Wednesday, March 15, 2023

TBR Challenge: Nicole Burnham - Scandal With a Prince

A one night stand. A lifelong obsession.
One magical summer, Megan Hallberg met—and loved—Prince Stefano Barrali. But his royal duties took him home, and when she discovered she carried his child, she also discovered he was engaged…to a beautiful, worldly aristocrat.
Ten years later, Stefano runs into Megan at the grand opening of a Barcelona hotel, and it’s his every sensual fantasy come to life. His memory of the stunning blonde and their passionate summer has haunted his dreams, and a night under the stars gives him the perfect opportunity to reclaim the woman he thought lost to him.
Megan finds herself torn between passion with a prince and a fierce need to protect her daughter. Can the man who captured her heart so many years ago be her destiny…or her downfall?

Comment: The days just keep passing by... it's time for the TBR Challenge post once again and for March the theme is "baggage", which is vague enough to be interpreted in many ways. For me, I thought of the idea of someone having some kind of information/situation not shared with someone else and in the case of this novel, the heroine has not told her past fling that there was a baby. So, I thought, isn't the secret baby trope the most interesting type of "baggage" one could carry?

In this book we meet heroine Megan Hallberg who, ten years ago, was doing volunteer work and that is how she met prince Stefano Barrali. They had a wonderful summer romance but when the summer ends and they have to go back to their routines, Megan discovers she is pregnant. Unfortunately, she can't get Stefano to call her back, despite the several attempts, and she accepts he just isn't interested and has moved on, since he announces his engagement soon after. 
Now, they randomly meet again at the opening of the Barcelona hotel she has helped to design and manage and it seems as if their attraction never ended. It's true he didn't marry after all, but can she trust him once more, especially since there's their daughter Anna to consider as well?

I mean, this does sound as if it's a pretty basic story line in one of those Mills and Boon books... I've seen the author wrote for Silhouette but I think her more recent books are self published? I could not find precise information on this but, anyway, the story is as basic and linear as one would imagine from the blurb. It's not that category books are bad or weaker than anything else, but it's also true one might have expectations on them. I can't remember why I added this but I suppose it's another example of a "royal romance" type of book I wanted to try.

As for the "baggage" detail, I also think that is very obvious and exactly I picked this one for the challenge. I actually liked that, unlike so many other similar books, in this one the secret baby wasn't a terrible secret hidden on purpose. There's a sort of mix between bad communication and realistic expectations by Megan, after all she did try to contact him, but it was also quite refreshing that, now, after seeing him again, she didn't try to hide it as soon as she thought on the subject.I say this because it would be so easy to keep the angst and the secrets but they went for talking and trying to find a way to make a relationship between Stefano and Anna work, despite their different lives.

I'll be contradictory, though: since they acted like adults and discussed this, it became obvious as well where this would go and part of the conflict ended, being the focus now on how soon they would reconnect, both emotionally and physically. To me, at the same time I liked this, I think it made the plot quite boring. It seemed as if the path could only be one, so the constant discussion of issues, the supposed encounters to make Anna spend time with her father and the fact he disguised himself so he could play tourist with them in a crowded Barcelona... it just turned boring.

In part, this feeling of being bored comes from how Megan and Stefano are characterized. They are good people, under all the professional and personal personas they present but there aren't that many layers to them, nothing really "special" except the reason why they have a bond and the baggage they have to solve is all emotional and in how can they be a couple, considering Stefano's identity and the demands on who and what he is. It's true he belongs to a fictional royal family, in an also fictional city state - funny how it is said if the line of Barallis ended, their city state would revert to Italy - but the author has put an interesting twist in this.

Therefore, the story is rather basic, things go slowly but steadily to make them feel like a couple, perhaps a family in the future, and the way this is headed will certainly mean Megan will be part of the royals too. But I thought to myself, where is the conflict now, why is everything so easy if only people accept their choices (such as Megan accepting to work in the city state or Stefano accepting he can make decisions and not just following his parents decisions)? This reconnecting also happened in a very short period of time, so I got the feeling they didn't really work for the changes, they just did plans and hoped for the best.

I can't pinpoint exactly why this felt too bland and boring, but perhaps, for me, it would have more fun to watch the interactions of these three, as soon as Stefano and Anna's relationship had been established, with Stefano's family... but this didn't happen, so there were no new elements to be added.
The end is also a bit abrupt and while one can imagine well enough, it's just not the same. At the same time, I can't be that bothered because I wasn't fully impressed and I don't plan on reading the following installments.
Grade: 6/10


  1. A prince falling for a commoner named Megan? This choice couldn't be more topical! (though of course I don't know when it was written or published).

    I am okay with contemporary stories being 'lower stakes', so to speak, but with a setup like this, it would have been lovely to an exploration of their relationship when the rubber finally met the road (aka, if and when they have to go back to Stefano's life).

    1. Indeed! But it seems it was published in 2013... the coincidences of life!

      Yes, I agree. A royal fantasy novel is only interesting when we get to see the characters dealing with the change in status...

  2. I had to laugh because I've often complained, "Just talk, communicate with each other!" and then when they do in a story, I'm like "Boring." Poor authors, lol.

    1. Very true! Although, some authors do it wonderfully, both the miscommunication and the talking... so, writing style? Talent?