Author: Karina Halle
Narrator: Cassandra York
Audiobook Length: 9 hours 35 minutes
An ordinary summer goes royally awry when a prince and princess move next door, bringing their handsome bodyguard with them, from New York Times bestselling author Karina Halle.
Piper Evans: elementary school teacher by day–avid romance reader and anonymous podcaster by night. She lives a quiet, reclusive life, taking care of her mother, who struggles with mental illness, avoiding her regrettable ex, who bartends in town, and trying to make inroads in the tight-knit island community that still sees her, five years in, as an outsider.
And she’s happy with how things are–really–until British royals rent the property next to hers and their brooding bodyguard decides she’s a security threat. Piper quickly realizes that one person’s fairy tale is an ordinary woman’s nightmare as a media frenzy takes over the island and each run-in with Harrison Cole is hotter and more confusing than the last. But beneath Harrison’s no-nonsense exterior lies a soft heart, one that could tempt a woman who’s sworn off attachments into believing in white knights.
But when Piper finds herself smack in the middle of a royal scandal that rocks the island she’ll need more than Harrison’s strong arms to shield her–she’ll have to do a little rescuing herself. With careers, hearts, and friendships on the line, Piper and Harrison will have to decide what they’re willing to give up for a chance at their own happily ever after.
The cover going around online initially made me want to pick up The Royals Next Door to try it. I also was further intrigued as, although the story involves royals, it was not a story of a commoner and a royal at the center. While I still love those types of stories, it was nice to try out something a little different while still being in the same general area. The royals in this story are Prince Eddie who married a “commoner” (and famous singer), Monica and became the Duke and Duchess of Fairfax. The couple mirrors real-life Meghan and Harry, which was a nice tie-in between reality and fiction. When the two of them decide to stay on Salt Spring Island off British Columbia with their Personal Protection Officer, Harrison Cole, the life of second grade schoolteacher, Piper Evans, will never be the same.
Piper and Harrison do not get off on the right foot when Piper does not have her ID with her to allow her access to her own home. This sets the initial tone for these two characters to begin as enemies and I liked the approach the author took to this meeting. It build up a nice tension as a reader can feel the frustration of each of them in the situation. It was relatable and a reader could understand why each side could be considered right in the moment. In addition to being a teacher, Piper is also a romance novel enthusiast and podcaster. Given this character trait, there are many romance novel stigmas explored in this novel. Piper’s mother suffers from neurological issues and the relationship between Piper and her mother was a very well done element. It was refreshing to read about a mother-daughter relationship done in a realistic fashion. While the two support each other, there are moments between them that are not perfect. Mental health is an underlying theme in this story, as Piper’s mother is not the only character dealing with it.
The story is a slow burn as the two characters interact a lot throughout the story before acknowledging any feelings for each other. While I enjoyed their romance, I greatly loved the friendship that formed between them. While it is an enemies to lovers’ story, I love the stop-over to friendship as it made the progression in their relationship feel more natural and realistic. While I loved the story being told from Piper’s perspective, I would have loved for it to also include Harrison’s POV. For me, with both of the characters fairly equal in their involvement in the story, I prefer the novel be a duel-perspective. From Piper’s perspective, it seemed the main thing keeping the two apart were the outside pressures. While I can understand the wish to keep Harrison the more mysterious broody love interest by keeping the story through Piper’s eyes, I would have loved to see his perspective on the “forbidden” romance concept.
Overall, this story was unexpected as there was a lighter feel to the first portion of the novel before getting deeper into the characters and themes. I loved the mental health representation, including attending therapy! It was great to see it treated as “normal.” The one piece that did felt forced was the self-awareness of the characters at times. During these moments, it can across as unrealistic, which threw off the relatable feel of the story. In addition to everything mentioned within this review, there are explorations of Harrison and Piper’s individual pasts, social commentary (especially in relation to the royals), and the role of the media. This story, at times, feels like it has too much going on. While I would have preferred a little more focus on the main couple, I liked how everything was weaved together in an easy to read story that can be devoured in a day. I cannot wait to read more from this author in the future!