15 October 2013

Cavelli's Lost Heir (Harlequin Presents No. 2887)


Synopsis: Normally Prince Nico Cavelli would never waste his time visiting the prison cell of a tourist. Except this particular alleged criminal has stolen something very personal to him - his son, heir to the Montebianco throne!

Lily Morgan knew it was a mistake coming to the Mediterranean kingdom, but she'd had no choice. First she was thrown into jail for a crime she didn't commit...now she's been bailed out by the prince - though in return she must become his royal wife!

First line: Crown Prince Nico Cavelli, of the Kingdom of Montebianco, sat at a fourteenth-century antique desk and reviewed a stack of paperwork his assistant had brought him an hour ago.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprise Limited, 2010; 183 pages; purchased at a library sale.

My thoughts: The royalty trope is one of my least favorites. I never dreamed about meeting a prince or being a princess. I was a fan of Princess Di and I was devastated when she died. But beyond that, royalty just doesn't do it for me.

Now that I have that confession out of the way...I enjoyed this book, the first title I've read from Ms. Harris.

Lily Morgan is a single mother, struggling to support her 18 month old son, Danny, while working for a newspaper. She doesn't want the assignment in Montebianco, but her boss insists she go as nobody else is available. After buying a trinket at a stand in the market, she is arrested and thrown in jail, on charges of trafficing in stolen antiquities.

Nico Cavelli is a prince, next in line for the throne. He's the younger, illegitimate son, and has always been a playboy with a zest for life. But after his older brother dies, he has to buckle down and become serious about his new role in the future of his country.

Two years ago, Nico met Lily in the US and they had a brief fling, and then he stook her up and she never saw him again. She didn't know he was a prince until later, after she discovered she was pregnant with his child. When she did learn his true identity and began reading all the press about him, she realized she was just another notch on the proverial headboard for him, and she was afraid he would take her baby away from her, so she never tried to contact him to let him know she was pregnant.

Now Nico shows up outside her cell, with a picture of her son taken from her suitcase, demanding to know if the child is his. This part I'm still a little fuzzy about. When Lily was arrested, the police went through her luggage and found the picture and gave it to Nico. But I'm not sure why. Do they always go through every prisoners' belongings? Or maybe only because she was a foreigner? Do they go to Nico and tell him about every prisoner they arrest? Or about every American? Did someone look at the picture of a child less than two years old and think, wow, he looks just like our prince, and put two and two together?

Lily of course is innocent of the charges levied against her, but she has no proof that she did not knowingly purchase stolen treasure. Nico offers her a deal - the charges will be dropped and she will go free, but she must marry him so that he can raise his son the way a prince should be raised. So not really free, she'll just trade one prison for another.

And so it happens. Lily is literally given no choice but to go along with Nico's plans. Plans which mean he breaks off his engagement to the princess of a neighboring country the night before the wedding. But Nico is all about duty, and he won't allow his son to be raised as a bastard away from his father, the way he was raised the first six years of his life. He also won't allow his son to be raised without a mother, as he was after his mother died, so he has no intention of taking the child and sending Lily packing. Marriage is the only proper thing to do, even if it does anger his father and royally piss off his ex-fiance's father. (See what I did there?)

The angst level is high. Nico is brimming over with it. He misses his brother. He's angry that he has a son he didn't know about. He has to deal with his father and the other king, and fix the damage that his broken engagement has caused to the relationship between the two countries. He wants Lily, but he's furious with her for keeping his son from him. But she's his wife now and he's certainly not going to not sleep with his wife.

Lily has her own angst and is miserable in her new life. Her best friend betrayed her. The king and queen hate her. She believes that her marriage to Nico has caused broken hearts for him and the Princess Antonella. She's a Lousisana girl and has no idea how to act like a princess. The only saving grace for her is that she still has her son, and she'll never have to worry about him going hungry or doing without. Though she does worry constantly that Nico will tire of being a husband and divorce her and send her away without her son, or go back to his playboy ways and his mistresses.

It's a slow burn and a long road for both of them. Of course they're attracted to each other, but love? No thank you. Even when it's hitting them on the side of the head and saying "Excuse me, but I'm here whether you want me or not".

My favorite quote:
He smelled like citrus and spice, with the faintest hint of an ocean-scented breeze. To her dismay, she wanted to lick him like a lollipop. (pg 122)
So back to my opening - the royalty trope is one of my least favorite tropes. But this book is an example of why I read them anyway. The characters of Nico and Lily are believable. The angst they go through, their thoughts and actions, seem realistic to me. And the author brought them to life and made me care about them. And while the happy ever after ending was predictable, because, you know, it's a Harlequin, I still wasn't sure how they were going to fnd their way to that ending. And I very much enjoyed the entire experience.

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