This honestly might be five stars on re-read, but I’ve been handing out five star ratings like they’re candy, and I’ve come off my book high now. This is a strong 4.5 stars for now.
Firstly, this is a retelling of The Prisoner of Zenda, a Ruritanian Romance/Adventure/Swashbuckler from the late 1800s, written by Anthony Hope. I’ve never read the original, but before diving into this I did read the detailed summary of the book and I’m really glad I did that, because it was fun seeing what Charles changed and tweaked, although our narrator, Jasper Detchard, also informs us of the big things that the original “got wrong” (in this book, the original is played off as a memoir of the “player-king” Rudolf Rassendyll, a distant cousin of the king of Ruritania who is called upon to impersonate said king).
You can tell that Charles just had an incredibly amount of fun, not only with reworking a book that she obviously has great affection for (and criticism of), but also writing a different kind of romance, one where the heroes are morally grey at best, villains at worst, and who don’t hold to monogamy. There are plots and swashbuckling and schemes ahoy in this book, and it was an incredible amount of fun to read. It’s a relatively short book, but she really packs a whole bunch in here. There is not a dull moment to be found.
Highly recommend! Just know you’re not getting a traditional romance, but more of an adventure story and you’ll have a grand old time.