A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole | Reluctant Royals #2 | Rating: 4/5
When it comes to romance novellas, I always have to read them with a grain of salt. I’m not the biggest fan of insta-love and when it comes to shorter stories about people falling in love, there is usually some sort of insta-love involved. I hesitate to call Can’t Escape Love a second-chance romance since Reggie and Gus don’t meet until this story even though they’ve known each other for a while but I’m sure some would. My qualms aside, I really enjoyed Can’t Escape Love. I loved seeing the diversity in this book and how both characters interact with their respective differences (Reggie and her disability and Gus and his autism). Reggie and Gus had the cutest, fluffiest romance of this entire series with very little drama or conflict.
I was so beyond excited for A Prince on Paper but I am shocked as to how far it fell for me. I love the cover so much but there wasn’t a lot going for it under that gorgeous cover. For one, I felt like Nya’s characterization was all over the place and it was hard to get a feel for her. As someone who understood (to a certain degree) her abuse, I felt like there should have been some talk about unpacking and unlearning from her abuse. Nya should have gone to get therapy to help her better adapt to a world where she didn’t have to face that level of abuse.
Sexuality is a big aspect of this book and certain parts of how Nya and Johan were written gave me the impression of their sexual orientation. However, I wish that there would have been more explicitly stated aspects of the book. 37% into the book, Nya states “I don’t think I can feel that way about a man without knowing him for some time” which read as demisexual and as someone who identifies as demisexual, I was hopeful for the representation. After being left overly confused by the representation and certain aspects that felt off to me, I will say I didn’t think this was a positive or even a good representation of demisexuality. I was also left feeling annoyed after Nya refers to Johan’s penis as “eggplant emoji” for no reason what so ever. Does she call it an “eggplant emoji” because she’s shy/naive or is it coded into her demisexual orientation? In terms of being shy/naive, why would you call it an “eggplant emoji” to begin with? Again, had it been explicitly stated, there would be more to this conversation but the word is never used in the entire book and there is nothing else said expect what I quoted. I felt like I should have left reading this book with an understanding of what demisexuality to someone else.
Another aspect that didn’t work for me was the made of language for Johan’s country of Liechtienbourg. Why is the language a bad mix of German and French? Why not have him speak both German and French but have one language he uses more often. This is usually how many people in Europe speak several languages. A study abroad friend from Germany lived near the border of France and was able to learn both languages on top of English. The official language of Liechtenstein (which is what I immediately thought of when I heard this made up country) is German. The Swiss people also are a majority German speaking group. But neither are German. Or go the route of Austria and have the people speak German (or French) that is mostly found within that country (the official language of Austria is Austrian German).
I got to 47% in this story before I had to put it down. I know others have liked A Princess on Paper and have been able to look over certain aspects of the story that I didn’t but it is what it is. Alyssa Cole is still an excellent writer and I will always like her work.