The third and final installment of Cole’s Reluctant Royals series (A Duke by Default, 2018, etc.) probes the ways social expectations can diminish a person's autonomy and how the vulnerability of deep romantic love can make people stronger.
Nya Jerami, the granddaughter of respected elders of the powerful African nation of Thesolo, returns home for a family wedding with fear and trepidation. Nya had fled to New York after discovering that her father, once a respected government minister, was guilty of blackmail, treason, and, worst of all, the politically motivated poisoning of members of his own family. Nya had always been kind, with a naturally trusting attitude that reflected the goodness in her heart. Her father’s betrayal threw her life into a tailspin, shattering her trust. Now, with her father in prison, she is “a woman who’d come to the end of the breadcrumb trail and didn’t know where to go next.” The wedding puts Nya in close proximity to her crush, Johan von Braustein, the Tabloid Prince of Liechtienbourg, who finds in Nya a potent invader of his carefully constructed defenses. Johan’s playboy persona is a cover, designed, so he tells himself, to draw media attention away from his younger brother, the heir to the throne. But having lost his beloved mother at a young age, Johan is terrified of intimacy and its potential to lead to pain and loss. As Johan’s radiant energy draws Nya in, her quiet strength entices him “to stop pretending, to stop guarding his emotions like a dragon watching over its hoard.” Their road to happiness is compellingly bumpy, with political intrigue on two continents and the interference of friends and family, many of whom will be delightfully familiar to readers of the first two installments of the series. In a book by a less skilled writer, a subplot involving a character's emerging nonbinary gender identity might feel unnecessary, but not here. Nya and Johan's swoony sexual tension evolves into a scorching exploration that recognizes Nya’s relative inexperience while rendering the pair's matched desire, fulfillment, and power.
A gifted writer at the top of her emotional, sexy, romantic, and inclusive game.