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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review: Royally Matched (Book #2 in the Royally series) by Emma Chase

Right off the bat, I have to say that as much as I loved Royally Screwed, I honestly loved Royally Matched a little bit more than Royally Screwed. Having listened to Royally Matched on audiobook two times, I have to admit that I actually loved this book even more than I originally did after listening to it on audiobook a second time. The main reason I would say that I liked Royally Matched a little bit more than Royally Screwed is because as much as I love Nicholas and Olivia as a couple, I honestly found myself liking Henry and Sarah as a couple even more than I liked Nicholas and Olivia as a couple in Royally Screwed; which I’ll talk about in much more detail later on in this review.

When it comes to the overall plot of Royally Matched, the tone of the book as a whole definitely felt a little bit lighter and less angst-ridden than Royally Screwed often did, which is something that I really liked about this book. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really have too many problems with the overall tone of Royally Screwed; I simply thought that the tone of Royally Matched felt very different compared to the overall tone of Royally Screwed. Regardless of whether or not Emma Chase was consciously trying to write Royally Matched in such a way that the overall tone of the book felt much lighter compared to the more angst-filled tone of Royally Screwed; I personally like that they felt very different in tone, because I feel like it’s a great way to set Royally Screwed and Royally Matched apart from each other, while still having them be a part of the same series. After noticing a difference in the overall tone for Royally Screwed and Royally Matched, I’m definitely really interested and excited now to see how the third book, Royally Endowed, turns out from a tonality standpoint.

It was definitely interesting to see Henry struggling with adjusting to his new role as the heir to the family throne at the beginning of the book, especially since it was a role that he had never expected that he would have to fill. While I understand that Royally Matched and the Royally series as a whole is supposed to first and foremost be about the love lives of a royal family, something that I felt Emma Chase should have explored in this book more than she did, was Henry carrying out his new responsibilities as the heir to the throne, and his struggles with adapting to his new role in his family. Ultimately, the fact that Chase didn’t explore that aspect of Henry’s life very much in this book wasn’t really detrimental to my overall enjoyment of Royally Matched; but I still wish that she had done more with that aspect of who Henry is as a character now, especially considering the way he was written in Royally Screwed.

Sarah Mirabelle Zinnia Von Titebottum was also a really great and fascinating character in a lot of ways. I thought that the whole backstory with Sarah’s father was very interesting, while also being very sad in terms of how it contributed to her suffering from a medical condition where she experiences temporary fugues that are brought on by loud noises. When it comes to Sarah’s personality, I think that Sarah’s mild-mannered, reserved and shy personality served as a great foil to Henry’s personality since he definitely has a very flirtatious and playful personality, as well as somewhat of a wild streak. In a lot of ways, I feel like Henry and Sarah falling in love with each other made them a couple that’s a great example of opposites attracting. At the same time, I felt like Chase did a great job of writing Henry and Sarah’s relationship, as well as Henry and Sarah as individual characters, in such a way that they’re still completely believable as a couple.

Sarah’s love of classic literature, particularly her love of Jane Austen’s book Sense and Sensibility, really added a very interesting element to Henry and Sarah’s interactions with each other throughout the book; as well as the book as a whole. I thought that Chase did a great job of incorporating all of the references to Sense and Sensibility into the story without them ever feeling like they were being shoehorned into the book. Plus, I feel like Chase making Sarah’s love of classic literature such a big part of who she was as a character, and a big part of the book as a whole, ultimately had a really great payoff when Henry shows up at the event where Sarah was giving a speech on Jane Austen, and asks her a bunch of questions about Sense and Sensibility that clearly had a double meaning to them, and also applied to their own relationship.

One of the countless things about Fifty Shades of Grey that I’ve always thought was beyond ridiculous is definitely Ana’s tendency to blush at the drop of a hat. I’ve always thought that E.L. James handled that particular quirk of Ana’s absolutely horribly, because James played it up to an overly excessive extent. That being said, when it comes to how Emma Chase handled Sarah’s tendency to blush fairly often, I felt like she handled it perfectly throughout the entire book, and never took it to an extent that seemed ridiculous to me. I also love the fact that one of the ways Sarah had influenced Henry’s behavior by the end of the book was that he developed a tendency to blush when he’s feeling embarrassed about something, which he did in the epilogue when Lenora complimented him on a speech that he had given. That was definitely a very small moment, but I thought that it was really cute to see Henry blush over something, especially considering the fact that he had playfully teased Sarah about her tendency to blush fairly often throughout the book.

