Book Review: Paper Princess – Erin Watt


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
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

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. 😂)

64 thoughts on “Book Review: Paper Princess – Erin Watt

  1. Like Hana Yori Dango??? Definitely picking this up. Haha.
    I, normally, hate those tropes too, but there are some that are done so well, I can’t help but eat it up.

    Great review love. 🙂


  2. Great review, Reg! I love books that end up being great surprises. More than often I feel like I get into a book with high expectations, and it’s great to get into one with nothing but low expectations, and end up liking it a lot. I’m glad it was the case here. That book sounds indeed like a guilty pleasure 🙂


    • I know! So much better than when you expect a book to be great and it just falls short, haha. And this book was really a good guilty pleasure – I’m not sure if without the Hana Yori Dango association I’d like the plot, but the writing style is really addictive. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this book! I thought this would be shallow too, and well, it is shallow, but also super duper addictive! 😛 I remember pulling an all nighter reading this haha and yes it has so many cliched tropes I normally dislike but somehow this book made it right lol I think the key to reading this book is to know what you’re getting into and to not take it too seriously. Will you be reading the second book? I’m currently, patiently waiting for the third book 😛 great review!


    • I know what you mean! Like it’s definitely not a serious book, but it’s SO addictive. Kind of like watching a k-drama.

      I’ve actually already read the second book – I read this like weeks ago and immediately picked up Broken Prince after (I’m just always behind on reviews). I liked it less than this one, but I’m loving the direction of the story. I just hope the third book can sustain its addictive-ness. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve watched 2 adaptations of Hana Yori Dango, and I LOVED LOVED LOVED both of them (I still re-watched some episodes from Boys Before Flowers until now xD) I’m sooo picking this up! 🙈


    • Yaaas, pick it up! Boys Before Flowers is actually my favourite of all the adaptations – they look the richest (and personally the cast is the best-looking, haha) and it’s so cheesy but sooo entertaining. I think if you like BBF, you’d like this one too. 😂


  5. Nice review. This is one that I’ve been wanting to read, but I’ve been so turned off by Elle Kennedy’s writing style.

    Maybe I should bump it up.

    (I’m also surprised there were sex scenes. I’m not sure why I thought this was YA.)


    • Oh no! What about her writing style turns you off? I actually like her writing style, so I’m not sure if the book will be worth reading if you don’t. :/

      Yeah, I think the cover alludes to a more YA book than an NA – for once there are no naked men, no racy poses! But the content is DEFINITELY not for a young audience.


      • I read Him and Us, and I loved those. But she wrote them with Sarina Bowen. I tried Claimed, but couldn’t get into erotic dystopia. Then I tried the first book in the Killer Instinct series, and the romance felt heavy handed (for me). My friend loves her though, so I know it’s just me.
        Still, I am tempted to try this book. I want to like her!


        • I haven’t read anything she wrote with Sarina Bowen yet, but Bowen is a name that keeps appearing, so I might have to check it out. I don’t think I’d like erotic dystopia either – what didn’t you like about it?

          It’s just a matter of preference! Some authors just don’t vibe well with you, haha. My big “I want to like her writing but I don’t” is Sarah J. Maas, and since she’s SO popular, it’s a big want for me. 😂


  6. I like it when a story surprises me like this. Sometimes a blurb does not do justice or lead you to believe you won’t like what’s inside, but you take the jump and discover a really good surprise. Haha! Hana Yori Dango! Oh my, it brings back memory!! I loved the Japanese version so much! It was one of the first dramas I watched and I’ve seen it at least 20 times (both seasons and the movies of course!) I was sure I was never gonna fall for that story and then.. it happened, haha!
    Anyway, I’m glad this book reminded you of it and that you enjoyed it!


    • I knooow. Asian dramas in general are kind of my go-to brainless entertainment – like, if I wanna nitpick, there are SO many things wrong with many of them… but I usually just end up shutting up my brain and enjoying the view. This book is EXACTLY like that. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reg, I AM HERE FOR THIS REVIEW! I’ve always said that this book is not the best thing out there, but THE DRAMA is SO ADDICTING! Everything is so over the top and exaggerated, but I couldn’t put it down. I like the second book a lot more than the first one because of the dual POVs. I needed to know what was going on in Reed’s head 😂😂. I can’t wait for the last book to see how that crazy cliffhanger plays out.


    • I AM GLAD YOU ARE! This book is like junk food – it’s not great but omfg it’s so addictive. “Over-the-top” is so right, and the second book actually takes it one step further. I loved it. 😂

      Me too! I hope it’s as addictive as this one. The writing is solid, so I have high expectations.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great review! I’ve been doubting about this book for a long time, for pretty much the same reason – based on the summary there are some tropes I don’t like. But if it manages to still be so addictive and entertaining, I’ll definitely have to give it a try!


  9. After I read the summary I thought that this was a book that could fall into the guilty pleasure category and then I read your review that says the same thing!!!!! I think I’ll be reading this when I want something light to pass my time !!! Thank you!!!


  10. Great review Reg! I’m also glad this book ended up being a nice surprise for you as well. I will admit reading the blurb it sounded like it would be full of tropes but it seems like it must have worked in this novel though, especially if you rated it highly as well! 🙂
    That cover is really pretty as well, I can definitely see what it was about this book that made you want to pick it up! 😀


  11. I definitely agree with you that logically I shouldn’t have liked this book. It’s basically everything I hate reading about. But I gave it a try because of all the hype and just could not put it down. The second book I didn’t like quite as much, until the end, but I’m looking forward to the third one!


    • I know! I actually didn’t hear much of the hype (probably because I usually hang around the YA community more than the NA, though there are definitely overlaps), so I went in having heard of the book maybe twice… but I ended up really enjoying it. Like you, I also didn’t like the second book quite as much – SO over-the-top – but I have high hopes for the third one. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You know, it’s funny because I’ve been drawn to the cover of this book for some time, and then I realize it is like the movie “Cruel Intentions.” Because it is contemporary I should be scared away, but the premise sounds kind of enjoyable. A guilty pleasure. And I want to indulge! 😉


  13. It is kind of like Hana Yori Dango….. I feel ashamed that I never came to the same conclusion! I really love HYD, but I didn’t particularly love this book. It was okay, but maybe if I try reading it again with HYD in mind, I might like it more. Great review 🙂


  14. I have read a review of this book by another blogger…probably by Lydia, who was just as cynical as you were but ended up loving this book. Makes me think that the writing must be really good because it definitely sounds like the cheesy cliche stories I normally avoid. Will you be continuing the series?


    • The writing isn’t super beautiful or anything, but it’s quick, fast-paced, and very easy to read. Like it’s the kind of writing you don’t have to MAKE yourself read, you know? Plot-wise it’s quite problematic if I nitpick, but this book came at a time where I really needed something overdramatic yet mindless, so I really enjoyed it.

      I have actually continued the series, haha. It was so fast-paced, I just had to. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh MAN I need this book. I still haven’t read the manga for Hana Yori Dango… but GU JUN PYO, forever asshole, forever my fave lmao. I love guilty pleasures – and I’m kinda in need of one… – so I’m adding this to my tbr!



    • I LOVE THE K-DRAMA VERSION SO MUCH. I’ve watched it maybe like three times (though tbh my fave couple is Yi Jung x Ga Eul just because omg, so cute and such attractive people). Actually I might rewatch some episodes tonight; I’m feeling super tired and can really do with a brainless show.

      (YEEEES! I hope you like it. Also I just got out For Today I Am A Boy thanks to your rec on Twitter. Was it Twitter? I think it was Twitter.)


      • OMG YES!! Yi Jung was so darn cute, he was my favourite.
        Ahhh I know what you mean. FEEL BETTER! Nothing like feel-good drama to heal the soul.

        YES YES YAY YAY. Just a forewarning, it can be PRETTY heavy, but it’s worth it. Hahaha yes! Though, tbh, I’ve probably recommended this book everywhere. XD


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