Alyssa Cole has become an auto-read for me since I discovered her Reluctant Royals series and this start to a new, tangential series, Runaway Royals, keeps the streak going. Though How to Catch a Queen isn't my very favorite of her books (A Princess in Theory), it has two great things going for it. One is Shanti Mohapi, the heroine who grew up determined to be a Queen and has to deal with the realities when she achieves her goal. And the second is that this is the start of a new series of fairy-tale royal romances - which I'm pretty much always down for.
As our tale opens Prince Sanyu is contemplating escape from his royal household. His father, King Sanyu is on his deathbed and Sanyu II does not feel equipped to step into his powerful father's shoes. His flight is interrupted by his father's longtime trusted advisor, Musoke, who informs Sanyu that his bride has arrived. The tradition in the country of Njaza is that a new King must be married before his coronation and Musoke is a powerful force Sanyu struggles to resist. His bride to be is Shanti Mohapi from the neighboring country of Thesolo. Shanti grew up on a farm but knew from the moment she heard her Queen of Thesolo speak that hers was the job she wanted. If she were a Queen she'd have the power to help people in need. With that goal in mind she has been single-mindedly on task preparing herself for the role she wants. When Royalmatch.com suggests her as a consort for Sanyu, she jumps at the chance even though she knows that this trial marriage (another tradition in Njaza) may only last 4 months. She figures that she can prove in those 4 months just how valuable she can be to Njaza. Thus a marriage of convenience is done and now Shanti and Sanyu have to figure out how to make it all work.
I truly appreciated the highly-organized, intelligent, goal-oriented Shanti and her determination to make her participation in this marriage work. It took a little longer for me to warm up to Sanyu who is a harder character to grasp in the first half of the book - understandably so as the reader comes to realize. But what I did appreciate is how much their teamwork does to help them both. Certainly Sanyu has the biggest growth arc, but Shanti has to come to learn a few things too. And they complement each other perfectly. There are some characters mentioned here who will clearly get their own books and I'll totally be there. But next for me from Cole is her new suspense book When No One is Watching (due out in Sept).