A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) by Alyssa Cole
Mass Market Paperback, 360 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by Avon
I’ve never really been into (or at least, admitted I was into) straight up romance–the kind you find in the romance section section of the bookstore. After I read The Wedding Date, and after Book Riot launched its new podcast When In Romance, I began wondering why that was.
Mostly, I think it’s patriarchy. Romance is a completely female focused genre, so I guess it makes sense that in a patriarchy it is the most maligned and discounted. I hadn’t really thought about it before. But I’m thinking about it now. And going out of my way to read it. And it’s awesome.
I picked up A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole based on multiple, and I mean multiple, recommendations from Book Riot peeps. I pre-ordered it, and I gotta say… It did not disappoint.
The story begins with emails sent to our heroine Naledi. They seem like a spin on the ole Nigerian Prince scam. In these emails Naledi is told that as a child she was betrothed to Thabiso, prince of Thesolo, a country in Africa.
Naledi is too busy for this. She’s in grad school, working two jobs, and trying to keep track of her hot mess of a best friend. She deletes the emails, but they just keep coming.
One day she’s at work, short staffed, and waiting for a new hire. When he shows up he’s a total babe and really terrible at his job. He must have lied on his resume.
Thabiso is actually a real dude and a real prince. He’s in New York on business and decides to try to find his betrothed, who disappeared when they were children. He goes to her workplace and she mistakes him for someone called Jamal. And he… just sort of goes with it.
Sparks fly immediately between Naledi and “Jamal.” How and when should “Jamal” tell her the truth?
Ultimately, this is a Cinderella story and I loved it! The tropes in this romance are some of my favourite. Like I said there’s the Cinderella aspect, and there’s also the mistaken identity aspect, family drama, and all that good stuff.
Cole takes these and weaves them into a romance that’s a pure delight. Even so, it’s really Naledi who makes this book what it is. She is a complex and strong character, with her own baggage, ambitions, and dreams. Not only so, but she’s a woman of colour in STEM! She’s studying epidemiology and working in a lab! This was so refreshing.
Thabiso is kind of arrogant at first. I mean, I guess it’s make sense what with him being a literal prince and all. But as he gets to know Ledi, he shows his genuine and vulnerable side.
I must take a second to note that damn, the consent in this is just so great and so hot. There are tons of think pieces floating around about how #MeToo is ruining sex, but I mean come on. Want to see how you can work in affirmative consent and it doesn’t ruin a damn thing? But actually makes the experience better for both partners? Read a romance like this one.
The first two thirds of this one had me totally and completely hooked. I was up til the wee hours every night until I finished it. I just couldn’t put it down! However the last third of the book didn’t totally jibe with me. There was a lot going on and multiple storylines that needed to be tied together. It felt like both too much and not enough.
That being said, overall I really loved A Princess in Theory and will be diving into Alyssa Cole’s backlist immediately. I must also note that A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2) comes out in the summer and I can’t wait!
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.