Of Princes and Promises by: Sandhya Menon

I’ve heard of Sandhya Menon’s other books and was really excited when I was approved for this book. The cover is stunning and I love fairy tale retellings and fairy tale inspired stories. With the frog prince being one I haven’t seen used often, I was curious about the story.

This is the second in her Rosetta Academy series and I haven’t read the first. I was glad to see that it wasn’t necessary to have that first book under my belt to enjoy this one.

Her writing is easy to read and almost soft, like a cozy blanket. It was just nice to read. Even when there were parts that I didn’t particularly enjoy, her writing made it worth getting through them and smoothed those edges. She has an amazing level of skill and her writing is comfortable.

That said, I feel like a lot of the book was fluff? I know she wrote some contemporary romances before so this feels more like that with just a hint of magic. Not a bad thing per se but I did want some parts to be a little deeper.

It focuses on Rahul Chopra and Catarina Le Valle. She’s the rich daughter of a powerful man and he’s the awkward son of a politician.

There were moments where I loved Rahul and related to him hard. He’s awkward, blunt and has a small circle of friends that he offends with his bluntness without meaning to. He misses jokes and sort of misses the cues when it comes to some social dynamics.

There’s a point in the book where Catarina basically asks if he’s on the spectrum due to the way he is around people and he says no, it’s just intense social anxiety. She said she wanted to make sure she was aware of any needs he might have had. I appreciate that she wanted to make sure she wasn’t doing anything that was uncomfortable for him, the fact she thought he was on the spectrum just because he’s awkward felt odd to me? I think it was just the way she asked.

For a while, that’s the most sensitive she is to Rahul’s needs.

After being dumped by her longtime boyfriend and needing to regain her image and Queen of the School, Catarina decides to mold Rahul into someone who can be seen on her arm and not embarrass her. And as he has the world’s biggest crush on her, he’s more than happy to agree.

The hint of magic comes in when it’s time for his makeover and during the story, Rahul changes to fit more and more into Catarina’s life. His character arc was a good one, I enjoyed it and Catarina’s as well. They were perfectly intertwined with each other and the possible conflict that could have caused was exciting.

Unfortunately, the story fell short for me when we were introduced to the real villain of the story. They felt flat and one dimensional in their actions. Not the reasoning behind them but what they went on to do and how they did it felt so boring.

I’ll have the spoilers on my blog under this section but suffice it to say, the villain brought it down for 4 stars to 3 for me. I thought the conflict would be heavily character based with the characters we’ve gotten to know and instead we got a monkey wrench that felt out of place.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC.

Now for the spoiler section and why I hated the villain.

Rahul starts using this magical hair gel that makes him look absolutely perfect. As if someone took Rahul the base model and photoshopped him to be the perfect magazine cover boy. Someone who fits into the circles of the elite.

His own family uses his cousing in photos instead of him because of how awkward he is. That should tell you a lot. So the hair gel makes him perfect.

Instad of Rahul he is RC, crown prince of a small country that no one’s heard of because it’s not real. And I loved that angle. I was hoping it would be important and it turned out not to be.

See, Rahul and Catarina fall for each other but over the course of the story, she realizaes that what she’s doing to Rahul, making him change to fit her life better, is actually harming him. She notices that RC talks about Rahul like he’s a bug, something better left squashed and forgotten.

Once she sees the harm she’s causing him, she plans to break up with him.

After Rahul become RC and he starts going out to more and more events with Catarina, his friends notice the changes in him and get worried. Where his walls were previously covered in chess posters, he’s started to cover them with pages out of GQ magazine and others.

He stops hanging out with them and it weakens his relationship with his friends.

After they break up, due to some macinations of a third party, Rahul shows up to an event as RC. Without Catalina. It was primed for character conflict.

What I thought would happen was that someone would learn that the country he claimed to be a prince of didn’t exist and it would blow their cover. Or that another girl would end up on his arm causing Catalina some serious jealousy issues and maybe in a moment of spite, she could reveal the truth of RC.

There were so many possibilities.

Instead, we get Mia.

Mia is a girl who just shows up out of nowhere in last season’s clothing but still fits into the circle of elites.

Catalina, ever the cold hearted girl raised by a powerful man, has Oliver, a store owner and someone she’s known for a while, run a background check on her. Something she apparently does whenever there’s a new possible friend. She does it to protect herself and her family.

Mia is the one who causes them to break up. She lies to Rahul saying “I know you’re Rahul, I know Catarina is doing this because she’s trying to pay you back for being kind to her at the dance. She doesn’t love you. It’s just her being nice.”

And it gets right into Rahul’s head. At no point, while Mia is saying strange things to him that eventually causes a huge blow up, does he say to Mia “how do you know?” or to Catarina “Mia said/told me”

And when she goes to Rahul after the big blow up, she acts like she’s on Catarina’s side and he’s dumbfounded. He still doesn’t confront her. That weakened a lot of the story for me.

And why is Mia acting like this?

Because it turns out she and Catarina are half sisters. Their father had an affair with another woman who got pregnant and he left Italy for America, leaving the affair and resulting child behind.

What does Mia do? Well she goes ridiculously out of her way to get as much info on Catarina as she can, stalking her essentially and working her way into her friend group.

Oliver? Yeah, he and Mia are dating and she’s pumping him for info on Catarina. Oliver even tried to get Rahul to agree to give him info on her as payment for another pot of hair gel.

There’s a part where Mia goes on a villain rant, explaining in detail why she’s doing what she’s doing and how she plans to ruin Catarina’s life because she’s the daughter that wasn’t forgotten.

While her motives for hating her are understandable, the book lost points from me for an actual villain monologue where she explained her plan and gloated.

I finished the book feeling so let down by that because it had been so strong and so set up for amazing character conflict and instead we get a two bit villain.

Not to mention that the ending felt rushed after that.

This is my first book by Sandhya Menon and while I did enjoy it, I’m not sure I’ll read another if her other books have similar rushed endings and poor villains. She had done so much amazing set up. I still feel a little let down.

Author:

Author. Reader. Reviewer. Interested in Sci-fi, Fantasy, and everything in between. Ya, and Adult. Looking for representaion where it matters! BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, everything! We all deserve stories!

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