The Runaway Princess

Hester Browne
October 2012, Fiction
Gallery Books, $16.00, 448 pages, Amazon ASIN 1439168857

Grade: C
Sensuality: Subtle

I was really looking forward to this book, because from the summary it sounded like an amusing read. The beginning starts out entertainingly but the story begins to lag towards the middle, and for me it never recovered. In fact, I put it down and only picked it up again so I could write the review.

Amy Wilde is hopeless at making social conversation. She blames it on being from Yorkshire, where the womenfolk there can hold entire conversations with just their eyebrows. Plus she is not really interested in the whole social scene. As a newly qualified gardener, she is only concerned with stunning London with her wildflower balcony designs. Still, Jo de Vere, her roommate, is determined that Amy will let her true self shine through and quit hanging out in the kitchen, trapped by sobbing drunk girls and filling drink orders for others. Jo has even set up role playing sessions to help Amy practice. However Amy feels that making conversation with someone shouldnít feel like work. She dreams of just meeting someone and feeling a connection.

And at Joís latest party that does happen. After a gate crasher causes havoc, even breaking pots of newly sprouted specialty seedlings, one of his friends, Leo, stays behinds to help clean up the mess. Immediately Amy is aware of Leoís stunning cornflower blue eyes and blonde hair but his looks donít leave Amy tongue-tied like usual. Still, he gets away without asking for or giving her his telephone number.

A few days later, replacement plants show up on her door step and then Leo. Could it really be this easy?

Needless to say, Amy is shocked to discover that Leo is not an everyday average kind of guy but is in fact Prince Leopold, the heir to the principality of Nirona, a tax haven island off the coast of Italy. Not only that, but his mother is a famous American model. Is there any chance for a successful relationship between two socially unequal individuals?

While it doesnít seem much of a summary, the book is pretty straightforward with its theme of boy meets girl, she is overwhelmed by his wealth and position, and has to re-evaluate her desires. There is also a secondary romance involving her roommate Jo.

Normally, I donít have a problem with British tongue-in-cheek humor. Either I have been completely oblivious to it and not realized I was missing it, or I have understood it. But with this story, it just felt like I was missing the humor. Amy talks about how one individual, from one of Joís matchmaking attempts, has a disconcerting Roman nose, which is supposed to prove familial indiscretion with the Duke of Wellington but all Amy can see is a golden eagle in red trousers when she looks at him. I still havenít figured that out.

In one of the blurbs, the book is described as Princess Diaries meets Runaway Bride. And the book feels like the Princess Diaries. It is not that I dislike the characters - I find them charming - but still they are almost too youthful and unsophisticated. Written mostly in first person the story is told in an offhanded, lighthearted way, leaving me feeling that it lacked depth and complexity.

The pacing seems overly long too, especially since I lost interest a little past midway. The book just seems filled with a lot of inconsequential filler, even though it is well-written filler.

I wish I could recommend this book, but while I didnít hate it, it didnít excite me either.

-- Leigh Davis

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