Eve Stanhope masquerades as a foreign princess at ton parties, stealing jewels from the nobility she despises and returning to her London slum at the end of the night. She’s carefully plotting revenge on her former employer–a society cad who’s ruined her reputation. Now it’s her turn to ruin him. What she doesn’t expect is to encounter the criminally handsome Orchid Thief on one of her heists.
Philip Rosemont, Viscount Wesley, is also in disguise. Bored and stifled by society, he steals jewels for fun and leaves orchids as his calling cards. He knows the woman he’s cornered at the ball is no aristocrat, much less the Princess of Eugenia Valdastock. But something tells him she’s not exactly common, either. Now he must uncover her motives while he enjoys her illicit kisses. Can these two become partners in crime even as they give in to their mutual seduction?
Heat Level: 3
Review Rating: Four stars
Review by Susan:
What little girl doesn’t dream of being a princess? If one isn’t born with the title, the next best alternative is to pretend to be a princess. Eve Stanhope, a despoiled governess in Alice Gaines’s historical romance Always A Princess conjures up such a scheme to give herself entrée into the ballrooms of London‘s haute ton.
Set in the Victorian Age when noble families throughout Eastern Europe are in a state of flux as old government regimes are being overthrown by new ones rising to power, Gaines enlightens audiences about this era when the proverbial changing of the guard incurs the consequence of displacing families and putting their lands and holdings in the hands of families who support the new regime. During this age, many noble families in Eastern Europe found sanctuary among London’s elite where they were touted as the toast of the town. What girl wouldn’t take advantage of such a unique opportunity to reinvent herself? Such is the climate that is the inspiration for Gaines’s romance.
The story opens at a London ball where Philip Rosemont, Viscount Wesley, is studying a lovely woman who seems to have a crowd of men in the palm of her hand. Curious about the elegantly garbed woman, he watches quietly from the sidelines as he assesses her. Her accent is designed to reflect some Eastern European origin though he cannot place it, concluding that it is a generic hodgepodge of a German-French-Prussian-Austrian crossbreed. His acute senses tell him that she is a fraud. He is able to make such an assessment because he has extensive practice in acts of chicanery. Confident that he is thoroughly knowledgeable about the telltale signs of establishing a pretense, he means to entrap the minx and discover what are her intentions in building up a façade to pass herself off as a princess? She clearly has every man in the room fooled except Philip.
Gaines creates a landscape that hooks the reader in from the start, eager to not only discover who is Eve Stanhope and why she wants to pretend to be a princess but also to gain a closer look at Philip who projects confidence, intelligence, and an instinct honed from tapping into his survival skills. His attributes are attractive being everything a woman is likely to look for in a romantic hero. He takes control when Eve flounders in the dark guiding her to safety, and he surrenders to her lead in moments of amore. He is charming and a gentleman in her company without conceding to Eve to play him for a fool. Though Eve is the focal point, the star in which all of the other characters revolve around, it is Philip who moves the story along maneuvering the slow burning seduction.
Gaines endeavors to create a love match between a lowborn lady and a gentleman of the nobility who treads on the wild side, and it makes for a credible fantasy. Though much of the language is more modern than the standard vernacular of 19th century England along the lines of Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte, the meaning behind the words make it possible for contemporary audiences to comprehend the scenes. Gaines writes Eve and Philip to be naughty as both are active jewel thieves, but she also gives them a set of principles which neither one will forfeit. It is their principles which they share in common and bind them to one another. The story is delightful and fodders the legend of romantic heroes existing in Victorian England.