Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Be My Prince by Julianne MacLean

Prince Randolph of Petersbourg has come to London searching for his princess and future queen of Petersbourg -- and all the ladies are vying for the honor. Including Alexandra Monroe.

But getting the prince's attention and winning his heart is only part of Alexandra's grand plan. She's actually the long-lost daughter of the former king of Petersbourg and is seeking to restore her family's name to their former glory.

But her plans are derailed when she meets and falls in love with the future king's younger brother, Nicholas. Alexandra must choose between love and duty --

And when more secrets are revealed, Alexandra must stand up against the rumors and lies and fight for the truth of what lies in her heart.

While most books are encumbered by being overlong and overly-detailed, Julianne MacLean's story suffers from the exact opposite: it is too sparse and under-developed and there are gaps in very important places in the story.

For example, the attraction between Nicholas and Alexandra is too abrupt -- it is only a matter of days between their first meeting and the ensuing declaration of undying love and devotion. But the author doesn't elaborate on how the love developed. There is very little interaction between the two -- and it goes from introduction to love so quickly.

I had wished the author dwelt on this a bit more -- it would have made for a very compelling read: how does one choose between one's birthright (Alexandra's claim to the throne of Petersbourg) and one's happiness?

He is not the one I want, she reminded herself over and over as she crossed the crowded ballroom on Prince Nicholas's arm. It did little good, however, for no amount of rationalizing seemed powerful enough to douse the flames of agitation in her blood, kindled by the mere act of touching him.
- p. 28

But Alexandra's own motivations for seeking the crown is problematic -- I wasn't certain if she was merely a pawn or equally complicit in her stepmother (and Mr. Carmichael's) scheme.

At the onset, I thought Alexandra was a desperate woman who was trying to protect her sisters and herself. (And the summary on the back cover does say: "Lady Alexandra Monroe has been told in no uncertain terms that she must set her sights on a proposal from Prince Randolph to better her family's situation.")

But there is venom in Alexandra -- there is an anger simmering just beneath the surface:

During her first meeting with Prince Randolph, the prince asks her about where she resides:

"...You are the daughter of a duke. Why have you been residing in Wales? Why not at the estate where you were raised?"

She wet her lips and concealed the more pertinent question: Why not with my family, in the country where my ancestors had been born, and where they had ruled for centuries?
- p. 17

* * *

And in this exchange with Nicholas:

...At that, she looked up at him. "Have you ever been knocked down by someone, Nicholas? Have you been treated unfairly? If so, then you will understand how it has a way of rousing you to struggle to your feet and fight back harder than ever before."

He considered that for a moment. "So there is a hint of vengeance in your scheme," he bluntly suggested.

Vengeance? If he only knew how close he was to the truth.
- p. 52

She undergoes a change of heart when she decides to choose love (see p. 90) -- but, as she makes her way to Petersbourg, this particular insight surprised me:

How many nights had she lain awake dreaming of the day she would see the former general's body entombed and revel in the fact that she would be the mother of the future king, and her own father's death would be avenged in this way?

Even now, a part of her hoped King Frederick would already be dead when she arrived so that she would not be forced to bow down before him or struggle with conflicting loyalties -- for he was her husband's father.
- p. 183

The plot in Petersbourg is the most interesting part of this story -- when it is discovered that there is something greater (and more sinister) at work -- and when Alexandra is suspected of poisoning her father in-law --

The action really picks up in the last third of the book but, by then, I did not find myself invested in the hero and heroine. The author sacrificed character development in order to develop the plot and, to MacLean's credit, she does set up the series very nicely and I was very intrigued with the second part of the series, which is Rose's (Rose is Nicholas and Randolph's sister) story. (There's a short excerpt at the end of the book.)

Be My Prince is the first book in Julianne MacLean's The Royal Trilogy. The next book, Princess in Love will be released October, 2012.

To find out more about Julianne Maclean and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.


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