Title: My Fair Princess
Author: Vanessa Kelly
Series: Improper Princesses #1
Genre: Regency Romance
Available: 30th Aug
First, Vanessa Kelly brought readers The Renegade Royals. Now, in a delightfully witty new series, she introduces The Improper Princesses—three young women descended from royalty, each bound for her own thrilling adventure . . .
Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.
Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast . . . but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?
Source: ARC from Zebra Books (Kensington) via NetGalley
Why, Charles? In all honestly, I cannot see why he falls in love with Gillian. I tried so hard to be patient with her while reading about her foolish stunts, but I just couldn’t be. She’s so irritating! She’s supposed to be twenty-one (or is it two?), has spent her entire life being belittled for a parentage, is tough enough to track down and deal with the bandits who murdered her stepfather… and yet she does incredibly stupid things, because that’s just the way she is.
No. No, it isn’t. She could behave better, she just chooses not to. She could control her temper, she just chooses not to. She could make things easier for her mother and grandmother (both of whom she claims to care so deeply for), but again, she chooses not to. In fact, she often goes out of her way to make things worse, because she’s just quirky that way. Or something. Also, she’s smart enough to know why she can never return to Sicily, but somehow manages to ignore the reality of her situation and pout about it, because it’s all so unfair! She’s reckless and selfish and foolish, while at the same time showing that she could do better, if only she wasn’t too childish most of the time to act her age.
The thing is, I don’t mind spirited heroines. Especially intelligent ones. But Gillian isn’t spirited, she’s willfully, obnoxiously stubborn and determined to act like an idiot, while claiming otherwise.
I also really hated the fact that Charles was never allowed to mock or insult her, yet she spends the whole time doing just that to him. She knows he hates being called Perfect Penley, she even learns why it is actually quite hurtful, but she carries on anyway. Because she is selfish and obnoxious and downright irritating.
Charles isn’t actually perfect, either. He has his arrogant moments and occasionally says really foolish things, but at least he listens to Gillian and tries to help her. Although I did think he needed to loosen up at times, I didn’t particularly like the way Gillian’s influence undermines the good things in his character and usually ended with him being as mean and insulting as she could be. But this was good, because hanging around perfect people is so boring and fatiguing, don’t you know?
The thing that really irritated me, above and beyond everything else, is that there are no consequences. Gillian is a murderess, but this doesn’t have any impact on her at all (I know they’re bandits and it’s justice! and all, but still, it’s also still murder), nor on those around her. She frequently places others in danger or discomfort, but she’s always right, so who cares? I’m usually the first to cheer when a heroine is capable enough of rescuing herself, but in this case I really wanted Gillian’s careless behaviour to land her in the hot water she so richly deserved. Because in truth, she learns nothing in this book, except that she can do whatever the hell she likes and she will get away with it.
She’s not the only one who gets away with bad behaviour either. I would have dearly loved to have seen other characters get their well-deserved comeuppance too, but sadly, nothing.
Which is all kind of a shame, because this is written in an engaging style that made it easy to read. It would have been enjoyable too, if only Gillian hadn’t irritated me so much. Alas, she did, so in the end this book just wasn’t for me.
My Fair Princess is out August 30th.
Visit Vanessa Kelly for more details.