Recently at Dear Author, Jane led an discussion about “arranged marriages” and questioned why there aren’t very many of them written in a more positive light. In the comments, Sally gave recommendations of some titles she thought best exemplified the trope. Out of the five titles she listed, Saved By the Monarch (2009) by Dana Marton was one of the titles I downloaded to my Sony Reader.
The hero, Prince Miklos of the House of Kerkay, is the second in line to the throne in Valtria. It’s a country currently being torn apart by civil war. Miklos, an army major, is also apart of the security detail protecting the royal family. He’s been given intelligence by the chancellor that someone’s trying to assassinate his eldest brother, Arpad. He’s the crown prince whose ascendancy to the throne is imminent. The Valtrian Queen is in ill health and she’s the true monarch of the family. Amid all of this, Miklos bride-to-be is set to arrive from America, in the middle of all this turmoil.
When the story opens, the royal palace has been infiltrated and two guards are found dead. There’s a traitor in the palace and this threat has Miklos moving his family to safety. The Freedom Council, comprised of a group of rebels described as “three businessmen” are against the crown prince changing their country to a “constitutional monarchy.” They’d like to create an ethnic divide in order to establish an individual republic. The country needs a strong marriage to provide political stability and Miklos is prepared to do his royal duty to achieve that goal. But there’s a problem.
The fun starts when Miklos goes to pick up his bride-to-be at the airport. When Miklos sees her, he notices the look of surprise on her face. Their first meeting is disastrous. Judi Marezzi is first of all, an American now, and secondly, she doesn’t know him or anything about an “arranged marriage.” She doesn’t know anything about Valtria or her royal connections to the Valtrian nobility. She’s just there to vacation and learn about her heritage.
Judi is resistant to the “archaic” idea of an “arranged marriage.” She’s 29 years old and is afraid of commitment. Her parents died when she was young and her aunt Viola was neglectful in telling her about her roots. She learns from Miklos that she was engaged to him when he was thirteen and she was two. Miklos claims to have waited for her to grow up and was expecting her to return to Valtria to fulfill her royal duties but that went awry when her Aunt Viola fails to groom her appropriately despite sending correspondence about her life to Miklos for the last two decades.
Judi tells Miklos straight up that she ain’t marrying him. Hands already full with his country at war and his family in danger, Miklos has to change tactics. He realizes that he has to court her to win her over. Their alliance, like I said previously, is critical for the country. His oldest brother has also been avoiding his duty of marriage. Moving on. She’s nothing like who he was expecting: a princess, ready to do her duty for crown and country and as he put it, ready to “toe the line.” But just when they leave the airport, their caravan is ambushed and Miklos and Judi are kidnapped by the rebels. The rest of the plot has them running for their lives.
The story moves at a brisk pace and is action packed. Miklos and Judi’s relationship is developed within a short period of time and for some odd reason it works and here’s why this works for me. One, the couple are forced into each others company for most of the book due to war. You see them work together and grow to depend on each other for survival. They have a lot of obstacles thrown in their way but they have enough down time to emotionally connect.
Do you like a strong heroine? Well, Judi is headstrong and spirited and Miklos is all muscle and strength with a bit of charm. He’s also stubborn and honorable. A military man who is ready to do his duty when called. He takes the royal oath to his country seriously. It’s all about duty and honor for him. I liked that Judi held her own when faced with surviving under the worst circumstances. The two, I thought, were well matched. The conflict in the story stems mostly from Judi’s resistance to marrying Miklos and accepting the “archaic” arranged marriage deal and doing her duty.
Back home in D.C., Judi designs video games for children. She doesn’t care for public life. In fact she shuns it. No family save her aunt, she’s alone a lot. I can’t blame Judi for wanting to leave Valtria to head back home to her “normal life.” But Miklos falls for her almost immediately because he finds her physically attractive and her response to him is somewhat of a novelty. But since this is an “arranged marriage” love doesn’t factor into it. The two do fall in love though despite how briefly they’ve known each other. Kudos to the author for achieving this because it didn’t feel forced to me.
The author’s voice is great. She certainly knows how to write action packed stories. However, I did have some criticisms. First, there’s a baby epilogue. Seriously? It didn’t seem necessary to me to have it and was therefore useless. There’s some type of legend of the Brotherhood of the Crown that is in the background that seemed again, completely useless. The legend is suppose to be some type of secret between the princes. Whatever. It felt unnecessary to add it because it added nothing to the story arc. The last criticism I had was the number of brothers Miklos had. There are a total of six brothers where two are twins and their names seem to be off-putting to me as well (Arpad?)
Favorite scenes? Well, this scene cemented my interest in the story. Miklos is nearly 40 years old and Judi is 29. She asks him, after he tells her of their “arranged marriage” what would have happened if she’d not ever come to Valtria? I was curious about this myself.
If we were engaged all this time like you say, how come you never contacted me? If I hadn’t decided to come here, would you have just forgotten about it and let it all go? Judi asked.
“I’ve been busy. I’ve been patient, trying to give you the time you needed.” And relieved that she’d stayed away, to be truthful. He had a full life, a career in the army, a pretty busy schedule. It’d always seemed that they would have plenty of time yet. Which led the chancellor to his ultimatum. Might as well tell her some of that.
“If I hadn’t made arrangements before my fortieth birthday–” he felt a moment of embarrassment “–you would have received an official contact from the royal family that requested your presence here. Chancellor Hansen would have organized the confirmation of our engagement.”
“When is your fortieth birthday” she inquired.
“At the end of summer.”
“Procrastinate much?” She actually looked amused for a second.
To enjoy this story (and I did find it entertaining), you just have to suspend disbelief. Saved by the Monarch was a quick read and smartly written. It had some added stuff that I think wasn’t necessary and a moment of stupidity on the hero’s part. I liked the dialogue and the characters. I liked Judi and Miklos as a couple, they had lukewarm chemistry. I felt that the story really shined when the two were together. Since they are in the middle of a war, they did spend brief moments apart. The stamina of the hero throughout the story is rather unbelievable but this is fiction so why ruin it with reality. Overall, I’d give this one a B-. It started off really great and maintained a kinetic energy all the way through. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this title if asked by readers looking for an “arranged marriage” type of story.