Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Kim Karr grabbed my attention initially with her Men of Laguna series. She has this way of creating heroes and heroines who find themselves at odds. In that tension, you find them falling dramatically in love and lust. It’s that tension that makes her writing exciting, pulling her reader into her stories. Over the past year or so, Karr has created a royalty series, The Royals. With the first book in the series of standalones, Washed Up Royal, I was hooked. With the second book, Would Be Royal, I fell further under her spell. Wannabe Heir cemented my undying love for this series of standalones.
Now, Karr has released The Pretend Prince, another standalone story about Julius Monaco, a prince who is a former Bachelor contestant who fell in love with his “perfect” match only to find out that she wasn’t who he thought her to be. Spurning her, they haven’t seen each other in three years, three long years that separated them physically, but never emotionally. They are brought back into each other’s lives, and Julius’s heroine, Ophelia, wants to make amends for her prior choices. Julius, however, still feels angry, so he places his anger on her. Faced with an issue created by Ophelia’s employer, Julius and Ophelia must pretend to fall in love again. These two struggle between their past feelings for each other, their overwhelming chemistry, and Julius’s anger over Ophelia’s betrayal. Will Julius ever forgive Ophelia and find a happily-ever-after with her? Or is Ophelia’s love for Julius doomed?
I have to admit that this story, of the four, is my least favorite. Yet, there is quite a bit of it that I loved:
- The idea behind the story. Here’s the thing. Shows such as The Bachelor and Love is Blind are instant reality television gold. People love the competition of these types of shows, and Karr using it as the vehicle for both Julius and Ophelia falling in love and breaking apart makes the story seem relevant and contemporary. It’s a nice little twist to a fairly common “opposites attract, second chance” contemporary romance.
- The Queen’s character. Honestly, Julius’s grandmother, the Queen, steals the entire book. She is your wizened, scheming grandmother who knows all when her grandson believes she’s ignorant of his situation. As such, her machinations behind the scenes bring Julius and Ophelia together in a way that allows them to fall back into love. Every moment she was on the page made this reader happy. She is a shot of humor in this story of second chances.
- Karr’s incorporation of the larger Royals community into her story reminds us of this great little series. In each of her books, Karr connects us back to her other Royals. It might be a mention or even an insertion of a former character into the present one that builds feelings of nostalgia. There is a little bit of it in The Pretend Prince. It’s enough that we realize Karr can build universes for her characters, a trait that other romance writers might struggle with.
Now, where did I find challenges with this story?
- Julius and Ophelia’s relationship. I love a second chance romance. There is more tension built into these stories that create moments of angst and a resolution that usually feels overwhelmingly satisfying. This same tension belies Julius and Ophelia’s relationship; however, Karr carries it for too long in the story. I began to lose respect for Julius as he figuratively flagellated Ophelia for her supposed deception. He’s inconsiderate and temperamental in ways that feel immature. This is a man who has taken on the mantle of his grandfather’s company and made it better. Yet, he doesn’t give Ophelia the consideration of an explanation and holds it against her for much of the story. Even more, he uses physicality to his own ends and it becomes a penance for Ophelia which felt unhealthy. Ophelia accepts this as her plight towards redemption. However, it felt icky in ways to approve of Julius’s behavior. Honestly, I wanted to punch him at times because he’s stubborn and dogmatic. For someone who thought Ophelia was his soulmate, it takes him most of the story to accept her truth. That didn’t sit right with me.
- The story at times felt very one-note. There were parts of the story that never were resolved or they were resolved too easily, namely the ire between Ophelia’s boss, Raquel, and Julius. She was the impetus for Ophelia and Julius reconnecting, and her ministrations of it were purely self-serving. I would have liked a better resolution to her part of the story than Karr provided.
All of this aside, The Pretend Prince is more of what Karr serves up well. Once again, her readers find the hero and heroine at odds, chemistry flowing off the page. It’s clear from the beginning of this story that Julius and Ophelia are destined for each other. However, Karr never makes it easy for them. Whether it’s her ReWined series or her Men of Laguna or any of her princes, the journey towards love is a battlefield, and her characters either run or strategically place themselves among her mines. In the end, it makes for an explosive, compelling reading experience and her readers feel like the happy ending is well worth the battle. The Pretend Prince is no different and a great afternoon read during our troubled times.
In love and romance,