A storybook romance
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged! The news from Kensington Palace has the internet aflutter with the prospect of another royal wedding. Their love story is practically made for the pages of a book, with Markle’s background as an American-born actress marrying into the British royal family. If you just can’t wait for their spring 2018 nuptials, here are 17 books to tide you over in the meantime (including a handful Markle might want to look to for inspiration and guidance when it comes to the stressful prospect of marrying into royalty.
To Marry a Prince, by Sophie Page
Bella Greenwood was never the type of girl to lust after the fairy tale, so naturally she finds herself in one when the handsome stranger she meets at a midnight garden party turns out to be the Prince of Wales. In this charming and sweet romance, the heroine must navigate the tricky waters of royal protocol, learning to accept that her life is no longer her own. Written by a Brit, it drips with references to cultural idiosyncrasies, all while plumbing how far Bella will go to find her happily-ever-after with Prince Richard. Including a wedding dress controversy that spurs a national scandal, the book is a fun and bubbly take on what happens when a regular girl falls in love with royalty.
The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Down to its cover — which features character outlines that strongly resemble Prince William and Kate on their wedding day — The Royal We draws upon the history, tabloid scandals, and tragedies of Britain’s current royal family to craft a narrative that is romantic, dishy, and hilarious. American Bex Porter isn’t looking to marry a prince when she goes to college at the University of Oxford and finds herself falling for the heir to the throne. The book feels like a clandestine glance inside the royal family, while also pulling off a realistic, swoon-worthy romance. With ripped-from-the-tabloids plot points and a genuine, beating heart at its center, it’s the perfect contemporary take on what lies behind the veneer of a modern-day fairy tale and the personal cost of marrying into a plural pronoun.
Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
Inspired by Cinderella, this YA novel tells the story of Ella of Frell, a young woman gifted (or cursed) with obedience from her birth. When Ella’s “gift” leads boarding school to become an untenable situation, she sets out to break her own curse. Ella is torn between her love for Prince Charmont and her fear her “gift” will endanger him and the kingdom. This Newbery Honor book is an empowering tale of a young woman taking control of her own destiny to protect the man and kingdom she loves.
The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot
Mia Thermopolis is a normal teenager battling everyday problems like the high school mean girl, acne, and a crush on the cutest boy in school — until her grandmother informs her she is a princess. When her father’s cancer diagnosis makes her heir to the Genovian throne, Mia must endure princess lessons with a gorgon of a grandmother (far from her Julie Andrews movie version). Equipped with a royal makeover, Mia attempts to maintain a normal life in spite of new obstacles like paparazzi. Written as if they were Mia’s journals, the series now spans 11 volumes. They chronicle the romantic travails of a princess and the tribulations of suddenly discovering you’re royalty, all with Cabot’s signature sharp wit, keen eye for teenage life, and hilarious pop culture references.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Okay, fine, Elizabeth Bennet is not a princess, nor is Darcy a prince — but this satirical Regency-era novel about an intelligent young woman from a slightly less well-to-do family (with an overbearing mother) who lands the wealthy Mr. Darcy is Jane Austen’s own witty take on a fairy tale. There’s a reason Mr. Darcy has remained a romantic ideal for women for centuries. The romance is swoon-worthy, the satire is sharp, and we imagine Lady Catherine de Bourgh could go toe-to-toe with Queen Elizabeth II for the title of most frightening aristocratic in-law any day.
The Commoner, by John Burnham Schwartz
Based on hefty research, The Commoner tells the story of a young woman named Haruko who becomes the first non-aristocratic woman to marry into the imperial family of Japan. Struggling to grapple with the isolation and strict rules of palace life, Haruko suffers a nervous breakdown. Thirty years later, as empress, she plays a key role in convincing a young woman to marry her own son, with tragic results. With an incisive look at imperial Japan, Schwartz probes the isolation and loneliness of royal life with a searing and sensitive eye.
The Runaway Princess, by Hester Browne
Described as The Princess Diaries meets The Runaway Bride, The Runaway Princess is another tale of a normal girl, Amy Wilde, who discovers her boyfriend, Leo, is the prince of fictional nation Nirona. Amy struggles to mesh royal life with her own, and when Leo finds himself closer to the throne, she fears losing her own identity to the parameters of royal obligation. Browne consistently writes frothy, fun books that examine the struggle to maintain one’s desires and identity within a romantic relationship and The Runaway Princess is no exception to the delights of her fictional confections.
