I'm still in a state of incredulous WTFery about this book. There are so many completely bonkers plot points in it that I spent most of my reading time shaking my head.
Let's start off with the location. Cordillera is apparently a small country 'sandwiched between France and Spain'. OK. Not the worst location for a fictional small country with a fictional monarchy. I can buy that.
I can't buy that any country in modern-day Western Europe has a law 'forbidding women to wear trousers in public' and another 'forbidding married women with able-bodied husbands to work outside the home'.
I'm thinking that the author hasn't heard of the EU. For a bit I wondered if I'd misinterpreted something and whether the book was actually set in the 1950's or something, but no. Cellphones are a thing. This is supposed to be contemporary. Despite someone apparently thinking that the only way to get from England to the South of France is a ferry or train via the Channel Tunnel. Apparently the author hasn't heard of aeroplanes either.
Western Europe... ANYWHERE in Europe... is definitely not the right location if you want archaic, outdated, misogynistic laws to apply. The Middle East or North Africa, maybe. Maybe this is supposed to be a Sheikh romance and the author is just geographically confused.
The heroine's parents are Christian missionaries, away in South Africa at the time of the story (where she worries about them getting caught up in a tribal uprising, which is yet another impossibly geographically ignorant plot point) and therefore her reaction to Prince Lawrence wanting to have an affair with her is quite understandable. I'd have slapped the offensive asshat's face as well.
Look... there is a trope in romances that has been around since Jane Austen's time at least. Pride and Prejudice is THE classic example. The hero of the novel acts like a misogynistic asshat and eventually, by the power of falling in love with an Opinionated Strong Female, finds redemption and does the biggest grovel ever. That's the payoff for having to put up with the hero being an asshat for most of the book.
By the time I got halfway through this book, I was already thinking that the grovel had better be particularly epic.
But here's the thing. THERE IS NO GROVEL. Lawrence never changes his opinions. The closest he ever gets is being willing to POSSIBLY give up his future crown for lurve - in order to marry Tricia, that is, since she's a Commoner. Since there aren't really any other actual candidates for the crown anyway, this is pretty much a win-win bet for him.
Some of the lines in this book are so awful that I can only reproduce them here and let you judge them for yourself.
"Princesses are supposed to be virgins and wear white for purity when they marry."
Oh, you did not just say that after telling Tricia that you'd set her up in a nice apartment in the city, YOU MASSIVE HYPOCRITE.
Did she expect a marriage proposal before she'd go to bed with him? She was enchanting, but he needed a dutiful compliant queen like his aunt. And Tricia wouldn't live compliantly under Cordillera's laws. She'd agitate for more privileges for women.
WELL GOOD FOR HER, said I.
Lawrence believed men better fulfilled their traditional roles as bread winners and leaders. Women should be the nurturers and lovers they were meant to be, although he supposed they could handle motherhood and part time jobs.
HOW MIGHTY BIG OF HIM. Women can 'handle' motherhood??? WHO ELSE DOES HE THINK IS GOING TO DO IT???
And then... and then, somehow, it got worse. Lawrence and Tricia are talking about the missing princess Tricia is substituting for, who may have run off with her college professor - they suspect she's pregnant - and this GEM comes out.
"We can't allow that. She'll have to have an abortion under strict secrecy."
Yes. You read that right. He said that 'we' (as in the royal we) would FORCE a woman (a princess no less) to HAVE AN ABORTION because she is having a child OUT OF WEDLOCK.
This was the point at which I threw up a little bit in my mouth.
Honestly, from this point on I was skim-reading because I just wanted to read the epic grovel (which never happened). There was a sex scene at 95% of the way through the book at which Lawrence finally seduced Tricia and they had sex in a pool. After that they go back to his room and he produces a bunch of condoms, at which point Tricia realizes that they didn't use protection before, and I swear to God I'm not making this up, thinks
Hopefully the flowing waters took care of that worry.
Well, it might be how the Force works, but it's sure as shit not how birth control works, honey.
This book is an absolute hot mess. It's poorly researched with an utterly nonsensical plot and the most dislikable hero I've read since Christian Grey. I absolutely hated it. One star.
If you really, really want to put yourself through this, Pretend Princess is available now on Amazon.
Disclaimer: I received this book for review through NetGalley.