Always A Princess
by Alice Chambers, historical (2001)
Leisure, $4.99, ISBN 0-8439-4867-1


Nice upbeat style, stupid heroine, clueless hero. That about sums up Alice Chambers' latest, Always A Princess. Mind you, most of the high rating I give this book is due to the unforced, easy chemistry between hero Phillip Rosemont and dumb bot Eve Stanhope, AKA "The Orchid Thief" and "Clueless, Bumbling Dumb Wannabe Thief" respectively.

Phillip Rosemont is the thief known as The Orchid Thief because he leaves an orchid at his scenes of crime. One day, he meets "Princess Eugenia of Valdastok", whom he knows straight away is a fraud. Reasons? He knew that (a) Valdastok is a duchy and it certainly wouldn't have a princess, (b) his father's side is closely related to the Valdastok duchy, and (c) the Princess in question can't speak one word in German, Valdastok's mother tongue, much less recognize the national slogan. When he catches her breaking into some lady's room, he is aghast. Bad enough the fake princess is intruding on his turf, she is leaving daisies behind (according to Eve, orchids are hard to find, after all). Daisies - cheap, common flowers! And people will think he has gotten cheap! The outrage!

He'd better take her in hand. Yeah, he mean it that way too. And she hands herself to him in a silver platter when she tries to blackmail him and he turns the tables on her by offering her money and the means to avenge herself on some bastard who made her and her elderly companion's lives hell as long as she plays his latest lady. Got that?

Despite my reservations, Phillip's charms win me over. Mind you, here's a 35-year old man who is unable to tell his parents to stay the hell out of his private life. He's a 35-year old man who plays thief hoping that when it is discovered that he's the thief, he will be sent back to India so that he can play with exotic Indian women. Uhm... a 35-year old Mommy's boy. Norman Bates, anyone? But Phillips is charming, and his dogged admiration and loyalty to Eve - he falls easily and fast - are stuff Mr Rights are made of.

But Eve, oh, Eve, how stupid are thee? Let me count the ways. One, she asks Phillip why would they want to steal a big diamond and then go through the bother of breaking it to smaller gems to sell. Why not just steal that small diamond? Duh. Then, she tries to blackmail Phillip, and when Phillip asks her for her name, she decides that, well, yes, it is unfair to not let him know the name of his blackmailer, so okay, she offers him her name. Full name, real name. Duh, duh, duh. Her criminal masterplans are laughable, it's like, I don't know, Sylvester the Cat does a much better job trying to eat the Tweety bird, I tell you. And finally, she has no money, about to be homeless, wants to care for her elderly friend, and here is a nice, handsome, and rich, oh yes, rich man offering her marriage and hot sex. Her answer? No! She can't get married, because if she does, she will never be able to avenge herself on that bastard who ruined her life. I give up.

(And don't get me started about Phillip keeping a nursery of orchids - either he really wants to be caught or the law enforcers at that time are really that dense. Orchids, according to the book, is rare, and here is a man with a nursery of them just when there's a thief called the Orchid running around... nah, just coincidence, I'm sure.)

So it's a 50-50 exercise in contrast. Spoiled, childish but charming hero versus a heroine dumber than a sack of old potatoes. But the humor is sparkling, the relationship is sweet and engaging, and overall, I had a great time reading. (It helps that I stab a black crayon on the page whenever Eve does something stupid - again.) So what will it be? Well, this has been a pretty dry month for reading, and Always A Princess puts a smile on my face even with that Dumb Bot Eve in the picture. So yeah, I like this one.

Rating: 81


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