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Reluctant Royals #1

A Princess in Theory

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Romance (2018)
From acclaimed author Alyssa Cole comes the tale of a city Cinderella and her Prince Charming in disguise . . .

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

Selected as one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018!

360 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published February 27, 2018

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About the author

Alyssa Cole

37 books5,148 followers
Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. Her Civil War-set espionage romance An Extraordinary Union was the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award’s Best Book of 2017 and the American Library Association’s RUSA Best Romance for 2018, and A Princess in Theory was one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018. She’s contributed to publications including Bustle, Shondaland, The Toast, Vulture, RT Book Reviews, and Heroes and Heartbreakers, and her books have received critical acclaim from The New York Times, Library Journal, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, Booklist, Jezebel, Vulture, Book Riot, Entertainment Weekly, and various other outlets. When she’s not working, she can usually be found watching anime or wrangling her pets.

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5 stars
3,266 (21%)
4 stars
6,468 (43%)
3 stars
4,038 (27%)
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1 star
257 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,929 reviews
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 117 books156k followers
January 29, 2019
This book was a lot of fun, sexy, with a compelling story. I really enjoyed the romance as it developed between Ledi and Thabioso, both interesting characters together and as individuals. Lots of erotic tension and a deeply satisfying ending. Definitely dive into this one.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,158 reviews97.9k followers
August 7, 2018

ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“One can never read too many fairy tales”

A Princess in Theory was nothing short of an absolute treat to read. I easily fell in love with Alyssa Cole’s writing and her characters. And I completely believe she is a genius with her perfect portrayal of the “far away country prince email spam” trope. This book was funny, heartwarming, important, and completely captivating.

Prince Thabiso - An actual African Prince, and the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, and his parents (the king and queen) are on him about settling down and starting a family. But he has never been able to forget the girl who he was promised to marry one day, who has been missing for most of his life.

Naledi Smith - Ledi has grown up in foster care, barely remembering her family that passed away, but she has overcome it all and has a very promising life in New York. She is also in grad school studying epidemiology, and working nonstop between the lab, different jobs and studying. (Also, give me all the books with STEM girls, please!)

“I know you’re very busy, Ledi. If you can fit me in, I’d be honored to be one of the many things that take up your time.”

And these two amazing characters come together, once Thabiso finally decides to come to New York to find Ledi, who he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about his entire life. I mean, it’s not like she’s answering his emails in the nicest of manners. And the chemistry between these two? Honestly, it’s off any chart.

Not only is this an amazing romance, it has so many important themes. I said above how much I loved that Ledi was part of the STEM field, but this book also talks about the racism and sexism she has to face every single day for just pursuing her dream. Ledi has to constantly convince the white male supervisor in the lab how she is a “team player” while being forced to pick up other white dudes’ slack. I am not sure I’ve ever read this in any book, God forbid a romance book, and I was honestly living for every second of it.

Ledi also has to experience what it is like to grow up apart from a culture she has never known. And she has to think about the power imbalances of her and Thabiso’s different family backgrounds, different wealth and economic situations, and just the difference in power of him knowing more of the story than she knows. And all of it is done expertly.

And this is an ownvoices novel, because the two characters and most all the side characters are black. Seriously, this book has so much good in the pages. On top of an amazing and swoon worthy romance. Oh, and it’s so damn funny, too. Thabiso experiencing New York for the first time had my sides hurting from giggling. Seriously.

“Why is it so hot down here? What is that strange smell? Are those cats frolicking on the tracks? Dear goddess, they’re rats!”

And the sex scenes in this book were the perfect amount of sexy and fade to black, in my opinion. Also, Alyssa Cole puts consent at the forefront of this story, and proves again that there is nothing sexier than well established consent. Also, my pan self wants to date both Ledi and Thabiso, so praise this author and her magical writing.

Overall, I recommend this with my entire heart and soul. This is so intelligently written, expertly crafted, and this story is honestly romantic perfection. And I know I’ve gushed a lot about Ledi and Thabiso throughout this entire review, but I also fell so damn in love with Portia! Ledi and her friendship was so realistic, and I absolutely cannot wait to start her story immediately in A Duke by Default!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and content warnings for loss of a loved one in the past, abandonment, talk of animal death vaguely, and talk of disease epidemics.
March 5, 2018

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💙 I read this for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2018 Reading Challenge, for the category of: African American Romance. For more info on this challenge, click here. 💙

As soon as I stopped screaming over the cover for this book, I immediately started screaming over the synopsis. Princess Diaries all grown up, featuring a smart black lady in STEM? Oh, YOU KNOW I was going to be all over that like cute baby goat pics on Tessa Dare's Twitter feed. (And then I saw the cover for the sequel, A DUKE BY DEFAULT, and the screaming began anew.) Hoarse, exhausted, and delirious with joy, there was nothing to do, post-scream fest, except patiently await the 2018 release date.

