Series: A Princess in Hiding #1
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Berkley on 4 June 2013
Reading Challenges: 2014 Antique Reading Roadshow
Princess Emilie and her sisters flee their homeland of Holstein-Schweinwald-Huhnhoff to avoid assassination. Their uncle convinces all three to cross-dress as men and places them in the care of loyal gentlemen. Emilie takes on the role of a tutor, Grimsby. Cross-dressing gives her some confidence as she ends up defending a young man in a pub brawl with a chicken leg. The young man in question turns out to be her pupil Freddie and the son of the Duke of Ashland (a Byronic hero if I ever saw one).
Emilie has a decidedly scholarly bent so it made sense for her to become a tutor. This role brought her both physical and intellectual freedom which she relished. Emilie isn’t that smart to be honest as she veers from exposing her true nature to putting herself in situations where she needs to be rescued. I can forgive her for an awful lot though because she has mastered both Latin and Greek.
Ashland was badly tortured while serving in the British military. One of his arms was amputated and he is covered in scars. Rather than divorce his cheating wife, he continued to support her financially and raised their son. This is admirable in one respect as he obviously cares about Freddie but rather nonsensical in others. I didn’t like how Gray emphasised the shortcomings of his wife in order to promote the ‘good’ qualities of Emilie. Ashland’s perception of his wife was far more important than the reality.
Emilie and Ashland might be attracted to each other but things start to sizzle when Emilie finds herself mistaken for his regular appointment at a hotel. He wants her because she doesn’t recoil from him and she wants to make her own decisions for once without being held back by her status. I got his emotional constipation but couldn’t understand why Emilie would throw away her future so quickly – a woman pretending to be a man is hard enough but a pregnant woman pretending to be a man would certainly garner the attention of the assassins.
The female cross-dressing as a man trope is often hard to pull off as even if a reader can ignore the physical differences, there are often slip-ups in mannerisms. Gray does a decent job at portraying fairly clueless males who were so focused on their own situation they failed to notice they were harbouring a female. There are an awful lot of modern behaviours and attitudes included in this book which I can see being a problem for fans of traditional historical romances.
I enjoying the book given the humour (intentional and otherwise), the trope laden romance and the assassination side plot.