Review: A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) by Alyssa Cole

Princess in TheoryI picked up the first book in this series because a later installment features a woman in a wheelchair on the cover, and I am all about supporting representation in books. The fact that this book has two characters of color on the cover, which is a rarity for a romance novel by a major publisher not shuffled off to some “ethnic” imprint, sealed the deal for my interest in supporting this series. And I’m so glad that I did, because I ADORED this book.

The heroine Naledi is pursuing a career in STEM, despite the cultural and socioeconomic obstacles of her gender, race, and background as a foster child. Despite already knowing the truth of her background (not a spoiler, it’s on the back cover), I still cheered her for turning away from the ridiculous emails about her royal betrothal and returning to her desire to do good in the world via public health. Ledi is an awesome, down-to-earth character who knows how to roll with the punches and adapt to her situation.

My biggest critique about this story is not a critique against the author whatsoever. Prince Thabiso’s African country of Thesolo feels like Black Panther‘s Wakanda with the superhero serial numbers filed off. Soon, I hope that such representations of countries in Africa, of “what might have been” without issues of colonization and subjugation, overcome immediate comparative tendencies because they are so widespread. Those are the stories that deserve to be read, because it would have been so easy for a different author to let Naledi to take on the role of the American (read: white) savior of a troubled country, despite her status as a graduate student. Instead, she does her best to help the scientists in Thesolo against a public health issue without acting like she knows better than them.

I’m glad that this series of books is interconnected, because I will enjoy seeing how Naledi and Thabiso’s journey together continues.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

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