The precious arrived for me yesterday at the library and I finally was able to sit down and read it. It was a quick read, and I finished it in just under a day, but deciding on a rating for this one was really difficult because there were things I liked & things I didn't.

Positives first. The story is fluffier than pancakes and has great rep. The heroine, Ledi, is studying to be an epidemiologist and we get to see her at work, interacting with coworkers, showing off her smarts. She's sex positive and has a not-exactly-healthy friendship with her BFF, Portia, but a big part of the story isn't just about her development with the male lead, it's also about learning to make her relationship with her BFF healthier, while also setting up boundaries and learning how to say "No."

Thabiso, the hero, is also great. He's a spoiled prince, which is one of my favorite tropes, but he's not an a-hole. He's just hilariously entitled and out-of-touch. We get to see him at work, too, which is great, because a lot of stories about royalty kind of just feel like they're royal in title only, and more about the glitz and glam - more like A-list celebs, in other words, than heads of state. His interactions with his (GAY!) personal assistant, Likotsi, were great and I loved their relationship so much.

The Cinderella storyline really mirrors Princess Diaries, except instead of a made-up European country (Genovia), Thabiso hails from a made-up country in Africa, Thesolo. Ledi is his betrothed, who disappeared with her parents when they mysteriously fled, only to die inconveniently in the U.S., dumping poor Ledi into the foster system. When Thabiso tracks her down to the restaurant where she works to pay off rent and grad debt, she mistakes him for the server who's supposed to be hired that day. Thabiso allows this case of mistaken identity to continue, because it's refreshing to get to know someone and have someone be attracted to him without the burden of his crown.

The downsides are that this story felt really unrealistic at times, and I think that's because Thesolo just wasn't very developed. I would have liked to have learned more about Thesolo. This book came out pretty close in time to Black Panther, and the country of Wakanda in that movie is basically a character in and of itself. I feel like Alyssa Cole had the opportunity to do that with Thesolo, and didn't. It ended up feeling like more of a very weak backdrop. The "intrigue" about Ledi's parents also felt glossed over, and the "plague" kind of ended up being a last-act bit of drama (like Lisa Kleypas's half-assed attempted murder plots that occur in 9/10 of her books' finales).

That said, I still enjoyed A PRINCESS IN THEORY. It had some really hot kissing scenes and the chemistry between the hero and the heroine was fun. As far as light, fluffy reads go, this one does the trick. Did it live up to my expectations? No. But I felt so lukewarm about this author's first couple works (mostly really short stories), and she has come a long way since then. I went from just kind of feeling "meh" about her work, to having her become one of my favorite authors. She is improving so quickly, and I'm very excited to see what she churns out next (AKA, DUKE BY DEFAULT).

P.S. I did my mental casting for this movie and came up with Sterling K. Brown as Thabiso, Anika Noni Rose as Likotsi, and Teyonah Parris as Ledi. All I ask is partial credit as asst. casting director.

3 stars
Profile Image for Christy.
3,755 reviews32k followers
March 27, 2019
4 stars

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“One can never read too many fairy tales”

A Princess in Theory was my first Alyssa Cole book and I enjoyed it so much! I loved this spin on a royal romance. It was charming, sweet, sexy, and so much fun to read.

Naledi is a graduate student/scientist from NYC. After her parents died when she was young, she spent her life in the foster care system. She never knew much about her background and wasn't sure about her roots. She's not sure she wants to know, but ready or not she's about to find out.

Prince Thabiso is the prince of Thesolo, an African country and the country that Ledi happens to be from. In fact, Ledi was his betrothed when they were just children. When his PA finds her in the US, he makes a trip to find her and hopefully win her back. This has disaster written all over it, and I mean that in the best way possible!

When Thabiso first meets Ledi, she thinks he is someone else, and he lets her. As he gets to spend time with her, they both start to open up to one another and let each other in. But she never suspects he is a prince that knows about her lineage. When that comes to light, you can guess how it goes...

I absolutely adored Naledi. She was a strong heroine with a lot of heart. She's intelligent, driven, but isn't as hardened as she appears. She definitely stole the show for me, though I loved Thabiso as well. I loved watching him come into his own. He grew up very privileged, and he learned a lot from Ledi and his time in NYC. There were a lot of great secondary characters as well, and I'm looking forward to reading more of their stories.

