fiction, review

One Night with a Prince

Indonesian edition’s cover

At last, the Royal Brotherhood trilogy has come to its peak. Sabrina Jeffries ends it with One Night with a Prince, a not-so-stunning-but-enjoyable historical romance with typically stubborn characters and an air of hatred and vengeance. Once again, Jeffries comes up with an idea about an illegitimate child who’s seeking revenge for the suffering of his mother. As always, the historical aspect we find in any of Jeffries’ works is never merely a sticky note glued at the corner, and so is it in this particular number. Still set in the Regency era of Britain, One Night with a Prince offers a quite unusual event through a quite usual plot.

Taking place about a year after the second installment, To Pleasure a Prince, this last part has a story of Gavin Byrne, the oldest among the brotherhood, the farthest from nobility, and with the hardest childhood of all. Among his half brothers, he is the one having the deepest vengeance for their sire, Prinny. His chance to take revenge on the regent comes when Christabel, the widow of Marquess of Haversham, comes to him for a favor. She asks him to help her sneaking into Lord Stokely’s house party to get back her father’s secret letters about Prinny. Byrne knows very well that this is his slight chance, if any, to make Prinny pay what he’s done to his poor mother.

But Christabel is more than determined to secure those letters so that her father won’t be accused of treachery and punished by the Crown. And she is willing to do everything to get her hands on those letters, including becoming Byrne’s sham mistress. Playing a sham couple is never an easy thing for Christabel, and not for Byrne, either. Almost from the start, he has fallen for her charms and wit, and he’s already known that he is in danger, his revenge is in danger, and most of all, his mission is in danger.

Some reviews said that Gavin Byrne is the best and the most loveable hero of all the Royal Brotherhood men. But I see him as stubborn as Marcus North, as selfish as Alexander Black. At some point along the book, I even hated him for thinking only about himself without sparing a little room for others. Thankfully, Christabel is such a determined, strong, and clever woman who will not fall into a man’s arms just because he seduces her nor because she’s in love with him. It’s so satisfying to see her push Byrne to the limit and drag him back to his human nature. Christabel’s character is just lovely, reminding the reader that sometimes women have to say no and be persistent in what they are doing.

Like in the other two of the Royal Brotherhood series, Sabrina Jeffries is pretty much serious in working out and presenting the historical aspect of One Night with a Prince. Though not truly accurate, the book tells the reader a bit about Prinny’s secret marriage and its impact on the throne of Britain. The tiny bit of that British history becomes the foundation of the story and is interlaced with the conflict inside. I was not really attached to the story being told, I must say, but the interaction between the two main characters had drawn me into it, and the way Jeffries tells it is captivating as well. So far, Jeffries’ style of storytelling never fails to stun me, even though some of her ideas are disappointingly dull and her typical plot and characters are almost all similar. One Night with a Prince is one of those which is very much disappointing in the plot and character departments, for they are just same old, same old. I really wish Jeffries could come up with a different kind of plot and a totally new characterization. An author indeed needs a trademark, but telling the same thing in the same style almost in every book is sometimes unacceptable.

All things considered, One Night with a Prince is just averagely nice, because I cannot say that it is as stunning as I hoped it was. Some aspects are presented brilliantly, but some others are hopelessly dull to my way of thinking. However, I appreciate Jeffries for ending the series just right here, and for not prolonging it with another and another book, as is the case with her Swanlea Spinsters series. I would say that this book is recommended to those who seek for entertainment, and, of course, who are Sabrina Jeffries’ die-hard fans.

Rating: 3/5

fiction, review

To Pleasure a Prince

Indonesian edition’s cover

As historical romances go, Sabrina Jeffries’ To Pleasure a Prince is not that frustratingly bad. Being the second installment of the Royal Brotherhood series, it has even a better premise and deeper characterization. Forget about the bawdy, improper title, for it has nothing to do with the light yet sad and complicated story, the darkly secret history of the main character, or even the romantic atmosphere shrouding it. Once again, Jeffries tries to connect her entertaining romance tale with the historical fact so that it won’t appear only as an attached, useless background. Having read this book, I would say that she, to a certain degree, quite succeeds in doing it.

The story follows Jeffries’ usual pattern: having a practical agreement and then falling in love in the middle of the plan. Miss Regina Tremaine comes to Marcus North, the sixth Viscount Draker, for help. It seems to be, in the realm of historical romance, a reasonable thing to do, and, to some extent, a reasonable help to ask, however trivial it may be. Regina wants Marcus to give way to her brother’s courtship to Marcus’ younger sister, Louisa, for she believes that her brother, Simon Tremaine, the Duke of Foxmoor, truly has sincere feelings for Louisa and solely intends to marry her. Marcus doesn’t approve of the already running courtship for, somehow, he knows that Simon is Prinny’s right-hand man and that marriage is never his intention. But, eventually, they come to terms: Marcus will let Simon court Louisa on the understanding that Regina will let him court her. The planned courtship is, of course, not only about going to social parties, operas, balls and such, but also sparking emotions and desires rising up to the fever pitch. Jeffries also spices it up with clash of words, battle of wits, allegations, opposing points of views, and a bit of shame and insecurity. Before you know it, Marcus and Regina’s marriage is on the line, making Simon’s ploy to get Louisa fallen into his hands, and the reason behind it, quickly forgotten.

