Rahul has social anxiety and a major crush on Caterina. When Alaric broke her heart, Rahul danced with her at the school dance and fell in love with the heartbroken girl who seemed so real. Although she has ignored him practically since, he holds out hope that things will change. When she asks him to participate in her etiquette classes and get a makeover to attend an event with her, he is willing to do whatever she needs. The makeover includes a magical hair gel that transforms him from Rahul to RC, a handsome, charismatic, and confident guy who belongs on Caterina's arm at these high society events.
As they attend these events and spend time together outside of them, Caterina realizes she is falling in love with Rahul - not RC. However, Rahul loves the ease and popularity of RC, so it will be difficult to let this new persona go.
What I loved: This was an overall fun twist on The Frog Prince, and I ultimately appreciated that Caterina was able to embrace Rahul for who he is and not only who he could be with some magic. The magical element was really interesting as well, as it could be magic - or it could have been a placebo effect with some confidence and assurance, which made it a light touch.
Another thing I appreciated was that Rahul has social anxiety that is described throughout, but also, importantly, the book shows the helpfulness of past therapy in dealing with it. It is also accepted by his friends, who just want the best for him while he is true to himself, and by Caterina.
The themes of self-confidence, acceptance, and the importance of being embraced for who you are are ones that will resonate with the intended audience. This book would suit an older middle grade audience as well as YA readers, as the themes and content would be age appropriate.
What left me wanting more: As a small point, I would have liked to take a deeper dive into the characters, particularly as they get to know each other and fall in love. Although we get the feeling that they start to know each other better, there are not a lot of heart-to-heart conversations that I would have enjoyed. There was also not much resolution of plots around Rahul and his family or the RC secret. I really loved Rahul and wanted so much more for his personal story. The side story with Mia also took me for a loop, and I would have preferred to focus on the main couple more.
Final verdict: A fun fairytale reimagining, OF PRINCES AND PROMISES is a magical YA contemporary with messages about embracing yourself and self-acceptance.