by Sandra Madden

May 2002
ISBN: 0-821-77250-3
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

Edmund Wydville, Earl of Stamford, returns to his country estate after a gap of several years and is stunned to discover that his childhood companion and the gardener’s adopted daughter, Kate Beadle, has grown up to become a beautiful young woman. Kate has always loved Edmund, since the first time he took her fishing as a child. They are deeply attracted to each other. But both are very aware of the class difference between them and know that nothing can come of it. Edmund resolves that if he can’t have Kate, then he will find an equally suitable husband for her and so begins his clumsy efforts at matchmaking.

Kate Beadle has just one quest in life and that is to find out who she truly is. She was left at the gardener’s door as a baby and with a unique golden rose and crown ring. She has made it her life’s mission to visit every goldsmith there is and try to discover her identity, by means of her ring. But to her consternation and irritation, Edmund starts throwing her at the heads of various men he is acquainted with, in a bid to marry her off. Unfortunately, his idea of an ideal man and hers are light years apart, which leads to a lot of confusion.

Sandra Madden has failed to utilize the full potential of this plot line. The situations are mostly clichéd and largely predictable. Edmund is not very hero-like with his class-consciousness and comes off as a thorough prig. His attempts to marry Kate to a suitable man of her class, against her express wishes, are disastrous and his choice of candidates is distasteful as it ranges from a lecherous barrister to a widower with six children. Moreover, Edmund then develops a dog-in-the-manger attitude that renders him highly unlikable. And in spite of all this, the character of Kate still adores him, which is really hard to believe.

Kate too has a peculiar habit of running off to consult with a so-called astrologer (who is none other than the baker’s wife!) at the drop of a hat and is totally dependant on her predictions. This is supposed to be funny and sometimes is, but the overall impression we get of Kate is that she is very insecure and slightly immature. And no one in Madden’s Elizabethan England is surprised or shocked when an Earl takes a gardener’s daughter/aunt’s companion to the theater or when he dances with her at the Queen’s palace! This is stretching the limits, as any reader of historical romance is bound to know! Moreover, there is a character in the book that is a Scottish Duke by the title of ‘Duke of Laird’. Laird, as we all know, is the Scottish equivalent of the English, Lord. So in effect, his title is ‘Duke of Lord’ which seems highly questionable. What's more, the gratingly repetitive use of the slang of those times has the effect of making the whole dialect appear awkward and makes the book much more difficult to read.

A Princess Born could really use some strict editing and re-writing parts of it would also help a lot. Therefore, it is not highly recommended.

Reviewed in October 2002 by Rashmi.

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