Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Runaway Royals #1

How to Catch a Queen

Rate this book
An arranged marriage leads to unexpected desire, in the first book of Alyssa Cole’s Runaway Royals series…

When Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. But it’s nothing like she imagined. Shanti and her husband may share an immediate and powerful attraction, but her subjects see her as an outsider, and everything she was taught about being the perfect wife goes disastrously wrong.

A king must rule with an iron fist, and newly crowned King Sanyu was born perfectly fitted for the gauntlet, even if he wishes he weren’t. He agrees to take a wife as is required of him, though he doesn’t expect to actually fall in love. Even more vexing? His beguiling new queen seems to have the answers to his country’s problems—except no one will listen to her.

By day, they lead separate lives. By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion. When turmoil erupts in their kingdom and their marriage, Shanti goes on the run, and Sanyu must learn whether he has what it takes both to lead his people and to catch his queen.

354 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published December 1, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Alyssa Cole

37 books5,146 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.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
739 (24%)
4 stars
1,295 (42%)
3 stars
826 (27%)
2 stars
138 (4%)
1 star
27 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 684 reviews
December 10, 2020
2.5 Meh stars

I really wanted to love this book. The cover is beautiful and the synopsis sounded so good. Unfortunately I never felt the love between Sanyu and Shanti. Their relationship wasn't just a slow burn it was nonexistent. They never spent time together. Instead I found myself drowning in boring over the top details of royal life, and the politics of being the queen and king. I did like that Shanti wanted to make a difference. She wanted to make things better. That she stood for what she believed in and wanted to be a good queen. Sanyu on the other hand I didn't like that much. I felt he didn't have much of a backbone and let his advisor do all his thinking. It also bothered me how little he cared for or thought about Shanti. She could have been a chair for all he took notice.

By the time I warmed up a bit to Sanyu it was too little, too late. The advisor drove me crazy. I hated him so bad. I wanted him to get some real comeuppances for the crap he did but nope. The ended felt rushed, and the advisor issues got glossed over. While there were parts of the book I liked, overall it was just an okay and at times boring read for me. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I felt the love between the main couple or the advisor would have got what was coming to him. This is my first time reading Alyssa Cole and I would try her again but not this series.

Profile Image for Jessica .
2,044 reviews13k followers
November 28, 2020
I was so excited for this book. A king and queen who had a marriage of convenience and then fall in love? YES. Unfortunately, I had a hard time connecting with these characters and it was very, very slow.

Shanti has made it her life goal to be a queen, so when she was chosen from RoyalMatch.com to marry Sanyu, she is prepared to finally fulfill her dream and make a difference. But Sanyu is from a very male-dominated monarchy where the queen stays silent and the king rotates through queens every four months until he can find his True Queen. The story is much more complex that what I can say in a summary, which was one part of why this book was so hard to get into for me. This was so focused on the royalty and politics and the small details that I had a hard time connecting to the characters and feeling like we truly got their romance. Sanyu was a bit frustrating in this book and how he would blindly follow his advisor. While I do understand that was how he was raised, I wished the resolution made more sense. That conflict's resolution between Sanya and his advisor felt very superficial and over way too quickly.

I did enjoy Shanti's character and how she was trying to be someone valuable for the kingdom, but I wasn't that interested in the romance between Shanti and Sanyu. There was just something missing for me and I wasn't sold on their love for one another. There was also A LOT of political talk and slow progress in the beginning. I understand this is a royal romance, but they don't even really talk to each other until 80 pages in. This was much more about Sanyu's role as king and trying to understand how he wants to change his kingdom.

While I wanted to love this, the pacing and the romance just were not completely there for me. While I did enjoy the story, it dragged in many places and I wasn't in love with the romance.
Profile Image for Jessica.
324 reviews362 followers
December 9, 2020
How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole is a great contemporary romance about a woman that is finally living her dream to be queen.

How to Catch a Queen has great characters. Shanti is strong and willing to do anything to fight for what she believes in. She has always wanted be a queen in order to make a difference in the world. She isn’t after love or the glamourous side of being a queen. Sanyu is trying to be a good King and wants to make everyone proud.

I highly recommend How to Catch a Queen to anyone that likes contemporary romance and royalty.

Thank you Avon/Harper Collins and Edelweiss for How to Catch a Queen.