I listened to the audio book and I thought the narration was excellent. I would definitely recommend listening to this book. If you're looking for a captivating, swoony, and steamy read, pick this one up!!
Profile Image for Mali Mor ❤️ The Romantic Blogger.
422 reviews509 followers
March 10, 2020
2.5 STARS...
📚 “𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗛𝗶𝗴𝗵𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀. 𝗪𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗜 𝗮𝗱𝗺𝗶𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗮 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗺𝗲𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝗺𝗮𝗻, 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗹𝗲𝘀𝗯𝗶𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗮 𝘄𝗼𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱𝗻’𝘁 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀.” 📚

Naledi Smith (Ledi) is a graduate student from New-York. She grew up in foster homes all her life, after her parents died when - and so she had only herself to trust. 💜
Ledi doesn't know about her background, who were her parents and where she was born - and she's not sure she wants to know either, but she's about to find out anyway... 😱

Ledi started receiving strange emails that seem like one big scam... But instead of asking her to transfer money, those emails says that she is the intended bride of an African prince. 👑💍

Prince Thabiso is the prince of the African state, Thesolo, and Ledi's hometown... When they were just babys, Ledi and Thebeso were destined to get married - and now he's going to find her in the US to take her back to where she belongs. 💜👑
Ledi is sure the emails are false and erases them - but then... Thabiso himself shows up, pretending to be someone else - and the two connect.
Until the truth is revealed ... 😬

So... This is one of those books that fits the statement: IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME - Because it wasn't bad, just wasn't for me...

I liked that the characters were original (not the blonde / redhead woman and the blue eyed man) and... DAMN, Prince Thabiso's accent on audio completely gave me Black Panther vibes. 😋
I enjoyed their first interactions when Thabiso impersonated to another person, but the second part, which took place in Thesolo, felt both too fast and too slow - so that wasn't very convincing. Plus, I guessed the secret twist pretty quickly... 😬💜
However... except for a sweet romance with "One Big Misunderstanding" I didn't really feel there was a plot... Or maybe I just wasn't invested enough in the characters and the story to care about the drama...

The writing was good and the sex scenes were nice - so if you like sweet romance books - you should definitely give it a try. 💜

By the way, this book totally made me want to watch the movie "Coming to America" with Eddie Murphy again. 😉


📖 ᖴOᒪᒪOᗯ ᗰE Oᑎ IᑎᔕTᗩGᖇᗩᗰ: 🎉 https://www.instagram.com/the_romanti...

📖 ᐯIᔕIT ᗰY ᗷᒪOG ᖴOᖇ ᗰOᖇE ᖇEᐯIEᗯᔕ: https://books-romance.com/
Profile Image for Samantha.
409 reviews16.7k followers
February 25, 2020
2.5 stars - this wasn’t badly written; it just wasn’t for me. I don’t mind sex scenes in my romance, but I don’t love when the sexual attraction aspect is a part of nearly every interaction or thought about the other person. Also I found the plot outside the romance a bit weak and thrown together. Readers who enjoy more smut than me may enjoy this. The setting also had a Black Panther vibe, helped by the accents used in the audiobook, which I enjoyed.

- mistaken identity
- mysterious past
- “fake” engaged
- destined by “fate/religion”
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
909 reviews13.8k followers
February 16, 2019
4.5 Stars

Throughout the first half of this book, I was nervous that I wouldn't like it that much because it started using the trope i dont like of two people being romantically involved while one of them is lying about their identity. Alongside that, the pace of it was a bit slow and I found I relied on the audiobook to get through it.

But then the last half of this book hit, and I read it all in one sitting devouring every word. Although I was nervous this would just be an okay book based on its first half, the last half redeemed it so much that I ended it pretty much clutching the book to my chest because it was PERFECT! Naledi is such a strong main character who demands the right treatment for herself and the last half she really took control of her life and the plot intensified and this book became steeped in their culture and I loooved it! I almost wish the rest of the books in this series were sequels because I'm dyyyyying for more of their story! But I definitely plan to read more by this author because this book ended up being so fun, feminist, and yet it didn't take itself too seriously. Great, healthy romance with a diverse cast!
Profile Image for Mara.
1,506 reviews3,661 followers
February 15, 2020
So... this is a perfect contemporary romance? I think this balanced all the key elements of a contemporary with perfection-- I loved the characters (Ledi is one of my favorite female romance leads I've ever read), the plot was paced to perfection (moving forward and deepening conflict without being repetitive), the writing was lovely, and the premise was unique & fully explored. Just loved this, a great example of the genre
Profile Image for Geri Reads.
1,232 reviews2,026 followers
February 19, 2018
A Princess in Theory was one of my most anticipated reads for 2018, for good reasons. One. It has a fairy tale like premise: a royal prince looking for his long-lost betrothed who happens to have no idea of who he is and thinks he’s just out to scam her. Two. I’ve seen and read countless of “royal romance” stories in the past year or so featuring princes and princesses from fictional European countries but zero stories from non-Euro fictional kingdoms. A Princess in Theory gives us the fictional African kingdom of Thesolo. And let me tell you right now, after reading the book, I am so ready to book a one-way ticket to Thesolo. Three. The book features a STEM heroine and a prince. I mean, come on. That’s like peak OTP for me.

