This month in Romancelandia, love goes global in three novels that feature royals and regular boys and girls getting their happy ever afters. Because no matter where you come from or who you fall in love with, true love is possible if you open your heart and risk it all.
I cannot resist a contemporary princess book, which means I cannot resist a romp of a novel like Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins, in which Scottish princess Flora Baird finds love with her American roommate at a prestigious and remote boarding school in the Scottish Highlands. Millie Quint is from Texas, obsessed with Scotland, and fleeing a weird girlfriend sitch back home. Flora is a hot mess of a princess who is supposed to stay out of trouble.
Things are off to a rough start when Millie calls Flora "Veruca Salt" because of her bratty princess behavior. Right from the start, they're sparring with some sassy and snappy dialogue. Flora doesn't want to be at school, and so she tries to get kicked out — often dragging Millie into trouble with her. Punishments ensue, and something like love starts to blossom while they're both on laundry duty, or lost in the wilderness, traipsing around various Scottish castles. As one does. They may come from very different worlds, but Millie and Flora are just right for each other, and together they have something that even princesses can't buy: The chance to be loved for who you are.
In Erica Ridley's One Night of Passion, Priscilla Weatherby is determined not to get married. As long as she remains unwed on her 25th birthday, after years of faithful effort — or at least, the appearance of effort — she stands to inherit a fortune. Then she'll have the means to be an independent Lady Adventurer (#LifeGoals). Keeping men at a distance is easy to do, until she makes the acquaintance of Thaddeus Middleton.
Thaddeus is determined to marry and he's looking for Princess Charming. He wants true love, companionship, and a home. I know, jaded rakes in Regency romance novels everywhere are gasping. Sparks fly when Priscilla rebuffs him, more so when they spar and when they start to indulge in a spot of romance — even though they both know Priscilla will refuse his marriage offer. Or will she? This is a breezy Regency romp, with plenty of wit and romance to delight.
Helen Hoang's The Bride Test (a followup to The Kiss Quotient) begins with a premise familiar to many in romance: A meddling mother arranges an engagement for her son Who Will Not Get Married. But the son in question, Khai Diep, is autistic — and anything that disrupts his carefully constructed routines, like a girl in his house, is just not on his radar. Esme Tran reluctantly accepts the chance to spend the summer in America, to find love and maybe a better life for herself and her 5 year-old daughter. All she and Khai have to do is live together for three months and try.
And they do! Esme is accepting of Khai and eager to seduce him, while also taking advantage of English classes and the opportunity to search for her long-lost American father. Khai finds that Esme is a major disruption and distraction, but there are also definite advantages to having her around. Their relationship is funny, sweet and awkward as they negotiate a life together and a faux romance that quickly gets real. And maybe they can just get married and everything will be easy!
Or not. Esme won't marry for anything less than love, and Khai can't bring himself to say the words. For a book about a man who is certain he cannot feel, The Bride Test sure packs an emotional wallop. Esme's moments of recognition of her own worth — in a world that doesn't want to see it — and her journey to make a life in America is heart-achingly beautiful. I totally wept through the last quarter of this novel (so many feels!) and it was so worth it for a HEA that is both surprising and perfect, and everything you want a romance novel to be.
Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author. Her new book is Duchess by Design.