A Royal Vow
by Tamara Sneed
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-58314-143-X
Once upon a time on a small Mediterranean island called Juhatu, there lived a prince named Davis Beriyia. Prince Davis was heir to the throne and one of the largest fortunes in the world. But lately, the young prince has become worried about his future. He wonders if there isn't something more to life. Determined to find out before he assumes his royal responsibilities, which include an arranged marriage to the not-so-fair Lady Sophia, Prince Davis eludes his security force and heads to America.

Davis settles in Los Angeles. He lands a job as a handyman in an apartment complex and while fixing toilets adds new meaning to the term royal flush. It is there he begins to notice BAP and assistant magazine editor Abigail Barnes. Abby has begun to notice Davis, too. Soon they are staging chance meetings in the apartment lobby so they can notice each other undetected. After all this unrequited noticing, Davis finally summons up the courage to talk to Abby. He asks her out and she accepts.

But they are unable to keep their date because Davis' security detail has finally located him and has convinced him to go home. Fate once again steps in when Davis and his bodyguard happen to choose for his last dinner in America, the same restaurant where Abby is dining with a girlfriend.

After dinner Abby and Davis go for a walk and are apprehended by rebel forces from his homeland and forced onto a ship bound for an undisclosed location. Abby is still unaware of Davis' royal status and assumes that they have been abducted by someone trying to send a message to one of her brothers who is a DEA agent.

A Royal Vow follows Tamara's Sneed's well received debut novel, Love Undercover. In this romance, the author switches gears with a bit of lighter fare. The road trip portion of the novel is a face-paced romp that doesn't take itself too seriously or its readers for granted. A Royal Vow does require readers to suspend belief a bit. Those who can go with the flow will move with a plot filled with cliffhangers, one-liners and romance. The energy of this very young couple on the move reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie.

The relationship between Davis and Abby is credible and often funny. Abby is the only girl in a family of brothers who have taught her to fend for herself. She is no shrinking violet and, in the absence of his security team, Prince Davis is fortunate to have her. One of my favorite scenes involves a respite on a small island where the couple has escaped their captors. They happen upon a group that has been waiting for the return of their goddess who happens to share our heroine's name. Abby learns being deified is not always what all it's cracked up to be. And Davis, who is used to adulation, sulks. The payoff at this leg of the adventure is unexpected and humorous.

Unfotunately, the novel cannot keep up its break-neck pace or rapid-fire humor to the end. A Royal Vow sags under its own inertia once the scene shifts to Davis' island home of Juhatu. Most of the characters in and out of the royal court are not as exciting as Abby's family and those introduced during their ordeal. Juhatu is a boring place and I can easily understand why Davis left home. The last quarter of the novel turns predictable and the final scenes include a bit of slapstick.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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