A True Prince by Veronica Sattler
(Zebra, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7031-4
In April of 1812, the tiny country of Baravia is preparing to protect itself against the threat of Napoleon’s army. The palace is in the capable hands of Captain Lancet, the respected leader of Baravia’s Royal Horse Guards and the King’s finest swordmaster. Here is a strong hero any reader could love, right? Except the Captain is actually Marisa Lancet, our heroine.

And our hero...well, he’s Crown Prince Deverell. Described by his father King Rupert, as a “prattling twit,” Dev favors pink satin waistcoats and waves frilly lace handkerchiefs reeking of perfume. The Prince has spent the past several years “exploring all the possible paths to hedonism” in London, but after receiving word that the King’s health is failing, he reluctantly returns to Baravia.

As you probably already have guessed, there’s much more to Prince Deverell than meets the eye (thank goodness!). He has heard rumors that supporters of Napoleon have infiltrated the palace and a coup is likely. He believes it would be far easier to uncover the traitors if they thought the Crown Prince was a ninny, rather than a man well-tutored in the military arts.

King Rupert is so appalled with the changes in his son that he ships him off to his old friend Wellington’s army in order to make a soldier of him. His bodyguard for the journey is Captain Marisa Lancet.

While traveling together, the Prince rescues Marisa from a pair of French soldiers and it is apparent Deverell is not the man he pretends to be. He is forced to tell Marisa the reason for his masquerade while they continue on to meet Wellington’s troops.

This portion of the book really puzzled me. I wondered why Deverell, who had gone to so much trouble with his disguise in order to smoke out the traitors in the palace, would allow himself to be sent away. The logical thing to do at that point would be to confide in his father in order to continue his search for the leaders of the coup. Once Marisa learns the truth, I thought certainly they would turn back now. Yet, they continue on. This seems more like a device to keep the pair alone together in order for their relationship to develop.

Once they join Wellington’s troops, it’s not long before they learn the palace has been surrounded by the French army and they must return. This keeps the pair on the road for long periods of time without much action and things begin to get a bit tedious.

There are some wonderful scenes in the book, especially towards the end. The final battle and the scene when Deverell finally professes his love are edge of your seat stuff. But it’s a bit of a roller coaster ride from high energy, action-packed scenes to some that, quite frankly, dragged.

Marisa is a complex heroine and I quite liked her. It took a bit longer to warm up to Deverell, but that could have been my prejudice against a hero who acts like a “mincing popinjay”. He was written so convincingly at the start, I had a bit of trouble assimilating his change in character.

Although I found things slow going in spots, I imagine any reader who enjoys a Scarlet Pimpernel-type plot may find A True Prince an enjoyable read.

--Karen Lynch

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