A Knight To Remember

Once A Knight

The Runaway Princess

That Scandalous Evening

A Well Favored Gentleman

A Well Pleasured Lady

Someday My Prince
by Christina Dodd
(Avon, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-451-40686-9
The back cover of this book describes it as "a delectable tale of Regency seduction and romance." The "delectable" may or may not be accurate but describing it as a Regency tale is both incorrect and a disservice to the book. This book is closer to the fairy tale its title evokes or to a turn-of-the-century Franz Lehar operetta than to a Regency.

Like those Lehar operettas or the Disney fairy tale, Someday My Prince is set in a small fictional monarchy, located between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. In fact, there are three of these small fictional monarchies, Bertiniere, Sereminia, and Pollardine. (There used to be four small fictional monarchies, but Baminia and Serephinia combined before the story began and became Sereminia. This confused me. I have never been good at the geography of small fictional monarchies.)

Escapades and deeds of daring-do that wouldn’t work within the constraints of a Regency novel, work better on a balcony over-looking the Mediterranean or in a rustic cottage deep in the heart of the mountains.

Princess Laurentia is the heir to the kingdom of Bertiniere and a childless widow with an unhappy marriage behind her. She and her father, King Jerome, agree that she must marry and have a child to secure the succession. With that in mind, King Jerome gives a ball on Laurentia's 25th birthday and invites all eligible gentlemen to attend.

Dominic of Sereminia was born on the wrong side of a Baminian blanket 33 years ago. Instead of an honored place as a Prince of Sereminia, he has spent the last 13 years as a soldier of fortune -- a unsuccessful one, at that. Dom attends Laurentia's ball as an uninvited guest. Coincidentally, he and Laurentia find themselves alone on a terrace over-looking the Mediterranean.

When a lone kidnapper seizes Laurentia and attempts to carry her off, she manages to break away and Dom completes the villain's rout. He promptly proposes himself as her bodyguard -- obviously she needs a bodyguard -- and King Jerome agrees before he is asked. He senses the unwilling attraction these two feel for each other and is delighted to have an excuse to throw them together.

Dom and Laurentia are less happy with the arrangement. Laurentia fears handsome men -- her husband was handsome and naturally Dom is good-looking, if a trifle banged-up from his career as a mercenary. Dominic looks down on all royalty; he expects Laurentia to be frivolous, snobby, and spoiled. Even more importantly, Dom's real mission in Bertiniere is to seduce Laurentia and trick her into disclosing the secret of Bertiniere's wealth: hardly a good starting point from which to begin an affair.

Dom has quite a dark past, one that clashes unpleasantly with the fairy-tale setting. For the most part, however, Dodd's perky writing style makes light of the grim childhood she has given Dominic. She skips lightly over the upsetting components of her story and highlights the carefree elements with her spritely prose.

Fortunately, once Dodd sets the stage and tells her back stories and the plot begins to move forward, genuine emotion breaks through her light-hearted prose. Quick vignettes illuminate both Dom's motivations -- some that even he did not recognize -- and the ways in which Laurentia differs from the cliché fairy-tale princess. As the two principals became more individualized, their mutual attraction becomes both more interesting and more believable…and very physical.

It is almost axiomatic that once the hero and the heroine of a romance each realize separately that they are in love, but before they can confess to their feelings, something will happen to drive them apart. In the case of Someday My Prince, I wondered why Dodd had resorted to this device. If her only reason was to extend the story, their misunderstanding was unnecessary…or at least given too much weight.

Quite a lot happens after Dom and Laurentia realize their love, but we are told about these events, rather than being shown them. Had the action been on-stage, Dominic and the Princess would have had the opportunity both to have their misunderstanding and to resolve it while the political events of the story played out. As it is, the resolution of the plot has the air of an old-fashioned detective story, where the detective brings all the usual suspects into the library and explains all.

Someday My Prince is a romp of a book that just misses being something more. As it stands, it is a pleasant but forgettable read.

--Nancy J. Silberstein

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