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So yes, I have high expectations for this book and fortunately, all of it were not just met, but were exceeded by this book. Alyssa Cole created a very colorful and exciting world filled with complex and interesting characters.

“She was fine on her own. She always had been. And if no good guy ever made it past her barriers? Well, that’d be fine, too. Just fine.”

Naledi is right up there as being one of my favorite heroines ever. She’s smart, driven, and a little bit broken. She hides her emotions behind a tough exterior but she’s all gooey on the inside. Her backstory was heartbreaking and explains why she keeps everyone at arm’s length. Prince Thabiso’s arrival challenges Ledi’s boundaries and forces her to change in so many ways. I love where the author took this character. The emotional character journey Ledi went through was so amazing and so worth it.

Ledi isn’t the only thing that made me love this book though. Everyone, meet the Crown Prince of Thesolo, Prince Thabiso.

“But instead of a peeved researcher standing in the doorway, there was the finest man Ledi had ever seen outside of a social media thirst trap pic.”

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Sorry. I didn’t mean to show my thirst like that but oh-em-gee, Jamal aka Prince Thabiso was amazing. And I don’t just say that because he’s hot and he’s a prince. Like Ledi, he went through his own emotional journey.

Thabiso is a prince—the Prince. He’s loyal and he loves his people, but he was also arrogant, privileged and can be dismissive of other people’s feelings. He grew up surrounded by people who’re there to accommodate his whims and desires. He was in for a rude awakening with Ledi though because here was a woman who he thought would fall over herself because he’s a prince. Instead he found someone who not only didn’t know who he is but mistakes him for a hired help.

I loved how he changed from this arrogant prince to someone worthy of Ledi’s love and affection. Their romance just builds off of that initial meeting and went to some really interesting places.

“Her mouth curved up into a smile and something in his chest moved out of alignment. He loved seeing her smile. He loved being the cause of it.”

The romance between Ledi and Thabiso wasn’t all rainbows and roses. Ledi has her own issues while Thabiso wasn’t really being honest. And I admit I was nervous because there’s a chance that Thabiso’s deception would be swept under a rug just because he’s the hero of the story and that the reader and the heroine are supposed to forgive him immediately. Rest assured, Ledi did not make it easy for him. And I liked that so much. Thabiso had to work for her forgiveness and nothing warms my heart more than a hero that grovels.

“Fuckboyism is a fairly common disease in men aged eighteen to thirty-five.”
“What’s the cure?” he asked.
“You’ll have to ask your doctor about that. But I can tell you right now that it’s not me.”

And oh, did I mention that this book was funny? Not slapstick funny but understated-but-still-makes-you-laugh-out-loud funny. Ledi’s Ledisms are hilarious and Thabiso’s stint as a lowly waiter had me rolling.

I also loved the secondary cast of characters from Thabiso’s parents to Ledi’s family and friends. Speaking of friends, Portia, Ledi’s best friend was very interesting. There were moments where I really didn’t like what she did, but I couldn’t help but root for her to find redemption. Her story is next and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to read it.

A Princess in Theory is a breath of fresh air. If you’re looking for a swoon-worthy read, I highly recommend this. This book made laugh and gave me characters I could relate and really root for. I finished this book with a huge smile on my face. I was soooo good, you guys! I highly recommend it.

And Alyssa Cole, take a bow, because A Princess in Theory is one of those books that readers will be recommending and talking about in the weeks to come.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just gonna run out and one-click more Alyssa Cole books. Kthnxbye.

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An ARC was provided by Avon Books for review purposes.
Profile Image for Sara (sarawithoutanH).
459 reviews2,955 followers
February 16, 2020
What I Liked
• The story was so good! I loved this. It felt like an updated version of Coming to America with a little bit of Wakanda thrown in.
• The romance was one of my favorites. One of my biggest pet peeves in romance is when the love interest is underdeveloped, but the dual perspective allowed both Naledi and Thabiso to be fleshed out.
• There was the right amount of sex scenes and details - I usually complain there's not enough but I think this story balanced the smut and storytelling very well.

What I Disliked
• Naledi annoyed me at times. It's hard for me to read characters who are reluctant to take chances and very closed off. I think this is just because I'm naturally a very open and vulnerable person so I can't relate to characters like this. I realize that being emotionally accessible isn't easy for many so maybe other people will relate to Naledi more. I want to read the rest of the Reluctant Royals books but I'm hoping the characters are not all quite as reluctant 😂
• I know her best friend had some issues but sometimes I felt Naledi was very judgemental of her - that was all solved by the end but it was rubbing me the wrong way when I first read it.
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,843 reviews5,557 followers
April 23, 2019
I've been meaning to try this book for some time (I mean, THAT COVER!), and with Book Lovers Con rapidly approaching, I thought it was an apt time to finally purchase this one. And I even got it in paperback to get signed by Ms. Cole herself, natch.

