the opportunity to do that with Thesolo, and didn't. It ended up feeling like more of a very weak backdrop. The "intrigue" about Ledi's parents also felt glossed over, and the "plague" kind of ended up being a last-act bit of drama (like Lisa Kleypas's half-assed attempted murder plots that occur in 9/10 of her books' finales).

That said, I still enjoyed A PRINCESS IN THEORY. It had some really hot kissing scenes and the chemistry between the hero and the heroine was fun. As far as light, fluffy reads go, this one does the trick. Did it live up to my expectations? No. But I felt so lukewarm about this author's first couple works (mostly really short stories), and she has come a long way since then. I went from just kind of feeling "meh" about her work, to having her become one of my favorite authors. She is improving so quickly, and I'm very excited to see what she churns out next (AKA, DUKE BY DEFAULT).

P.S. I did my mental casting for this movie and came up with Sterling K. Brown as Thabiso, Anika Noni Rose as Likotsi, and Teyonah Parris as Ledi. All I ask is partial credit as asst. casting director.

3 out of 5 stars

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