Convincing Jamey

Father to Be

First Kiss

Getting Lucky

The Horseman's Bride

Knight Errant

Murphy's Law

Older, Wiser...Pregnant

Passion

Rogue's Reform

Season for Miracles

The Sheriff's Surrender

Some Enchanted Season

Suspicion

The Taming of Reid Donovan

 
The Princess and the Mercenary
by Marilyn Pappano
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1130, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-27200-6
**
There was a poll on Harlequin’s web site recently to find out if readers like books about royalty. Last time I looked, 21% said yes, they “love the glamour and fantasy,” 37% said “maybe, depends on the author,” and 41% said no, they “prefer more realistic plots.” Too bad this instructive survey wasn’t taken in time to avoid one more tedious rehash of the sheltered heiress/hunky bodyguard scenario.

For those who have not been following the royal family of Montebello, now spinning out through a second series called “Romancing the Crown,” Prince Lucas Sebastiani has been missing for a year since his plane crashed in Colorado. Presumed dead, evidence has recently surfaced that he might have survived.

His youngest sister, Princess Anna, wants to join the search for her beloved brother. Although the 25-year-old princess has rarely left the island kingdom of Montebello, Anna believes that she will find Lucas because “what she lacked in training or expertise, she made up for with love.”

She’ll just go to the States, lose her bodyguard - which she thinks is a swell idea in spite of the fact that the Sebastianis have been fighting off terrorists and kidnappers since the series started with the “Born” books last year - and Love will find a way.

In a rare intelligent moment, Anna realizes that her father, King Marcus, probably won’t go for the Love Quest, so she pretends she really wants to visit her married sister, Christina, in Montana. Anna pouts and wheedles. King Marcus chuckles over how adorably spoiled his little girl is, then sends her off, not with a doddering old retainer but with gorgeous young Tyler Ramsey, fledgling do-gooder with the shadowy organization known as the Noble Men. Tyler can drop Anna off with Christina before he goes off to do his real job - finding Prince Lucas.

Unfortunately for Anna, Tyler is pout-and wheedle-proof, which ticks her off no end. When she can’t ditch him, she has to actually go to her sister’s (sheesh, what a waste of Love). She then pouts and wheedles and persuades Christina that she must be free to travel with Tyler because they may have feelings for each other. Naturally, Tyler knows nothing about any of this, and he’s off to find Prince Lucas.

In short order it’s pretty clear that Princess Anna couldn’t find her head with both hands. She has a list of places to look for Lucas and is quite irked when she runs across Tyler at the very first stop, in spite of the fact that he has the same list. Guess she didn’t expect a commoner to be able to read that fast.

With Anna by the scruff of the neck, Tyler phones King Marcus and tries to get him to reel in Princess Love. The king chuckles about how adorably headstrong his daughter is and asks Tyler to take her along so she can have her “little adventure.”

Am I missing something? When the royal heir to an insanely wealthy and strategically important principality goes missing, and they’re pretty sure he’s either in Montana or Colorado, don’t you think they’d send more than one newbie bodyguard in an SUV and an overprotected princess on a “little adventure” after him? Doesn’t sound like they want him back very badly.

Tyler and Anna spend more time being snowed in together than they do looking for Lucas. In point of fact, Tyler’s main job through the first half of the book is to lust after Princess Capricious and be ticked about it. Hers is to continuously resolve to be regal and mature, and then do something snotty. Or dumb. Or both.

Everybody’s mood improves considerably after they sleep together, but then each spends the second half of the book hanging around waiting for the other to indicate any kind of willingness to make a commitment. Yawn.

This thin effort is particularly disappointing coming from Marilyn Pappano, who has been praised, justly and often, for her excellent storytelling, complex characters and evocative atmosphere. This reads like she’d rather have been doing something else and, frankly, I felt the same way.

--Judi McKee


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