Book ReviewThe Runaway Princess

Reviewer's Rating: 
I truly enjoyed this book...and yet, it failed to rock my world because (see explanation in review).
Gallery Books, 2012

As a high-rise gardener in London, Amy Wilde can make roses and salad leave spring out of nowhere.  But it's love that blossoms when the normally withdrawn Londoner meets Leo at one of the parties thrown by her socialite friend.  Tall, blonde, and startling handsome, Leo is incredibly easygoing, as if he's been brought up to make small talk with complete strangers.  In fact, he was-and after a delightfully romantic date, he admits that his real name is Leopold - PRINCE Leopold III of Nirona, a wealthy European principality.

After the two become engaged, a scandal makes Leo the heir to his nation's throne and his mood abruptly changes.  As the extravagant wedding plans consume the little country, Amy feels increasingly apprehensive and unsure of whether she's the girl Leo thinks she is - especially with a scandal brewing within her own family.  But can she run from her true love - and the glitter of royalty - and return to life as a commoner?

Hester Browne does it again with a sweet romance, meandering and insightful look at what it means to be linked to the royal family.  I have to admit that growing up I had stars in my eyes regarding anything princess.  One summer afternoon playing with my brother he wanted to be King and me be the Queen but I told him flat out I would never be a Queen, just a princess - it sounded so much prettier and had less seriousness about it.

Like her Little Lady Agency series, Hester has written a fairly thick book in The Runaway Princess.  It allows us a good amount of time to get to know the characters and their daily lives.  We live the meeting, the tentative interest, the dates, the revelation about Leo's family, Amy's uncertainty follows all the usual things like meeting the whole family and having photographer's camped outside her apartment.  We also tread nervously with her as things shift and change in the royal structure and then a family secret of Amy's hits the gossip waves and she decides to back out completely.  This plot is well crafted and for me, a treat to travel and know I'd never want to be a princess now.  A Disney princess, sure (I'm partial to the frying pan welding Rapunzel myself), but a paparazzi hunted princess?  No thanks.
I enjoyed the relationships between Amy and her flatmate Jo, as well as the conflict for Amy's mother being a larger lady - eating to hide her problems.  I personally haven't seen that written into a novel and found it interesting and fresh.
Where this book failed to receive my top rating was the ending.  No, I won't give anything away, but after travelling so many miles in Amy's shoes the final pages made me feel a bit cheated.  It's a bit like dancing a nice, long song with a partner when he suddenly swings you out in a fancy way and you turn back to him but - where'd he go?  I wish the ending had been extended just that little bit more to make me feel like I'd finished my journey with the characters.
Overall, I recommend this book for a nice, leisurely summer read..and a healthy portion of empathy for any royal dating/married couple.

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