By Lori Wick
Reviewed by Marisa Stokley
ABOUT THE BOOK
In the Land of Pendaran, Shelby Parker lives a humble but good life. Her special qualities are eventually noticed by the king and queen of the House of Markham, who seek a new wife for their widowed son, Prince Nikolai.
To uphold the tradition of their country, Shelby and Nikolai agree to an arranged marriage. But while Nikolai is a perfect gentleman in public, he remains distant at home, leaving Shelby to wonder what is in his heart. Will the prince ever love her as he did his first wife? Can the faith they share overcome the barriers between them?
Sweet. Heartwarming. Quintessential Christian fiction. These words were just a few of the ones that crossed my mind as I read The Princess the first time. I began reading this book with the highest of expectations because of the highest compliments many of my friends paid this story. While I can’t say The Princess lived up to those expectations, this charming novel worked its way into my heart by its halfway point, and I am glad that I read it.
A marriage of convenience plot and heartwarming dynamic between hero and heroine set the stage for The Princess by author Lori Wick. This fan-favorite trope works well as Shelby and Nikolai discern how best to live a married life under challenging circumstances. Against the background of royal life, this marriage of convenience is the perfect complement because Wick drops readers into the details of what occurs behind palace walls. For this lover of everything royal, I could not have asked for better in this sub-genre of fiction. A few times while I was reading I found myself thinking that I would love to chat with Wick about how she learned about (or possibly decided to create) the details included in The Princess.
The areas I struggled with regarding The Princess were characterization and writing style. To be fair, Wick wrote this book in late 90s when expectations about these aspects of a book differed from today’s. Numerous times I reminded myself of this because I wanted to ensure I wasn’t expecting something from The Princess that unfairly shouldn’t have been compared. Nevertheless, my takeaways remained the same: there was too much telling instead of showing, Nikolai and Shelby were underdeveloped, and the dialog was stilted. I wanted so much more description and action (in terms of beats, not thriller-type story action) than was presented on the page. The underdevelopment of motivation and characterization for Nikolai and Shelby put a wall between me and these characters that meant I couldn’t identify with them. And the dialog, more often than not, was so unbelievable and stilted that I cringed when these two talked. My heart hurts when I was read these words because truly I want not to have these issues with The Princess, but differing expectations of story due to convention aside, I just can’t overlook them.
Despite that few grievances I have with this book, I am glad that I read The Princess. This story is beloved in the CBA for good reason: the Christian morals and values presented within Nikolai and Shelby’s marriage of convenience remind readers of the good that can come when two people who love God, anything is possible. Nikolai and Shelby’s determination to love each other despite challenging circumstances exemplifies of the type of love and service we should aim to emulate in our own marriages.