REVIEW: Behind Palace Doors by Jules BennettWednesday, March 6, 2013 1:00
This is a friends-to-lovers story, and while not one of my favourite tropes, when it’s done well, it’s one of the most satisfactory romances there are. This one is done well.
Prince Stefan and Victoria have been friends for years, close friends. He’s European royalty, with a small country and all the trappings; she’s Hollywood royalty. So the first pleasant surprise is that Victoria isn’t overwhelmed or out of place in Stefan’s world. There are lots of things she’s familiar with and she can cope with.
Stefan needs to marry in order to secure his throne, otherwise it will go back to France. He proposes to his friend Victoria because he knows she’ll understand and she won’t expect too much of him. So she enters into a marriage of convenience with him, with the understanding that it’s only going to last six months.
From the start Stefan wants a physical relationship with her. He’s always wanted that, and it’s made clear that he’s wanted her for years, but he thinks that ‘s only on a physical level. He doesn’t think that has to affect their friendship, only make it better, even once they’ve parted.
Of course he’s wrong.
Victoria is a very American heroine, but an American with class. The story obviously owes a lot to the Grace Kelly legend, and even borrows a bit from reality when it touches on the reasons for Stefan’s mother’s death. The Grace Kelly story really was a myth, invented by the various publicity people who knew a good thing when they saw it. It also has something to do, as Bennett acknowledges in the dedications, to Wills and Kate.
However, the wedding and courtship are distinctly American, and occasionally made me wince. Even the Grace Kelly wedding was done using European royal protocol. The descriptions of the wedding seem very American in style, from the rose petals on the aisle to the kiss at the altar, to the celebrant “presenting” the married couple from the altar. That doesn’t happen here. It just doesn’t. I can’t see the Dean of Westminster Abbey agreeing to rose petals inside the church, and the Archbishop of Canterbury would never condone a kiss at the altar, much less announcing the couple, as if nobody knows who they are. The kiss was much later at Buckingham Palace, and before the ill-fated Charles and Di was unheard of. The American influences pervaded the book, and sometimes made for a “wuh?” read, but on the whole I enjoyed this book.
Stefan and Victoria are likeable characters and behave in a, more or less, mature manner, even when forced into their black moment at the end of the book. I have to say that the black moment is one of the more unconvincing I’ve read lately. I just don’t believe that the likeable, reasonable, rational, mature people I’d been reading about would do anything so stupid at the end. But the black moment is a requirement, so they have theirs.
Bennett’s arbitrary use of tenses take a bit of getting used to, though, especially when several are used in the course of one sentence. When “that’s” for “that is” is used with “had,” it does make for a few WTF moments and it does stop the flow of the book sometimes.
I know this is a part of a series, but the happy families’ moments also jarred a little with me. While I do like to see the end story of families visited in previous books, the honey-sweet ones are a bit too much sometimes. This isn’t revolutionary, it isn’t different, but it is a reasonably well-written story about two adults falling in love, which, when the day is done, is what I’m looking for in a good Harlequin book.
“I have a proposition for you.”
Their marriage has all the makings of a great romantic movie: a beautiful Mediterranean setting, a handsome prince and fantastic sex. Too bad it’s not real. When Prince Stefan Alexander weds Victoria Dane, the agreement between friends is supposed to be in name only to secure his crown. But it doesn’t take long for buried passion to erupt….
Victoria gave up a lot for this seemingly fairy-tale life with Stefan, but all too soon she discovers she’s fallen in love with the “Playboy Prince.” Now Victoria must fight for what really matters. Because the one thing she can’t give up is him.
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series: