Life is full of ironies. How else can I explain the amount of time it took me to finally pick up the first of Alyssa Cole’s much lauded Reluctant Royals series earlier this year? I’m supremely glad that I did as otherwise I would’ve missed the full universe that Cole has set up in this loving royal romance collection, something that brings a family nuance to her sister series Runaway Royals — How to Catch a Queen being its first entry.
How to Catch a Queen is indeed a fittingly ironic title to a story that revolves around the quick marriage of the main characters, Shanti and Sanyu, which features no chase at all. Shanti, an aspiring queen who made her brief debut in the first book of the Reluctant Royal series, quickly snaps up the request for a queen by the neighboring kingdom of Njaza on the Royal Match app. She has, after all, always studied and worked to one day become queen. Her ambition proves handy as when she arrives in the kingdom she finds out that the prince, Sanyu, had no hand in choosing her and that Njaza royal tradition dictates that they wed immediately so that Sanyu can assume his place as king — while his father is literally on his deathbed. Resolving to do what she must in order to be the best queen possible, Shanti swallows any misgivings she may have after receiving this bleak and hasty news.
Sanyu on the other hand has lived his whole life with a ball of nerves. Growing up anxious with the weight of the throne against his shoulders, he’s done his best to run away from his fears and please his father and adviser who always seem to point out how he can never measure up. Sadly, his nerves and grief gets the best of him in the first few months of his marriage to Shanti by convincing him that it’s best for both parties, and perhaps even the kingdom, if he leaves her to her own devices. It is only after Shanti speaks up during a council meeting that he realizes that she may offer strengths to help him overcome some of his greatest fears and work through his anxieties. What follows in the story is a connection between two pragmatic, progressive minds closely followed by their deep needs for human connection that borders on hesitant hope and careful love.
Just as with Cole’s other books, I left this one feeling like I would easily take more. Her seeding of characters from previous novels and ones to come are well situated, enticing the reader to get their hands on the whole set. Her sense of worldbuilding through quality character motivations, regional politics, and cultural traditions frame dynamics that make her stories rich, vibrant, and addictive. Don’t be a reluctant royal runaway as I was. Read these two series!