A Nobel Pursuit by Meg Lacey
(Harlequin Tempt.# 865, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-25965-4
**
I might have accepted the premise of this book had it been a historical. But as a contemporary work of fiction, it simply made me crazy. Juliette Fortier is a princess. A princess of what, I’m not entirely sure and it’s never really made clear. Juliette explains how she inherited the title:

"...courtesy of a sexually irresponsible, long-ago ancestor whose bastard son married well enough to retain his title as a courtesy."

Huh?

Aside from complaining about how pretentious she found the title, the fact that she’s a princess has no impact on the story, except to fulfill the requirements of the "Red-Hot Royals" banner on the front of the book. If you pick up this book expecting to be immersed in the opulent world of the aristocracy, you’ll be disappointed.

When our hero, undercover cop Shay O’Malley, first sets eyes on Juliette he observes: She sat on the park bench, naked and alone.

Well, it turns out she’s not actually naked, she’s "stripped to the bone emotionally" and Shay, even though he’s been sent to New Orleans from Cincinnati to work on an important case, can’t resist the impulse to offer his assistance.

Juliette has just slipped away from a dinner date and needs time to think. Her brother Michael is pressuring her to marry his best friend, Stephen St. James, something Juliette has no interest in doing. Her way of rebelling? She’d worn nothing under the dress, her own tiny act of defiance, seizing the moment to prove she controlled her own destiny even though her brother was trying to arrange it otherwise.

Huh?

Juliette then decides to pretend she has amnesia so she doesn’t have to reveal her true identity to Shay and allows him to take her back to his place where she promptly has a virginal one night stand before, according to the back cover blurb "she settles down, bound by her royal responsibilities."

What royal responsibilities? Her only problem seems to be convincing her Neanderthal brother that she’s not interested in marrying his best friend. Something I think she would find far more successful if she kept her underwear on and instead tells her brother she’ll pick her own husband.

As for Shay, the one night stand isn’t enough for him, but he has no idea who dream girl is. Interesting, since he’s been sent to New Orleans to investigate none other than Stephen St. James and his co-hort Michael Fortier.

The author explains away his inability to recognize the sister of the man he’s traveled hundreds of miles to apprehend as only having an old photo showing a much younger and heavier Juliette. The woman’s a princess for goodness sake! There has to be more recent society photos available. No wonder the police force is having such a tough time bringing the bad guys to justice.

But things really go down the tubes when Michael announces Juliette’s engagement to Stephen at a big society party, without conferring with Juliette first. Juliette’s reaction? Nothing. She decides to wait until after the party to confront Michael, meekly accepting everyone’s congratulations in the meantime.

The book would have sailed at this point if I hadn’t been reviewing it. In no way did this plot work for me and the characters suffered from collective stupidity. The pacing was good. Once I got beyond the dreadful engagement announcement scene, things moved along at a mercifully brisk pace. As I mentioned at the start, this might have worked for me had this been a historical, but in a contemporary setting it’s difficult to recommend.

--Karen Lynch


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