Reviewing: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

Dear Ms. Smith, I hope that my letter finds you well. I, Likotsi Adelele, assistant to His Royal Highness, have sought you out high and low over the last few months, at the behest of the most exalted—and most curious—Prince Thabiso. He has tasked me with finding his betrothed, and I believe I have succeeded: it is you…

We all know those emails. ‘You’ve won the lottery, we just need your bank details, ID and soul’, ‘Singles in YOUR AREA RIGHT NOW’, ‘Click NOW to increase the size of your-’ well you get the idea. In A Princess in Theory, Naledi Smith continuously receives one of these emails telling her she’s engaged to Prince Thabiso of Thesolo, which is ridiculous. Ledi is a struggling student with no family, no money and no history. So she deletes them again and again and again (they’re very persistent) and keeps living her life. She’s busy enough as it is, studying as an Epidemiologist, working in service and trying to stop her friend Portia drinking herself into an early grave.

Sometimes Thabiso was certain the pressure would crush him. He was a prince who would be a king, and there was no retiring, no respite, from his duty to his people. He so badly wanted a respite.

Thabiso is a Prince, the Playboy PanAfrique, sole heir to a mineral-rich nation that greedy businessmen are eyeing up like their next meal. The disappearance of his betrothed has puzzled him every since his childhood when she and her parents vanished without a trace, so when his assistant says she may have found her – well he has to meet her, to ask her what went wrong. There’s only one problem: Naledi Ajoua has no idea who he is, or who she is. But he wants to know her, not only as a Prince knows his betrothed but as a person, and he brings on board reluctant assistant Likotsi to help him to just that.

She hadn’t foreseen all the other variables that went into life as a woman in STEM: politicians who treated her profession with contempt and threatened her future—and the world’s. Fellow scientists like Brian, who thought that women in the lab were their personal assistants instead of their equals.

There are a lot of things to love about this book. The main cast of characters are all characters of colour with fully fleshed out backgrounds, personalities and quirks. Ledi is a woman working in a STEM field, facing sexism and racism every day while having to smile and ignore it or else be labelled a ‘problem’ in the workplace. Portia is a hot mess, course-hopping student with no idea where she’s going in life or why, her only constant the friendship she has with Ledi. Thabiso struggles to be the Prince Thesolo wants and needs him to be, a struggle that only becomes worse when the girl he used to know, and the union he has imagined since childhood, are once again within his grasp. Then there’s my favourite character in the entire book – Royal assistant and belligerent emailer Likotsi, an openly gay and incredibly well-dressed woman whose job it is to make sure Thabiso doesn’t do anything too stupid. Of course when he insists on masquerading as a commoner named Jamal in order to get to know Naledi Ajoua she can’t help but suggest that this might be a bad idea.

There was something at least a little untoward about bribing the old woman who lived across the hall from the woman you were trying to get to know better . . . “. . . stalking,” Likotsi said. The couch squeaked in agreement. “Like, just a hairbreadth away from it really. This behavior is unbecoming, and to a woman of Naledi’s cultural background, you could be seen as a threat.”

No book is perfect, and as is often the case with romance novels I found that the relationship progressed unrealistically quickly for me. I was willing to let this slide, however, as I find with romance it benefits the reader to suspend their disbelief a little in regard to such things. Additionally, Thabiso’s aforementioned deception regarding who he is and his intentions – especially given that he and Naledi share several intimate encounters while she still believes he is Jamal – might be off putting to some. Fear not, Thabiso does realise that what he’s doing is wrong, apologises and genuinely learns from it, but it does raise some debate regarding Naledi’s ability to consent.

“What can I say? I’m sorry for being a fuckboy, Naledi.”

Overall I did really enjoy this book, it was good fun, the characters were brilliantly individual and diverse, and I’m a sucker for a royal romance story. Alyssa Cole writes beautifully, and I’d recommend this book for that alone. Naledi and Thabiso are genuinely very cute together – I loved the bit where they were giggling at an official ceremony when Naledi told a massage joke. Will I read the sequels? Yes. Do I already own two of them? Yes. Am I very very excited for a book about Likotsi? ABSOLUTELY.

Overall rating: 📖📖📖📖 4 books out of 5

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