“I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they’ll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next.”
American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame, and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks out adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.
Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.
Which is how she gets into trouble.
Now on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love – her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself – will have been for nothing.
454 pages ; Romance/Chic-Lit; 2015
God, this was fun.
Admittedly, outside of the mortification that comes with cracking jokes about past royals and syphilis, I was not enchanted at first. I wasn’t excited about picking up where I left off, I trudged through it dragging both feet.
About nine chapters in, I realized I was warming to the characters. We open with a woman named Bex about to marry a man named Nick – who turns out to be a prince – when suddenly she isn’t so sure of this choice anymore. Mysterious texts pop up on her phone. Her mom enters and in her adopted England-via-Iowa accent, urges her to do her “twin thing” and mend things with her sister. A team of stylists, seamstresses, and security officers (and more) that make up the Bex Brigade swarm in to prep the bride – and princess – to be. The chapter closes with her sister bursting in with a confession. As it turns out, Bex has one too.
We are then brought back to the previous years, all the events that lead up to what is supposed to be The Big Day. As college roomies, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. A friendship formed first and love came later, somewhere between: The Glug (a “social tradition” at Oxford that requires a few assembled teams, a slim hose, and a Pimm’s vat), episodes of Devour (some American show with coffin surfers, covens, and vampires) and scarfing down Twinkies, adventures with wheelbarrows and a Batman mask, a seemingly innocent but revealing doodle on a Halloween costume, and the Waterloo Chamber in Windsor Castle.
Considered a William and Kate fanfic, exposed are the added layers and levels of commitment a relationship like this needs. At twenty-years-old, life is only just beginning and you’re navigating uncharted waters at college, forging new friendships, and enjoying the pleasure of simply being young.
Dating, getting to really know each other, and seeing if your intertwined lives could be something you’d want for life is such an intimate thing. And yet, being with Nick means hanging back at social events while another more suited to the throne is approved as his date. It means being hidden in the shadows for fear that sticking one toe into his spotlight could have dire consequences for the royal family. It means dating but not actually going on dates, loving him behind closed doors, sneaking around and feeling dirty about it all even though he’s your goddamn boyfriend. It means spending years wishing and waiting until you can hold his hand at a cafe, slip your arm through his at a social gathering. When you can say, “So it truly begins.”
What happens when Bex finally gets her wish? All isn’t champagne and roses as Bex had the sense to expect, but it was still overwhelming having to deal with paparazzi ready to pounce at every street corner and people who try to propel their own careers at the expense of Bex’s privacy and character. The brutality of the public even worsened after Nick and Bex had broken up! Every word and action were dissected and twisted with negativity and disdain.
Hearts break, years pass, hearts heal, time moves on. Nick and Bex remain friends until they find their way back to each other and the second half of the book delves into what happens when Bex doesn’t just date the dashing prince, but what happens when she becomes engaged to him.
Suddenly, Bex’s life is no longer her own.
Her own wedding date was chosen at the queen’s convenience. The gown she’d wear on the most prominent day of her life thus far would be fought for tooth and nail by a list of pre-approved designers. The bridal party list was assembled from distant relations. Bex is given an iPod filled with music she’s “permitted to express a public affinity to”. The Bexicon has launched, a blog aiming to capture every move Bex makes. A career left on hold. Articles overreaching, pulling stories out of thin air to paint her in a less than stellar light. Something as nonchalant as a late night urge for ice cream wasn’t possible anymore.
However, Bex isn’t the only one living under scrutiny; even her sister is being closely watched. This puts a strain on the twins as their lives veer into very different directions, with Lacey unable to handle the lifestyle her sister has entered into without her. Lacey can come off as ignorant, rambunctious, and envious at times though she usually acts upon pain and the feeling of being left out. The authors’ decision to make them twins and not just sisters was a great way to explore this dynamic between two people who have been joined at the hip all their lives and finding who they are separate from one another.
Sprinkled across the storyline are the college roomies turned great friends. Their personalities are so distinctive that you find yourself pondering over the sheer possibility that this group of individuals could even find each other to wistfully hoping for that experience if you haven’t already. But people change and friendships shift with the times, so it was interesting to see which ones stayed firmly by Nick and Bex’s side and who turned over to the dark side.
Also added to the mix is the younger brother of the groom. Freddie is armed with a heart-stopping smile and a great admiration for both his elder brother and future sister-in-law. He’s able to live more freely despite his prince status as the spare to the heir. He, along with Bex’s sister and parents, are great supporters of this union, a soft place to land on from the cold and unfeeling matriarch of the royal family and her son, Bex’s future father-in-law.
This is about more than just the two people depicted on the cover. It lets us peek into the life of a nobody turned somebody, the power of the written word. It lets us delve into two sibling relationships, into two families that are dissimilar as night and day. It shows the hardships of trying desperately to live normally when everything you do is subjected to examination. It also touches upon the truth that love can last, even in those circumstances.
I couldn’t get enough of this book and when the end drew near, I wanted more. The little twists and turns that got me from the first to the final page only tugged at my hopes for a sequel. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, Fug Girls?
1. With You – Jessica Simpson
2. Champagne Kisses – Jessie Ware
3. Today Was A Fairytale – Taylor Swift
4. Distance – Christina Perri ft. Jason Mraz
5. Yours – Ella Henderson
6. Say That You Love Me – Jessie Ware
7. Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
8. Only Love Can Hurt Like This – Paloma Faith
9. The Story Of Us – Taylor Swift
10. Human – Christina Perri
11. Ours – Taylor Swift
12. Bless The Broken Road – Rascal Flatts
- “But the best were the letters between King Albert and his queen, Georgina Lyons-Bowes, whose untimely death during World War I broke his heart and eventually his mind as well. It was that first torrent of grief that prompted him to adopt Lyons as the dynastic name, and it’s endlessly romantic to me that his progeny have reigned under that name now for over a hundred years, all because Albert really, really, really loved his wife.”
- “A wave of intense happiness washed over me, and I told myself to carry this moment as a talisman of a time in my life when I was both truly content and lucky enough to realize it.”
- “It’s almost worse to miss someone when they’re standing right in front of you. It was like I missed you even though I’d never had you.”
- “The kiss was blazing, but it has also been missing something – a sense of completion, of bone-deep need, and above all, the quintessential Nickness that would be absent from every boy I kissed until I found one who made me forget that I wanted it.”
- “I’ve had a front-row seat for this entire courtship. In fact, remind me to tell you all why Bex punched me the first day we met, although I assure you, I deserved it. Course, you lot hide the Daily Mail behind those copies of the Financial Times, so you know quite a bit’s happened between now and then. But I started writing this speech in my head after that very first bashing – and there have been others, don’t you worry – because I saw then exactly what I’ve seen every single day since, in good times and rough. Together or apart, Bex and Nick have quite simply always belonged together. And thank God, because there is no better person to entrust with the care of keeping my very best friend, my brother, and our future king.”
- “We’re not giving her away, sweetie. We’re bringing you in. Welcome to our family.”
- “I remember understanding what a brutal thing it is to be the bearer of truly bad news – to break off a piece of that misery and hand it to other people, one by one, and then have to comfort them; to put their grief on your shoulders on top of all your own; to be the calm one in the fact of their shock and tears. And then learning that relative weight of grief is immaterial. Being smothered a little is no different than being smothered a lot. Either way, you can’t breathe.”