The Prince's Tutor
by Nicole Burnham, contemporary (2003)
Silhouette Romance, $3.99, ISBN 0-373-19640-7


I love the hero of The Prince's Tutor. He's a prince that will never be king, so that means anyone who gets him will also get a life of endless moneyed irresponsibility, parties, and jet-cruising. Prince Stefano diTalora may have a name more appropriate for a San Francisco drag cabaret star, but he's roguish, funny, looks fatally attractive in a tux, knows how to make a move on the sweeties, and he's not too much a slutty sort. What's not to like?

The Prince of a kingdom seemed to be based on Monaco, he is twenty-five and an irresponsible type who gambles, have fun, and flirts. This doesn't make the King happy, so the King hires Amanda Hutton to tutor him in the ways of princely conducts and the intricacies of diplomacy. As the author tells me, Amanda have done a great job with the US Prez's daughters, you know. And look at how lovely, charming, and well-behaved the Bush gals turn out.

Amanda is attending the wedding of her friend who just married the elder Prince. She meets Stefano first when they send her to look for Stefano who is running late for the wedding. Struck by his looks and his American accent (personally, I thought any Mediterranean accent beats a Texan twang when it comes to sexiness, but hey, that's just me after watching too much CNN and adorable Dubby's elocution skills), she will find him even harder to resist when they both end up in a room together. And judging from Stefano's actions, I have a sneaky suspicion that sleeping his way to an A+ isn't something new for him.

Amanda is a bit of a typical heroine - prim, proper, "Daddy, I don't want to disappoint you, oh Daddy, DADDY!" - and at first, she's alright. She makes too many excuses for Stefano's irresponsible moments, but she's okay. The author really makes Stefano and Amanda's relationship sizzle with enough sexual zing leveled off nicely with their apparent ease in each other's company. This isn't uneasy lust as much as a comfortably developing relationship that I really enjoy reading.

In fact, so far the book is refreshingly devoid of the more contrived plot devices typical of the series subgenre: no secret baby, no biological clock explosions, no dating the CEO's son for a promotion, nothing hallelujah nothing. Okay, so the heroine reluctantly takes up the assignment because she wants money, but then again, who doesn't need money, eh?

I would have given this book a higher rating, maybe even a keeper grade as I really like how the story is turning out, but the last eighty or so pages really see the author pulling the rug from under my feet. Amanda's IQ doesn't just deteriorate, her entire brain seems to have melted into a disgusting ooze altogether. Her hysterical reaction to Stefano's love and a potential health problem in her future drives her to actions that are unnecessarily melodramatic. Yes, she flees, and along the way she not only loses her job but also ends up poorer than before. All this is right on if we are to have Stefano chasing after her in some "romantic gesture", but Amanda comes off really lame from the actions she pull on everyone in those pages.

Also, there's a personal tragedy in Stefano's family that the author somewhat sloppily uses as a Mary Sue-ish scene to drive home the "Let love in, seize love by the nuts, Stefano, and never let go!" anvil to the poor man. I personally thought Stefano is well on his way to realizing that - no need for some transparently contrived scene to drive home that point, surely.

The Prince Tutor is well on its way to being a romantic, enjoyable old-fashioned fairytale romance until those last 80 pages. Maybe in a longer format, the author may just salvage those 80 pages into something more readable. Still, despite everything, I still find myself inclined to like this book. It misses the bullseye considerably towards the end, but while it is good, it is a book to read alright.

Rating: 84


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