Review: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

Actually, I need to change what I said. Everybody wants something from you, but sometimes there’s a person you want to give to. Sometimes what you give them makes you better for having given it. And it makes having to give to everyone else not so bad.

– A Princess in Theory

Summary and Thoughts

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?


I’ve heard a lot of hype about this book, and while I may not be a super fan of the “secret prince” trope, I’ve enjoyed other works by Alyssa Cole, so I thought to give this story a try. Overall, this is a light contemporary romance filled with a cast of likable characters. Naledi is an admirable lead. I love how she’s a woman in STEM with big dreams and a witty sense of humor. Thabiso is . . . okay. I found him to be a bit bland, however, his character is constantly jumping around to various romantic and diplomatic crises, so perhaps part of his character is that he rarely gets to show his true self (which Naledi notes). Though this is understandable, I also can’t swoon for someone I don’t know very well.

Which leads me to some of the downsides of this story. This is definitely a “secret identity” romance, and while I didn’t mind that at first, I found myself a bit unhappy with how long Thabiso let his charade continue. In real time, his interactions with Naledi in the US lasts about a week – which seems fine – but considering how quickly their relationships develops (as well as the information on Naledi’s past Thabiso withholds), I’m still dubious. Afterward, Naledi has to grapple with Thabiso’s life in Thesolo, which I found . . . pretty routine and expected. Then the ending came quick and confusing – one of the consequences of the book’s uneven pacing. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the ending felt a bit underwhelming in how it tied everything together. Moreover, I wasn’t convinced of the longevity of Naledi and Thabiso’s relationship.

In the end, this book was kind of a “meh” for me. If you’re a big fan of the “secret prince” trope in romance books, then perhaps you’ll enjoy this story more than me.

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

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