Friday, August 13, 2010

This prince is charming!

The Frog Prince
by Elle Lothlorien

I don't mind admitting that I'm an unabashed fan of romantic comedies. Good ones are hard to find, but when you do it's a joy. Elle Lothlorien's debut novel, The Frog Prince, is a good one.

We all know there's a formula to these things, and this author is wisely not reinventing the wheel. The story opens with the required meet-cute. Her stiletto heel, his sandaled foot--in the unlikely comic setting of a funeral parlor. That is how protagonists Leigh Fromm and Roman Lorraine first encounter each other. There's an instant attraction, a slight antagonism, and only later does Leigh find out that the annoying hot guy is actually Roman Karl Franz Joseph Max Heinrich Ignatius Habsburg von Lorraine, Crown Prince of Austria. Well, not quite a "real" prince; she soon learns, "Austria's a parliamentary representative democracy. The monarchy was abolished in 1918." But close enough for the paparazzi.

There's nothing wildly original about the set-up above. It's essentially a fairy tale. What sets it apart is the voice of the protagonist. Leigh describes herself as, "a social misfit in a model's body." That's a hard character to bring to life. Well, at least I find myself skeptical about any girl that beautiful being that awkward, but Lothlorien pulls it off. And Leigh's running internal dialogue had me laughing out loud throughout the novel. She's like a character out of one of those classic screwball comedies from the 40's, and you just fall in love with her. It's easy to see why Roman does as well, warts and all.

There's really no need to summarize the twists and turns of the plot further. I will add that Lothlorien brings in a strong cast of supporting characters that add much to the goings on. The panoply of "almost royals" is a hoot. And she does a good job of showing the different facets that keep characters from becoming caricatures. For instance, Leigh's enemy does have her kinder moments.

In the end, I judge a romantic comedy on two things: romance and comedy. The Frog Prince is a winner on both counts. Leigh and Roman are a terrific couple to root for, and I found myself grinning like a sap long after the novel had ended.

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