This is not the review I wanted to write of my first Alyssa Cole romance. So many of my favorite recommenders love her, and I liked A Princess in Theory when I started it, but I got sidetracked by an overdue library book. Finally, though, I got an advance copy of How to Catch a Queen and read it with my book club, right around the release date!
Shanti has always wanted to be a queen, and she has shaped her whole life around this ambition--learning about governance and philanthropy. Sanyu has only ever wanted to be anything but the king of the country he will inherit from his father. The RoyalMatch.com dating website brings Shanti to Njaza to marry Sanyu by his father's deathbed. But she only has three months to prove herself to be the True Queen or be sent away, like so many of Sanyu's father's queens.
Where to begin? The point of the book is that Sanyu has been damaged by a lot of toxic masculinity in the people who raised him--his father and his father's closest adviser, Musoke. But the problem is that he spends the whole book so broken and dull that I couldn't root for him at all. He's got serious anxiety about messing up his father's legacy, so he doesn't do anything at all--doesn't talk in meetings, doesn't have ideas. He's the king he thinks he's supposed to be--mean to people who imply he's anything but perfect, completely subservient to his chief advisor.
He spends fully three quarters of the book being just what he thinks a king should be--and hating it. I think I'm supposed to pity the poor man for having to be so miserable when he just wants to love and be loved. I don't. I feel bad for how he treats Shanti, yeah, but I'm ragingly angry at him for not taking better care of his kingdom. He knows better.
So I spent most of the book angry at him. The romance mainly consisted of descriptions of uncontrollable physical attraction in moments when two people are having an awkward, or practical, or uncomfortable conversation. I didn't find it all that convincing, that he was so hot she wanted him even when he was being a jerk to her. I've never met anyone that hot.
I did read Cole's thriller, When No One Is Watching, and found it absolutely skin-crawlingly creepy. I promise to try another of her romances soon. Probably A Duke by Default, because some of the characters from that appear in this one, and Portia seems pretty great.
Thank you, Netgalley, for the book, and I'm sorry, Ms. Cole and all her fans, that I wasn't able to love this book better.