One thing that really surprised me about this book is how little Chase actually showed Henry interacting with the women who were participating in Matched: The Royal Edition. Sure, throughout the book she briefly mentions details about some of the dates that he goes on with the women who’re participating on the show (Both one-on-one dates, and group dates) in the narrative for the chapters that are written from Henry’s point of view; but for the most part, we don’t actually get to “see” his interactions with the women. I felt like he ultimately seemed to have a lot of free time when the cameras weren’t filming him and trying to get footage for the show, which seemed rather odd to me, and he was subsequently able to spend time with Sarah. To be fair, I should probably point out that the reason he started spending so much time with Sarah in the first place, was because the camera that had been installed in his bedroom so that the producers of Matched could get footage of him was established as being so loud that he couldn’t sleep at night. He asked Sarah if he could sleep in her room with her since there weren’t any cameras in her room, which is ultimately what led to them spending a lot of time together and falling for each other.

A part of me can’t help but think that Chase should have shown Henry actually interacting with the women on the show just a little bit more than she did. Chase only featured a few of women who were appearing on the show, and by not really featuring very many of the women who were also appearing on the show, I feel like she wasn’t taking full advantage of the part of the book’s plot that involved Henry starring in a reality show that was essentially a knockoff of The Bachelor. That being said, based on the small number of the show’s female competitors that Chase did feature throughout the book, I think she did a great job of capturing the whacky, and sometimes disturbing personalities that the women who appear on reality TV dating shows can have.

When I was reading the book for the second time, one of the things that I kept wondering about was whether or not Penelope and the other women noticed that Henry was spending a lot of time with Sarah, and that he was falling in love with her. If so, how did they feel about that? To be fair, at one point in the book one of the women does tell Henry that she had noticed that he seems to be falling in love with Sarah. That really made me wonder if any of the other women, aside from the woman that confronted him about his relationship with Sarah, noticed that he and Sarah were spending a lot of time together. If so, why didn’t more of the women confront him about it? I was honestly surprised that the women for the most part didn’t seem to pick up on Henry’s relationship with Sarah, and his feelings for her.

Much like I thought that it was odd that Henry seemed to have so much free time where he was able to spend time with Sarah, I was also really surprised by how little Sarah and Penelope interacted with each other throughout the book. After all, the reason Sarah went with Penelope when she agreed to participate on the show Matched was to keep an eye on her, so I really feel like Chase should have shown Sarah and Penelope actually interacting with each other just a little bit more than she did to help add some legitimacy to the explanation that she (Chase) gave as to why Sarah would join Penelope when she went to participate on Matched. Plus, if Chase had shown Sarah and Penelope interacting with each other more than she did, I think that she could have used some of those additional interactions between Sarah and Penelope to explore the idea of the other women on the show noticing that Henry was more interested in Sarah than he was in any of them.

Perhaps the reason Chase didn’t actually show more interactions between Henry and the other women who were participating in the show Matched: Royal Edition, or more interactions between Sarah and Penelope is because she was trying to keep Royally Matched from being an extremely long book. Plus, at the end of the day, the romance between Henry and Sarah is supposed to be the main focus of the book; so it makes sense that their relationship got more focus and development than the fact that Henry was participating in a reality dating show, or Sarah’s relationship with Penelope got throughout the book. Ultimately, the fact that Chase didn’t focus on those aspects of the book more than she did isn’t cripplingly detrimental to the overall quality of the writing for Royally Matched, but I still wish that she had at least done a little bit more with those particular aspects of the book.

When it comes to the writing for Henry and Sarah’s relationship, I absolutely loved it. I really loved the way Henry and Sarah’s personalities both complimented and contrasted each other’s, with Henry initially having a tendency to be rather cocky and outspoken, and Sarah being very mild-mannered and reserved in a lot of ways. I really enjoyed seeing the influence that Henry and Sarah had on each other throughout the book, with Henry gradually becoming more humble and more mature, and Sarah learning to take risks and not be nearly as reserved as she originally was at the beginning of the book. Ultimately, the fact that both Henry and Sarah both undergo a very noticeable and clearly defined arc throughout the book, both as a couple and as individual characters, contributed a lot to me liking this book even more than I liked Royally Screwed.

