Reviewed by Kini
Favorite Quote:“This isn’t real.” She motioned to the air between them. “But it’s starting to feel way too real and . . . I can’t. I just can’t.” “And what if it feels real to me, too?” he asked quietly. “What if it feels real because it is?”
This was my first book by Alyssa Cole, I know I am a super slacker. The cover of this book is beautiful with the pink background, and the colorful dress and two beautiful people of color appearing to be in love. I’ve seen this book described as a grown-up “ The Princess Diaries” and I loved that movie so I was really excited about this book. But this book didn’t work for me as much as I wanted it to. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a good book, it just wasn’t great.
The heroine, Naledi, is a graduate student studying to be an epidemiologist. She is an orphan with no family and grew up in foster homes. Because of this, she has a hard time connecting with others and believing that the people she does connect with won’t stick around. As she works/studies in a male dominated field, she has a co-worker that disrespects her. When the story opens up, Ledi has received several emails from someone in the royal land of Theloso, claiming that she is the intended bride of their prince. She ignores them believing it is a scam.
Thabiso, our hero, is the Prince of Theloso, a country in Africa where they are technologically advanced and he is in the US for meetings to mine the resources of Theloso. He learns that Ledi is in New York and of course he must go meet her. Ledi and her parents mysteriously left Theloso when she was young and because of that, the whole country of Theloso holds a grudge against Ledi. Thabiso is of course incredibly handsome and smart and all the wonderful things that we like in our heroes. Except their friendship starts out as a lie. He is mistaken for a caterer and just goes with it. We then have a case of mistaken identity as Thabiso pretends he is “Jamal” and slowly works his way into Ledi’s life.
There was a lot I liked about this book. Thabiso’s assistant Likotsi was great. I would love to see her get a book. Thabiso/Jamal and Ledi have great chemistry and some HOT sex. Their first go at the sex is some pretty intense fingerbanging. I love that the people of Theloso pray to a Goddess. The dialogue in the book is fast-paced, funny and serious when appropriate. The descriptions of Theloso and the customs were pretty good and I did build a beautiful world in my head. The characters are diverse, including the secondary characters. I want more of this in my books.
Some of the things I didn’t like, what starts out as a mistaken identity trope morphs into a fake engagement and I wanted it to be one or the other. There are some conflicts that get solved off page. I felt like I spent enough time reading them that I wanted to see them resolved on the page and the offending character(s) get their due. Ledi is such a smart and capable woman that when given the chance, I wanted to see her eviscerate one of the offending characters and while she said some things that were impactful, to see it then go off page and get handled really annoyed me.
Ledi’s BFF Portia was kind of horrible to Ledi and they talked it out, but it felt a little too easy. I believe Portia is the heroine of the next book and that cover looks extra beautiful, so I will probably read it, but I will need to learn early on that Portia is being a better friend. And the ending was not my favorite. I would almost say it hovered closer to HFN. They are clearly together at the end, but I wanted more of the togetherness.
Again this book wasn’t bad, I just didn’t like as much as I had hoped. There were a bunch of little things, particularly revolving around conflict that I felt got wrapped up too easily after so much page time had been spent on them. The fast pace of the book, hot sexy times, and tight dialogue helped balance out the things that didn’t work as great for me.