Title: The Duke’s Princess Bride
Author: Stacy Reid
Published: September 2020
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical Romance
I received a copy of The Duke’s Princess Bride from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Born to an Indian maharaja, Princess Sarani Rao has it all: beauty, riches, and a crown. But with a British mother, her mixed blood makes her a pariah and a target. And when Sara’s father is murdered, her only hope of survival is to escape on the next ship out―captained by the boy she once loved…and spurned.
Captain Rhystan Huntley, the reluctant Duke of Embry, has a place in the English fleet, which he’s loathe to give up. But duty is calling him home, and this is his final voyage. Leave it to fate that the one woman he’s ever loved must escape India on his ship.
As a reader, I try not to always pick up books based on beautiful covers, but sometimes I just can’t help myself – The Duke’s Princess Bride has a stunning cover design, and I take my hat off to all the cover designers/artists because they play such an important role in marketing books. Maybe we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but the best way to get someone to pick up a book is to catch their eye. That was the first reason I decided to request this book, the second being the author, Amalie Howard. I’ve only previously read one other book by this artist but I have wanted to try a few more of her books this year, so this was the perfect opportunity.
In The Duke’s Princess Bride, we open with the daughter of a maharaja, Sarani Rao, on a mission to escape the only home she’s ever known after her father is murdered. Her escape hinges on obtaining passage aboard a ship bound for England, the homeland of her mother, and after sneaking aboard one such ship, she quickly discovers that it is captained by none-other than the Englishman, Rhystan Huntley, who captured her heart years earlier. Their parting back then has strained their relationship, but the two come to a mutually beneficial arrangement – in exchange for safe passage, Sarani will pose as Huntley’s fiancé in order to stave off his mother’s attempts at match-making when he returns. But nothing is ever quite that simple.
This book was a lot of fun. I haven’t read many historical romance novels set on ships (as this one was for the first third of the book) so that was a bit of fun, especially when Huntley insists that Sarani earns her passage by working abroad the ship. While she does as requested, she also plays a number of practical jokes on the captain while she’s at it.
Sarani is a strong-willed, very capable heroine who has to leave the only home she knows or risk her own death because of political power-plays by power-hungry relatives. By running, she’s leaving behind the title of princess in the vain hope that her distant relatives in England might take some pity on her. (And even if they don’t she’s got her own back-up plan, because she’s no damsel.)
Rhystan, on the other hand, is the unintended Duke of Embry – the third son who suddenly ends up with the title after the death of his father and older brothers – and no-one, not even Rhystan himself, believes he’s fit for the role. His mother is determined to see him married, when he’d rather be off sailing, and so his offer to Sarani is one of mutual benefit. Nevermind that he’s bitter about her choosing another man over him years earlier.
It was interesting following along on the journey as these two characters rebuilt their relationship, and – most importantly – trust. They had both done things to hurt each other in the past and now they have an opportunity to mend those hurts. They’re both strong, determined individuals with their own thoughts on what should and shouldn’t happen, and neither are afraid of telling the other so, which is probably what I liked most about their relationship.
I was also a huge fan of Rhystan’s younger sister, who’s making her debut in society. She and Sarani strike up a fast friendship and Sarani spends a lot of time standing up to Rhystan on her behalf.
Another aspect I really enjoyed reading about was Sarani’s struggle with reconciling her half Indian/half English heritage. Quite often in the story she talks about never quite feeling like she fit in in India, and how people look down on her in England, and those moments were quite poignant.
Even though The Duke’s Princess Bride doesn’t come out until late January 2021, I think it’s definitely worth keeping on your radar as a fun way to pass the time.