I would rate this 3.75 stars.
This is the third book in the Stars From Peril series. Although there is mention of Jaxon Powers and Landry Bishop from book one and two, this works well as a standalone. Cal Walters is a 23 year old artist who knows the right people. His insecurities about whether people buy his art because he’s talented or because he’s trendy due to his friends, has given him a little chip on his shoulder. Due to a bet with his friend Merc, he has to go on three blind dates. Third time’s a charm when he meets 28 year old Teofilo Vabriga-Kastav, playboy prince of the tiny nation of Porvunia and passionate art lover. Teo has insecurities of his own, never knowing if people like him for himself, or just want to be with him because of his family. He just doesn’t tell Cal he’s a prince…
The meet cute is actually, cute. I wasn’t sure about either character at first–Cal is standoffish and Teo is a bit too smooth–but their facades crumble fairly quickly. Seeing most of the book from Cal’s POV, at first he’s attracted to Teo, but not quit sure he likes him. Teo’s POV is used more sparingly to great affect. Seeing how Teo describes Cal and how Cal makes him feel hooked me into the story. He may be privileged and a bit spoiled, but he is actually a nice person and has a sincerity about him that’s surprising. Cal’s starting to develop that cynicism of living in California and being in the wealthy art scene, but he’s just a kid from Nebraska trying to protect himself. When Teo creates a painting competition in Porvunia in part to lure Cal there, they give in to their passions. Their intimate time is sexy, fun, and filled with laughter. Cal kids himself this is a one night stand, but they are already too taken with each other and he knows it’s more. Lying to yourself is difficult if you’re an honest person by nature. The dynamics here are fascinating as Cal’s in charge, even though he’s the commoner and younger. When his anxiety or fear gets the better of him in various circumstances, it’s Teo who steps in to help him relax or sort things out. They fit.
Teo’s family, his bodyguards, Cal’s friend Merc, Cal’s Gram, and other characters from the small town of Peril help move this along, but no one does more than Anita, his guide in the capital city of Velenik. She makes Porvunia feel more real with tours filled with fun historical stories. She is also loyal and proves herself to be truly caring of the prince and her royal family. This book is full of charming little details, whether of a foreign country, or of the Nebraska landscape, a thriving city or a small rural town. Still, it’s Nebraska that burns more brightly here when Con shares his home and all the people he grew up with, who have their own stories.
This really works through the opposites of being working class vs wealthy, an only child vs large family and having no father and absentee mother vs hundreds of years of extended family. Yet, their love of the arts united them. They have both had the benefit of fortunate fate and grew up having very little privacy albeit in very different fish bowls. When an emergency tears them apart, it would be easy to let life get in the way, to let it move them in different directions, but Teo is not having it. This is the point where, as farfetched as the story seems, it gets even more farfetched. For instance, Teo getting rid of his bodyguards when he should be worried about being kidnapped for ransom, or his rushing in and thinking he knows what a small town needs to “save” it. There is plenty of foreshadowing here to show the reader the way through. It’s sweet, and no matter how unlikely, I wanted it to happen just like that even if I didn’t know it at the time.
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