Full Review: https://justreadingjess.wordpress.com...
Profile Image for Christy.
3,754 reviews32k followers
December 7, 2020
3.5 stars

How to Catch a Queen is a well written royals romance with one of the most stunning covers. Seriously, this book is gorgeous. I wanted to love it as much as I loved some of Cole’s other royal books but I struggled so hard to get into this book and to connect with the characters. I liked the book a lot, and I loved both of the main characters, I’m just not sure that I ever felt the connection between them. Still, I’m excited to continue on with this series and recommend this to anyone who loves royal romances!

Audio book source: Libby (library borrow)
Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: Karen Chilton
Narration Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Romance
Length: 10 hours and 53 minutes

Profile Image for aarya.
1,207 reviews
November 17, 2020
2020 Fall Bingo (#fallintorombingo🍁): ‪Royalty

I went back and forth on my rating because I'm conflicted. I didn't write this review for nearly a week because I couldn't decide between 3 and 4 stars. I'm a big fan of Cole's royal contemporaries and Civil War historicals, so I came in with incredibly high expectations.

There is a lot to love in HOW TO CATCH A QUEEN: amazing mental health rep, nuanced and gripping politics on how to rule a kingdom recovering from European imperialism/colonialism, a savvy and ambitious heroine I would die for, entertaining texts between MCs and familiar faces, acceptance of polyamorous/triad marriages, scathing criticism of patriarchal governments permeated by toxic masculinity, insight into citizen protest movements, and just A+ worldbuilding all around. I read it all in one swoop because I love the writing so much.

But. And this is a big but. I loved Shanti and Sanyu individually, but I don't think I ever loved them as a couple. The running away aspect that the blurb mentions? Yeah, that doesn't happen until like 80% (and what the fuck? Why is that plot point included in the blurb when it happens in the end?). And the thing that irritated me the most and ruined my overall enjoyment of the story:

Major spoilers ahead so read at your own risk:

My biggest annoyance is how the story deals with the villain. Like this plot point actively pissed me off. There's this toxic advisor who helped raise Sanyu and belittles Shanti at every turn. I'm not saying this advisor is 100% bad, but he is definitely an antagonist. The problem is how quickly his character arc goes from unforgivable villain to redemption. He is an antagonist for 95% of the story, and then Sanyu has one discussion with him and it's all good. Sanyu, not Shanti! I mean, this advisor needs to directly apologize to Shanti, okay? That does not happen. Then we jump to the epilogue five years later, and this man (who has done some TERRIBLE things to both MCs) is like a kind grandfather figure to the MCs' kids.

I believe in redemption and forgiveness, but I don't think the reader is given adequate reason/time to accept this evolution in the character arc. It all happens so fast. This advisor makes Shanti's life hell for most of the book; it's really hard to swallow the epilogue when there's no satisfying resolution to that interaction. This advisor storyline plus other frustrations... I liked reading this book, but I don't love it as much as Cole's other books. My three star rating isn't meh (it's "I liked it") so I finally settled on a three star rating after thinking it over for a week.

Caveat to my rating: I read this in November 2020. I’ve been EXTREMELY stressed lately, so it’s possible my real-life stressors have made it more difficult to enjoy fiction. I’ve struggled with reading and sinking into books lately.

A positive note to end on: we're introduced to the heroine of the next book and she's a DELIGHT. Cannot wait for HOW TO FIND A PRINCESS in May 2021!

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Olive Fellows (abookolive).
565 reviews4,587 followers
December 5, 2020
In early pages of How to Catch a Queen, the first in a new romance series from Alyssa Cole, lifelong royal aspirant Shanti Mohapi has achieved her goal: she’s now the queen of the small African nation of Njaza. But things aren’t quite as she envisioned. Instead of giving speeches and affecting change, she’s prohibited from attending council meetings or giving her opinion in any form, and she barely sees her new husband.

It turns out that Njaza doesn’t subscribe to the “’til death do us part” notion when it comes to royalty; Shanti is only there on a trial basis and unless she’s proclaimed to be the “true queen” of Njaza (a title that no woman has yet held), King Sanyu will be sending her packing after the four-month trial period, per the country’s tradition.

The issue with that customary arrangement is that Sanyu finds himself drawn to his new bride and needs her expertise as he navigates his new role as king. He was raised under the strict, but sheltered instruction of his head advisor who also happened to be his late father’s closest friend. Sanyu was not raised to be confident and has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. Shanti, on the other hand, has been preparing herself to be a leader for as long as she can remember, so she has a lot of wisdom to offer.

