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Be My Prince
by Julianne MacLean
(St. Martin's, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0312-55277-0
In the first of a trilogy, Julianne MacLean introduces us to the Petersbourg Royal family: Randolph, Nicholas and Rose. It has intrigue, lies, political instability and of course, romance. While interesting on the one hand, and even romantic in its way, the path to true love includes secrets and distrust, making it difficult to fully like either of the main characters.

Prince Randolph, the heir to the throne wants to fall in love to marry. He knows he must secure a bride and a legitimate heir. Yet he had been engaged before and the woman had really cared only for his throne, not him. So he and his brother Nicholas cook up a scheme to trade places when they come to England. Nicholas will be Randolph and Randolph will be Nicholas. This will allow the real Randolph to see the women after the fake Randolph and determine if they will love him for who he is not for his title.

The plan works better than planned when “Nicholas” meets Lady Alexandra Monroe on the balcony the first night they are in England and is enchanted with her honesty about the need to meet and marry Prince Randolph. Yet the spark is with Nicholas. But Alexandra is not all that she seems.

Alexandra is supposedly the secret daughter to the prior King who was overthrown by Randolph’s father in a military coup. It was thought that Leopold, her father, was executed while in exile and her mother died giving birth. She has been raised by an aunt. She was just recently told of her true heritage. The plan is to have her marry Randolph, produce an heir and then tell the world of her parents. Thus she will sit alongside Randolph and rule the country. So when Alexandra finds herself falling in love with “Nicholas” rather than Randolph she is extremely distressed. She almost elopes with him, however, choosing love before duty. When she discovers his true name, she is at first angry, then realizes that she is hiding something too.

Their life is complicated when the current King becomes ill and is dying. The real Randolph and Alexandra marry and now have to figure out who to trust and who not to trust, as it appears someone is out to kill, and may have already killed the two previous Kings.

This story is at times, engaging and moves along quickly. When “Nicholas” and Alex are courting, it is a fun romance. When he is Randolph, their banter takes on more pain, but ultimately they do fall in love with their true selves for a satisfying ending. But there is so much intrigue and attempts at the convoluted political machinations that it also bogs down. How much love and mistrust can one relationship weather? For me, it came very close to too many. The ending leaves us hanging on the edge for Rose’s story. The real Nicholas may be the most intriguing of the characters – a Royal rake who is dedicated to his brother’s success. He felt a little too noble and self-sacrificing to me, so it will be interesting to see if MacLean can make him enough of a real person to engage the reader for his story.

Be My Prince has its good moments and luckily for the reader, they are in the majority.

--Shirley Lyons

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