“Tanya, ya slut!”ONCE A PRINCESS
Once a Princess was not one of my favorites by Johanna Lindsey. I’d put this in the unremarkable category with books like Glorious Angel and Tender is the Storm. Not her worst, by any means, but not her best either.
Perhaps it had to do with the book’s aesthetics. I’ve always been a curmudgeon who doesn’t like change simply for the sake of change when everything is fine. So it was a shock that particular June of 1991 to find the Lindsey covers had been revamped. The font was more “romantic” with its loops and curves. The book was a step back and I preferred an open clinch. Avon updated Johanna Lindsey’s pretty photo on the inside back to a less flattering extreme close-up. And the most glaring insult of all, where in the heck was Fabio?
The plot about the search for a secret princess from a fictional country was all right. It was the main characters that made this one almost unbearable.
It’s the mid-19th century, and Stefan Barany from the kingdom of Cardinia is in Mississippi, USA, to find the long-lost Princess Tatiana. She was stolen as an infant from her family, who’ve searched for her for years. So how will Stefan know who she is? Well, she’s got a special little birthmark hidden away in a very private place that will prove her identity. That sounds positively regal.
Tanya, the princess they’re looking for, works in a tavern as a maid, getting paid a pittance, and is treated like garbage. I believe the first words spoken to her were “Tanya, ya slut!” so you know she gets no respect. She tries to make herself look ugly on purpose for the customers not to harass her. All Tanya had was dirt and mud smeared on her face, but Stefan thought Tanya was unattractive, too. That is until her ugly makeup comes off when she does some naked swimming, and Stefan catches sight of her.
I couldn’t enjoy the story because I never warmed up to the characters. This was one of those Lindseys where the protagonists are unbearable. Stefan was a grouch, mainly because of his insecurity about being ugly. His face was scarred by an injury from an animal’s claws. Tanya was too feisty, always fighting for the sake of fighting. So together, they just argued and argued for ages.
I much preferred Stefan’s sexy cousin, Vasili, and I suppose Johanna Lindsey did also, as she gave Vasili his own book, You Belong to Me.
Final Analysis of Once a Princess
It took forever to finish Once a Princess, and I skimmed a lot to get to the end. For me to do that with a Johanna Lindsey book was unheard of at the time. I thought this one was a sign of ominous things to come, but for the time being, it was an anomaly, as I loved her next books from Prisoner of My Desire to Surrender My Love. After that, I was busy with school and a social life that consisted of dating guys rather than reading about them. Therefore I had neither the time nor inclination to read romances until I settled down years later.
(TMI, I know, but that’s what I do in these reviews.)