Going to the Castle

The Prince’s Tutor by Nicole Burnham
(Silh. Romance # 1640, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-19640-7
Nicole Burnham delivers another intelligent romance with The Prince’s Tutor, the second story in her series about the royal family of San Rimini. Heroine Amanda Hutton is in San Rimini for the wedding of her best friend, Jennifer, who is about to be married to Prince Antony diTalora. Amanda is given the unenviable job of tracking down the prince’s younger brother, Prince Stefano, whom she manages to locate playing blackjack in a casino less than an hour before the ceremony is to start. Stefano wins a big bet, donates the money to charity, and cheerfully accompanies Amanda back to the palace for the wedding. This feat is not lost on the king, who believes Amanda may be the answer to a prayer.

Nothing as trite as an arranged marriage, though the king is looking for a wife for Stefano. No, Amanda’s background as the daughter of a U.S. Ambassador has led her into an unusual occupation. She tutors the children of high-placed diplomats in the necessary social skills required by their families. When King Eduardo sees how easily Amanda handles Stefano, he proposes a business arrangement: Amanda will stay on at the palace for a few weeks, acting as Stefano’s “tutor” in all the social and state duties which he loathes.

Amanda, with her apartment rent due, can’t afford to say no. Soon she and Stefano are working together, and he at first tries to hit on her to drive her away. Stef is in for a surprise. Amanda is on to his tricks. Not only is she experienced, she’s five years older than Stefano. When Stef lets his guard down and they become friends, the natural camaraderie between them blossoms into more. But Amanda has a health issue in her background, and Stefano was deeply hurt by the death of his beloved mother. They both have some baggage to overcome.

What follows is an easy, natural romance. The age difference doesn’t even register, and the sexual tension between these two is quite strong. Stefano is easygoing, fully aware of his deficiencies, and underneath the charming playboy exterior, is scared to death that he’ll screw up at a state dinner or official function. But with Amanda’s help, he gains confidence and finds that perhaps he was only fooling himself. Stefano’s realization that he wants his friend Amanda by his side will make the reader believe their blossoming love is genuine.

Amanda takes no guff from Stefano, and her first impression of him is of a spoiled dilettante. It isn’t long before Stef changes her mind, but that first impression lends some snap to her character. I did have a hard time believing that a prince of a royal family would reach the age of twenty-five and not have some training in state and official duties as a matter of course, and this weakened the premise somewhat. But the warmhearted, friendly interaction between Stef and Amanda made it easy to get past. In the end, this is a solid, engaging romance with two very likeable leads.

The Prince’s Tutor is an excellent sophomore effort. I’ll be looking for more about the royals from San Rimini.

--Cathy Sova

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