As fairy tales go, the one where the handsome prince sweeps into a small village and tells a pretty—if unassuming—young woman that she is his princess, is hard to beat. Whether the young girl is cleaning out fireplaces or just living an ordinary life, wife of royalty is a more exciting proposition. Then there is the prince himself, who in the fairy tales is always tall, dark, and handsome, and never ever has ears like dinner plates. In romances the prince (be that literal or figurative) is monstrously well endowed, with a prowess that never abates, and enough skill to coax even the most shy and reluctant future princess into multiple earth shattering orgasms. The enduring and wide spread appeal of this fairy tale is understandable. Who wouldn’t want Prince Charming? Jennifer Ashley takes on the tale and the prince in Penelope & Prince Charming and proves that the story is worth telling again.
Prince Damien of Nvengaria is in need of a princess, but not any princess will do. He needs the one prophesied by his people. The long-lost one, who is to restore his country to its former glory, heal the sick and tame wild beasts (or demons as the case may be). To top it all off, he’ll know she is the one because she will be the one, the one he falls in love with. When Damien happens upon Penelope Trask, he loves her at first glance, but the long-lost princess isn’t Penelope, it’s Lady Trask, Penelope’s mother. That turns out to be the first of many small bumps in the road; the first is easily smoothed with a ceremony, the rest of the bumps are a bit more difficult to plane. Such as, convincing Penelope to marry and move to Nvengaria.
Penelope may be a simple English girl from the country, but her emotional make-up is deep and her reactions to the Charming Prince are always interesting. She plays the blushing virgin beautifully and more convincingly than the masses of untouched, yet, sexually masterful heroines to be had. Penelope has enough common sense to question the Nvengarian prophesy, the new emotions the accompanying spell casts over her, as well as Damien’s assertions of love for her. She’s a young woman with a mind of her own, whose body is more easily swept off its feet than her mind.
Damien has much at stake in his quest. The Grand Duke, Alexander, has seized political control of Nvengaria leaving Damien, the Imperial Prince, all but a figurehead. Damien must return to his country, wed to the princess, in order to fulfill the prophesy and avoid execution. His time to do so is limited and everyone from Penelope down to his enemies in Nvengaria slow him down and cost him valuable time.
Against this ticking clock and back drop of political intrigue, the romance is full of steam. Steam of the sort that propels the story along and the kind that makes for steamy reading. Ashley manages this neat trick despite Damien falling in love with Penelope the moment he lays eyes on her and then proceeding to immediately tell Penelope of his feelings. The too quick falling in love and the declaration of it, have ruined more than one romance novel. It works here because whether Damien is truly in love with Penelope or simply submitting to the magic of the prophesy remains in question throughout the story. Unlike books involving constructs such as lifemates, it’s clear here that at some point the prophesy will either be fulfilled or broken, thus ending its magic and Damien and Penelope will be left to face their true feelings for one another. It’s that promise that keeps the romance from being a foregone conclusion.
If there is a complaint here, it’s that too much goes on. The story would greatly benefit from streamlining. The prince is charming, Penelope is plucky and the subtle weave of magic (the prophesy and its power) is balanced just so as to keep the idea of magic a possibility without ruining it with too much explanation. But, there is much to distract from what is most charming about this book. Penelope’s mother, Lady Trask has a love of her own, one she must repair. Damien’s Highland friend Egan is setup for his own book at some future point, as are the Grand Duke Alexander and Penelope’s best friend, Meagan. Added to this, Ashley throws obstacles in Damien and Penelope’s path, so they won’t reach Nvengaria in time to fulfill the prophesy, which should be a good thing, but end up feeling like side trips from the main action.
Penelope & Prince Charming is charming, if bloated. Jennifer Ashley has created a couple sexy enough and charming enough to turn pages—even the ones that would be best placed elsewhere—and has woven a worthy addendum to the Prince Charming fairy tale.
You can visit Jennifer here and purchase this book here and here.