Friday, July 18, 2008

Princess of Fortune by Miranda Jarrett

Princess Isabella Fortunaro is a member of the Monteverde royal family in exile in England. Her country has been overrun by Napoleon and his forces, and as far as she knows, the rest of her family is dead. But her family was not well-liked, as she found out when her lady-in-waiting cursed her and abandoned her before they could even leave the palace. Now, she is living in London, among strangers, and playing the Prima Donna to mask her fear for her family and essential loneliness.

This attitude is winning her no friends when she is assigned Captain Lord Thomas Greaves as her bodyguard, to keep her safe from those who would try to kill her. He dislikes her behavior, and would rather be at sea on his ship rather than baby-sit a spoiled princess, but a recent injury has made the navy believe he is unfit for active service at the present. Still, he has no sympathy with how she has made the lives of her hosts in England difficult, and delivers a set-down to her that takes her aback. After some verbal sparring, she asks him to take her out on the town. She is tired of being indoors and confined, waiting for the Prince to see her.

Thomas cannot dissuade her, and takes her in the carriage through London. But when Isabella insists on going into a shop to look at the wares for sale, she is taken for a high-class prostitute because of her foreign dress... until a Monteverdean seamstress tries to kill her, and Thomas steps in to save her life. Unusually, the seamstress wears an amulet, the same as the one her maid in Monteverde did, the one who abandoned her and locked her out of the Palace.

Thomas knows the sign. It's of a group called the Trinita, whose aim is to overthrow Isabella's family and take control of Monteverde for the people, the army and God. It is they who have negotiated with Napoleon and now control Monteverde. Isabella is shocked to hear of this group, and to hear that they were formed because of the dictatorial actions and attitude of her father and mother. The Trinita blame the entire royal family and would do anything to kill the Fortunaros.

The assassination attempt shows Thomas how scared and lonely Isabella truly is. This is the first time she has ever been parted from her family, and he begins to feel sympathy for her, while she comes to trust him as she trusts no one else. Even to begin falling in love with him. He feels that the assassination attempt will mean he has failed in his job, but his superiors commend him for his work and say Isabella must attend a ball at which the Prince Regent will be attending.

As Thomas continues to guard Isabella, they slowly become closer, eventually becoming lovers after another assassination attempt upon her. It soon becomes clear that England actually has no intention of supporting Monteverde or helping Isabella's father regain the throne. In fact, they would rather deal with the Monteverdean rebels instead, as Monteverde has no military usefulness to them. Thomas feels that his country has been lying to Isabella, and that it has been dishonorable. Even worse, England will cut her off without a cent, and she will have to survive alone in a country that is not her own.

But Thomas has pledged to protect her, and protect her he will, even if it means aligning himself against his own country. Having fallen in love with the feisty princess, he would rather stay with her and marry her. She agrees, but when her mother turns up looking for the Fortunaro rubies, the priceless crown jewels entrusted to Isabella to keep them safe, will she choose love or trying to return to her country to put her father back on the throne?

This was a very hard read for me, given that the author made me lose my sympathy for Isabella very quickly and even with all the things that happened to her, I never quite regained it. So I never ended up caring what happened to her. It's kind of hard to get involved in the story of a romance when you have no sympathy for the heroine, and so much of it left me cold.

Yes, she is frightened and alone, but I could never get over how she acted so much like a bitch to everyone at the beginning. I also felt that it was easy for Isabella to say that she would rather have love than luxury, but living it is a lot harder than saying it. To put it bluntly, my sense of reality intruded on the story.

For another person, this story might have worked, and Isabella might have redeemed herself. Not for me, though, so I am unable to recommend it.

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