Don’t get me wrong, both Nicholas and Olivia also had good character development in Royally Screwed. Nicholas, in particular, underwent some phenomenal character development throughout Royally Screwed. It’s just that in retrospect, I think that Olivia’s story arc and character development throughout Royally Screwed is incredibly subtle to the point where it’s kind of hard to know what her journey throughout the book is supposed to be about. If I had to say what Olivia’s character arc in Royally Screwed is ultimately supposed to be, it would be that she needed to learn to not be so selfless that she would sacrifice her own happiness in order to take care of her sister, Ellie, and their family’s restaurant since her dad had pretty much emotionally checked out after her mother died.

Henry and Sarah, on the other hand, underwent well-written and clearly defined story arcs, both as a couple and as individual characters, throughout the course of Royally Matched. I think that Chase ultimately did a great job of executing Henry and Sarah’s character arcs in such a way that I was able to very clearly understand what their journey was supposed be, both as individual characters and as a couple. At the same time, I never felt like Chase was beating the reader over the head when it came to showing the ways in which Henry and Sarah both grew and changed as characters throughout the course of the book.

Despite the fact that Henry and Nicholas’ grandmother, Lenora, wasn’t featured in Royally Matched all that much, I feel like she also got some really good character development in this book. When it comes to the way Lenora was written in Royally Screwed, I felt like she was written with the intention of her serving as an antagonist for the book, and an obstacle that Nicholas and Olivia had to deal with on their path to getting a happy ending. However, when it comes to what we learn in this book about what Henry’s relationship with Lenora was like before he took Nicholas’ place as the heir to the throne; I feel like the fleshing out of the backstory for their relationship really humanized Lenora. Plus, I love the reference to the Beyoncé song “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” that Lenora makes in the epilogue when she suggests to Henry that he and Sarah should get engaged. I thought that was a subtle, yet fun, way for Chase to show the reader that Lenora is capable of loosening up a little bit at times.

While I loved Royally Matched the first time I read it, I really did love it even more after reading it a second time. That being said, I have to admit that I definitely had a lot of issues with the whole thing regarding Henry’s decision to reenlist in the military when I read this book the first time. After reading this book a second time, I feel like Chase did a much better job of explaining Henry’s reasoning for reenlisting than I probably would have given her credit for if I had written this review and posted it back around the time Royally Matched was released. Henry’s motives for reenlisting actually make a lot of sense to me now, and I feel like they contribute a lot to the aspect of the book that focused on Henry needing to learn how to be a good leader now that he’s the heir to the throne, as well as how to be a better person in general. That being said, a big part of why I couldn’t help but question Henry’s thinking behind in reenlisting in the military when I read this book the first time was first and foremost due to the fact that it was pretty clear in Royally Screwed that serving in the military for the amount of time that all citizens of Wessco are apparently required to serve had been a very traumatic experience for him that had launched him into a major downward spiral. That’s ultimately the main reason why it really baffled me that he actually chose of his own free will to potentially put himself through that kind of trauma again by reenlisting in the military when he didn’t have to do that.

The other issue that I had with Henry reenlisting in the military the first time I read this book is that considering the fact that he’s the heir to the throne of Wessco now, I think that would make him a prime target for the enemy to go after. That could potentially not only put himself in even more danger than he would already be in, even if he wasn’t a part of the royal family; it could also increase the amount of danger that the other soldiers that he would be serving with would be in as well, simply because of his association with them. That being said, I think it was pretty smart of Chase to have both Henry and Sarah actually acknowledge how risky it could be for Henry to reenlist in the military, given the fact that he’s the heir to the throne now. I’m also pretty sure that I somehow missed the part where Henry mentions that he was reenlisting under a different name when he was explaining to Sarah the various precautions that were being taken in order for him to serve in the military again when I read this book the first time; which is another reason why I don’t have as big of a problem with Henry’s decision to reenlist in the military after reading Royally Matched a second time.
Sarah’s decision to join the Blue Coat Association, which is apparently the Wessco equivalent of the Red Cross, definitely made more sense to me in terms of being able to understand her reasons for wanting to work for them. It was also easier for me to see how it ultimately contributed to her overall character development. However, the first time I read this book there was definitely a part of me that thought it wasn’t a very smart idea for Sarah to sign up to work for the Blue Coat Association, given her medical condition. That being said, much like I’m really glad that Chase acknowledged the riskiness of Henry reenlisting in the military now that he’s the heir to the throne; I’m also glad that Chase made a point of having Henry and Sarah both acknowledge the fact that Sarah’s medical condition could potentially be a problem for her if she worked for the Blue Coat Association. Plus, Sarah did tell Henry that the Blue Coat Association was apparently willing to make accommodations for her. The fact that Chase acknowledged that there were definitely a lot of risks involved for both Henry and Sarah in regards to him serving in the military, and her working for the Blue Coat Association definitely made it easier for me to go along with those particular plot developments.

