because bibliophiles require refreshment

Royal Games by Sariah Wilson

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Royal Games is the latest installment in Wilson’s ‘Royals of Monterra’ series and, y’all, I thought it would be complete trope-nip to me. Royalty? Check, as this one deals with Prince Rafe. Hollywood? Check, as our hero and heroine met on a reality TV program. Small towns? Check, as all the action takes place in the heroine’s small hometown. But, overall? It just didn’t knock my socks off. I liked it, I really did. I just wanted to love it and couldn’t.

Here’s the back copy, for an introduction:

Genesis Kelley didn’t just get her heart broken. The aspiring veterinarian had it crushed in front of millions of viewers on the dating reality show Marry Me. Now, just as she’s getting her life and dignity back together, her royal heartbreaker, Prince Rafael of Monterra, has landed in Frog Hollow, Iowa. And he’s renting out her aunt’s guest cottage.

Deceiving TV audiences for his brother’s sake cost Rafe the girl of his dreams. But he’s going to fix it, even if it means moving from his mountain-kingdom home to small-town Iowa. A prince doesn’t give up on his rightful princess—especially once he realizes Genesis is in deeper danger than she knows.

Between fixing her truck, whisking her off to Monterra for a whirlwind date, and charming the entire town, Rafe is thawing the ice around Genesis’s heart. Will it be enough to earn back her trust, protect her from her past—and sweep her into a real-life fairy tale?

Things this book has going for it: Rafe is charming, the cast of characters in the small town are believable. I really did like so much about it! What I didn’t love was that Rafe’s perfection as a hero, or at least his portrayed perfection, which only served to highlight Genesis’ disproportionate stubbornness. Nearly half the book is spent with the two of them not speaking, based on her choice, and I just could not with her. So by the time they do reach their happily ever after, I just wanted to smack her.

As you read above, she got her heartbroken on national television. I can’t imagine going through that, so perhaps my empathy level is wonky with her. I just have a thing about not giving someone the chance to explain themselves. Rafe wanted to tell her that the heartbreaking was unintentional and taken out of his hands, but she refused to listen to him. So he spends the first bit of the book pursuing her, to the point where it seems stalkerish, but the whole town is on his side and not hers, which makes me think the book wants me to think she’s being unreasonable and if that’s the case then just talk to him and UGH. This is where I ended up.

Once they do talk, and they do clear the air, I flew through the rest of the book and found myself rooting for their happily ever after. There’s a few small trigger warnings (cults, PTSD, abduction) that readers sensitive to such things should be aware of, but nothing that I think is too invasive. Additionally, Genesis is a virgin and I know some folks really love the virgin heroine trope, so also wanted to mention that.

One interesting thing, which is probably interesting to me and few others, is that there is assumed faith woven throughout this. Everyone in Genesis’s world goes to church and she trusts her pastor for advice, going to him over the Rafe situation. She talks about how growing up in the cult didn’t harm her Christian faith, but it’s all done causally. While not a focal point, there is definitely faith systems in here with a point of view, and that is rare in contemporary romance. Thanks for adding that, Ms. Wilson, it was a nice treat.

Overall, I’d recommend this one to folks who are into royalty or virgin tropes, and who don’t mind stubborn heroines or miscommunications as plot devices. I sipped my ubiquitous Diet Coke during this read, and would recommend you do the same.

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Further Reading:

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I was given a copy of this book by the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks! 

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