The Royal Wedding Series review – books 1 & 2

Once Upon a Prince imageOnce Upon a Prince

Are you looking for a story that will draw you in and sweep you away? Perhaps your imagination longs for the inspiration of a modern-day, realistic fairytale where ordinary girls can become princesses, and happily-ever-afters are everyday occurrences… Then open up the pages of Zondervan author Rachel Hauck’s first novel in the Royal Wedding Series – Once Upon a Prince – and your wishes will be granted!

Landscape architect Susanna Truitt never wanted to be a princess. But then again, she never expected the man she always planned to marry – her boyfriend of 12 years – to suddenly inform her that he had ‘found the right ring but not the right girl’. Who would, after all? But God has a few surprises in store for Susanna, if only she can trust Him with the story of her life…

The fairy-tale begins when she meets Brighton’s Crown Prince Nathaniel Henry Kenneth Mark Stratton beneath the fabled Lover’s Oak in her Georgian hometown. Except Susanna does not know he’s a prince-soon-to-be-king. And he changes her flat tire.  After this chance meeting, Susanna can’t push thoughts of ‘Nate Kenneth’ from her mind, and Nathaniel can’t stop remembering the beautiful American girl who could never be part of the future planned for him from the day he was born. His burden.

As circumstances begin to nudge the pair into each other’s paths time and time again, Susanna and Nathaniel are faced with impossible choices. Their hearts are becoming entangled with one another, but will Nathaniel’s position force him to leave behind the only woman he can ever love, only to marry one he can barely tolerate? And when given the chance to experience a glimpse of royal life, will Susanna be crushed under the pressures and insinuations that threaten her? Only time – and a little bit of fairy-tale magic – will tell.

The lovable primary characters and laughable secondary characters, the contrasting backdrops of small-town Georgia and palace life of Brighton’s royals, and the unusual scenarios of Once Upon a Prince are a delight. Refreshingly, tidbits of Bible-based wisdom and heart-tested truths are sprinkled like seasoning throughout the story, giving it a delightfully sweet flavor. As Susanna learns to let go of her carefully planned life and simply trust in the One who wrote her life’s story, readers will find encouragement to let go, and let God, as well.

Regrettably, a few aspects of the book detract from an otherwise stellar rating. Certain unwholesome insinuations, uncomfortable situations and discussions, and references to inappropriate actions place a blemish on an otherwise delightful story that could have been enjoyed by all ages. As it is, I still recommend Once Upon a Prince as a delightful, modern-day fairy-tale sure to engage your imagination, but I must also tack on a warning about occasional portions that are less-than-desirable.

*** This book was provided courtesy of HarperCollins Canada, in exchange for my honest review.   It is available for purchase at bookstores from Zondervan Publishers.

 

Princess Ever After9780310315506_CVR.indd

For all the readers who delighted in the story of Susanna and Nathaniel from Once Upon a Prince, Rachel Hauck has delivered a sequel featuring a new story and different characters, with recurring favorites appearing on occasion. Princess Ever After was published early in 2014 by Zondervan, and is second in The Royal Wedding Series – soon to be joined by a third novel in 2015. As often the case with sequels, the big question is whether or not the high standards of its prequel will be met…

Princess Ever After is the contemporary, fairytale-ish story of Regina ‘Reggie’ Beswick – former accountant and present restorer of classic cars – and her adventures after discovering she is the sole heir and princess of a struggling country (or duchy) called Hessenberg. Joining her in this process of discovery is Tanner Burkhardt, Hessenberg’s Minister of Culture, who carries a hidden burden from mistakes made long ago, but never forgotten. Although each primary character possesses a fair share of personal history, is described in detail, and holds quirks and faults aplenty, they never end up feeling real or vivid enough to be called ‘friends’. I’m not sure if it is just hard to relate to a girl who calls herself ‘Reg’, or if the author never quite pulled her characters closer than arm’s length, but somehow they fall flat – and to a certain extent, the story follows suit.

While the prequel to this story, Once Upon a Prince, is unbelievable in a sweet, delightful fantasy sort of way, Princess Ever After is simply unbelievable. Overwhelming situations are reacted to with underwhelming emotion, and troublesome loose ends are tied up quickly and prettily. Unexplained glows shine from a forest, and a priceless car is hidden for decades in a secret barn before being discovered at just the right moment. Simply stated, the story fails at coming to life as a modern day fairytale. Instead, it just seems silly. The biggest drawback to the novel occurs when Tanner shares his story of wrong choices – in MUCH too much detail – that led to him becoming a single, unwed father of twin girls. Other situations also contain too much detail, such as the many kissing scenes and multiple hours spent alone by an unmarried couple.

Although many negative aspects are easily apparent in Princess Ever After, it also has redeeming qualities… Every once in a while a very sweet moment occurs, and Regina possesses a faith in God that helps her through difficult times. Tanner also renews a relationship with both his parents and his Heavenly Father. For readers who adore all things royal and romantic, or those hoping for another glimpse of characters from Once Upon a Prince, this book may be enjoyable. But for conservative readers who prefer the characters to walk off the page, combined with a memorable story that grips and intrigues from beginning to end, I suggest looking elsewhere.

*** This book was provided courtesy of HarperCollins Canada, in exchange for my honest review.   It is available for purchase at bookstores from Zondervan Publishers.

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