Authors: Alyssa Cole
American release date: December 1, 2020
Format/Genre/Length: Kindle/Multicultural Romance/384 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Shanti has wanted to be a queen for all of her life. That has been her goal, and to attain that end she has worked very hard, enlisting the aid of her parents in the realization of her dream, and registering with the matchmaking site RoyalMatch.com. But the road she has chosen to travel is not an easy one, and many have scoffed at her for their perceptions of what they consider a foolish fantasy. But Shanti is nothing if not stubborn, and refuses to allow herself to be derailed from her journey. Her reasons for wanting to become a queen are clear to her, even if not to everyone else—she wants to make a difference, to be a force for good, to wield royal power in a helpful way. Her desires have nothing to do with money or glory… or even a king.
Prince Sanyu is the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Nyaza. His father, Sanyu I, helped to reinstate the monarchy after driving out the Liechtienbourger colonizers, with the aid of his chief adviser and closest friend, Musoke. But that was a long time ago, and things are not going well. The king and his adviser have proven resistant to change, keeping their country mired in the traditions of the past, and refusing to entertain ideas concerning progress, or alliances with other countries. The trouble is that the king is dying, and soon Sanyu will sit upon the throne, and the very thought terrifies him. But even more troubling is that they have decided he needs to marry first. Marriages in Nyaza are different than in other places. Each time the king marries, there is a four month trial period, during which it is decided whether his wife is the True Queen or not. If not, then at the end of the trial period, she leaves and the process begins again. Sanyu has lost count of how many queens have come and gone, including his own mother, of whom he has no memories. And now they have chosen a wife for him from an online site? How can that end well?
Shanti is excited to have been chosen as the wife of the prince of Nyaza, even though relations between Nyaza and her home of Thesolo aren’t necessarily the best. She is determined to be the best queen ever. What does it matter that once she meets Sanyu, despite his less than warm attitude, she finds him desirable? That is immaterial. And it quickly becomes problematic, as he makes no move to get to know her. Shanti quickly learns there is a reason why there have been so many queens, and no True Queen. She is practically invisible inside her own home, unseen and unheard. How can she make a difference when no one listens to her? Maybe if she can put her finger on the pulse of the people… When she discovers the group Nyaza Rise Up, she rejoices to be able to offer them some of her great organizational and research skills. But is she secretly plotting with people to wish to harm her kingdom? How can that possibly endear her to her husband… or is that a lost cause anyway?
How to Catch a Queen is the first book in Alyssa Cole’s Runaway Royals series. It’s also related to the Reluctant Royals series, so look for some familiar characters. I have to admit that I loved this book from the start and devoured it in record time. Shanti is an amazing woman, strong, beautiful, intelligent, and with a mind and will of her own. What’s not to like? Sanyu had to grow on me because he appeared to be so weak and there were times I just wanted to shake him. But the nice thing about Alyssa Cole is that she makes her characters real. Even good people have weaknesses and faults, and those perceived as bad aren’t necessarily bad but misguided and simply human.
After Shanti, I loved Kenyatta, her guardswoman, who is strong and brave and not afraid to put a man in his place, even if he is a king. I hope she gets her own love story someday. I loved seeing some of the people I grew to love from the first series, especially Prince Johann, who has a special place in my heart.
This is a romance, without a doubt, but it’s also about friendship and family, and about standing up for what is right, and wielding the power you have to help those in your community, as well as the rest of the world. Everything just resonated with me. And I confess that no one makes me cry quite like Alyssa Cole does, tears of happiness and joy, and the satisfaction of having finished an extraordinarily good read.
Is anyone surprised that I’ve pre-ordered the second book in the series, which comes out next May? Once you read this one, I know you will too.