Dec 22, 2023 Staff Reads: A Princess for Christmas
A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday
Reviewed by Charles L, Cataloger
I’d never heard of Jenny Holiday until I started looking up Christmas romances to read in the middle of summer. I am glad I did because Holiday’s books were a pleasant surprise in more ways than one. Her Christmas in Eldovia books are perfect for the Christmas season. The first book, “A Princess for Christmas,” stars Leo Ricci, a gruff New York cab driver with a heart of gold, who crosses paths with Princess Marie of Eldovia, a small European country described by more than one person as “One of those Hallmark movie countries where Christmas is big.” Their main export is luxury watches, and the demand for them has gone down in recent years to the point that Marie has had to journey to New York to shore up their country’s business relationships. And it’s after a speech she gives at the United Nations that she meets Leo and his little sister, Gabby.
They meet in New York when Leo picks her up as a fare, much to the delight of Gabby who he is raising by himself after their parents die tragically. Gabby is going through a princess phase and meeting a real life princess is a dream come true for her. This is a story that runs on Hallmark movie tropes, namely the rich princess and the commoner she falls in love with. Leo is keenly aware throughout the book that Marie is out of his league but that doesn’t stop either of them from flaunting tradition and expectations to get to their happily ever after.
The book is divided into two parts, the first half set in New York as Marie has a Roman Holiday inspired business trip chaperoned by Leo whom she hires as her driver, and the second half set in Eldovia, which hits all the beats you’d expect from visiting a picturesque mountain country with long standing Christmas traditions, including the cocoa festival.
I loved that it’s a book that is perfect for the Christmas season and evokes a lot of the magic one would expect to see in a Christmas book and stories where you get to see royals step outside of their comfort zone to enjoy a life they might not otherwise get to see. Leo is likeable even when he has all the personality of a porcupine, and it’s hard not to love how devoted he is to his sister and how he does everything he can for her. Marie is perfect as both beloved royal that wants only the best for her country and as a young woman who was given a bit of a rebellious streak by her late mother to fight for her own path in life.
Marie’s royal entourage are all engaging characters in their own rights and most of whom get a chance to shine in their own books as well. There’s Torkel, the taciturn head of palace security whose own delightful romance happens in the background of the series with the brother of Marie’s best friend Maximillian. Maximillian himself serves as Marie’s best male friend and forever fake boyfriend. He’s the Baron of Laudon and heir to the Duke of Aquilla, and Marie and he have pretended to be engaged for a long time to keep their parents off of their backs so they can enjoy life. Max is aloof and has no interest in being a royal, seeking to be a free spirit, which nevertheless gets tested when love comes knocking for him in book two, Duke, Actually. Finally, there’s Matteo Benz, a stuffy servant of Eldovia’s royal household that keeps everything running like clockwork even if he never leaves any time for himself. Love finds time for him in book three of the series, “So this is Christmas”.
I will say that, for all the heartwarming moments, it does get a bit spicier than a traditional Hallmark movie, so temper your expectations if you go in expecting low heat. Much like when someone gifts you a chocolate bar and they neglect to mention it was made with chili powder, the heat isn’t unwelcome but can be a shock when it suddenly hits.