Going To The Castle
by Nicole Burnham, contemporary (2001)
Silhouette Romance, $3.99, ISBN 0-373-19563-X

After reading Nicole Burnham's The Prince's Tutor, I thought it might be worthwhile to check out the book that came before it. The elder Crown Prince, Antony diTalora, is yummy, the story sees him turning from an surly sort into a gallant knight very nicely (if a little unconvincingly, thanks to the book's short length), but the heroine Jennifer Allen is dull, dull, dull. What the heck did Tony see in this painfully generic patchwork of romance heroine stereotypes?

Jennifer Allen (super duper volunteer to help refugees in a war-torn country, never dated or have time for men since she left college, parents barely scraping by, believes herself plain and she will never believe otherwise - NEVEEERRRRR! - and the first to offer her happiness and everything for everyone and his dog to be happy) is helping people in the war torn country of Rasovo. The prince of the neighboring country San Rimini decide to drop by one day to wave at press and pose with kids, that sort of thing, but when Tony meet Jennifer, sparks fly. This soon leads to Tony inviting Jennifer to the palace ("Oh, pretty dresses? Too much! But I'll take that, but I'll do my own hair and make-up while whining that I have nothing to wear, okay, people?") and this lead to all sorts of amusing antics such as stolen kisses. Alas, Tony must marry a woman with bloodlines, and of course, Jennifer knows that this woman must NEVER be her, NEVER, not even when he proposes to her, NEVER, yes, NEVERRRRRR!

Give me a break. If the heroine wants to be the new Golden Gate Bridge and let everyone walk all over her, I'd say we let her and give this romance story to a better heroine. There is also the annoying tendency in this story to portray other women outside Jenny's Refugee Camp of Love as shallow, jealous bitches. The men are going to get their upcoming romance novels, so they are the open-minded sort, naturally. This creates a rather unbalanced characterization of females in this story as opposed to the males. If Jennifer comes off as the sanest woman for Tony, that's because the author made every other woman a caricature of a shrewish cat with claws bared for a fight.

Tony is a great hero. I wish this story is longer in length, because it is hard to buy his instant attraction to this dull brown cow Jennifer. But when he falls, he falls so hard. The mad, bad borderline sociopathic groupie in me loves the single-minded attraction he displays towards the brown cow, and when he does those heroics when he thought the brown cow is barbecued meat, I'm sold lock, stock, and barrel on that guy.

Compared to Tony, Jenny is a mess. She isn't a coherent character as much as someone who just seems to react to situations. When she first meets Tony, on one hand she is certain that Tony is a spoiled prince who just visit the refugee camp for publicity. Yet at the same time she is so attracted to him that she starts envisioning life with him, to a point that she starts insisting that she is unworthy of him. How could you be so attracted to someone you suspect a pampered brat to the point that you are more than happy to martyr yourself for him? Her instantaneous attraction doesn't really make sense. To me anyway. As the story progresses, she really makes me want to take a paintbrush and paint "Get Over Yourself" in red across the page.

The hero is really good, but the heroine is very weak. They sort of cancel each other out, although I'm more inclined to like this book due to the hero. Factor in this book's well-written prose, the hero's romantic gestures, and other tiny moments that add to my enjoyment of this book and I find Going To The Castle a flawed but pretty readable book. If the brown cow acts in a less predictable and formulaic whiny self-esteem-free manner, this book would have been a truly great debut from Nicole Burnham.

Rating: 79

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