Suddenly Royal, by Nichole Chase
Suddenly Royal is a slightly more adult take on The Princess Diaries’ story of a young woman who suddenly finds herself with the burden of an aristocratic title. Samantha Rousseau is working toward a master’s degree in biology when she discovers she’s the heiress to an estate in Lilaria — not only that, but she finds herself drawn to the crown prince of the nation, Alex D’Lynsal. Samantha struggles to navigate the new world of wealth and politics she’s inherited, all while fighting feelings for Alex and the possibility of gaining even more royal responsibility should he be “the one.” With this book, Chase kicks off “The Royals” series, a dizzying array of fizzy commoner-meets-royalty romances.
The Selection, by Kiera Cass
The first in the best-selling “Selection” series, this novel blends the danger of The Hunger Games and Divergent with the romance reality competition of The Bachelor. Thirty-five girls are chosen for the Selection — a chance to live in a palace and compete for the heart of drop-dead gorgeous Prince Maxon. But when America Singer is named one of “the selected,” it’s more nightmare than fairy tale as she is forced to leave behind the man she loves — that is, until she actually meets Prince Maxon and is drawn into a world of intrigue that is not all it seems.
A Kiss at Midnight, by Eloisa James
The first in Eloisa James’ series remixing fairy tales as historical romance novels, A Kiss at Midnight draws on the story of Cinderella to craft a tale of a common girl and a prince who fall in love in spite of all destiny does to keep them apart. Kate Daltry is a young woman stuck managing her stepmother’s household after the stepmother inherits Kate’s father’s estate. When forced to attend a ball, she meets Gabriel, princeling of the duchy of Warl-Marburg-Baalsfeld. It’s anything but love at first sight, when she finds him less than charming and engaged to another woman to boot. But as with so many romance novels, their opposing natures feed an undeniable attraction.
The Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard
Aveyard launches “The Red Queen” fantasy series with this compelling story of power and betrayal, which has earned comparisons to Game of Thrones. In Mare Barrow’s world, the reds serve the silver-blooded elites. Mare is a scrappy thief who finds herself thrown into the world of the silver court, possessing an untapped power. Forced to play the role of the lost silver princess, Mare finds herself torn between the prince she is now betrothed to and her desire to help foment the fires of rebellion with the Scarlet Guard from inside the palace. A royal tale of intrigue, politics, and destiny all starts here.
Royally Screwed, by Emma Chase
Okay, so we mostly chose this one for its title and cover, but how can you resist a royal tale where the prince’s nickname is “His Royal Hotness” and the ordinary woman he falls for is a gal who throws a pie in his face? Royally Screwed is a playful take on the story of “prince meets common girl and then struggles to choose between duty and love.” It’s the first in Chase’s naughty and passionate “Royally” series.
The Royal Wedding, by Melanie Summers
Described as a royal Bridget Jones, The Royal Wedding is a rom-com romp. When Tessa Sharpe gets engaged to Arthur, Prince of Avonia, she faces ire from both the royal family, who take umbrage with her pre-engagement anti-royal blog, and the anti-royalists, who feel she’s betrayed them with her romantic choices. Tessa has six months to prove herself up to the task of being princess and find a way to maintain her career as a reporter at the same time. With a royal backdrop, this book is romantic-comedy gold.
To Marry a Prince, by A.C. Arthur
Need a break from the Brits and the ranks of European royalty? Look no further than this romance novel set on a tropical island nation. Crown prince Kristian DeSaunters needs to find the perfect bride to rule by his side on his isle, but he can’t deny his attraction to American-born Landry Norris, a stylist in his father’s fiancée’s entourage. The two find themselves embroiled in a plot to sabotage Kris’ father’s nuptials and must catch the culprit determined to destroy the DeSaunters dynasty, while also attempting to navigate the prospect of a future together. This racy Harlequin romance, part of a “Royal Weddings” series, has all the heat of a Caribbean beach in July.
A Princess in Theory, by Alyssa Cole
Not due until February, A Princess in Theory is already one of the most highly anticipated romance releases of the next year. It launches Alyssa Cole’s new series “Reluctant Royals” with a tale perfect for the internet age. Naledi Smith assumes the emails she’s receiving from an African prince claiming to be her long-lost betrothed are spam (who wouldn’t?). But when said prince shows up and she mistakes him for a pauper, Naledi can’t resist his charms. Prince Thabiso meanwhile jumps at the opportunity to live life without the burden of his crown — if only briefly. An acclaimed romance author, Cole makes her Avon debut with this heartfelt look at love, royal responsibility, and the possibilities of our junk mail folder.
Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith
Originally published as two books, Crown Duel and Court Duel, Sherwood Smith’s young-adult fantasy novel was a precursor to the dystopian female-led YA fiction trend of the 2000s. Countess Meliara promises her dying father to protect their people from the growing greed of the king, hurtling first into war on the battlefield and then a quieter battle at the palace, where she must learn the scheming ways of court life and its secret alliances. Rife with rebellion and intrigue, Crown Duel offers an inspiring heroine who claims her throne by means other than romance.