Queen Victoria II is ninety and will not live forever, but she’s hanging on long enough to see her grandson, Prince James, marry and produce an heir of his own to ensure the stability and continuity of the English Crown. Unfortunately, James seems to want only two things in life: parties and more parties. He’s turning thirty with no marriage in sight; no girls, either. The tabloids have already begin to wonder what, exactly, is keeping the prince from finding a wife.
Andrew, James’ personal secretary and childhood friend — and longtime lover — has a moment of pure panic when one paper publishes a picture showing intimacy between the two of them. Their secret has never been closer to coming out. Thinking fast, Andrew spins a story of a secret love, someone James has been keeping a quiet courtship with. The only problem, now, is finding a girl willing to play the part.
Princess Alexandra was born minutes ahead of James, but due to tradition, James is the one to inherit. He is the son and male heir, after all. Then there’s also her marriage to Prince Faisal of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. While she has two children of her own, neither are looked kindly upon by the people, being mixed race. That doesn’t stop her from wanting her rightful chance at the crown James seems intent on throwing away.
As secrets threaten to come to light and reckless alliances are made, the press circles the royal family like sharks. A royal wedding will bring more attention to Prince James and his fairytale girlfriend, Princess Katyn, into greater prominence. This means fewer parties, fewer drugs, and far less time for Andrew and James to be together. Adding chaos to the mix is a royal cousin with crush on Andrew, secret letters from the past, and Prince Faisal with plans of his own.
This book is a work of pure and absolute fantasy. There is no reality in this story, no effort to be true to the idea or history of the English monarchy or its traditions and customs. Don’t go into this thinking the story is meant to be taken seriously. It’s just a yarn involving crowns, love, and a great deal of debauchery. It’s fun in the sort of salacious, sleazy way of soap operas and overwrought dramas on television, along with gobs of angst and a cliffhanger ending.
James is feckless in a way that is supposed to be brash and charming and charismatic. He’s been spoiled all the days of his life, given his way with no effort, and has never faced a consequence in his life. He’ll drink anything with alcohol, though he doesn’t favor whisky, and loves cocaine. He also has a crush on his long-time lover, Andrew, since their days in Eton where they became friends, then lovers, then prince and PR man. James isn’t blind to everything, and is well aware that as a prince — as the prince — his life is one of indolence and ease. It makes him wonder if Andrew is with him out of love, duty, or the power trip of fucking the heir to the throne. After all, James can’t promise him anything. Not tomorrow, not next week, not forever.
Instead they share an open relationship in which James — wearing a mask to protect his identity — allows Andrew to bring in handsome young men for them to play with. Andrew is given this illusion of control, of ownership, as he watches other men fuck James, usually while everyone involved is either drunk or high. Both of them enjoy the games but, at the same time, both men would prefer to have greater intimacy, to have a moment where it’s just … them. James dreams of having a normal life where he and Andrew can live life openly and happily. No crown, no title, no responsibility, but they both know it’s just a dream and so they dive ever deeper into their depravity.
Andrew has always had a fondness for James and is willing to do anything and everything for his prince. He isn’t happy at all the skulking around they do to hide from the public, but because it’s James — because it’s for James — he’ll do it. When threatened with exposure during their days in Eton, Andrew allowed himself to be used by someone else to protect James’ reputation. Just as he allows himself a single picture of the two of them, a precious memento of a life they cannot have.
It’s sad and tragic and neither of the two men seem to really know how the other one feels. They’re both unhappy about the same thing, but neither of them is able to — or willing to — express it. When Andrew fabricates the beloved girlfriend, James is furious. Andrew can say what lies he needs to protect James’ reputation, but James has to actually live them. It’s a rare fight, for them, since Andrew doesn’t seem to know how to handle an angry James.
As a couple I found them to be rather tepid. James didn’t seem princely at all. He didn’t even really seem like a playboy. He was a good looking guy and much of the story was spent building him up, but he just came across sulky or disinterested. Andrew worried a lot, fretted a lot, and felt more like he was concerned about James the Job rather than James the Man. But, just because I didn’t click with this couple doesn’t make them a bad couple. They have issues to be worked out, and this is only the first book in their series.
One small piece of this story that made me roll my eyes was the mention of the order of succession between the twins. Their father, in a letter, mentioned that he didn’t want the doctors to bring out James, first, but fought to allow Alexandra be the first born. I’m afraid to say that, unless it’s a C-section, you don’t get to pick which twin is born first. Nature does that, since it depends on where the babies are in the uterus, not the father desires or doctor’s opinion, that determines birth order.
This book is filled with cheese and not quite to my taste. (I prefer my contemporaries to be more grounded, but that’s a purely personal preference.) I was, however, quite caught by Alexandra and Faisal. As antagonists, they have a great deal of potential with schemes, plans, and an active desire to take the crown from James. I am very curious to see how everything plays out for them in the next book.