by Vanessa Kelly
Series: The Improper Princesses #1
Published on August 30, 2016 by Zebra
Genres: Adult, Historical Romance, Romance
Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.
Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast . . . but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?
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This romance was a lot longer than I expected. Not even in length so much as it felt like it was taking forever to get through. Bandit-hunting rebel Gillian Dryden gets dragged to London after a life in Sicily and put under the watch of the Duke of Leverton who’s supposed to teach her how to be a proper English woman.
Can you see how this is going to go?
I think My Fair Princess started alright. Gillian has an… unfavorable heritage so she’s already prone to gossip but she stays strong throughout it all and her tendency to stir up trouble and make a scene. Compared to the composed Leverton who is this paragon of all things proper. They’re very extreme characters and for a good bit of the book, Leverton treats Gillian as a student and more like a child.
And then out of nowhere decides to give in to his attraction toward her and it everything goes downhill from there.
On their own, I liked both characters. Gillian is fierce and strong-willed. A bit cliche in the rebellious act, and she could be quite childish at times, but I grew used to it. In contrast, Leverton was more reserved and very patient with her and the trouble she got herself in. But I didn’t like them together. Maybe it was just me but I didn’t feel any chemistry between them.
Then there’s the story itself. Much of the plot centers around Leverton’s attempts to “tame” Gillian while she continues to make a spectacle of herself, and then they finally must leave London to avoid causing more rumors. Of course, away from prying eyes, the two start up their romance but it felt awkward and a bit forced.
And the whole bandits subplot was weird. At the very beginning of the book you meet Gillian while she’s hunting bandits. Which, alright, for the story it’s who she is but was a bit odd. That she continues that later on after all the build-up of her making progress in her “schooling” seemed like it was more for the sake of the plot than anything. Her whole world is consumed by bandits, whether they’re the ones who killed her stepfather or not. The thing is, I actually liked that she was this take-charge person, that she went out to track bandits and challenged what women could do in this time period. But the way it came across didn’t work as well as the idea, for me.
For a series starter, I was a bit disappointed, but there are a lot of secondary characters that show promise for future books and I do hope they come up again instead of a whole new cast as I always enjoy seeing those little cross-overs. But I do think I’ll try out more of Kelly’s books as the writing was good, just wasn’t a fan of the story for this one.