Princess (Ascension Trilogy Series #2) - Gaelen Foley 3.5 stars

The angst! There is so much angst!

Quick! Pound your head against the nearest wall so you're up with the latest trend.

My second endeavor into Gaelen Foley's delightful world of romance, intrigue, murder and mayhem was a crazy good time. Princess is full to the hilt with sometimes insane plot devices that keep the story rolling on and on (and on and on and on and on) like the freaking Energizer Bunny. It opens with the heroine, Princess Serafina of the fictional island country Ascension, being chased through a pleasure garden and maze by murderous Frenchmen. No one is safe in this book, especially if you're a main character. Fortunately, Serafina's hero and savior Darius Santiago (what a name!), her childhood protector and the king's go-to assassin and security guy, saves her life and butchers some Frenchmen in the process. Naturally, Darius has had a love boner for Serafina ever since she turned sixteen, but since he's the bastard son of a gypsy and an abusive Spanish asshole, Darius convinces himself that he isn't worthy of the stunning princessa.

Angst ensues.

This is Darius, like, 90% of the time.

Sweet bananas, could that man angst with the best of them! He hates his love boner for Serafina but can't keep his hands off of her. He decides he can never marry her but still plots to break up her engagement with a narcissistic Russian prince. (This is justified, though, because the Russian prince is a certified douche-nozzle.) He plots to assassinate Napolean (lol), but pisses and moans because he'll probably die in the process and never have the chance to build a life with Serafina. He's the bravest man in the kingdom with the most tortured childhood. He fucks just about every woman in Ascension in depraved ways but yearns for the sweet love-making he can share with Serafina. Darius angsts about all of these things up to the very last moments of the book, minus the HAPPY-HAPPY-JOY-JOY epilogue. I'm not exaggerating. The man has enough baggage to keep a 747 from taking off from the ground.

"I just want people to understand that I have a lot of goddamn FEELINGS!"

While I can appreciate that Darius and his bad attitude stem from a dark past of feeling unloved and like he's never good enough, it got a little heavy for me at times. His character would swing from lovesick puppy to cold twagic hero so often that I started to wonder what was wrong with him. In fact, Serafina even asks what the hell is wrong with his head a few times. Darius's characterization got so heavy-handed at times that it distracted from the campy and fun assassination plots and murderous Frenchmen and crazy Russian princes. That's what brought my rating down from 4 stars to 3.5.

Of course, Serafina isn't blameless in all of this either. She plays the spoiled, haughty princess role to perfection in this book. Although her vanity and temper tantrums made me want to poke her in the eye through the pages a few times, it was hard not to like her. Sadly, like so many romance heroines before and after her, Serafina's cool factor went down exponentially in direct correlation with her increasing love for Darius. (Quick! Someone make a chart!) If I had to read one more passage in which she complained to Darius that he didn't really love her, I was going to start slamming my beautiful head against a brick wall. You're a freaking princess, Serafina! Pull your shit together and grow a spine!

That is not a spine-growing exercise, Princess!

For all of their flaws, the main characters at least succeeded at keeping me intrigued in the text. Foley writes some very colorful secondary characters, too. I loved the hot-headed King Lazar, who steals a hilarious scene tackling and antagonizing Darius after he finds out the Spaniard deflowered his daughter. There's also an intriguing court-slut (my term) named Julia who manages to remain sympathetic even though she ends up committing an unforgivable act near the end of the story. The fictional setting of Ascension, which is supposed to be a tiny Italian island on the Mediterranean, is lush and captivating. Despite all the angst and political intrigue, Ascension manages to read like it's straight out of a storybook.

Overall, Princess is an entertaining read. You might want to bring along some Pampers for Darius and Serafina, though.

One Thing That Confused Me
During their first make-out/fondle session, Darius manages to - FUCK, I can't believe I'm typing this - draw milk from Serafina's glorious royal breasts. Now, I'm not a doctor, but a quick Google search clarifies that it IS possible. But really, Darius gushing about "tasting her milk" catapulted me out of the story faster than a bucket of cold water over my head. So leave your vote in the comments. Breast-feeding heroes: Sexy Ya-ya or Icky Yuck-yuck? I feel so mature right now. >:D