I picked up this book when I read on Maisey Yates’ Facebook page that she’d written a Harlequin Presents with a virgin hero. The what you say?
Most of the Presents I’ve read featured trembling, doe-eyed, virginal heroines who’ve never bothered to locate or think about their hoo-has until the hero shows up. If Yates wrote her hero in the same mold, then they’d spend half the book sitting on a king-sized bed in front of the ubiquitous fireplace staring at each other with panicked, glazed-over eyes trying to figure out what the hell they were supposed to do.
Fortunately she pulls the male-virginity thing off convincingly, which is no small feat. Makhail Nabokov’s unique backstory and original character saved this book for me. A Royal World Apart suffers from a serious lack of conflict that otherwise would have earned it a solid D.
Mak isn’t your typical bodyguard. He’s the super-wealthy owner of an elite private security firm, and he takes pride in his company’s reputation. That’s why he takes it upon himself to personally guard Eva Drakos when one of his men drops the ball and lets her out of his sight.
Evangelina Drakos is the feisty princess of Kyonos, a country that follows the rules for Harlequin Presents European nations: throw a few vowels in there and stick it near Greece. Eva feels stifled by her royal life, namely her impending nuptials to Bastian, King of Komenia.
Eva doesn’t want to marry Bastian; she wants to control the direction of her own life. She desperately wants to do empowered things like buy her own clothes, order her own dinner and go to the beach. I shit you not, those were her top three gripes. I was kind of holding my breath for “get a job that lets me feel like I’m contributing to society” or “marry for love,” but Eva is holding out for buying her own fucking pants.
Since pants-buying is off the table, she spends her time rebelling and doing scandalous things like hanging out at a nightclub. Sober. Fully clothed. Prince Harry is shaking his head in shame at you, young lady. Her father cracks down on these shenanigans and puts her on house-arrest until her upcoming wedding.
Mak has little tolerance for Eva’s foot-stamping. He had a pretty shitty childhood in Russia and tells her right off the bat,
“You are spoiled. Selfish. Characteristics brought on by a life with every amenity you could possibly imagine—and some most people can not—at your fingertips. You feel persecuted while surrounded by luxury because you know nothing else. Because you don’t know what it is to go without food or shelter.” (Yates 24).
Eva is all like, “Yeah, but I still have to marry some dude I don’t know and sleep with him so there,” so they compromise and Mak takes her shopping and to lunch and to the beach.
Now that she’s scratched those three items off her bucket list, Eva’s life should be complete, but no, spending time with Mak has woken her lady business up from a long slumber. He’s handsome and taciturn and unreachable, kryptonite to any Presents heroine.
Mak similarly feels something for Eva, despite his allegations that she’s a brat, which troubles him as his heart has been frozen for ever and ever after his tragic past.
All of this comes to a head when Eva’s latest nightclub romp hits the tabloids leading to speculation that she’s probably a big whore. Her father thinks it’s a good idea for her to lay low for a while, so he asks Mak to take her to his luxury chalet in Switzerland. This was one of the plot points that stuck in my craw. The media thinks you’re a big slut, so go travel alone with a hot guy to Switzerland to quash all the rumors? WTF.
Anyway, alone in the snowy Swiss Alps, Eva and Mak are forced to confront their feelings for each other. Eva throws down at Mak’s constant assertions that she’s spoiled:
“So because of other people’s problems, people who have less in the way of creature comforts, I’m not allowed to have any problems of my own? This isn’t first-world problems here, this isn’t me complaining about my flying pony refusing to lay golden eggs…I’m spoiled again? To want personhood? To want to have my feelings, my desires at least matter to someone? Damn you, Mak. You’re just like the rest of them.” (Yates 75).
After getting the “you’re an ass/ you’re a spoiled brat” fight out of the way, they’re free to cautiously pursue their burgeoning feelings for each other. They take a page from reality TV and spend some time making out in the hot tub and in front of the fireplace. When the sexytimes begin, and the reasons behind Mak’s virginity are explained, and it’s done so convincingly that I felt it was the most genuine moment in the book.When the sweet, sweet loving is done, they both reflect with bitter sadness that It Can Never Be between them.
This was the part that was a letdown for me. It was never explained why It Can Never Be. Kyonos and Komenia aren’t going to war if Eva doesn’t marry Bastian. Her father doesn’t owe his father money. There wasn’t a secret pact signed at birth or any other Presents plot device lurking in the corner. It’s just a good idea politically, which is a pretty weak conflict to separate two characters who are otherwise dynamic and interesting.
Obviously Eva and Mak wind up together in the end, and they do so with minimal fuss, which made the last third of the book totally anticlimactic. Any time characters can overcome the obstacles facing them just by talking rationally for a fucking minute, I get all pissy. Almost as pissy as when my flying pony refuses to lay golden eggs, the insolent little bastard.
Mak and Eva made the book worth reading, but only by the barest margin.