"Red-Hot and Royal," Susanna Carr

Pros: Hilariously fun romantic romp
Cons: Some smudged plot details
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review copy (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Penguin Group.
Expected publication date: 6/3/2008.
Visit Susanna Carr’s website.

 

Let me get this off of my chest first. Before I discovered that yes, romance novels can be written every bit as well as other novels, this is the sort of book I would have laughed at the idea of reading. It even falls within that genre called ‘chick-lit,’ which frankly frightened me until I read a couple of books that fit under that heading and found them hilariously entertaining. I’m still vaguely embarrassed to admit I’m reading chick-lit romance/erotica. There’s a certain image associated with these books, and many of them have covers with flirty skirts and text that details the brands of shoes their heroines like to wear. The only time brand matters to me is when I find that only one brand makes sneakers wide enough for my feet.

I’ve never been a fan of ‘chick flicks,’ so why would I start to enjoy the literary equivalent? Well, frankly, some of these books are written with such wit and snappy style that I just can’t help but enjoy them. It’s the sense of humor and the sparkling characters that entice me.

 

Zain, Santos, and Rafael are princes of three minor kingdoms. They’ve just seen a contemporary of theirs get married in an unwanted and arranged marriage, and none of them wants to follow suit.

Zain comes from a very superstitious kingdom. The woman who kisses him at midnight on his upcoming birthday is destined to become his bride, and if he doesn’t marry her he’ll forfeit his claim on the throne. He goes halfway around the world to escape the many women angling to kiss him at the right moment, only to end up kissing a headstrong American woman at just the wrong moment. For her part, Lauren was on the equivalent of a scavenger hunt: she and her friends had agreed to try to accomplish the life goals their imaginative friend had set for herself before she died, and ‘kiss a prince’ was on her part of the list. She isn’t interested in settling down right this moment, doesn’t think of herself as a great catch worthy of a prince, and doesn’t want to give up her independent life—particularly for a prince who’s only asking her to marry him because he has to. On the other hand, taking him to bed might not be so bad. After all, the two of them do have such delicious chemistry!

Santos has been tasked to take on some of the diplomatic duties of his kingdom in the hopes that it’ll force him to grow up. He’s a surfer-boy and a bit of a rebel, and he’s sent to America and teamed up with an image consultant who plans to remake him into a suave and sophisticated adult. He’s just as determined to keep Kaylee from changing him too much, however, and becomes taken with the idea of getting her to let down her hair as well. Unfortunately for Kaylee, the beach and her long-past wild antics are all too tempting, particularly with Santos’s encouragement.

Rafael has gone to check in on his brother Luca at school. Luca, who’s in love with Cathy, fears his family would never approve of a commoner. He comes up with a wild plan and enlists his friend and tutor Shayla to help: Shayla will pretend to be a gold-digging wild woman after Luca, so when Luca finally presents Cathy, the contrast will make Rafael only too happy to recommend her as a good match to their parents. The only problem is that sparks immediately fly between Rafael and Shayla, and Cathy’s feeling frosty about being kept hidden from her boyfriend’s family.

 

Often in books with parallel stories I end up particularly enamored of one or two and bored with one or more others. Not so in this case—while Lauren and Shayla’s stories were my favorites just because I could identify with them more easily, all three were by turns funny, sexy, and romantic, and all three held my interest. It was fun watching each pair of people grow, change, and compromise in reaction to each other. This is a purely fun book—the kind where you know the guy and the girl will fall in love and have wild sex, and the enjoyment is in seeing how they get from point A to point B, experiencing their emotions along with them. It’s a fantastic book to read as a pick-me-up.

It’s also wonderful in that it takes the ‘commoner girl swept up by prince’ trope and sets it on its ear. All of these women are strong, strong-willed, intelligent, and capable, and none of them think of themselves as the princess type. They certainly aren’t damsels in distress, and they aren’t about to let these princes take over their lives!

My only difficulty with Red-Hot and Royal was a couple of spots in which the plotlines seemed mildly smudged over. It took me a little while to make sense of why Luca thought having Shayla play bad-girl would help him get Cathy (it wasn’t fully explained at first). There’s also a set of circumstances in Santos and Kaylee’s story that really should have had a far greater effect on the story than it did. Without giving too much away, there’s an event that had the potential to wreck Kaylee’s career that got swept under the rug without so much as a peep once it had the desired plot-altering effect on her and Santos’s relationship.

Red-Hot and Royal is like caramel pudding: silky, sultry, and oh-so-sinful. It won’t satisfy you if you’re looking for a main-course meal, but as dessert it’s delicious!

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