I know, I know, we’re barely into November and I’m already mentioning the dreaded ‘Christmas’! I’m not the sort of person to start Christmas immediately after Halloween (I love autumn too much), but I couldn’t resist the sound of this cute Christmas book when I got the invite to the blog tour!
Book: Christmas at the Palace by Jeevani Charika
Read before: No
Ownership: Paperback sent by Bonnier Zaffre for fair review; all opinions my own.
Not even in her wildest imaginings did Kumari ever think she’d become a princess. But having fallen for Ben – or rather Prince Benedict, sixth in line to the throne – it looks like nothing will ever go as planned again. And as Christmas rapidly approaches the distinction between family festivities and Royalty becomes ever more apparent.
With the paparazzi hounding her, her job on the line and some rather frustrating royal training, Kumari feels panic set in.
Does loving Prince Charming mean she’ll get her fairy tale ending – and on her own terms?
This book is SO cute. I don’t know what it is that makes Christmas and royalty go together so well, but I do love all those terrible Hallmark festive films (A Princess for Christmas is one of my favourites, largely due to Sam Heughan in that dad-cardi). So I had high hopes that Christmas in the Palace would be just as adorable and magical, but in book form! And it really, really is – except it’s also got depth, and great character development, and a really interesting look at whether love can survive tradition.
Kumari is a wonderful character. She’s absolutely not a princess-wannabe – she’s outspoken, talented, devoted to her charity work and her medical career. She’s proud of her Sri Lankan heritage, but also extremely British. I loved her – there’s an early scene where we see her inner conflict between her own nervousness at public speaking and her determination to help others that really makes her stand out as a realistic and likeable character. Ben is also adorable. Since the book is from Kumari’s point of view, we don’t get to see as much of his feelings, but he is a perfect gentleman, and I loved that he was a bit goofy and funny behind his princely persona. Again, he’s not a glossy prince (except in public), there’s a real depth to him that is irresistible.
The main thing that I loved about this book was that it wasn’t a will-they-won’t-they, start-of-a-romance story that ends when the characters finally declare they love each other after weeks of miscommunication. Ben and Kumari become a solid couple relatively quickly! There is the meet-cute, and the flirting, and so on, but because of Ben’s being the prince, there’s a real need for them to be honest with each other about their feelings for each other, or it’s not worth all the faff. This means we get to see a couple who are completely devoted to each other, trying to navigate the usual complexities of a relationship while also having to deal with the extra challenges of introducing Kumari to the royal family!
This is where the real meat of Christmas at the Palace comes in. It’s so interesting to see Kumari’s journey to becoming a princess, and I loved watching her force some compromise out of the royals so that she could keep some of her independence! Of course, it’s tricky to read this book without thinking of Meghan Markle, and I’d be keen to know when this was written, as I think she’s probably faced a lot of the same press problems as Kumari does here. The royal family here are sort of the UK royal family, and sort of not – none of the older royals are named, but the Queen and Princes Philip and Charles seem to be present. Ben is the youngest son of the Charles-character, with two older sisters, and a mother who died when the kids were young, so he’s definitely hard to detach from Prince Harry. There’s a nice sense of familiarity while maintaining deniability, which is hilarious to read!
The actual Christmas part of the book doesn’t come until quite late in the novel, but I liked that, as it actually makes this extremely readable for any time of year. Again, it’s nice to see a relationship blossom over the course of a year, rather than the forced two-week time frame of a lot of Christmas fiction. It really helps to add to the strength of Kumari and Ben’s relationship. It’s just so heartwarming.
I definitely recommend this book, even if you’re not normally a fan of contemporary romance. There’s a lot of depth and heart in this book that I think makes it stand out from the crowd. I enjoyed it a lot! Four out of five cats from me!
Author Jeevani Charika has written a number of hugely successful novels under the name Rhoda Baxter; Christmas At The Palace is one of the few times the Romantic Novelists’ Association member has written under her own name, and commented on the experience of writing this novel:
“A few years ago, I promised myself that by the time my daughters were old enough to read my books, I’d have at least one novel with a brown girl on the cover. It’s important to be able to see yourself reflected in popular culture. I’ve always written Sri Lankans into my rom coms written as Rhoda Baxter, but usually as secondary characters. Now finally, I have a novel, written under my own name, with a Sri Lankan main character and a heroine of colour on the cover. Yay! Princesses come in all colours.”