The Princess and the Playboy
by Valerie Parv
(Harlequin Romance #416, $3.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-17416-0
**
British author Valerie Parv returns to the mythical kingdom of Sapphan, the setting of her earlier novel, A Royal Romance.

Princess Talay Rasada wants to talk to Australian real estate developer Jase Clendon about his plans to build a resort on the Pearl Coast of Sapphan. When she is not designing jewelry, the princess chairs the cultural advisory committee and she has serious concerns about the impact of Clendon's development on the quality of life in the area.

"He was the enemy, the man who wanted to plunder her beloved Pearl Coast for commercial gain."

Princess Talay's uncle, King Philippe has advised her against meeting with Jase Clendon. It seems Jase has a reputation and the princess has been promised to Luc Armand. Not to be outdone, the princess arranges to meet with him on neutral territory and impersonate her best friend who just happens to be married to Jase's best friend, Michael. Jase has never met Michael's wife who, of course, is off-limits. Or is she?

The sparks between them fly. It seems Jase and the princess met a decade ago in Australia. She was in a hospital recovering from wounds received in a terrorist bombing that killed her parents. He was a member of the Olympic yachting team. Their encounter was brief, but memorable for both of them. When the princess' ruse is discovered, the games and a lot of frog jokes, very bad one-liners and cliches begin.

"To paraphrase an old Australian idiom, you can take the princess out of the palace but you can't take the palace out of the princess."

"Is it because you're a princess and I'm a commoner from Australia?"

"So, what is the penalty for kissing a princess? Quite possibly, you turn into a prince."

Unfortunately for Jase, he learns first-hand the true price for kissing a Sapphanese princess when a paparazzi captures a kiss on film that appears on the front pages of the newspapers. The caption reads: "The Princess and the Playboy in Secret Love Tryst." Princess Talay's reputation has been compromised and her intended is not amused.

Luc demands satisfaction and issues a challenge, a Sapphanese duel of sorts. Jase, the interloper, must literally jump off a cliff Malakai Cliff to be exact. If Jase wins, he gets the princess. If he refuses, he must leave the country. If he breaks his neck, well...

The Princess and the Playboy is hampered by a painfully predictable plot and cliched dialogue. Secondary characters are inconsequential. Jase and Princess Talay are forced to carry most of the novel. The cultural clash and the sexual tension between the two main characters were not enough to add freshness to the story.

Forty years ago, this would have been the perfect film vehicle for Cary Grant and Gina Lollobrigida or some other exotic-looking brunette. Today, it's just a relic of a bygone era.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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