Alyssa Cole’s second Runaway Royals novel is a queer Anastasia retelling, featuring a long-lost princess who finds love with the female investigator tasked with tracking her down.
Makeda Hicks has lost her job and her girlfriend in one fell swoop. The last thing she’s in the mood for is to rehash the story of her grandmother’s infamous summer fling with a runaway prince from Ibarania, or the investigator from the World Federation of Monarchies tasked with searching for Ibarania’s missing heir.
Yet when Beznaria Chetchevaliere crashes into her life, the sleek and sexy investigator exudes exactly the kind of chaos that organized and efficient Makeda finds irresistible, even if Bez is determined to drag her into a world of royal duty Makeda wants nothing to do with.
When a threat to her grandmother’s livelihood pushes Makeda to agree to return to Ibarania, Bez takes her on a transatlantic adventure with a crew of lovable weirdos, a fake marriage, and one-bed hijinks on the high seas. When they finally make it to Ibarania, they realize there’s more at stake than just cash and crown, and Makeda must learn what it means to fight for what she desires and not what she feels bound to by duty.
This was a wonderful romp with two very different main characters. I only wish we got to see more of them as a long-standing couple. Readers of this series and the Reluctant Royals series will recognize Beznaria from her appearance in How to Catch a Queen, as well as other characters. I think you can read this book without having read How to Catch a Queen, or the Reluctant Royals series, but you might miss out on a lot of the subplots going on. What This book is told in loosely alternating chapters in Beznaria and Makeda’s voices, and you get a really good sense of their personalities and way of moving through the world. This has become a fairly common way of structuring stories, but not everyone is good a capturing and conveying a character’s voice outside of dialogue, which you need to be able to do in order for this structure to live up to its full potential. Makeda and Beznaria both have a lot going on when they first meet, and much of the book is both of them sorting themselves out and figuring out that they love each other. Both also have complicated families that love them.
Makeda is stuck when the book begins, and a lot of the book is her learning how to break the pattern she is stuck in. She is a fixer, by habit and because it was how she survived an unstable childhood, but her fixing tendencies are mostly externalized, so that she helps other people with their problems–even really little ones. She has realized this by the time Beznaria shows up–Makeda describes Beznaria as having chaos vibes that draw her in. Makeda is eventually swept up by Beznaria, but even so, she figures out how to love Beznaria without fixing her. That’s not to say that everything is great when they arrive in Beznaria’s home country, because they both kept some pretty big secrets from each other that have major consequences. They don’t tell each other these secrets until they’re just about to arrive in Beznaria’s country, but we know them because of how the story is narrated so it isn’t suspenseful in that way. Continue reading