I read this story very, very quickly, which is always an excellent sign for me. It was an easy, entertaining, fluffy read, which is just what I needed at the time. I was li-ving for the secret princess, secret prince vibes, and I got a very strong The Princess Diaries-meets-Coming to America vibes, and I was totally in love.

In the end, I enjoyed the story a lot, but I felt like everything slowed down and the book lost momentum towards as it went along. We got a "big misunderstanding," which I don't love in any book, and I felt like I knew what was coming in the end with the secret twist. It just petered out for me in a less compelling well.

Still, a great story, and a beautiful book to own in paperback. I can't wait to read the others in the series.

Profile Image for aphrodite.
379 reviews860 followers
July 24, 2020
someone from netflix better get in contact with alyssa cole because this deserves a movie to rival all existing rom-coms
Profile Image for ambsreads.
656 reviews1,402 followers
April 13, 2018

A Princess in Theory was a book I knew I would love. When I heard of it I was basically anxiously waiting for it to come out in order to read it. I read it in one day completely and it was amazing. It was honestly one of the best romance books I have read. It was swoon-worthy, it had education, it had steamy scenes and it had diversity. It was also incredibly well written and I think that covers everything a good book needs honestly. It was one of those books that lived up to the hype I created for it and that is a hard thing to do – I think the only books that live up to the level of hype I had on A Princess in Theory are Cassandra Clare books.

A Princess in Theory is told in two perspectives. There is Naledi Smith who is studying in grad school and keeps everyone at an arms length due to her orphan past. Then there is Thabiso who is the heir of the throne in Thesolo, an African country. They are two different people in two different worlds, Ledi however doesn’t know that she was betrothed to Thabiso when she was a toddler. This all fell through because her parents took her to America and later died in a car accident. The story is the classic royal story where Thabiso pretends to be someone else in order to get close to Ledi and know her. There is a lot of drama and there is a lot of sweet moments. The drama goes on for a while and the large problem which is happening in Thesolo is solved so quickly that I was shocked. This book had a beautiful inclusion of culture and community though and was overall, just amazing to read.

Anyway, lets jump into my likes and dislikes before I spoil too much of the plot, oops.


This is the big thing. This story is swoon worthy as heck. It was incredible. A lot of romances don’t feel too swoon worthy to me, unfortunately, but A Princess in Theory ticked all my boxes. It was sweet, but obviously had some issues such as communication and did have clichés but I am such a sucker for royalty stories. It’s a little problem since I don’t read a lot (which I need to find more of).


This is a quick point. The MC’s aren’t only smart, they’re sex smart. I really appreciate when books promote smart sex and are just overall are intelligent. I know some people learn things from romance books and I don’t know, it was just good to see there be mention of condoms and have the MC pee after sex.


Friendships are messy in real life. You have moments where you drift apart and you have moments where you hate the. You have moments where you’re jealous. I think maybe this book struggled with showing this sometimes and presenting a strong front for Ledi (whereas Thabiso has a great friend/advisor). I did completely get the point, considering it also showed addiction and is leading into book two. It was a very interesting dynamic to watch play out in A Princess in Theory.


The thing with some of the books that feature royalty is that they’re not always that involved with their country. They’re typically a partier or just more a figurehead on the throne. I found Thabiso different to this typical stereotype. He really cared for his country and was distressed by the problems that were occurring. There was the fact he was a playboy, but honestly this didn’t translate through any of his actions so I was a little shocked every time it was brought up – because it was really easy to forget. Thabiso wants to do his best to fix the problem in Thesolo. He cares for his people and the sense of community in this book was really beautiful, I thought.


I haven’t read a lot of royal books, I think A Princess in Theory marks my fourth, but I have noticed the trend of the royals being from a country in Europe. There is usually no difference in this and it was really great to see something different in this book. I feel with Black Panther doing so well in box offices people are searching for a POC royalty book that shows that Africa isn’t just a struggling country, that there is more. I really feel like this book has come at the right time and I sincerely hope it does well and gets really high reviews, because it is amazing and the writing is incredibly.

Not only this though, it was really enjoyable to see the culture throughout the book through Thabiso. Ledi is unknowing to the customs of her people, having grown up in America and been unaware of what her life could have been. So seeing the customs of Thesolo introduced to her was really interesting and heart warming. I obviously can’t say if these things were done well, but I really enjoyed the way they were written and am interested in doing my own research on African customs.


Now, I have a few big problems which kept A Princess in Theory from being a five star read unfortunately. The main part was the ending happened so fast. I feel an epilogue or an extra chapter would have really helped the book feel like a more complete finish, but I was simply left feeling shocked and unsure if my Kindle had sneakily deleted some chapters. I also just wanted more. I feel like this book could have been an extra fifty pages and I wouldn’t have been mad at all. I really wanted more of Ledi and Thabiso too, hopefully in the second book we get that.


