Since the moment of his birth, Derek Carson’s power of invisibility has been the bane of his existence. You’d think living in a world where superpowers are common, Derek would have no trouble fitting in or finding guidance. Unfortunately, as Derek has no known connection to the royal families and only directly acknowledged decedents of royalty are “supposed” to have powers, Derek is in a class of underground citizens who have powers that are illegal for them to use. Moreover, Derek’s power is tied closely to his fears and anxiety, and as Derek is anxiety personified, he has little active control over his invisibility, creating a life of isolation and loneliness—until the night he saves Sam Jeffries.
While watching a tall, big guy bravely taking on three attackers, Derek forces himself to intervene when a gun comes into play. Not wanting to deal with the hassle of the police and the red tape around his powers (especially since he can’t calm himself enough to be visible), Derek takes the stranger to his home to clean him up and find out what’s going on. Derek quickly learns that Sam’s compassionate heart and protective streak is as large as his body, and soon finds himself swooning over the beautiful, flirtatious man. He downright melts when Sam finds Derek’s invisibility delightful rather than annoying. Soon, the two are rushing headlong into love, and despite Derek’s perceived limitations, he is hopeful. Getting caught in the crosshairs of a conspiracy and kidnapping is something even Derek’s obsessively pessimistic brain hadn’t conjured up, and the situation will test him and Sam in various ways.
I chose The Hero and the Hidden Royal for Self Published Book Week of our Reading Challenge Month because I found the idea of having a caste system that incorporates superpower usage into its power structure, as well as a character dealing with a power they can’t control or hide intriguing. How someone learns to live with being almost constantly invisible because they are basically afraid at all times, and how/what they would do to manage or overcome this seems like it would be a fascinating character journey. The Hero and the Hidden Royal is not that story; it’s a cute, fluffy, insta-lust/love romance where one MC’s personality trait is almost solely comprised of his anxiety and the other by his heedless savior complex.
As the second book in the shared world of the multi-author Royal Powers series, it works well as a standalone, and frankly, benefits from its fantastic premise since it makes a pretty simplistic romance about an anxious/borderline obsessive man unique. Unfortunately, as Derek’s power keeps him from being comfortable exploring and living in his world, the reader is kept from exploring it much as well. As Derek works for the Ministry of Powers (the government agency tasked with monitoring the use of superpowers and prosecuting illegal occurrences), Derek is an archivist who works alone, so the reader is given only a glimpse as to what the agency does, how it performs its duties, how/why these people aren’t supposed to exist (since genetics aren’t really a thing here apparently), and how the existence of non-royals with powers can even be kept a secret considering there are A LOT of these people populating the story.
However, while I might have wanted to know more (such as if powers are common and it’s necessary to hide non-royal power-bearers, why are there no resources to help Derek’s parents deal with an invisible child, especially since his birth would have been documented from day one by the Ministry?), none of that is relevant to the story outside of Derek’s job and a historical mystery he uncovers. The story is focused on Derek, and is told with a light, airy, Disney fairy tale-ish tone. I especially found the beginning comedic, whimsical, and delightful as it covers Derek’s upbringing. How quickly Derek falls for Sam is sadly believable, as he has no real friends (even among coworkers who seem to like him) and allusions to his sparse dating history hint at bad/hurtful endings for him. Since Derek is so sweet and Sam so positively upbeat and game for anything, their swift courtship (and Derek’s extreme desperation to get Sam to bone him) fit the tone of the story. I just wished there was a little more to the characters themselves. For although Derek is a bit more fleshed out than Sam, they’re both somewhat one-dimensional, functioning more as contrasting archetypes rather than fully fledged characters.
Additionally, had the story stuck to the fluff or executed the kidnapping better, I might have enjoyed it more. Said kidnapping doesn’t occur until most of the way in, isn’t connected to the one interesting plot line that made a kidnapping seem at least plausible, and is as quickly wrapped up as one would expect given the limited narrative space left. And I hate to say it, but the bad guy dialogue is so painful and trite, it made me REALLY wish the kidnapping hadn’t happened. I’ve never seen the word “ape” written so many times when not reading about primates (or a 4chan post). Moreover, while this event seems set up to provide growth/self-actualization for Derek, it lands pretty flat as Derek doesn’t grow or begin to believe in himself more. Instead, he embraces “damsel” mode wholeheartedly, choosing to believe in being rescued by his knight in shining armor rather than himself. The only thing Derek doesn’t do is sing “Some Day My Prince Will Come.”
That being said, Derek’s mother’s involvement in the rescue brings back some of the fun and charm from the beginning, and the ending hands off the continuing thread to the next book in the series without a cliffhanger. Overall, The Hero and the Hidden Royal is a frothy, quick, and amusing enough read, and will probably be enjoyed most by those who’s catnip involves insta-love, cute, self-deprecating virgins, and physically imposing good guys who are protective teddy bears.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of ten HUGE prize bundles donated by some fabulous self published authors (you can see the full prize list here)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Self Published Book Week here.