Prince Of Hearts
by Katy Cooper, historical (2000)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29125-6


This historical romance presents an alternate history of Tudorian England, with some reshuffling in the monarch department. I have no idea what's the what-if's that are present in this novel, since my knowledge of the kings and princes of England stretches back to the Queen Mom. Pathetic, I know.

And therefore, I have no quibbles about history. But I do have quibbles about the characters, but more later. The plot first. Lady Cecilia Coleville met a very charming boy when she was a lil' girl. The boy was cute and he could walk on his hands, and that was the highlight of her tour of the whole boring Tower of London. When they were adolescents, they meet again and exchange pictures of each other. Her libido would never be the same again.

Now, much older but still not that much wiser, she is an attendant to Queen Catherine. She meets her prince charming, Edmund Tudor, and her heart and libido start singing the heavenly chorus - until he turns out to be the king's brother. Oops.

He is besotted with her wit, her intelligence, and her charms, but he needs to marry someone with the right political allegiance and connections. He is also foresworn to weed out the bad villains that are hired to make the story exciting, and in doing so, he takes Ceci along on a road trip, where everyone they meet pretends not to recognize the Prince. (At least, I think they're pretending - I, for one, would recognize a handsome prince anytime, anywhere).

So, can love overcome court machinations, dastardly betrayals, and Ceci's boring insecurities? Oh, Ceci dearie, the typical too-intelligent bluestocking court miss who lives in the constant shadow of her blonde, prettier sister. Yawn, tell me that story again after I have a long nap, Ceci darlin'. Yes, she's intelligent. Yes, she's quite capable too. And yes, she's also typical.

It is Edmund who keeps the story afloat, I must say. He is charming and his easy-going facade hides a serious, capable, and responsible man who always has to struggle between his obligations and his wish to be free and unfettered. And as he realizes how much Ceci means to him, my, that man's protective/possessive nature just takes my breath away. I want one of these guys myself.

But everything almost gets buried in the barrage of court stuff. So many obstacles, so many things the bad guys pile and pile around the good guys, but everything gets wrapped up in a nice way that smells suspiciously of Plot convenience.

Likewise, our two lovebirds have to share the stage with their servants and friends and relatives and bad guys in just 300 pages. Must be darned cramped in there. The result is a less-than-interesting romance between the two. Skillful writing, yes - Ms Cooper can write, but she just can't make the whole romance thing well developed and memorable in such limited word count. This book is like a historical epic squashed down to consumer-snack size and dumbed down for those readers seeking light reads, when it can be so much more than that.

And maybe it's me, of course, but if I'm a man, I wouldn't for the life of me see the allure of a too-serious, too-boring woman who is fast to think the worst of herself. And preferring books to gossips? How much boring can one get? Edmund, Edmund, Edmund, you deserve a woman who knows how to live, dear poor princely you.

Rating: 75


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