Two Brothers & a Bride

Wife Without a Past

Annie & the Prince
by Elizabeth Harbison
(Silh. Rom # 1423, $3.50, G) ISBN 0-373-19423-4
Annie and the Prince is a takeoff of the traditional Cinderella tale. Annie Barimer isn't finding much excitement working as a librarian at the Pendleton School for Girls. When she is offered a position as a tutor to the princesses of Kublenstein, Annie jumps at it. At last, a chance to see the world, and working in a small European principality will no doubt offer excitement. As Annie's dippy friend Joy points out, maybe she'll meet someone -- her own Prince Charming!

Annie decides to see a bit of Europe first, traveling by train and meeting a most interesting man along the way. He introduces himself as "Hans", and he and Annie share some conversation and meaningful looks. Annie fantasizes over him as a lover. Then they arrive in Kublenstein, Hans vanishes, and Annie is taken to the palace -- only to find that "Hans" is really Prince Johann, her new employer.

The prince is equally taken aback to find that he's hired this brash American as a tutor for his two small daughters. They need lessons in comportment, not picnics on the lawn. Soon Annie is up to her eyeballs in trouble over her teaching methods. Annie and the prince must fight their growing attraction to one another. But he's a stuffed shirt who could never care for a nobody like her, right?

I would have liked this story a lot more if the heroine had been a bit more sensible. One of the challenges of short category romance is building a story that hangs together -- here it hangs only because Annie has a big mouth and does a lot of dumb things. She takes the prince to task on his child-rearing techniques, though it's obvious his daughters adore him. She sneaks the small princesses out of the castle for a trip into town, then is indignant when the police arrest her on suspicion of kidnapping. Stuff like this made me wonder why she wasn't fired immediately. "High-spirited" often comes across as just plain ditzy, and here I'm afraid Annie crossed the line.

This being part of the Cinderella Brides series, a ball scene is obligatory. Annie finally does get her prince, but I had no assurance that she'd achieved more maturity or that this union was going to be smooth sailing.

Elizabeth Harbison is a talented writer who has written a number of fine category romances. I'd like to think that the Cinderella Brides thing squashed her into too tight of a box. If you're looking for a "fairy-tale" romance, Annie and the Prince might do it for you, but I have to be honest and say I can't recommend it.

--Cathy Sova

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