I have heard such great things about Alyssa Cole, and I think I’ve read an erotic short story or two by her. I was so lucky to win her entire Reluctant Royals series in paperback from a Twitter giveaway! I needed a good romance read, so I dived into A Princess in Theory and loved it so, so much. I did not know going into it that there was even a tie-in with the pandemic, despite this being published in 2018 – though nothing that I found too heavy to deal with.

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The summary, from Amazon:

From acclaimed author Alyssa Cole comes the tale of a city Cinderella and her Prince Charming in disguise . . .

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

Selected as one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018!

Buy A Princess in Theory here.

Ledi is a grad student studying epidemiology. She was raised in foster care and keeps people at a distance because in her experience, they don’t tend to stick around. She has one close friend, Portia. She has been busy with school, her waitressing job, and dodging emails from someone claiming she is betrothed to the heir to the throne of Thesolo, an African country she doesn’t know anything about. (Think those Nigerian prince spam emails of the 90’s and early aughts.)

Thabiso is the prince of Thesolo, and he has always dreamed about his betrothed, who he knew as a child. Her parents left the country with her and are considered traitors. When business brings him to New York City, he decided to take this as an opportunity to get to know Naledi. Thabiso’s advisor, Likotsi, found Ledi through a DNA test she took, though Ledi never looked at the results. When Thabiso meets Ledi at her waitressing job, she mistakenly thinks he’s a new hire, Jamal. Thabiso realizes this is a great way to get to know Ledi without her treating him like a prince, and a comedy of errors ensues. The two fall for each other during “Jamal”‘s stay in NYC.

Of course, Ledi has to find out the truth eventually, and just in time, too. I know Alyssa Cole has a background in STEM, and I wonder if she saw the current pandemic coming from a mile away. Ledi’s practicum with the Disease Task Force is cancelled when the task force is dissolved after the government pulls funding. In the real world, something very similar happened around the time of this book’s publication. Thabiso is able to hook Ledi up with another practicum in their home country of Thesolo, where a small scale epidemic has begun.

What a fun read! I think I enjoyed this even more because of the times we are living in. I don’t like watching or reading fictional representations of life during COVID-19, but Ledi’s hand-washing and the mention of a possible virus brought me a little bit of comfort. I find myself consuming media and worrying about social distancing between characters so often! It was cool that the characters in this book were cognizant of some of the things we worry about today. It helped that the romance and sexual tension was amazing, too. This was a 5 star read for me. This was on my 2021 TBR list and I am glad I read it sooner. I can’t wait to delve into the rest of this series and more of Miss Cole’s works!

Find out more about how I rate books here.

A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals, #1)A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was so FUN, and had the added bonus (which I didn’t know) of being timely (without freaking me out, LOL). Ledi is studying epidemiology in grad school (and a smaller-scale epidemic does come into play), and dodging spam emails claiming she is the betrothed of a prince – think the Nigerian prince emails of the 90s/early aughts. When Thabiso comes looking for his betrothed, there’s a comedy of errors as to his identity. There are so many fun romance tropes in this one: royalty in disguise, forgotten identity, betrothed as babies, disapproving MIL, forced to take shelter in a snowstorm… The side characters are all well-fleshed out and will make for great romantic leads in the sequels and spin-offs. What a great start to a series!

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Book Club Questions

  1. What is more unforgiveable (if anything) about Thabiso’s secret and why? Is it worse that he is hiding who he is, or that he is hiding who Ledi is?
  2. Epidemics are more on our mind (in America and many Western countries, at least) now than they were in pervious years. Do you think reading this book in current times makes it more or less enjoyable than reading it upon its publication might have been?
  3. What do you think Ledi’s role may have been during the COVID-19 pandemic?


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