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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Not-So-Perfect Princess by Melissa McClone

Not-So-Perfect Princess by Melissa McClone
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (192 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rated: 5 Books
Review by Snapdragon

Dutiful Princess Julianna has a secret—she's actually happiest makeup free, sailing with the sea breeze in her hair. Her attraction to rebel prince Alejandro is instant— but her intended is his brother, the proper but dull Enrique!

For the first time, Julianna's irresistibly tempted. Before long, she's spending her nights sailing with gorgeous Alejandro while the rest of the palace believes she's sleeping. Soon she'll have to choose—remain the perfect princess, or follow her heart and stop sleepwalking her way through life.…

In Not-So-Perfect Princess, Melissa McClone has given us a classic ‘happily ever-after’ in charming, contemporary guise. Princess Julianna was – by expectation as well as training – quite perfect. She was also a realist and doing her best to go along with all that is expected of a woman from a royal household, even if those expectations are antiquated. So how come she’s been stood up at the last minute on three separate occasions and is still, embarrassingly, unmarried? It hardly seems her fault!

From the opening, we feel for poor Julianna. She’s smart and plainly believes in women’s rights, but she is also a loving and supportive daughter; and these, her own best characteristics, have left her trapped.

One of her few indulgences, sailing, reveals to us the true Julianna. And sailing is also an indulgence for the very not-approved prince: Alejandro. HE is, believe me, the stuff of romance-readers’ dreams. All right, so he does have a bit of a reputation; but he’s also clever and successful and uninterested in his own government/family’s throne, and seems far far above Julianna’s latest intended, his brother, the prince Enrique.

Sailing speaks to both of them: the wildness and freedom of a life caught between wind and wave. Ms. McClone’s vividly described scenes make this one of the richest and most evocative stories imaginable. Somehow, she equates Alejandro with all the best of the ocean – the wildness, the salty smell, the freedom. Yet, there he is, the same guy, also cuddling his rescued kitten.

Yes, he has good reasons to fade into the shadows, but will he? We cannot believe it. Before we are far into the tale, we know what we want to happen. Yet, for the good of everyone, including the good of two different minor countries, a very different outcome is the one we – and Julianna – should be hoping for. We know it, she knows it, even poor Alejandro knows it, although goodness knows, it’s in his best interest to vote the other way.

Sailing, mere sport to some, will actually reveal something about the inner soul of the prominent characters. There is the Med Cup on the horizon, the greatest of all sailing races. There is a chance, the merest possibility, that the race will force Julianna to wake up and see what she wants for a change…but perhaps options will be swept away before she ever gets a chance to make a real decisision.

Secondary characters (even the squeaky kitten!) are well-developed and believable. Motivations are clear and often, even though we don’t want to, we do sympathize with the desires of others; that of King Alaric to keep his daughter safe, or of Enrique to enrich his country (and also himself).

This is one of publisher Harlequin’s ‘Once Upon a Kiss” series; technically a ‘retelling’ of a classic…and although the word ‘retelling’ never fails to make me feel as though I already know this story, nothing could be further from the truth here. Ms. McClone has crafted an amazing and engaging story that creates all the desperation as well as the feel-good of any great fairy tale. Not-So-Perfect Princess is a must read.