Black. Royals. In. Love.
Let me say that again, y’all.
That’s it. That’s the whole review. Go read the book.
Okay, fine. As much as I wish that was the whole review, it’s not. As much as I wanted to adore this tale of stern King Sanyu finding and wooing his One True Queen Shanti, it soured for me at a few points. Full disclosure; I went in to this biased and happy because I enjoyed Alyssa Cole’s sci-fi romance The A.I. Who Loved Me so much. I have developed an unreasonable soft spot for this author, so any criticism is definitely genuine.
Overall, the book is a lot of fun. It’s your standard romance novel with high steam levels and fun characters, so there’s not much to quibble with there. It’s an arranged marriage plot too, if that’s your thing. It is emphatically not my thing but I actually like the way it was introduced here, with a nod to modernity. There’s a little bit of adventure and politicking to keep things moving and the setting and side characters do what they’re there to do.
The thing that kept this from being a 5-star read for me is this: Sanyu, the male lead is not only king of a mean, misogynistic kingdom in need of a feminine facelift, but also king of the jerks. He’s prickly, emotionally stunted, and chooses toxicity again and again, despite having the power and intelligence to do better. There are very well-presented, well-written reasons for all of that, but I wanted his queen Shanti to pack it up and run for the hills after every plot twist.
Speaking of Shanti, she’s extremely likable–smart, fun, and politically engaged. There’s a depth and sweetness to her that romance heroines don’t often get, and as I said to a group of students the other day, only Black women write other Black women so sweetly, in any genre.
I realize that Sanyu’s emotional issues will probably strike a real chord with some readers because they’re true to life and well-handled. In fact, in some ways the book is a master class in patience, reconciliation, and the constant forgiveness that is a part of love.
But I’m already doing all of that constantly in my real life, so I want a little more manic pixie dream boy and a little less rough, gruff and dangerous in my romantic fantasies, ok?
Four stars and please Lord a good marriage counselor for How To Catch A Queen.
(Beautiful people, you know the drill. Something something legal reasons, something something affiliate, something something Bookshop, something something commission. Got it? Good. Now go read some Black romance, or be in one yourself. Peace!)