This might be my favorite Alyssa Cole yet.
The story continues in Cole’s established universe–cameo appearances by most of the Reluctant Royals gang. Sanyu is the new king of an isolationist African nation Njaza. Tradition demands that he wed before his father passes away, and his advisors present him with Shanti (found on RoyalMatch.com).
Don’t. Stop. I hear you laughing. Just go with it.
The thing is, tradition also demands that the king’s marriage is for a four month trial period, after which the queen may be dismissed. The old king made much of this tradition; Sanyu is the son of his 20th wife. Sanyu himself stopped counting stepmothers when it was apparent none of them were going to stick around. The young man now refuses to form any attachment to Shanti, seeing as the royal advisors have a dim view of her longevity.
Let me pause here to share: throughout the book, much is made of “the marriage trial”. I thought it was a trial, as in, feats of strength or some such shenanigans. Nope. It’s just trial, as in Netflix trial. Disappointing.
Shanti, for her part, wasn’t on RoyalMatch looking for love. She was looking for a crown, and a chance to effect change on a large scale. As a young girl, she set her mind to becoming a literal queen, and her every move from that day has been aimed toward the goal. Becoming queen of Njaza, however, is not what she expected. She is not permitted to speak, to offer her thoughts (carefully honed by two decades of education into politics and economics). No one wants to make friends with a young woman who won’t be around when the season changes.
Shanti and Sanyu struggle to communicate and to help one another grow. I cannot tell you what a delight it is to watch them come together as a couple.
Sprinkled throughout are little moments of humor (Princess Lisa of Zamunda is mentioned in passing) as the characters charm one another and the reader. Cole continues to be at the top of the game in romance.