"The Prince's Bride" by JJ McAvoy

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As soon as I read the description of this book, I knew I had to read it. Royalty, as readers of my blog might have gathered, is one of my fascinations. JJ McAvoy warned me that it might not be what I was expecting because her prince was from an invented country, but her royals live with the same realities of modern European royalty -- an avid press, traditions, duty, and the ever-present knowledge that as a member of the royal family, one's life is never quite one's own.

Prince Gale is the second son, and though still somewhat restricted by protocol, he enjoys his life to the fullest. Until he learns two devastating facts: his father has dementia and the kingdom is broke. He's being asked to secure a rich bride and one has been chosen for him.

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Odette Wyntor is an American, sharing the inheritance of her father's massive tech fortune with her half-sister.  But her father has put restrictions on the money -- each of his daughters must marry in order to inherit. Odette hopes that she can support herself and her mother with her music career, but it soon becomes apparent she can't keep up with the bills. Though she's loath accept it, Odette needs a husband as much as Gale needs a rich wife.

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It's a familiar enough story. In the late Victorian era, impoverished nobles married wealthy American heiresses. I immediately thought back to Consuelo Vanderbilt, who married the Duke of Marlborough in 1895. Neither of them wanted the match, either. But as Gale's mother says early in the book, they cannot look for anyone to save them for they are the people who must do the saving.

This book is a lovely romance, sweet and royally funny. Gale attempts to court the reluctant Odette. He's a smart guy. He knows that strong relationships are built on friendship and that's where he starts. He's sincere, but terribly awkward, because this is the first time it's actually meant something, and this is the first time he finds himself truly caring about a woman. Odette has been hurt too many times not to give in without a struggle. But Gale is so charming a character you can't help but fall in love with him right along with her.

 I couldn't help but think of another "American Princess," Meghan Markle, who's faced an uphill battle for acceptance as Harry's bride. This book is focused on their romance here in the United States, but what sort of welcome will Odette, a woman of color, receive from the people of her new nation? I'm really eager to get my hands on the next volume because Odette and Gale have some pretty significant challenges they have to face, and I want to see how Odette will do in her new role.

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