Taylor Stapleton was jilted by her fiancé, then her sister and brother-in-law in America tragically passed away, leaving two young twin daughters parent-less. Now Taylor's beloved grandmother is dying too, but she stubbornly refuses to go until she knows that Taylor and the little ones will be safe from their evil uncle. She hatches a scheme to marry Taylor off to the perfect man, one who will look out for her and protect her on the voyage to America, but who won't contest a divorce once they arrive and Taylor is settled with her nieces. It is supposed to be a marriage in name only, but the more Taylor gets to know her new husband the more she finds herself falling for him. She makes up her mind to gather her nieces and follow Lucas to his tiny frontier town knowing that it may be the only place she and the girls will be safe from her uncle's clutches. But things go horribly wrong, and when Taylor discovers that the little girls have been kidnapped, she knows there is only one man she can trust to bring them back... her husband.
Lucas Ross likes his solitary frontier life. He doesn't really want to be married, but Taylor's grandmother made him an offer he couldn't refuse. He isn't a wealthy man, and after spending what money he had to purchase his younger half-brother's freedom from his cruel older half-brother, he needs the money. When Lucas finds out that his brother is the one who threw Taylor over for another woman, it just makes the deal sweeter. He happily escorts the lady to America, and when she tells him of her nieces' plight, he doesn't hesitate to help. The only problem is, the more time he spends with Taylor, the more the infuriating woman gets under his skin. He can't even look at Taylor without wanting her and is beginning to feel uncharacteristically jealous and possessive. But Taylor is a proper lady who deserves nice things he can't give her, not the hardships of frontier life. Lucas doesn't know how he can possibly become a man worthy of Taylor's love, but he also knows he can't possibly give her up either.
I first read Prince Charming many years ago when I was pregnant with my son (I ended up naming him Lucas in part because of this book.:-)). In spite of that, I still didn't recall much about the story. In fact, I thought I remembered a couple of things and then ended up being completely wrong. My memory may have failed me, but Julie Garwood certainly didn't. This book turned out to be one that was well worth the re-read.
Prince Charming is a story that is rather unique to the historical sub-genre of romance. First, the setting kind of moves all over the place. It begins in Victorian England, but Lucas and Taylor leave for America rather quickly. Then there is a bit of high seas adventure before the pair land in Boston. They spend some time there as well as in the city of Cincinnati before finally ending up in the tiny frontier town of Redemption, Montana. Also, Taylor is a titled English lady from an aristocratic family while Lucas is an American frontiersman who is the bastard son of a Englishman. Overall, not the types of settings and characters that one would typically expect from a historical romance, but in spite of the seeming incongruousness, it all ended up working together to create a very enjoyable story.
Taylor is an outwardly poised and confident young woman who knows what she needs to do and is very determined to see it through. She was jilted by her fiancé who then married her evil cousin, and when she receives the news that her sister and brother-in-law have died in America, leaving behind her two small nieces, Taylor will do anything to keep them from the clutches of her abusive uncle. Taylor trusts her beloved grandmother's judgment implicitly, so when the lady, on her deathbed, arranges a temporary marriage in name only to an American who she believes will keep Taylor and the babies safe, Taylor is eager to go along with the plan. Taylor is sweet and demure while still being quite strong and spirited. Her eccentric great-uncle who she adored taught her all about frontier life in America, and Taylor became completely enamored of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. He also taught her how to shoot with uncanny accuracy, yet she's not exactly a kick-butt heroine per se. Instead, she has a very dichotomous personality. Taylor is kind, caring, compassionate, and very forgiving and non-judgmental of others' shortcomings. She becomes a loyal friend and staunch ally of a woman who is pregnant out of wedlock and doesn't bat an eyelash when she finds out that Lucas's best friend is a half-breed. She is fiercely protective of those she loves, and knows that she is going to raise her sister's children as her own before she even locates them. It was really cute and funny when she defended Lucas from his half-brother's attacks against his character, thinking that he wasn't going to stand up for himself. She talks a little too much, especially when she's nervous or scared, but frequently surprises Lucas with things she says or does that often amuse him. It was rather sweet how Taylor plans all along to follow Lucas to Redemption but never tells him because she knows he doesn't want to be married. She's very intelligent and clear-headed and can certainly take care of herself when the situation calls for it. Even though she feels inept at it, Taylor definitely has a natural knack for motherhood too. When she ends up with three children to care for instead of the two she was expecting, she doesn't even hesitate. She just has a big heart and a lot of spunk.
Taylor's grandmother couldn't have picked a better groom for her than Lucas. He is generally a man of few words who prefers to observe and only act when it's the most opportune time. He is a man who is every bit as protective of those he loves as Taylor is, and a man who is committed to seeing justice served on those who prey upon others. Even though he didn't know his younger half-brothers, Lucas willingly and generously helped them to get away from his evil older half-brother to build a new life in America. He has also been hunting down the man responsible for killing all of his men during the Civil War. When he finally learns of the plight of Taylor's nieces, he won't stop until they're found. It was very sweet that Lucas's protectiveness of Taylor even extended to protecting her from his own lust. I love how he's always looking out for her well-being, making sure she eats and sleeps. He comforts her in her grief and never even considered taking advantage of her while she was in that vulnerable state. He never thought he wanted to be married, but Taylor slowly gets under his skin with her beauty, poise, and kindness. When he begins to become possessive of her, it's just too cute. Having been an orphan who basically raised himself while living by his wits, he doesn't even realize what he's been missing until Taylor begins to show him her unconditional love and trust. Then he finds he can't resist her and wants to become a better man to be worthy of a wonderful woman like her.
I thoroughly enjoying watching Lucas and Taylor gradually fall for one another. The jealousy that initially confounds them both is absolutely adorable, and I loved their bantering. The part where Lucas decided to prove to Taylor that women have "urges" just like men is priceless. This was classic Julie Garwood at her best. I also loved how they never got too bent out of shape when the other one was angry or irritable. Instead, they took the time to think through what the other might be feeling and usually were pretty astute in their observations and intuitive of what the other needed.
Lucas's best friend, Hunter, and Taylor's new best friend, Victoria, are every bit as cute of a couple when they finally get together as Taylor and Lucas are. Victoria was duped by her beau who left her pregnant and her family disowned her. She headed for America not knowing what else to do, but ended up so depressed that she was contemplating suicide until Taylor came along and befriended her. With Taylor backing her up, Victoria became a stronger more confident woman. Her first meeting with Hunter when she threw up on his boots was hilarious. Having experienced prejudice most of his life for being a half-breed, Hunter doesn't think himself good enough for a fine, beautiful lady like Victoria, so the two end up sharing a fair bit of bantering while fighting their feelings much like Taylor and Lucas.
There are some other great secondary characters too. Taylor's grandmother was a crusty but likable old lady. She was pretty stoic and perhaps somewhat restricted by the mores of the era, so she wasn't really outwardly affectionate. However, her actions made it clear that she thought the world of Taylor. The three kids were adorable. Georgie and Allie get into all kinds of mischief, and their initially nameless "brother" was so sweet the way he wanted to protect the twins. He's like a little Lucas or Hunter in the making. The men of Redemption are a hoot, and they too take to Taylor and Victoria almost instantly, wanting to help and protect them.
Overall, Prince Charming was a wonderful and "charming" book. The only two things that made me knock off a half star were the head-hopping and some passive narration. Not having read many older romances in recent history, I'm not sure if these things were more acceptable back then or if this was a peculiarity of this particular book. However, neither was enough to really diminish my enjoyment of the story much. Now that I've been reminded of what a great story it is, Prince Charming has definitely earned a spot on my keeper shelf.
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