The Once and Future Prince
by Olivia Gates
(Silh. Desire #1942, $4.75, R)  ISBN 0373-76942-3
*
I have never understood or enjoyed books filled with arguing, followed by lust-filled scenes, followed by mistrust and misunderstandings, nor have I ever considered them love stories. That is essentially what one finds in The Once and Future Prince, so this one missed the boat for me.  

The book opens eight years ago in the country of Castaldini. The purported heir to the throne, Leandro D’Agostino, is engaged in a hot and heavy affair with Phoebe Alexander. Phoebe is the sister to Leandro’s cousin’s wife and has been staying at the palace taking care of her sister, who is partially disabled. Leandro is often called away on diplomatic missions, but when he is around, he secretly meets Phoebe and they make love like neither has ever experienced. Phoebe is just twenty and a virgin and Leandro is in his mid-twenties. In Leandro’s mind, he wants to eventually marry Phoebe, but knows that politically, his enemies will find a way to destroy his right to the throne if it were known. So publically he acts like he might marry another woman who is seen as more suitable, and privately he is with Phoebe. 

There are circumstances about the succession and the King becomes upset with Leandro and not only tells he won’t be king, he exiles him. Phoebe meanwhile, hears that Leandro no longer wants her, they have a huge fight and break up.

All of that is in the prologue. The book actually starts in the present time. The King has had a stroke and knows his time is limited. He still has not chosen an heir. Phoebe has spent the last eight years in Castaldini serving as a negotiator and confidante of the King. She likes and respects him. He enlists her help in getting Leandro to forgive the slight from eight years ago, and come home to accept the mantle of the heir. The King, of course, does not know of their past. So Phoebe travels to New York where Leandro has made a name for himself in the business world. He thought Phoebe refused his love all those years ago when she found out he would not be king. His idea was fueled when she was briefly engaged to one of his cousins, who was also being considered for the throne. 

In reality, Phoebe has not been able to get over Leandro. Her brief engagement was a mistake that she quickly resolved when she realized it would be unfair to marry feeling the way she did.  Leandro was devastated by his loss, and has never even really dated anyone in all those years.  Yet when they meet, they are both filled with distrust and they lash out. After a nasty argument, Leandro finally agrees to return and discuss the possibilities, but only if Phoebe will live with him. His initial plan is to get her to fall in love with him, and then humiliate her by tossing her love in her face, just as she did his years ago.

Reading this book was torture at times. The convoluted story about the throne seemed contrived.  The fact that these two are so full of lust that they had only sex in the past, even though in their minds they were emotionally involved, and that they have held it in for eight years is rather ridiculous. Then when they finally see each other, they act like children rather than a man and a woman who are supposedly intelligent and responsible for a country! The only time they were remotely nice to each other was during hot and heavy sex. I was never able to relate to either of these characters. I never really liked Leandro, even after he realized he loved Phoebe and gave up his plot.

The Once and Future Prince is the start of a series about the three primary men who might become the King of Castaldini. I won’t be looking for the other two stories. 

--Shirley Lyons


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