Okay, look. There was kind of a mystery element in the book but it was so damn easy to work out. Hints are dropped throughout the entire book and I was really a bit disappointed when it was revealed. I was happy to have been correct, but, man, was it way too easy. I wanted it to be someone I wasn’t expecting but it seems I wanted too much. A friend who also read the book said she guessed who was behind the mystery as well. So I don’t think it’s just me who thinks this was too easy to solve.


Thabiso was the worst at this. Like, man, just talk, bloody hell. I wanted to slam him up the head at how many chances he had to tell Ledi who he was and he didn’t. I wasn’t mad about the romance cliché that occurred after but I was just mad at Thabiso not sharing who he was with Ledi. It was honestly really infuriating considering the fact we got to read both their perspectives.

Overall, A Princess in Theory lived up to the hype I had placed on it. It was shocking and oh so nice to read about. I am looking forward to the second book in the series – it honestly sounds really interesting! I highly recommend this to, like, everyone!
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,598 reviews1,664 followers
April 24, 2018
I have mixed feelings about this one. It's looking like Alyssa Cole is going to be a hit or miss author for me. I didn't fully enjoy An Extraordinary Union for the same reasons I didn't fully enjoy this one, I think, but I loved A Hope Divided. So I will keep reading her stuff and just know that going in the chemistry between her leads doesn't always work for me. Really, I didn't NOT like this book, it just didn't work the way it was meant to.

So, once again, I find myself in the position of loving her heroine, but not being fully on board the relationship said heroine is involved in. Naledi is *awesome*. She's smart and funny and kind, and she loves science, and she's lonely and isolated and has her emotional walls up. But she's capable! And ambitious. Her parents died in a car accident when she was four years old and no relatives could be identified, so she grew up in the system in New York City. Now she's a graduate student in epidemiology, and she's respected and good at what she does. She's also a little bit of a nerd. Her favorite website is Girls With Glasses (a website I'm thinking will be important in future sequels, considering it's run by the sister of Naledi's best friend). Her life immediately felt very real to me. And I was charmed by this book at first, largely because of her. She starts receiving these emails that sound like the most glorified phishing/social engineering scam known to man, telling her she's the lost betrothed of the prince of Thesolo, and she gets so frustrated by them she ends up sending off a colorful two word reply that kick starts the plot.

The problem for me is the prince in question. He felt so cliché and underdeveloped, especially compared to Naledi, who has a rich inner life, and interesting emotional conflicts running through her mind. I found Thabiso's story to be predictable, and not in the fun way. Every time a trope was deployed, I found myself being pulled out of the story, rather than becoming excited. When he decided to pretend to be someone else, I was intrigued at first to see how it would play out. I rolled my eyes when she started playing the trope that he was so sheltered he had no idea how to do a job capably, at the same time I appreciated seeing him fail (he fails HARD). But when he arranged to move in across the hall from Naledi, and kept not telling her who he was, and Cole kept playing the "he just wants to see what it's like to live a normal life" trope, I had to fight past my discomfort at it. He was acting like a stalker! Not to mention, he freely admits (as Jamal) to Naledi that he is rich and sheltered, and she never once questions why he was working a service job that first night. And if he's so rich, why is he staying in such a shitty apartment? I suppose it could have been worked around, but neither character ever even mentioned it, and it bothered me.

Mostly all of that is me pointing fingers and trying to figure out why it didn't work for me, but really the short answer is it just didn't. It felt constructed to me, rather than natural. Like, maybe it's because the rest of the novel was so carefully put together that Thabiso as a character just felt a little empty to me? I don't know. I wanted to like it!

I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series, though. Even though this wasn't a great read for me, I still enjoyed myself, and it was a fast read. I'm also intrigued to see what future books in the series have in store. The next book is about Naledi's best friend Portia falling in love with a secret Scottish laird, so. Yes, please, hope that works out! I would also bet money that future candidates for romance also include Thabiso's personal assistant, Lakotsi (who is an out lesbian) and Portia's sister (she of the website, and who is also in a wheelchair).

I did like how the book ended. It seemed realistic. And I was happy for Ledi, that she seems to get to have the best of both worlds going forward.

Read Harder Challenge 2018: A romance novel by or about a person of color.
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
655 reviews3,851 followers
April 8, 2019
“Everybody wants something from you, but sometimes there’s a person you want to give to. Sometimes what you give them makes you better for having given it. And it makes having to give to everyone else not so bad.”


look, I'm going to say straight out this isn't a bad book and this is the biggest, its me, not you, moment ever. If you follow my blog you might know I'm using 2019 as the year to read from all the genres I don't read from and try new things. Everyone I know who likes romance likes this book so I thought I would give it a shot.

