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Monday, July 9, 2012

The Princess and the Outlaw by Leanne Banks

The Princess and the Outlaw by Leanne Banks
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (219 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The shy, studious one among the royal Devereaux family of Chantaine, Pippa wasn't known for controversy.

So her brief romance with Texas tycoon Nic Lafitte—of the detested-by-the-Devereaux Lafittes—had to end. Too bad Pippa couldn't get the darkly handsome, modern-day outlaw out of her mind!

Given their generations-long family feud, Nic was stunned when the sweet princess secretly defied the Devereaux clan to fulfill a Lafitte's dying wish. But if Nic gave in to his attraction to Pippa, he'd break her heart—again. He tried to resist her…until a night of passion led to a little Devereaux-Lafitte! Now the royal and the Texan have to somehow bring two worlds, and two families, together.

This tender and poignant romance is a read-in-one-sitting story with elements that might require a box of tissues to be on hand. Ms. Banks put a lot of heart and soul into creating her characters because if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have cared as much as I did about Nic or Pippa.

Many books are written about feuding families and a child from each growing up and somehow overcoming their differences and fall in love. That’s the basis for this tale but the author put a different spin on what brings the hero and heroine together. In fact it was so effective, it zinged directly to where my heart was softest and my emotions the most vulnerable.

The back cover blurb was a bit misleading. This tale is solidly about the growing relationship between Pippa and Nic. It’s about the hurdles they had to overcome, the preconceived notions of the past and one woman’s kind-hearted, compassionate and strong moral compass. I think Pippa did the most growing and in the process, she taught her own family about forgiveness and redemption. Certainly the power of love cannot be denied. I’m not talking about physical love between the sheets. I mean the love between a son and his mother, the love of family and the love between a wife and her husband. All of those are what makes life worth living and the sacrifices that are made to protect that love is what gives this story the power it has to affect a reader’s emotions.

Pippa was a delight. She’s a bird in a royal gilded cage and she struggled to be what her family wanted and needed her to be. But it wasn’t what she needed. It wasn’t until she met Nic, then his mother, that gave her a better understanding of just how trapped she was, what she was missing and it gave her the inspiration to strike out for independence. It’s not without cost but I admired the heroine’s character because she was willing to pay the price. She didn’t love her family any less, but there’s another kind of love worth fighting for, she just didn’t realize that’s what she was doing in the beginning. A reader can see her love for Nic grow. The author puts hints here and there, little phrases or internal comments from Pippa’s POV that showed the progression of her connection to Nic.

Nic was a surprise. At first, readers are under the same impression as the Devereaux family, that he’s no good, a bad influence and to be avoided. However, once I got to watch him with his mother, watch him as he responded to Pippa, I grew to adore his character. Still waters run deep and what Nic bears on his shoulders is impressive and yet he never made a big deal about it. A lesser man would have buckled and run from such responsibility. Not Nic Lafitte. Towards the end, a reader gets full disclosure and it will simply astound a person that the hero bore what he did. Every mother should be blessed with a son like Nic. It brought tears to my eyes.

The tears really showed up with the introduction of Amelie, Nic’s mom. The strength of her character and its influence fueled the plot's conflict as it weaved throughout the book. It affected how the hero and heroine came together, and what kept them together. Shared pain tends to be a bonding experience between people and the fact that Pippa ended up loving Nic’s mom as much as he did truly tugged the heartstrings. It was beautiful as it was tragic. Ms. Banks treated Amelie with respect all the way through. Her pain, her hopes, her little joys, all made her character real so when the eventual thing happened, it was all the more powerful. The paragraph with the butterflies was the most stark and heartfelt of the whole book. That’s when I needed the tissues.

I liked the dialogue, the character interaction and the pacing of the story. I enjoyed how the romance grew and matured and I had a lot of fun meeting Goldie, one of Nic’s helpers at the cottage. I liked the family component with all its prickles and spines and I was entertained with the all the little kids running around the palace.

The Princess and the Outlaw is a book about heart, family and love. It illustrates what is really important in life and that historical grudges have no value or power except to hurt and destroy. The strongest characters, and the ones that make the most impact on a reader, are those that stand up for what they believe in and pursue their dreams into the future. That is what Nic and Pippa eventually do and what makes this story work so well. It’s an awesome read and well worth taking the time to spend it getting to know Nic and Pippa. You’ll be glad you did.