The two begin to develop trust and intimacy as Shanti’s time in the palace begins to draw to a close and Sanyu must decide if he’ll stick to the old ways and allow his advisors to run the show, or if he will step up to the plate with the help of his new wife and lead his country into the future.
As a big Alyssa Cole fan, I was surprisingly let down by this new book of hers. I found myself confused about why characters from the Reluctant Royals series were so active in the text message inboxes of the two main characters; I know we met Shanti and Sanyu briefly in A Prince on Paper but if it’s necessary to know those characters to have an understanding of large sections of this new book, why not make it the fourth Reluctant Royals book?

I failed to feel the chemistry between Shanti and Sanyu and really, I failed to see much of a personality in Sanyu whatsoever. Also, his relationship with the head advisor took a strange turn toward the end of the book that I don’t think was properly built up.

Even though this is a romance and the course of the plot is expected to be fairly predictable, I found the story to be especially unsurprising. I’m assuming that was why there seemed to be far more steamy scenes in this book than in any of the Reluctant Royals books. The story seemed to need that help.

I did, however, enjoy the added mystery element of the missing god of Njaza. I wish this had been drawn out more and something Shanti was actively chasing down for most of the book because it was, by far, the most interesting part of the plot. I think I would have sped through this book a lot faster if that mystery had been pulling me along.

I will keep going with this new series because I do really enjoy Alyssa Cole’s books, but I hope the future installments have more to offer than this one and aren’t so reliant on the great characters from the Reluctant Royals books to provide personality to the story.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,214 reviews1,119 followers
December 23, 2020
I'm gonna start this review off by acknowledging that this book is probably a 3 star read if I were to review it critically.

- The love interest King Sanyu is useless
- The plot on the back of the book isn't the actual plot of the book
- And the bad guy just gets away with being awful for the whole book


I'm not reviewing this critically because I've had a rough two weeks and this book made me feel better. I was able to pick up this book and just disappear into the story. I wasnt annoyed while I was reading it..I actually smiled a couple times.

So if you want a review based on the merits of the book, this ain't it. I read this book to lift my spirits and it did.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,505 reviews3,660 followers
April 24, 2021
So, let's level set here-- it's Alyssa Cole. So did I have as good of a time, if not better, reading this than I do in your average contemporary romance? Certainly. I love her writing, her humor, and the overall point of view/vibe of her books. This one had those aspects, plus a wonderful heroine in Shanti. The problem was that, while I liked Sanyu and appreciated the exploration of his grief, the plot and the romance itself both fell a bit flat for me. So while this was fun, it wasn't up to the same caliber of story I have come to expect from Alyssa Cole. Bottom line: fun but not one of her best IMO
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,970 reviews3,285 followers
May 4, 2021
3.5 stars

Alyssa Cole is one of my favorite authors and in terms of character development and growth arcs, this book is fantastic. As a romance...it's not as great. Certainly not one of her better ones, even if I LOVE Shanti as a heroine and was into the mystery of why the kingdom of Njaza is the way it is. I also liked Sanyu (our hero) and thought his journey through grieving the loss of his father and finding his voice as king was powerful. I even liked the characters together as partners growing together. It's just we get so much time getting to know the characters individually and getting to know the issues in this country during a moment of upheaval that the romance piece gets short shrift. I needed more to really buy into these characters truly coming to love each other. That said, I still enjoyed this and look forward to reading more from Alyssa Cole. I think for romance readers who want that to be the primary focus of the book, this might be a bit disappointing.
Profile Image for Sheena.
576 reviews254 followers
December 18, 2020
Going into How To Catch A Queen, I expected a light fun read featuring a modern royalty romance. It ended up being a bit too politically heavy for me, in my opinion. I found this a bit tedious because politics were a large factor of the book rather than romance. Not much happens in the beginning and it’s quite slow. As for the characters, I liked Shanti because she was a strong feminist character. She wanted to be queen to make a difference for people rather than just for the title or the prince/king so this was refreshing to me. Sanyu was alright, I warmed up to a bit later but there wasn’t anything necessarily great about him. I couldn’t really connect with the romance for some reason, not sure if it was because Sanyu was just mediocre or what. I couldn’t explain that but there was something about it lacking to me, possibly because there wasn’t enough interactions between the two of them. I do have to say I love this cover!

