New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alyssa Cole’s second Runaway Royals novel is a queer Anastasia retelling, featuring a long-lost princess who finds love with the female investigator tasked with tracking her down.
Makeda Hicks has lost her job and her girlfriend in one fell swoop. The last thing she’s in the mood for is to rehash the story of her grandmother’s infamous summer fling with a runaway prince from Ibarania, or the investigator from the World Federation of Monarchies tasked with searching for Ibarania’s missing heir.
Yet when Beznaria Chetchevaliere crashes into her life, the sleek and sexy investigator exudes exactly the kind of chaos that organized and efficient Makeda finds irresistible, even if Bez is determined to drag her into a world of royal duty Makeda wants nothing to do with.
When a threat to her grandmother’s livelihood pushes Makeda to agree to return to Ibarania, Bez takes her on a transatlantic adventure with a crew of lovable weirdos, a fake marriage, and one-bed hijinks on the high seas. When they finally make it to Ibarania, they realize there’s more at stake than just cash and crown, and Makeda must learn what it means to fight for what she desires and not what she feels bound to by duty.
Leaving behind the angstier drama of How to Catch a Queen, Cole juggles the conventions of romantic comedy, fairy tale, and social satire in her heartwarming second Runaway Royals romance. When Makeda Hicks loses her job and her girlfriend in one day, it sends the insecure people pleaser into an emotional tailspin. So when quirky, scene-stealing investigator Beznaria "Bez" Chetchevaliere shows up hoping to discuss Makeda's long-disputed royal roots—the stuff of Hicks family legend—the usually compliant Makeda finally flashes her claws. But with an overdue debt threatening the future of her family's B&B, Makeda can't refuse the bounty Bez offers in exchange for her traveling to the multicultural Mediterranean island nation of Ibarania as a potential heir to the throne. Mistaken identities, puns, and wordplay abound as the recalcitrance of Bez's boss, "Lord Higginshoggins of Hogginshiggins, Director General of the World Federation of Monarchists," lands the warring women on a two-week ocean voyage to Ibarania and requires them to play newlyweds for free passage. Though some abrupt emotional shifts may give readers whiplash, Cole convincingly demonstrates why fake relationships and forced proximity remain rom-com staples: on neutral ground, within clear boundaries they set together, guards fall, and chemistry takes flight. This is a charmer.
Bez is an agent of chaos and Makeda is wonderful. Their energy together is perfect. The chemistry is hot. And the ending still has me reeling. I loved this book. I’m looking forward to AK’s story next.
A fun take on royal romance
Cole has been doing really fun things with the trope of “contemporary royalty romance” in both this and her Reluctant Royals series by creating an entire network of invented kingdoms throughout Africa and the Mediterranean through which her Black protagonists can romp without having to dodge around the legacy of European royal history. Both series now have an f/f entry. In this novella, two complex and difficult personalities clash (and encounter an awkward attraction) around the possibility that one of them is the heir to the mysteriously-disappeared ruler of an island kingdom. If you’re here for all the tropes—bodyguard romance, forced proximity, fake relationship, missing heir, neurodivergent protagonist—then you need this book. The only thing that didn’t really work for me was the surprise twist at the end, but I can’t tell you why because: spoilers. And it might work better for you.