Fan favorite Prince Johan von Braustein takes center stage in Cole’s delicious third and final Reluctant Royals contemporary. A vote that could end the Liechtienbourg monarchy is looming, but Johan escapes the political pressure and travels to Thesolo for a royal wedding. Nya Jerami has retreated into virtual dating games after bad romantic experiences deepened her insecurities and feelings of worthlessness. When wedding activities keep putting Nya and Johan together, people—including Nya’s grandparents—take note. To protect Nya’s reputation and avoid negative press, Johan proposes. The fake engagement swiftly becomes intensely real as Johan and Nya share their secrets and lives. But Johan’s overprotective tendencies destroy his relationship with his younger brother, Lukas, and his abandonment issues may drive Nya away for good. Cole explores sexual and gender identities, grief, self-respect, acceptance, and love in this faultless romance. She weaves family drama and emotional growth into a passion-filled story worthy of its irresistibly complicated (and diverse) characters. This affair of the heart is deeply satisfying. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Handspun Literary. (Apr.) Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the last name of the character Nya Jerami.
The third and final installment of Cole's Reluctant Royals series (A Duke by Default, 2018, etc.) probes the ways social expectations can diminish a person's autonomy and how the vulnerability of deep romantic love can make people stronger.
Nya Jerami, the granddaughter of respected elders of the powerful African nation of Thesolo, returns home for a family wedding with fear and trepidation. Nya had fled to New York after discovering that her father, once a respected government minister, was guilty of blackmail, treason, and, worst of all, the politically motivated poisoning of members of his own family. Nya had always been kind, with a naturally trusting attitude that reflected the goodness in her heart. Her father's betrayal threw her life into a tailspin, shattering her trust. Now, with her father in prison, she is "a woman who'd come to the end of the breadcrumb trail and didn't know where to go next." The wedding puts Nya in close proximity to her crush, Johan von Braustein, the Tabloid Prince of Liechtienbourg, who finds in Nya a potent invader of his carefully constructed defenses. Johan's playboy persona is a cover, designed, so he tells himself, to draw media attention away from his younger brother, the heir to the throne. But having lost his beloved mother at a young age, Johan is terrified of intimacy and its potential to lead to pain and loss. As Johan's radiant energy draws Nya in, her quiet strength entices him "to stop pretending, to stop guarding his emotions like a dragon watching over its hoard." Their road to happiness is compellingly bumpy, with political intrigue on two continents and the interference of friends and family, many of whom will be delightfully familiar to readers of the first two installments of the series. In a book by a less skilled writer, a subplot involving a character's emerging nonbinary gender identity might feel unnecessary, but not here. Nya and Johan's swoony sexual tension evolves into a scorching exploration that recognizes Nya's relative inexperience while rendering the pair's matched desire, fulfillment, and power.
A gifted writer at the top of her emotional, sexy, romantic, and inclusive game.