Susan Grant is definitely hazardous to my sleep. Good thing I started The Star Princess on a Saturday night. At least that way I could indulge and finish it in one sitting, albeit at 3am.
Having missed The Star Prince (it’s in the ol’ TBR pile) and with The Star King several years in the past, I was curious whether this book would stand on its own. Not to worry. It does, and in a very satisfactory manner. At the center is Ilana Hamilton, twin sister to Ian, who is now a galactic crown prince thanks to their mother’s marriage to the Vash Nadah king, Rom B’kah. Rom has formally adopted his stepson and stepdaughter, technically making Ilana a princess. But Ilana prefers to live on Earth, where she is a partner in a fledgling film production company, and where her paralyzing fear of flying keeps her feet firmly on the ground.
Prince Che Vedla has lost the title of crown prince to Ian Hamilton, as well as his fiancée, Princess Tee-ah Dar. Neither loss bothers Che too much. He’s quite happy to leave the enormous responsibility of leadership to Ian, and the betrothal was an arranged one anyway. But many take it as an insult to the royal family of Vedla. One way to pacify the malcontents is for Che to marry before Ian, as a show of one-upmanship. It’s a distasteful idea, but one Che reluctantly agrees to in order to preserve support for Ian, whom he has grown to like and trust.
Leaving his advisors with the task of finding a suitable bride, Che decides to travel to Earth for a last fling of sorts. He goes alone, and is drawn to Ilana, whom he’s only seen once. They’ve never even spoken, but she’s been in his thoughts for the last six months, and this seems like a good time to get acquainted. When Che appears outside Ilana’s apartment, she thinks he’s an assailant and douses him with pepper spray. Thus begins a somewhat turbulent relationship in which Che and Ilana will have to overcome their personal demons before giving in to the natural attraction between them.
Ilana is loose, relaxed, confident, and always the one who leaves a relationship first. Her lack of faith in relationships and her fear of commitment feel a bit forced at times, but the author does a good job of helping the reader understand what’s behind these fears. In a nifty twist, Ilana is the aggressor in their physical relationship, and Che finds himself unwilling to treat her like he would any courtesan. Che, for his part, is formal, raised on a steady diet of duty and propriety, and he doesn’t quite know what to make of Ilana, other than she’s driving him crazy with lust. But there’s this little matter of an arranged marriage, and he can’t exactly have a hot fling with the sister of the crown prince.
Add to this a subplot involving Che’s brother, Klark, who has already tried to assassinate Ian and may or may not be completely nuts, and what you have is a nice blend of romance, passion, and suspense.
Ilana and Che are good foils for each other. Neither are what they seem on the surface. Ilana believes herself to be a free spirit, but in truth she’s guarding her heart so tightly that she won't let the real Ilana out and free herself to love. Che’s propriety is only surface-deep in many respects. Underneath the royally formal exterior is a keen wit and a sense of adventure, which allows him to come up with the perfect plan to help Ilana face her fear of flying. When he falls in love with Ilana, he dares her to love him back, but first she’ll need to get past her belief that relationships don’t last. Time to put up or shut up, if Ilana is up to the challenge. And Che has no intention of letting her back down. Now if only Che can throw off the shackles of his rigid upbringing and live his life for himself...
A few of the subplots felt extraneous. There’s a secondary romance involving the hulking bodyguard named Muffin that didn’t quite work, perhaps because it was sandwiched into the action. And the inclusion of a friend of Ilana’s at the end was more confusing than anything. I’m still not quite sure what her purpose was.
The Star Princess is a romantic treat, featuring two vivid and sensual people who believe they’re all wrong for each other. Readers know better, and will enjoy the sizzle between Che and Ilana as they discover how perfectly they’re matched. This is top-quality futuristic romance. I wonder if Susan Grant can find more of the Vash Nadah to write about? Surely there are some cousins somewhere?