A Princess in Theory follows Naledi (Ledi), who loves science, was raised by the state, and hasn't let romance into her life lest it distract from her career. Ledi has been receiving emails from Thesolo, claiming she is betrothed to the crown prince, Thabiso. Ledi deletes the emails, thinking they're a scam - but when Thabiso himself turns up (disguised as a server called Jamal) the two embark on a romance, despite Ledi not knowing Jamal is a prince.

I enjoyed part one of A Princess in Theory, I was going to give it a three star. Part two I didn't like as much and felt more like a 2 star henceforth my 2.5 star rating. I enjoyed the initial interactions between Ledi and Thabiso. The tension of Ledi not knowing who he was created some fun drama, and I liked their chemistry. But part two, set in Thesolo, felt both too rushed and too slow. The mystery that happened was a bit obvious, and I felt I just wasn't invested enough in the characters to really care about some of the drama. I also thought the ending happened WAY too quickly, some of the plot elements weren't really wrapped up in a way that was satisfying to me, and too many of the problems were unnecessarily drawn out, and then solved in like one chapter.

I don't think this is a bad book. The writing is good, and the sex scenes are written very well. I also liked the individual characters and thought they were well written, Ledi especially. She was a smart, strong and competent female character which was really great. I thought the two really complimented eachother. But despite liking the construction of the characters, I just didn't really get invested in them on a strong level that I need to really love a book.

Ultimately I just found myself wishing something that wasn't romantic drama would happen - which isn't really the point of romance. I might give this genre one more chance because I want to give The Kiss Quotient a chance, but I think romance just might not be my thing. If you like romance I would still recommend this, this just wasn't my kinda thing - so my rating is purely on personal enjoyment and not technical elements.
Profile Image for Lisa (Remarkablylisa).
2,234 reviews1,803 followers
September 8, 2020
This book was so close to being a 5/5 star read but I'm going to deduct a half star off because the ending wrapped up way too quickly!! It was disappointing because the author took her time to flush out her characters for the major half of the book but then towards the end when things got juicy, where we finally got to know why her parents fled the country and she moved to America, where we found out what the disease was that had taken over the country, and much more--it all just got wrapped up easily.

I was disappointed but I fell in love with the authors writing. She writes so well and I'm going to continue the series.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,868 followers
March 28, 2018
Good Lord, the cover is magnificent. The premise and opening are fantastic—Ledi’s struggle to keep afloat, the double whammy of being a black woman in STEM, constantly put down or pushed around by men but called mouthy or angry if she stands up for herself, the endless strain of trying to do two jobs and look after a flaky friend and be responsible for everything. It’s really powerful, which made me slightly regret the entire princess turn of events just because it took us away from that storyline. However, the opening, with her being barraged by Nigerian-spam style emails telling her she’s betrothed to a prince, is hilarious, and the book absolutely commits to its fairytale, so.

Ledi is a great heroine, stubborn, flawed, full of very legitimate resentments and fears but needing to let go of them, and her STEM background and thinking aren’t window dressing, as so often, but thoroughly inform the character. I really liked Thabiso but felt his characterisation was a bit uncertain at points—his arrogance and rudeness in the hilarious first scene don’t really fit with the thoughtful and considerate man of most of the book, and I was never quite clear on how Westernised he actually was, though the awkward balance between the demands of tradition and modernity, Thesolo and international life, came across well.

I’m still mulling the ending, which was definitely not what I expected. It’s an intriguing way to end a princess book, given the expectations of the genre, but I felt it left some important issues up in the air. . I wanted to know all those things because I was super invested in Ledi and they don’t go without saying in the way the actual wedding does. Or should I accept that life is going to be a series of bumps and compromises and decisions, but Ledi has made the crucial one when she can admit to herself she loves Thabiso, and the rest will follow? Cole is a really smart writer who likes to play with genre conventions and it’s possible I’m just being greedy for a bit more of a wallow because I liked the characters so much.
Profile Image for ✨ Gramy ✨ .
1,382 reviews
July 20, 2019
Although profanity, swear words, and taking the Lord's name in vain has become more commonplace, I definitely prefer to avoid filling my world with the unnecessary outpouring of such disrespectful verbiage (garbage). I refuse to allow music with such nonsense in my presence either.

Therefore, including it in my literary adventures is avoided whenever possible. I prefer situations where everyone minds their manners. I feel you should be able to articulate your thoughts, show emotion, pump up others, and motivate the others without swearing.

The auther depicted these women showing disrespect, not only to themselves but toward others as well, by stooping so low in their choice of vocabulary that it was impossible for me to even get a good start in the book (the first chapter no less) before I closed it for the final time. Since when do F-Bombs need to be included in a literary work?

This author just threw my preferences out the window and lost a reader!

Bye - Bye !!

