Title: Paper Princess (2016)
Series: The Royals – Book 1
Author: Erin Watt (Elle Kennedy, Jen Frederick)
Publisher: Everafter Romance
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 370 pages
Release Date: April 4, 2016
Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone.
Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.
Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals. He might be right.
Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees.
I picked up Paper Princess on something of a whim. Though the cover is really pretty, the summary has tropes I don’t like, and I kind of prematurely assumed that it would be vapid, shallow, and utterly frustrating. But. But. This book turned out to be a complete surprise, because what it was is actually addictive and wickedly entertaining. 😊
Paper Princess is about Ella Harper, a poor teenager who moonlights as a stripper to make ends meet. She’s ‘saved’ by multi-millionaire Callum Royal, who takes her to his house to live with his five sons — all of whom are incredibly good-looking, arrogant dudes who act like jerks but still are good with girls (of course). Our male lead is Reed Royal, the second eldest, who also happens to be the Ultimate Bad Boy™.
“Look, I like you. Didn’t think I would but I do, and because I like you, I feel the need to warn you that we Royals are pretty fucked up. We’re good in bed, but out of it? We’re like a stage four hurricane.”
Starting this book, what I noticed was that the story veers very closely to Hana Yori Dango, a series whose every iteration I’ve pretty much consumed. I’ve watched all three of the four dramas (Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean) and read the manga, and I can say that the similarities are quite stark:
- Ella is almost exactly like Shan Chai/Makino/Jan Di: poor, spunky, brave, not deterred by power or wealth.
- Reed is almost exactly like Dao Ming Si/Domyouji/Jun Pyo: stinking rich, has tons of female admirers, really kind of a (big) asshole.
- The Royals can issue a ‘Royal decree’ that basically controls the school, just like the F4 can issue a red card of some sort. One word from them, and the person they issue that decree/card against will basically be ostracised.
- The way Ella and Reed’s relationship develops also reflects the drama: they start out hating each other, Reed acts sort of like a bully, and then they eventually get closer.
By nature I’m not into rich, handsome bad boys, and I’m a rather cynical sort: when a love interest goes “I’m screwed up, you deserve better”, all I want is for the protagonist to actually listen and leave them. Logically, I should dislike this book — there’s pretty much nothing in it that I would usually like — and yet… and yet I didn’t. 🙈
“You should know whatever game you’re playing, you can’t win. Not against all of us. If you leave now, you won’t be hurt. If you stay, we’ll break you so bad that you’ll be crawling away.”
I attributed this to two things: the plot, which was fast-paced and gripping, with not a wasteful scene, and the writing, which was uncomplicated yet clever. One time the authors described a hallway as “so wide [Ella] could drive one of Callum’s cars down it”, and it struck me how smart this was. Everyone knows how wide a car is, generally, and by this simple statement, they’ve managed to get us all picturing roughly the same thing in our mind’s eye. 😊
Paper Princess, I think, is something of a guilty pleasure. It’s quite an explicit book (the sex scenes are quite graphic and there are multiple references to drugs), but it’s exactly the kind of book you pick up when you want pure escapism, when you can’t be bothered delving into descriptive fantasies or thrilling mysteries. I don’t think I’ll be rereading it, but it was really entertaining while it lasted.
REAL RATING: 3.5 stars. (I probably should start giving half-ratings, but 3.5 stars is pretty much the only half-rating I generally give. 😂)