Knowing from first-hand experience, it seems to me so reasonable for any romance to have stubborn characters. But stubbornness has been Sabrina Jeffries’ trademark, I guess. Marcus North and Regina Tremaine do not seem to fit each other, because they are too stubborn to bear some balance. Some romances put two stubborn characters together, yes, but their stubbornness is too overwhelming for words. This nature of theirs is indeed the base of their conflict, and what strengthens the already tight tension gripping their relationship along the whole book. But, if the author is not careful, an intense stubbornness can also be a tricky trap in which readers fall into boredom and do not bother to finish the book anymore. Fortunately, the deep and intricate characterization Jeffries put on Marcus makes him forgivable to read, and the immaculately researched disease she describes in the portrayal of Regina makes this book even more bearable to finish. And they both are not merely some flat characters to peruse, either. They drip with emotions, and that’s just the best thing Jeffries can do about this book.

The plot To Pleasure a Prince has is simplicity itself. It’s so poorly predictable, though I cannot say whether it’s been the marketably acceptable pattern or it’s just Jeffries’ typical mindset of plotting. Be that as it may, I must confess that I was quite shocked in the middle of the book, where marriage is set to become a part of the conflict building instead of the exciting climax or even the ending we all expect to have. But what’s impressive about this book is, as always the case with Jeffries’ works, its witty humor, funny yet meaningful dialogues, and the style of writing Jeffries consistently uses. They are all the features of Sabrina Jeffries’ writing I’ve always been fond of ever since the first time I read her work. The hilarity is undoubtedly simple, as well, but still triggering my smile and laugh. To Pleasure a Prince might seem so simple, and don’t forget entertaining, in every aspect a historical romance could have, but the fact that it has a great story and characterization cannot be overlooked. To be honest, this second book of the Royal Brotherhood trilogy is so much better than the first one. In my opinion, at least.

All things considered, To Pleasure a Prince is a must read for the sake of entertainment, if you can forgive its poor plot and annoyingly stubborn characters. Its historical aspect may not be that accurate or believable, but that’s because Jeffries is too busy making an acceptable connection between her story and the history she wants to use as the background. So, yes, I quite recommend this book, especially to those who love historical romances.

Rating: 3/5

fiction, review

In the Prince’s Bed

Indonesian edition’s cover

Romance is always about love, no matter what other genre you put into it to blend them together and make something new. So, to my thinking, having historical romance doesn’t mean that you’ll get historical facts nor a story about something happened in the past, which is carefully retold by modern authors. It only means that you’ll get a romance tale shrouded in a “historical” atmosphere, with a setting and period convincing enough to make you feel it. But Sabrina Jeffries can do something more about it. In one of her historical romances, and the first in The Royal Brotherhood series, In the Prince’s Bed, Jeffries puts a lot of effort to synchronize a cheesy love story with a historical fact. Set in the Prince of Wales period, In the Prince’s Bed tries to present a tale of a bawdy, lustful romance quite historically.

The name is Alexander Black, everyone close to him calls him Alec, and by the time he’s coming back to England after a long period of exile he finds out that he’s not his father’s son. The letter he gets tells him that he actually is the bastard son of the Prince of Wales, widely known as Prinny, and one of many, to his dismay. He immediately calls the other two he knows, Lord Draker and Gavin Byrne, to his place and then together they establish the secret Royal Brotherhood, a circle aiming at providing help for each other so that they can reach their goals without having their secret uncovered. So Alec asks Draker and Byrne to help him finding a rich heiress to marry, considering the ugly condition of his estate. Byrne then instantly finds him Katherine Merivale, a potential heiress who’s going to inherit her grandfather’s money. To Alec’s disappointment, Katherine has already a fiancé and they’re about to marry soon. Frustrated, Alec tries to court her, wielding his charm and good looks and, of course, hiding his real financial condition. But there is one thing that he fails to anticipate, the fact that there is something more than just lust and desire between them. Alec, for sure, has to rearrange his secret plan.

Alexander Black is an epitome of any male main character a romance has. But Jeffries makes him more humorous and mischievous, wilder in a sexually dangerous sense. And Katherine Merivale has certainly matched him in any way but one, for she cannot match him in bed. Reading Katherine, I can only say that she’s also quite typical, with her innocence, witty mind, sharp comebacks and a body burned with passion. What’s surprising about this book is that Jeffries is game enough to create a homosexual character in the middle of 1810s’ England. I am not sure about the existence of homosexuality back in that period, although historically there were some countries I know of had such kind of thing. But that doesn’t stop Jeffries from creating a character like Sydney who has to hide his true sexual orientation behind a mask of an engagement.

All historical romance readers who love to read Sabrina Jeffries’s works may find that In the Prince’s Bed has a very typical plot she usually used to arrange some of her novels. It starts with a deal, a false relationship, secrets hidden behind desires that flare up between the two pretending characters, and ends up with their secrets revealed unexpectedly but they’ve already fallen in love to each other too deep to let that break their love and separate them. And, as it’s been the nature of today’s romance, they declare their love through a series of sexual intercourse, touches, kisses, seductions and everything. The good thing about reading Sabrina Jeffries’s books, and this novel in particular, is the hilarious atmosphere wrapping it up, how the main male and female characters sometimes get into a battle of wits, and how Jeffries narrates her story in a seriously funny way. I don’t think I liked the story of In the Prince’s Bed quite so much, but I really found it entertaining.

All things considered, In the Prince’s Bed may be too bawdy to my taste, but it’s still nice to read if you’re willing to put aside that aspect. And I may not want to recommend it to anyone, but for those who enjoy historical romance very much, it can be an option.

Rating: 3/5