SPONSORED REVIEW: London Holiday by Miranda MacLeod

the cover of London Holiday

Jordan is barely making ends meet as a journalist working at a scrappy local paper. She stays in a basement that barely has enough room to fold down the Murphy bed and is always slightly damp and cold. She loves her work, even if she is underpaid for it — which is why it’s such a blow when she finds out the paper has been sold to an Australian tabloid and will be pumping out trashy gossip stories from now on. She’ll be out of a job soon, and will also lose her work visa, forcing her to return home to the U.S. Her last-ditch plan to stay in London is to find a tabloid-worthy story to write, convincing her new boss that she’s worth keeping on staff, but she only has a few days to do it.

Abby is a reluctant royal: her parents (American mom, King of a small European country dad) getting back together and getting married has suddenly made her a princess, and she’s having trouble adjusting to the highly regimented life. During a royal event, her lady in waiting gives her some pills to treat a headache, which don’t combine well with champagne, and soon Abby finds herself lost and accidentally locked out of the building — without her wallet or phone. Instead of facing the humiliation of trying to convince the guards she’s a princess (her photos have been kept out of the paper), she just keeps walking, disappearing into the London crowd, tiara and all.

That’s when she bumps into Jordan, who quickly realizes her tenuous plans of a tabloid story will have to be put on hold to rescue this barely-conscious woman dressed as a princess. When they get back to Jordan’s place and Abby has fallen asleep, Jordan opens up her laptop to look for story leads and finds a photo of Princess Abigail — who looks identical to the woman currently asleep in her bed. The tabloid story of her dreams has fallen into her lap.

This is an F/F romance take on Roman Holiday, which I confess I have never seen. Instead, my cultural touchstones were Princess Diaries meets A Christmas Prince. From when I can tell, this retelling stays pretty true to the plot beats of Roman Holiday, at least until the last quarter of the book or so.

It’s a fun story about a princess running away from her royal duties and a conflicted journalist torn between getting the story to save her job and staying true to her principles (and also getting the girl). Abby keeps meaning to return to her responsibilities, but she convinces herself to put it off for just an hour longer… one more day… maybe a week. While Abby and Jordan tour London, falling for each other and enjoying the sights, there’s a sense of foreboding hanging over them. Jordan has a friend photographer trailing them, taking surreptitious shots of the princess. As they become closer, what will happen when Abby finds out about this dishonesty?

Despite that sense of dread, this stays a fairly light story — even when I thought more conflict would have made sense (more on that later). Even without that, though, there’s tension in Abby and Jordan’s turmoil about their choices. Abby feels guilty about not wanting to do what her family expects of her but dreads the life set out ahead of her: “She could all but feel the weight of [the crown] on her head, her neck tensing as if about to snap.” Jordan struggles to justify what she’s doing as she and Abby get closer, and she can’t deny the connection they have. At the same time, the idea of upturning either of their lives over someone they’ve only known for a few days (and that they’re keeping secrets from) feels hard for them to take seriously as an option.

I find that sex scenes in romance novels are so particular for each reader, and this isn’t a closed-door romance; it does have several on the page sex scenes. The writing style in these scenes didn’t work for me, but that’s just a personal preference. The sex scenes do bring up the issue that stuck in my mind while reading, which is also a spoiler:

[Spoiler/content warning, highlight to read] With romance stories that rely on lies/hidden identities, I think there’s always a question of what is ethical to do. Jordan sleeps with Abby without telling her about what she’s been doing, which I was surprised by. If I was in Abby’s situation, I would feel betrayed and used to find that out after the fact, and I think it’s fair to assume that knowing that fact would affect whether Abby would have consented or not. Jordan knows that she’s crossed a line after the fact, but she feels that means she can’t write the story anymore, which seems to be enough for her. She’s conflicted about whether she’s going to confess at all.

For me, this was uncomfortable, especially because it’s the first time they have sex. I also found it uncomfortable when Abby was drugged and undressing in front of Jordan as well as trying to initiate sex. While Jordan didn’t do anything, she is attracted to Abby and reluctantly refuses, patting herself on the back for the decision and thinking about how many people would have slept with her in the same position. Being attracted to her even in that state I can understand, but I wouldn’t congratulate myself too hard on not sleeping with a woman who can barely stay conscious.

Abby is surprisingly unfazed when she does find out (not from Jordan), and she doesn’t seem to see it as a deal breaker, at least not since Jordan is visibly feeling guilty. [end of spoilers]

I also wanted to give a warning for a one-off fatphobic line.

Despite the discomfort I had in that one aspect, I really enjoyed reading this. It’s a fun tour of London plus a whirlwind romance, and I can’t resist the princess in disguise trope. Also, this is such a small detail, but the little London chapter illustrations are very cute. If you also enjoy F/F princess romances, give this one a try!

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