I'm going to take the time to locate something that entertains, gives me a chuckle or two, and or is able to inspire me in a favorable way!
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,237 reviews264 followers
Shelved as 'life-is-too-short'
August 14, 2018
*Sobs* DNF @ 31% Not rated.
Alyssa Cole writes smart heroines. I could not believe I was going to see an epidemiologist heroine. I also want to read more romances written by authors of color about people of color. So when this wasn't clicking for me, particularly a cinderella story (probably my favorite of the fairy tale tropes), I was bummed. When I finished two other contemporaries (one great, one meh) a couple historicals, and a sci fi novella since I've started this book, it's just time to call it. Could I come back to it? Maybe...

But something in this book made the pacing weird. I couldn't identify with the hero or heroine. It was funny and sexy, but I think Cole uses far too much exposition in her style for me. And to be perfectly honest, I am not a big fan of the hidden identity. I'm racking my brain for a time it worked ok for me and I just can't find it. (Oh, maybe kinda sorta Neanderthal Seeks Human)

I just wasn't invested, and wasn't really excited about where this was going with the hidden identity/mistaken identity thing.
Profile Image for Olivia.
164 reviews744 followers
February 23, 2019
I’m in class writing this review- priorities! 😂 Anywho; I’ve been reading this on the ebook on my phone for the past 1-3 days and it has been a great break amidst stressful school stuff
This was SO entertaining and there were a lot of elements that really just made me smile.
First off- My goodness, I found the emails HILARIOUS. Because we all know how spam emails go and know that anyone who received the emails that our main character receives would just roll their eyes and think, “who would fall for this?”
Our main character is ridiculously relatable to me- a black girl in STEM, also juggling other jobs and priorities and keeping to herself. And from the first few pages I was surprised to see how on the head the author hit it when it came to how it feels to be a women in STEM and that was the last thing I expected from this romance book!!???
And then of course the romance! It was indeed quite insta lovey, and there were a bunch of eye rolling coincidences, but I couldn’t help latching on.
There were also a lot of funny scenes relating to the culture difference and confusion from the main characters- specifically from the prince as he experiences American culture.
This did remind me of stuff like Coming to America and also one episode of That’s So Raven where a prince comes to her school and Raven unknowingly accepts his request for marriage- LOL!
This was a quick read, the characters were fun (and funny!) and oh yeah there were some great sexy times hahaha. I would recommend this one :)
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
814 reviews203 followers
December 29, 2018
Naledi Smith, former foster child and current epidemiology student in New York, keeps getting scammer emails from a small African country insisting that she is the long-lost fiancee of the crown prince (apparently they were betrothed when she was 4). Her response? Delete, delete, delete.

Meanwhile, when Prince Thabiso of Wakanda Thesolo, a socialist-democratic monarchy paradise tucked high in the mountains of Southern Africa, is called to New York on business, he sees the opportunity get a peek at his newly-re-found betrothed.

But when he doesn't tell her straight off who he is, how will they ever regain an honest, open relationship?
I enjoyed this! It's a pretty progressive romance, with a focus on consent, honesty, respect, and brains that I haven't found in many of the romances I've been reading.

I personally loved the nerdy STEM background of this, as Naledi is serious about her studies, and very geek girl (she has pet mice named Gram-N and Gram-P, and there's a good amount of science humor and analogies in here which fit perfectly), so none of that set-up is wasted even when romance appears in the form of a smoking hot love interest.

Thabiso is also decently well developed, as his training to eventually reign, involving diplomacy, business knowledge, and politics was believable. I'm not sure I entirely buy into the ultra-progressive nation of Thesolo, but it's wonderful to think of it as a possibility. (There is some social commentary comparing Thesolo to the USA which is not favorable to the latter country, but it's a small part of the story.)

There's also plenty going on that isn't romance, which filled out this world and story quite well for me.

This wasn't perfect, especially as there's an insta-love feel to the romance what with Thabiso and Naledi feeling immediately familiar to each other despite not having seen each other in over 20 years. And they have sex much too soon, so there wasn't as steamy a build-up as I would have liked. (But the sex scenes are pretty good!) And a "villain" subplot, plus Thabiso's chilly parents who the reader barely gets to see or know, fell a little flat for me. But these are minor complaints.

Overall, this makes an excellent final romance of the year for me. It's revived my hope for the genre, and made me eager to read more by this fairly prolific author.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,114 reviews1,338 followers
October 28, 2021
What a fantastic book! Cole's premise is pretty out there and silly: a young woman in the US is getting those "you are betrothed to an African prince and only need to send us your credit card details to seal the deal" emails and they turn out to be actually true! But she totally makes it work, especially with the careful characterization of Ledi, a hard-working woman with some serious walls up after growing up an orphan. She also masterfully weaves in consent, safe sex, microaggressions black women deal with, and queer and disabled characters that don't feel like tokens. I also really liked how Cole dealt with Ledi's relationship with her BFF and how there were some things they needed to work on in their friendship. This is a great slow burn contemporary erotic romance. Highly recommended! I liked it even more than the first book of hers I read (An Extraordinary Union).
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