The Fraser Bride

Highland Enchantment

Highland Hawk

Highland Scoundrel

The MacGowan Betrothal

The Princess Masquerade
by Lois Greiman
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-057145-4
The Princess Masquerade is a unique sequel to Greimanís The Princess and Her Pirate. Itís unique because the second story is not one that happened after the first one, but instead at the same time. Itís not important that you read the two books in order. The second one works just fine as a stand alone, although you may find yourself quite interested in reading the parallel story because itís intertwined somewhat in this one.

The year is 1817 and Nicol Argyle, Viscount of Newburn, is advisor to the Princess of Sedonia. Nicol travels to the Isle of Teleere to hunt down a commoner, Megan OĎShay, with whom he had an encounter several months before. She is identical in appearance to the Princess. But she is a cursing, thieving barmaid that lives in near squalor conditions in the basement of the inn where she currently works. Nicol ďabductsĒ Megan and takes her to the country home of a friend, Lord Landow, in hopes of educating her and bettering her speech so that she can impersonate the Princess while she takes leave to find a husband of her choosing in secret (this is the story thatís told in the companion novel). He tells the staff at the manor that she is his wife, so that there is no question as to why they share a room (he fears she will flee if left unattended) and spend most of their time together.

Megan is a very untrusting woman who is interested in sticking around only long enough to steal as much as she can without notice. She makes a couple of attempts to flee, but each is unsuccessful. Nicol promises he has only her best intentions in mind and promises not to take advantage of her person, which Megan fears constantly. In fact, Nicol has promised to pay her a small fortune, teach her to read and let her keep all the gowns he gives her in exchange for her help in impersonating the Princess for just a few days.

The task of educating and bettering Megan proves to be difficult for Nicol, at best. She doesnít seem able to remember not to drop her ďaitchesĒ in speech or control her accent. And Nicol finds himself falling in love with her and wants nothing more than to have her, despite his many promises to the contrary. Will Megan be able to pull off the charade without anyone becoming suspicious? Can Nicol control his feelings for Megan while she plays the Princess? The faÁade could prove very dangerous for them both if anyone were to find out.

There are some incredibly sensual scenes between Nicol and Megan that are sure to leave the reader near melted on the floor. This, mixed with the curiosity of what will happen with the false Princess in place, makes the story so intriguing that itís difficult to set down. There are only the two main characters and servants for secondary characters for most of the story. All of them are so well developed that itís easy to understand their motives and what drives them to act the way they do. Itís quite fascinating to watch Megan grow from an ill-speaking barmaid into a regal Princess. And you truly do find yourself wishing that Nicol would forgo his promises to Megan and just take her. The combination of these two characters is just magic!

There was only one minor problem with the story. It was very easy for Nicol to slip into Meganís room in the palace unnoticed in the middle of the night while she played the Princess. Nicol describes Tatiana, the real Princess, as a woman who likes her privacy and prefers to sleep alone and without guards at her door. Itís very easy to believe that a Princess would prize her privacy, but not to the extent that there wouldnít be some kind of protection near her bedchamber door and window. But, this problem is very minor in the realm of things and almost not worth the mention since youíll find yourself relishing these private moments between Nicol and Megan.

The Princess Masquerade came very near keeper status. It is well worth the cover price and youíll probably find yourself wanting to read the companion book after youíve finished this story, if you havenít already. Highly recommended!

--Tracy Merritt

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