Review: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

Format: Mass market
Pub Date: March 2018
Publisher: Avon
POV: 3rd, past
Length: 360 pages
FTC: received a copy from the publisher at RT18

I've been hearing about this book all year. It was all the rage in my corner of Twitter. In short: it was a "buzzy" book, and I rarely do well with "buzzy" books.  While I didn't click in the deep, OMG fangirl kind of way I would have liked to, I did enjoy it. Especially for all of the ways it was so very different from other books out there.

I liked that we get to see a contemporary set in the city. No whiff of small town here. It revels in being an NYC book.  There's the nosy and noisy neighbors, the subway, the easy access to different kinds of art/restaurants, the bodegas, the de facto multiculturalism.

I also like that Naledi Smith (Ledi) is a scientist. Specifically a former foster kid training to be a black woman scientist in a very specific field. She thinks in scientific terms in an adorably nerdy way. She has to deal with sexism in her lab job in a way that is so real for many women scientists. She struggles with relationships as a result of her upbringing. She's emotionally cagey.

I struggled with Prince Thabiso/Jamal as a character. I really did. He's a self serving dick through most of the book, and I'm a bit over self serving dicks right now. I did, however, ADORE his assistant Likotsi. If she ever gets her own book, I'm here for it.

My biggest issue with the book was the same issue I have for practically every single "secret identity" book: the lies. I have a line I don't like to see crossed, because it is extremely squicky, and this book crossed it: the characters had sex while one of them was lying about who they were. That's a nope from me. I know this is something that doesn't bother a whole lot of readers, because secret identity tropes are a big thing. I just have a big problem believing in an HEA when one of the characters has lied past that point in their relationship.

There's lots of groveling and even condemnation from Prince Thabiso's assistant. I just...really, really don't like the dishonesty in romance. Love is built on trust.

The parts of the book set in Africa were not my favorite. Partly because I didn't like how fish-out-of-water they made Ledi feel. I didn't like the palace intrigue plot, and I felt the "epidemic" subplot was wrapped up in a way that felt rushed. I did enjoy the myriad of little details the author added to flesh out the culture and setting. Everything from the weather, to the clothes, to their religious practices. They were well done without veering into info-dumping.  Excellent world building.

If you're looking for something completely different from your average contemporary romance, this fun take on the secret royal/American princess story will hit the spot.

My Grade: B

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