I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Also by this author: Love à la Mode
on December 19th 2017
Pages: 320 •Goodreads
Someday I want to live in a place where I never hear “You’re Dusty’s sister?” ever again. Life is real enough for Dylan—especially as the ordinary younger sister of Dusty, former Miss Mississippi and the most perfect, popular girl in Tupelo. But when Dusty wins the hand of the handsome Scottish laird-to-be Ronan on the TRC television network’s crown jewel, Prince in Disguise, Dylan has to face a different kind of reality: reality TV.
As the camera crew whisks them off to Scotland to film the lead-up to the wedding, camera-shy Dylan is front and center as Dusty’s maid of honor. The producers are full of surprises—including old family secrets, long-lost relatives, and a hostile future mother-in-law who thinks Dusty and Dylan’s family isn’t good enough for her only son. At least there’s Jamie, an adorably bookish groomsman who might just be the perfect antidote to all Dylan’s stress . . . if she just can keep TRC from turning her into the next reality show sensation.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with contemporary books that feature royalty (an obsession likely starting with my love of The Princess Diaries series and continued currently by the Netflix drama, The Crown). So when I saw this at the Disney-Hyperion booth at YallWest I KNEW I had to grab it despite knowing literally nothing about the plot or premise, but the cover and title were enough to know it would firmly fall into my modern day royal obsessed brain. Couple that with the recent news of Prince Harry’s engagement and I couldn’t have read Prince in Disguise at a better time!
Prince in Disguise channels two of my favorite guilty pleasure reading tropes- royalty and reality TV. Protagonist Dylan’s older sister Dusty was on a Bachelor type reality show called Prince in Disguise and “won,” and is now hauling her entire family to Scotland to get married (although her fiancé is technically a lord, not a prince). Dusty and Dylan are polar opposites with Dusty being a local celebrity/pageant queen and Dylan being a rather normal kid (albeit a bit on the tomboy side). While Dylan struggles living in her older sister’s shadow, there’s also the added element of her hating being filmed, as the wedding will be televised as a spinoff reality tv show special.
First of all, this book takes place in Scotland in the winter right before Christmas, which is obviously the PERFECT setting for a wintery read about hidden royalty. Ronan, Dusty’s Scottish lord fiancé, is honestly hilarious with his Scottish pride and unexpected emotional outbursts. While his mother is a real piece of work, it was cool getting to learn about a fictional Scottish family’s history and the real traditions they follow (yes, tartan is a huge deal and yes, they really do eat all that haggis, at least if the events in the book are portrayed correctly). The castle itself also played an almost character-like role, with it’s secret passageways, trap doors, hidden rooms, rolling acres of land, and rich Scottish history (more YA books set in castles, please).
I can’t remember the last time I read about that literally had me laughing out loud so much, but it happened 5+ times while reading Prince in Disguise. Whether it was Dusty’s Southern sass (she was Miss Mississippi, after all), Dylan’s witty banter with her love interest (SO much snarky banter, with literary references to boot), or a hilarious Disney reference (there were actually a lot and they were pretty funny- I see what you did there, Disney-Hyperion), I was constantly finding myself bursting out laughing while reading the story.
One of the most fun elements about Prince in Disguise was it’s quirky cast of characters, which I think was the perfect blend you’d find if you were truly filming a reality tv show in a centuries-old castle in Scotland with half the cast being European aristocracy and the other half being from the deep South. There’s well read and well bred Jamie who’s witty banter and evasiveness keep Dylan constantly guessing, Heaven, Dylan’s sassy and brutally honest best friend from Mississippi, Kit, a rather insane friend of the groom who seems to think he’s God’s gift to Scotland, and Pamela, the arguably evil reality show producer (I could actually remember everyone’s names after reading the book which is honestly a huge testament to how fun and well written these characters were). Let’s circle back to Jamie, because let’s be real, we all know a story like this needs a romance for the main character. I loved how Jamie and Dylan’s relationship progressed, and even though the book only took place over the course of a week or two, the romance actually felt well developed and realistic (which is crazy considering the condensed time frame of the book and how there are YA novels that span a much larger timeline where the instalove is a huge issue). Jamie and Dylan are probably one of the top YA couples I read about in 2017!
While this book is pretty much pure fluff, it did create a dialogue around the invasiveness of reality tv and the strain it puts on the relationships featured on the show. Dylan is not just camera shy, but as the novel progresses and her own budding romance takes off, she becomes pretty paranoid that she won’t be able to tell what is genuine and what has been staged by the show. There’s often a grey area that the events in the book inhabit where it’s never clear whether the reality show producers have manipulated a situation or if something has naturally happened- and honestly almost everything is likely a combination of both. The novel explores just not Dylan’s blatant dislike and distrust of the show, but shows how the stress and lack of privacy impact even those who seem to “love” the camera (her sister) or work in front of a camera for a living (her mom, who if I remember correctly, is a tv news anchor).
Overall: If you love the idea of hidden royalty, a Scottish setting, and hilarious shenanigans (and honestly, who wouldn’t?) Prince in Disguise is a book for you, especially around the holidays. While I DID manage to guess the two~big twists~ at the end of the book, I still had a LOT of fun reading it and it momentarily satisfied my eternal craving for books that feature modern day royalty.