Publication date: August 27, 2013
Series: The Prince Catchers #1
A fantastic debut to Katharine Ashe's new series, The Prince Catchers!
With a mysterious opening, three orphans are introduced: intrepid Ravenna, beautiful Arabella, and scholarly Eleanor. In their search for answers to their past, a gypsy woman tells them the answer lies with a ring given by their mother - a ring that belongs to a prince. One of the three will wed a prince, and upon their wedding, the truth will be revealed. Thus begins the middle sister Arabella's quest to catch a prince.
Years later, Arabella has become a renowned finishing governess, traveling to Saint-Nazire to prepare a princess for her season, hoping she would catch the prince's eye at the same time. Her journey to France was hardly smooth; first she encountered the rakish Captain Lucien (Luc) Westfall, who had the audacity to ask to purchase her, then encountered food poisoning and Luc's dangerous seduction, finally to arrive in France and nearly experienced rape before Luc stepped in to save her.
Luc, the new Duke of Lycombe, had desired Arabella from the first moment he saw her. Despite his gentle seduction to Arabella, he restrained himself until passion overtook him following their emotional bonding in France. However, when his life is in danger, he had to propose a marriage-of-convenience to Arabella, for she could be carrying the next heir to the dukedom. As he attempts to secure his place as the duke and escape from the clutches of his villainous uncle, will his lust for Arabella turn into something greater? And will Araballa be willing to settle not for a prince, but a duke?
This book has hit a high note with superb characterization and dialogue, though the plot lacked a little refining. Arabella stands out in particular as an independent woman who has, with a steely determination and mentality, resisted her stereotype of being a red-haired harlot and emerged from a turbulent childhood not only with a caring heart and loving nature, but also with the will to bring her family home and uncover her past. Initially, she appears cynical, but underneath her necessary facade is a heart of gold, always willing to sacrifice her own comfort for those of others. She is undeniably a most wonderful heroine.
Luc, on the other hand, is a queer mix of a tortured hero and a typical aristocrat. He ran away as a boy from his cruel uncle's hand, protecting his brother (who has borderline personality disorder) and escaping his duty as the future duke. Upon meeting Arabella and embroiled in the series of adventures that befell them, he began to truly take on the responsibilities of his title, the care of his tenants, and shed his self-imposed misery for a gallant mantle to protect those he loves. His transformation throughout the novel is a journey in itself, and a wonderful accompaniment to Arabella's noble qualities.
The only complaint I have is with the plotting in the latter half of the book. The climax with the villains came as a slight disappointment to the crescendo of emotions that had built up the action, and the resolution in the end resulted in an almost defeat for the hero, which is too precarious a device to employ. This may just be my preference, but I would have liked the villain to receive a more just ending, and to have the hero emerge fully victorious from his external and internal conflicts.
All in all, with a highly engaging plot, a riveting set of secondary characters (I can't wait to read Ravenna and Eleanor's books), and magnificent protagonists, Katharine Ashe has penned a most marvelous story that I highly recommend to all romance readers.
*ARC received from the publisher via edelweiss
Rating: 4 tulips