There comes a time when a reader and a category must part ways and with this, Lynne Graham’s Cinderella’s Royal Secret, the time has come for me and the HP. If you’re looking for the HP’s requisite elements, they’re here, but their mix is a recipe gone bad, or my taste for them is off. Either way, I’m out. The only thing I still enjoyed about Graham was her humour, definitely evident, the rest was meh and way too much telling over showing to bring this baby to baby-filled post-HEA bliss. It started out all right, again because it was funny. Prince Rafiq is in Oxford to inaugurate something. Back home in the mythical kingdom of Zenara, the days are numbered before he must take another wife (yes, even though he’s only 28, this would be wife #2; the first one conveniently dead; they married when he was 16, squeeky-yucky detail #1 among others). Izzy Campbell is the chambermaid at his hotel, toiling at toilettes to finish her teaching degree and help her prodigal parents and twin sister (who also toils) to care for her disabled baby brother. It’s a misery-fest, but this family is CHEERFUL. Rafiq walks out of the bathroom as Izzy enters the hotel suite with her cleaning cart and it’s lust-at-first-sight. They have dinner, fall into bed, and, lo and behold, though Rafiq is infertile, Izzy is on the pill (were it not for those pesky anti-biotics and a butterfly stomach of subsequent heaving and puking, well, it could’ve worked) … tara! Broken condom and a few months later, Izzy makes her way to Zenara to tell Rafiq he’s going to be a father … twins no less. Miracle of miracles, his very own babies … Rafiq and Izzy must marry … and you know the rest.
Izzy really is pretty funny and most definitely forward and honest about her desire for the sexy Husband. He’s more restrained, after all the usual drug-addicted, negligent, profligate, promiscuous parents ensured that he learned to remain cold, unmoving, emotionally removed, an automaton of a man. Except for Izzy: she drives him mad, his desire for her knows no bounds.
Graham ticks off all the HP boxes and then some: adding the infertility business, one-too-many star-bursting love scenes … but fails to, unlike my first Graham which did this so well, The Greek’s Chosen Wife, make the emotional stakes for Rafiq and Izzy believable. Graham’s hero and heroine are going through the motions. There are some amusing moments in the first half, but there are also things that annoyed the heck out of me, like the plucking. Izzy is TINY, but curvaceous, and Rafiq likens her size to that of a child’s once too often for my taste. Then, he also keeps “plucking” her from things, like chairs, sofas, etc. He’s kind of nice and protective, but the plucking must stop, I thought. To give Graham credit, Izzy has a bad temper and takes it out on Rafiq, which is amusing but insufficient to bring this dud out of the murk of plucking. The second half was skim-inducing because Graham does this ground-covering-time thing where Izzy and Rafiq travel to England, then back to Zenara, then back to England and Izzy gets bigger and bigger: tiny person, huge twins, after all. The second half is definitely of the voice telling you the story rather than any development: these two realize early on they love the other and well, there’s not much to it after that, so let’s summarize the plot. With Miss Austen, we say Cinderella’s Royal Secret “had a high claim to forbearance,” Emma.
Lynne Graham’s Cinderella’s Royal Secret is published by Harlequin Books. It was released in May and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley from Harlequin, via Netgalley.