I think for me this was more like an overall 2.5 rating.

Thanks to Netgalley and to Harper Collins/Avon publishers for the advanced copy of this book!
Profile Image for nitya.
348 reviews265 followers
November 27, 2020
Note: I didn't get an ARC, my pre-order arrived very early!

So this was my first time ever reading anything by Alyssa Cole, and for the most part I enjoyed it! The worldbuilding is wonderful, Shanti and Sanyu are freaking adorable, and there's really well done anxiety rep, exploration of imperialism on "third world" nations, and criticism of patriarchy/toxic masculinity. And the Reluctant Royals character cameos makes me more hyped to read the series!

My biggest issue is that the main antagonist, who is super abusive and toxic to Shanti and Sanyu (and anyone who tries to call him out on his BS honestly), was redeemed at the end and never apologized for his actions, especially to Shanti. I didn't read the epilogue which apparently goes on to paint him as a kind grandfather figure. Yeaaaah no thanks. I was hoping he would drop dead but I guess I will leave that as a personal headcanon.

On a positive note, I am very much looking forward to the next book in this series (and the character intro is delightful)!!

Content warning: sexism, a loooot of misogyny, death of a parent (offpage but grief is a significant theme) and emotional abuse
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Bree Hill.
771 reviews574 followers
January 10, 2021
My only con with this book is just while the set up and build up is great, things started a little slow foR me but once I got into the thick of the story I was hooked! Shanti instantly became one of my new heroines. She wants to become a Queen because she aspires to do good things for the world in comparison to Sanyu who was born into Royalty and honestly has no idea what he’s doing. It’s an arranged marriage, temporary marriage type deal where he eventually learns maybe he does want to keep her around. She can hold her own, she’s smart as hell and she encourages him to EMBRACE and BE the King. Make decisions. Speak up.
I love how humorous Alyssa Cole writes some of her characters, some of the side characters in this book stole the show in the best way! Is as a really good read.
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,363 reviews374 followers
December 19, 2020
Shanti has always had one dream in life: become a queen. So when she finally achieves this goal by marrying the king of the isolated kingdom of Njaza, she should be elated. But Njaza is a kingdom where queens last only four-months, and her king is less than enthused about marrying her. Shanti, however, isn't going to let that stop her.


How to Catch a Queen is the start of a new trilogy (I hope!) that are companion novels to the Reluctant Royals trilogy, operating in the same world and with secondary characters from the other books. Shanti had featured briefly in A Princess in Theory, as the crown-grasping girl who Naledi throws up on. She didn't get a lot of page-time in that book, and what page-time she had was unflattering, to say the least, but I was so happy to see her shine and get a chance to grow.

And grow she did. Her goal of queenship was not a naive child's dream, but one where she had evaluated the world and her place in it, and decided on the best ways to make real change. And she dedicated herself to her dream, from a commoner striving into royalty for a reason—she knew politics, she knew history, she was well-versed in ruling, government, economy, agriculture, revolution and everything else.

So throwing her into a queenship at last, and to have that queenship be in a world where women have been silenced—and the most important woman in the country was a revolving door of endless wives—was a slap to the face.
He'd been raised to be a warrior king in a world that didn't need one, but somehow he'd never won a battle of stubbon will with this whip-thin old man who'd never raised a hand to him.

However, as enjoyable as Shanti's storyline was, I was more intrigued by her love interest, the taciturn king, Sanyu. Whoooo that man had some emotional baggage and unresolved trauma.

Sanyu's character was fascinating, as he was a sensitive man who had had his sensitivity and compassion nearly beaten out of him. He had suppressed all memories of kindness from women, and had repressed any affection for the queens who had flitted in and out of his life so much. He had also been emotionally and physically abused by his father and his father's main advisor, who had been trying to train him into caricatures of themselves in an attempt to shoehorn Sanyu into a world that didn't need a warrior king, but a leader with flexibility, vision and compassion.

So Sanyu coped with all this—and the death of his father—by shutting down emotionally and walling himself off. Which...is a coping mechanism often used by victims of emotional abuse.
If the most important woman in the land is little more than a temporary trinket—not even a trophy, which is shown off—then the seamstress and the shop owner and the shepherdess shouldn't expect any better. There's an ugly brilliance to it, and the fact that it might not have been purposeful makes it worse.

