Overall, Royal Bride is a pleasant enough Regency Period story, possessing a fairy tale quality that will appeal to many readers. However, those who prefer more depth to their romance reading may wish to look elsewhere.
Royal Bride wasn't a bad read so much as a dissatisfying one. It was a good book that could have been great if only the author had taken the story and heroine to the places they begged to go. Unfortunately, neither the characters nor the plot quite lived up to their potential.
Many readers found the beginning characterization of Charity Beaufort as a `girl' distasteful because it hinted at pedophilia. However, in defense of poor Gus, who, at twenty-seven, can hardly be considered "old", it must be remembered that at that time in history, sons and daughters of the aristocracy were expected to improve the family fortunes through marriage at a much younger age. It wasn't unheard of for the daughters to be married off as young as thirteen or fourteen years of age -- a practice that existed even as late as the 18th century! To be fair, a female at seventeen is considered a young woman not a child, regardless of her height or bra size!
It was the author's failure to fully realize Charity's character that left a bad taste in this reader's mind. Charity seemed to be a mere bystander rather than an active participant. If she had been allowed to flourish as a woman later on, readers would have been more willing to overlook the age difference presented in the beginning. Unfortunately, too much effort was placed on establishing Charity's innocence and girlish personae in the first part of the story; not enough was focused on her transformation into womanhood in the second. Charity just didn't DO enough in this story to justify, to the reader's satisfaction, her growth from "girl" to woman.
"Royal Bride" fails on several other fronts. First, the author chose to tell her story from a kind of passive point of view. The characters Do and Say a lot, but the thoughts and emotions of the hero and heroine are never really explored. Introspection - when characters contemplate their own thoughts and feelings - is held to a minimum here which keeps the reader from connecting with them on an emotional level. Connecting emotionally with the hero and heroine is the lifeblood of the romance novel.
Second, the obstacles that confronted Augustus as he struggled with the intrigues of court were overcome almost as soon as they were introduced to the plot. Gus foiled the villain's nefarious schemes far too easily. These easy resolutions were just plain boring.
Ultimately, the story fails because Charity takes a back seat to the plot. The focus should have been on her. I wanted to get to know this intelligent, enchanting person. I wanted to watch her mature, have adventures, conquer the hero, and save the day. I needed the author to prove to me that regardless of her age, Charity had the spunk to enthrall a "battle-scarred" prince. To convince me I needed to experience the story through Charity's eyes. Unfortunately, this heroine struggles through it wearing blinders.