by Christina Dodd, historical (2011)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-41304-8
Taken By The Prince is nowhere as awful as the previous loosely related book In Bed With The Duke, but it's still a clunker. The plot is bewildering, the characters are just sort of drifting around, and the story is full of annoying clichés playing secondary characters.
Bear with me as I describe the story. Just remember, I didn't make all this up. Ready? Okay, our hero, Saber Lawrence (not to be confused with Saber Rider of the Star Sheriffs, naturally), is half-Moricadian, but don't yawn, he's also the heir to the throne. Unfortunately, the monarchy of Moricadia had been abruptly ended when the mean people, like Prince Sandre, seized power a while back. Now, Saber plans to seize the crown back by posing as an aimless dandy while harboring rebels in what seems like a big training compound and hostel that somehow manages to stay hidden.
Now, the rebels know that Saber is the prince, but apparently no one else does... until our English heroine Victoria Cardiff, feisty governess to the wazoo, arrives in Moricadia and spots Saber. You see, Saber's English sister and Victoria go way back, and Saber and Victoria once shared a kiss. Now, Victoria spots Saber and glibly mentions aloud to her employer about the rightful ruler of Moricadia running around the place. Saber decides to kidnap Victoria and holds her prisoner in his Rebel-R-Us HQ until he succeeds in taking over the throne. Victoria clashes will with Saber and tries to pull a Mary Poppins stunt around the HQ. What fun.
The good thing is, there are some amusing dings between Victoria and Saber. Saber may be an alpha male to the others, but he actually likes it when Victoria doesn't let him walk all over her. They exchange retorts, playful insults, and exasperated name-calling along with the usual heated kisses and more, and it's pretty entertaining to watch these two go at it. However, the plot doesn't fully capitalize on the unusual backgrounds of both the hero and the heroine. Since this is pretty much a Love In A Castle kind of story, they don't really go out much and, as a result, both characters never get to do anything memorable outside the love department. As a result, all that effort put into their backgrounds seems to be wasted as a result.
More problematic is the convoluted plot that is designed to get both Saber and Victoria into a Love In A Castle scenario. There are plenty of glaring pot holes in the story, starting with the fact that Saber can keep a HQ full of rebels hidden when these rebels aren't exactly your professional Che Gueverra types. I get this impression that the author is making things up as she goes along. Also, the plot relies too much on uniform sheep-like stupidity and conformity more at home in Disney cartoons. The villains are so evil but so, so, so incompetent. The rebels are a nondescript bunch of people who nod at everything Saber tells them, apart from the few who think that Victoria is a whore for not putting out to Saber (don't ask).
Another problem I have is the dissonance present in the humor. The author attempts to portray a man who tried to rape Victoria as a crude and dim-witted but lovable kind of guy, and I don't get it. I also don't see any humor in how Victoria is accepted by Saber's people only after they know that she has slept with him. If anything, that last development only drives home how illusionary Victoria's power is in this story. She does have power over Saber thanks to his infatuation with her, but she has to sleep with him to earn the respect of his people. I find that more disheartening than amusing, I'm afraid.
The main characters of Taken By The Prince are a fine couple in their own right, but they are stuck in a mess of a plot. Ultimately, the author has served up similar couples in the past, in stories with much stronger plots, so this makes Taken By The Prince redundant in many ways. You can read this book, but I don't see why you should.
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