Sins of a Wicked Princess by Anna Randol
The Particulars: Historical romance, Avon, 2013, Third book in a trilogy, In Print
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I immensely enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, and got my hands on the next two books. Plus, neither here nor there, this author is local for yours truly.
The Review: As stated above, I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy - it being a huge pleasant surprise what with 1) being by an unknown to me author 2) saddled with an insipid title and 3) equally insipid back cover blurb. But close to full out love it I did so I read the second book - which despite being RITA nominated I found completely forgettable. So forgettable in fact that all I could recall prior to rereading my review was that part of the story takes place in Russia. Naturally my ardor cooled somewhat and languish this third and final book did - until now.
Warning: Thar Be Spoilers Ahoy!
Ian Maddox AKA Wraith was saved from the gallows and turned spy for the Crown. Napoleon now vanquished, he and his two comrades have been sacked without much more than a by-your-leave. The fly in the ointment? While The Trio is now out of business, they've ticked off enough people that someone is trying to kill them. But who? The list of potential assassins is long. Ian thinks Princess Juliana of Lenoria may be the culprit. What with her living in exile, her parents murdered and The Trio being the ones responsible.
Of course it's not Juliana. She's too busy trying to figure out how to 1) protect her people and 2) regain her kingdom. No the real culprit is a criminal mastermind with his sticky fingers in a lot of pies who has managed, quite easily since the boy is a moron, to outwit her younger brother. So now Juliana has to join forces with Ian to thwart the bad guy, save her idiot brother and save her kingdom.
Much like the last book the main issue I had was with the thin characterizations. It takes a while for Juliana and Ian to get off the ground, so to speak, but eventually they do...somewhat. However that never quite gels into romance for me. I never quite could decipher the road map of how they go from bantering to falling in love - it just sort of happens. The puzzle pieces are there, but it's like half of them have gone missing from the box.
What this leads to a pleasant, albeit forgettable read. The secondary characters add some color (two of the servants, especially) and the dialogue is fun. It's quick, breezy, the kind of light historical romance that Avon has built it's brand around for the last several years. Nothing outright offensive, but nothing that makes it stand out either.
And then we get to the big reveal and it all slides way far south. Like I said, The Trio is essentially responsible for Lenoria falling. They were following orders. Juliana's parents were going to throw their lot in with the French. They had to go. And while they didn't murder her parents directly? They riled things up to the point of a coup and in the fervor her parents were murdered. Juliana witnessing their deaths with her own adolescent eyes.
Got that? Ian, while he did not pull the trigger, was responsible for events that led her parents being murdered. And yet? Juliana is remarkably OK with this. There are no tears. There is no wailing or hurled accusations. There is no pulling a knife on the man and gutting him like a fish. No. He was "following orders." Mumsy and Dada are cold in the ground but hey, it's OK. Ian was just following orders! What's to forgive?
I don't know. Call me crazy. Yes, hunky handsome spies for the Crown are all well and good. Yes, I'm sure they kiss divinely. But if I found out that the man I was making googly eyes at played a part in my parents' murder? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that my ardent feelings would cool considerably.
But hey, maybe I'm just wacky.
It just doesn't work for me. At all. I could fly with the final chapters that take on a bit of a rushed mad-cap feel. I could even fly with the fact that Ian makes some pretty incompetent decisions even though he's supposed to be a "master spy." What I couldn't fly with was the fact that Juliana could just let the fact that Ian was responsible for the death of her beloved parents go. Dude. If she was living in the 21st century she'd probably write love letters to guys on death row. Seriously.
So yeah. This was disappointing. Loved the first book (about the female spy) and really did not care for the final two books (about male spies). Which, once again, kind of showcases the fact that I'm an unrepentant heroine-centric reader. The heroine spy? I wanted to have babies with. And her two male partners? Meh. So long fellas!
Final Grade = D+