The American Earl

Mail-Order Cinderella

The Secret Prince by Kathryn Jensen
(Silh. Desire #1428, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-76428-6
The premise of The Secret Prince is “Love conquers all…including our fears.” It is a premise that takes time for the heroine to understand, and watching her get there is a little frustrating, but worth it.

Madge Eastwood had a love affair with Karl Van Austerand, then the crown prince of Elbia, years ago. Despairing over their differences, they parted. She was pregnant and alone. To protect herself and her child, she made up a husband, and raised her son to believe his father had died when he was just a baby. But it seems that Karl loved her and searched for her in vain. Now years later, following the death of both of his parents, Karl’s legitimate son, King Jacob, discovers love letters written by Madge, and letters written by his father returned unopened.

Elizabeth “Elly” Anderson is part of a father-daughter genealogy research team hired by King Jacob to find this lost part of his family. Elly is an only child, primarily because her mother died giving birth as a result of her enlarged heart giving out during the birthing. Elly was diagnosed with the same heart problem, and has vowed never to have children. She does not want to take the chance of either leaving a husband mourning like her father did or a child left without a mother.

Dan Eastwood is the co-owner of a resort on the shores of Maryland. He loves the sea, his charity work with inner city Baltimore youth and his mother. When Elly confronts him with her discovery, he is shocked to discover that he really is the illegitimate son of a King and his mother is mortified that her secret is out.

After an unknown person leaks the news to the press, Dan, Madge and Elly go into hiding in Elbia at the palace. Jacob wants Dan to sign papers denouncing his claim to the throne offering a monetary payoff. Dan is adamant that nothing will further embarrass his mother and denies wanting anything from Jacob. Like two stubborn rams, they lock horns and neither gives an inch. The struggles they have are believable.

Elly, meanwhile, is physically attracted from her first look as Dan rises from the sea after a morning swim. But then she is drawn to Dan’s vitality, his gentle caring and his seemingly unflappable love for his mother. Dan is drawn to Elly for her calm demeanor and her vulnerability, to say nothing of her attractiveness. Sparks fly when the two come together, but Elly puts a stop to their lust due to a re-awakening of her fear of intimacy. Dan, in true hero form, responds compassionately, with tender words and understanding. I fell in love with him immediately for that alone!

As they are forced to stay in the castle due to zealous paparazzi, and as Dan and Jacob try to find a compromise to their situation, Elly and Dan fall in love. Engaging in their dialogue and energizing in their sexual tension, Dan and Elly are easy to picture together. Their main conflict is the issue of Dan desperately wanting a family and Elly fearing childbirth. Their love shines through these scenes and is a joy to observe.

There are a couple of slight distractions, easily overlooked. Elly’s reasons for staying at the castle after delivering Dan are unclear to me, although it is never addressed in the story. Dan’s ability to leave his business and never connect with it for the length of the story seems unrealistic, but again, was never mentioned. Finally, Elly sticks to her fears a shade too long, almost to the point of tedium, but the resolution occurs before it became a major issue for me.

The Secret Prince provides a roller coaster ride of emotion from happiness to sadness to basking in the glow of love, and I heartily recommend it.

--Shirley Lyons

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