My Dark Prince

Written by Julia Ross

I almost didn’t make it beyond the first fifty pages of this book. Our introduction to the main characters—Nicholas, Sovereign Prince of Glarien (a fictitious small Alpine country) and Penny Lindsey, resident of an English village—comes through rather overblown prose that could easily have been cut by a third. (As an example, Nicholas feels that “if he relaxed his control for one moment, he would be howling with yearning, like a wolf shut out on the moor, a lion lost in the desert, a merman drowned in an ocean, howling his lost soul to the moon.”) Nicholas is just too stiff and unlikable a hero, and the hints as to why he is as he is just seemed a bit too melodramatic.

However, about a third of the way into the book the plot grabbed me. Nicholas needs to marry Sophia, crown princess of Alvia. If he does not, more powerful nations will be tempted to carve up Alvia and Glarien, with their productive mines. And, according to an old treaty, Alvia will be absorbed by France if Sophia’s father dies without a living male relative. Nicholas plans to marry Sophia in London, in front of the crowned heads of England and Russia. But Sophia has been abducted by Nicholas’s cruel cousin Carl. And this is where Penny comes into play.

This novel, set in 1814 and 1815, alludes to Napoleon and Waterloo and the Congress of Vienna, but is primarily character-driven. Don’t read it to learn about the politics of the day, but for the engaging story that emerges once it settles down a bit.