Based on the epilogue of the book, I was really glad to see that things ultimately worked out for both Henry and Sarah in terms of Henry’s decision to reenlist, and Sarah working for the Blue Coat Association. Henry seemed to have handled serving in the military a lot better the second time around, and he didn’t seem like he had been traumatized by it like he did in Royally Screwed. Plus, there wasn’t any mention of anything bad happening to Sarah during the time that she worked for the Blue Coat Association.

As for Henry’s marriage proposal to Sarah, I thought that it was incredibly sweet and romantic. It was definitely a very fitting way for Henry to propose to Sarah, given what we saw of their relationship throughout the book, and Sarah’s love of classic literature.

Personally, I really enjoyed the parts of the book that featured Nicholas and Olivia, either as a couple or individually. I feel like Chase did a great job of shifting the focus of the Royally series away from Nicholas and Olivia, and over to Henry and Sarah in this book. At the same time, it was nice to see that we weren’t completely losing Nicholas and Olivia by having them appear here and there throughout the book; giving fans of the Royally series a glimpse into what was going on in their lives now that they’re married. I also like that Logan St. James, the male protagonist of the third book in the series, Royally Endowed, made a very brief cameo appearance in this book as well. Although, I have to admit that I completely missed the part where Chase namedrops Logan in the epilogue the first time that I read Royally Matched. That being said, I thought that was a really nice touch, and an effective way of very subtly setting things up for Royally Endowed.

All things considered, as much as I loved Royally Screwed, there’s no denying that I loved Royally Matched even more. I’ve actually already listened to Royally Endowed on audiobook several months ago, and I think that it’s pretty safe to say that Emma Chase is an author whose writing just keeps getting better and better with each book series that she writes. As for my final thoughts on Royally Matched, it’s definitely a book that’s full of superb character development for Henry, Sarah, and even Nicholas and Henry’s grandmother, Queen Lenora, despite the fact that she’s not featured in the book all that much. The progression of Henry and Sarah’s relationship, and the writing for their relationship in general is simply fantastic. A big part of what makes Henry and Sarah such a fun couple to root for is the fact that their respective personalities serve as a great foil to the other’s personality; which leads to interactions between them that range from being fun, romantic, and some cases dramatic moments that are sure to remind people why they love Henry and Sarah as couple, and want them to get their happy ending.

While a part of me wishes that Chase had devoted a little bit more time to the part of the book’s premise involving Henry starring in a The Bachelor type of reality TV show, it ultimately wasn’t truly detrimental to the book as a whole that she didn’t do at least a little bit more with that aspect of the book’s plot. Most of my reasons for wishing that Chase had done more with the part of the book’s overall plot that involved Henry participating in a knockoff of The Bachelor, is simply because I thought that the parts of the book that actually showed Henry interacting with the women who were also appearing on Matched: Royal Edition were really entertaining. As I said earlier, I also think that there should have been a little bit more interaction between Sarah and her sister, Penelope, since the whole reason that Sarah went with Penelope in the first place was to keep an eye on her during the filming for Matched: Royal Edition. Thankfully, I didn’t think that the book suffered too much from Chase not having Sarah and Penelope interact with each other more throughout the book, though.

Ultimately, Royally Matched once again really reminded me why I think Emma Chase’s books are so addictive that I pretty much always finish them within a couple of days, if not in less than a day. Chase continues to prove that she’s really becoming quite the master at writing fun, steamy romance novels with really great characters, and swoon-inducing romances, that always leave me feeling excited for more of her books.

That being said, my final score for Royally Matched is 10 out of 10.

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