A Pearl Among Princes
Gracepearl Coal is the cook's daughter on Miramore, the island all princes visit for their summer program in the Charming Arts. Each year, the princes-in-training arrive on gallant seacraft, guided by captains trained to navigate the island's treacherous waters. Passage on one of these boats is the only method to leave the island - thus betrothal to a royal is the only way for Pearl to find her far-off destiny, the one that's started haunting her dreams. Luckily, this year's crop of princes include some promising prospects, but how will Pearl leave behind her ailing father or - hardest of all - marry a boy other than her long-time beloved, Mackree . . . who now finds it too painful to even speak to her?
Growing up on an island shrouded in mist and surrounded by rocks
treacherous to navigate around, Gracepearl has always longed for escape.
She is tempted each year as the neighboring kingdoms send their princes
to Gracepearl's island where they are trained in the courtly (and
courting) arts. Gracepearl is overjoyed, however, when she learns the
kingdoms have lifted the ban on royal-commoner marriages. Seeing an
opportunity to finally leave the island, Gracepearl begins a fun and
flirty quest to woo one of the princes into marrying her and taking her
to his kingdom. Only one thing stands in Gracepearl's way: the love she
holds for Mackree, her childhood friend.
Before anything, it should be noted that this is one of those books
where you cannot judge the contents by the cover. Based on the cover, I
was expecting a light-hearted, fun, and fluffy little book about a
girl's first time falling in love. The reality is not quite what I was
expecting. Gracepearl speaks with a voice more similar to a woman than a
girl, and while there are some scenes where she is flirting with and
getting to know various princes, most of the main courtship occurs "off
stage." As a result, not only is the reader gypped in getting to see her
relationship develop (which is half the fun of these types of stories),
but we also don't get to know her love interest all that well.
Aside from that, I have three main gripes with the book. The first
is that Gracepearl was difficult for me to like. She spends the entire
book trying to rope a prince into marrying her, not necessarily for
love, but for his ability to take her off the island. I felt sorry for
all of her romantic prospects, as she seemed to be primarily focused on
how she could best use them, regardless of how this would affect them.
My second complaint was the way Gracepearl's deceased mother still
talked to Gracepearl. Is it normal in this world for the dead to
continue speaking to the living? Does Gracepearl possess some special
gift that allows her to do this? Is Gracepearl just imagining the
conversations? We aren't given any explanation. Finally, the author wove
in nursery rhymes throughout the book, though there didn't seem to be
any explanation as to their significance and their presence served
merely to distract and irritate.
Despite all this, there were parts of the book I did find enjoyable.
Gracepearl's friends and the two main princes were nicely drawn
characters who were all easy to like. I also liked the idea of the
various kingdoms sending their princes for training and the fun scenes
this scenario lent itself to creating. The ending was beyond convenient,
but that is easily overlooked. My library categorized this book as
Juvenile, but I can see juveniles, young adults, and even adults all
finding something to like here.
Reprinted here with author's (my) permission.