Ugh, how do I even begin to describe or sum up the layers to this book?! The romance is cute and all that, and I enjoyed the marriage before love trope, but the real ways this book shines is in its commentary about women's place in society and how history is told.

Sanyu lived his entire life surrounded by and steeped in propaganda. When he was born, a song was made up about him filled with heroism and rousing rah-rah-nationalism. He grew up with the living legends of his father and his advisor, in a land that had recently thrown off its colonizers and adapted its own history to fit the legend of the king.

The book thoroughly explores what happens in a land where history is rewritten by the victors—who is left out, what truths are told and what lies are promoted and for what purpose? What happens to those whose voices are silenced, either voluntarily or by force? What is the purpose of history, after all, and what happens when leaders forget their purpose in favor of a mythologized past?
Johan: Before you go, I was wondering if you could share your workout routine? I thought my thigh game was top-tier, but I'm trying to get on your level.
Sanyu: Try twenty-eight years of training with the Njazan Royal Guard.
Johan: Hm. I'll do more lunges and see what happens.

Last but not least—I loved the secondary characters! Old favorites pop up, particularly Johan and Nya (and Johan's family's history as Njaza's colonizers), and they are delightful and provide (often reluctant) frameworks of support for both Shanti and Sanyu.

Plus, I loved the woman who appeared in the novel, particularly the grumpy librarian and Shanti's revolutionaries, who lived a forgotten history. I can't say anything more without spoiling things, but there was a van ride that had me tearing up so badly.

Also, I really, really need Cole to write the screenplay of that fantasy romance, because I need some ridiculous but incredibly serious chickenshifters with a romance between a rooster, an alpha hen and a beta hen. I need more!

I cannot wait for book 2!

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lover of Romance.
2,754 reviews793 followers
November 6, 2020
This review was originally posted on Addicted To RomanceI received this book for free from Avon in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

How To Catch A Queen is the first book in a NEW spinoff series called "Runaway Royals" and I have to say when this cover was released months ago I just couldn't wait to get my hands on this book ....literally, I was leaping for joy. Because y'all know how the covers work me in all the good ways and this one.....dang ....did AVON did good or what? I know there was some criticism on the cover (I think due to the gal's hair)--which is relevant to the story, but I love it and I have no shame in that. Its very interesting to see Cole start a new series that is loosely connected to her "Reluctant Royals" series.

How To Catch A Queen is a story that begins with our hero Prince Sanyu. Who has always rebelled against being the future king of Njaza. And in a way he has been running away from his destiny and much of it is due to the strict childhood he had with little love or affection like he envied in many others. But with his father on the death bed, his destiny to be king is about to become very real and another last request from his father...he needs to be wed at the same time and to a stranger, a woman they found on a royal dating app of all things. Shanti has always dreamed of becoming Queen. She was inspired by so many great women who served their countries diligently and she wanted to be just like them....making a difference in the world. So now that she is queen she is determined to do just that...but there is one problem....no one wants her in Njaza. They practically ignore her and shut her in the queen's chambers. But when a few months go by, Shanti speaks her mind more, and draws the attention of her husband, and together they begin anew and their passion for each other and for the country of Njaza will embolden them in ways they won't quite expect...

How To Catch A Queen is a story that I was so drawn into so very quickly and what a page turner, I read this in one morning because I was so hooked into this book here. I couldn't seem to get enough of this romance and what is revealed. Not to say I didn't have some issues with this story, because there was some but overall this was superb. First I adored the setting, set in a country in Africa, so we get to see a whole different culture and traditions which was unique and eye opening. Alyssa Cole really did a tremendous job in showcasing this side of the story.

Now as for the characters....I loved them in unique ways and struggled with them at the same time. Don't get me wrong, I adored their depths and strengths and what they overcame. The hero didn't have the best childhood, and never saw "love" as being acceptable in a marriage. So he has to work his way out from the false education and realize that love is power and not weakness but it takes time and lots of pain on both sides because of it. Shanty....I liked her a LOT but I think she sometimes got too caught up in the title of "queen" and sometimes I felt that she viewed Sanya as a way to get the title and keep it and not a human being and a husband. They both have their flaws but its their journey in discovering what love and marriage is all about that is the real kicker. And while I was reading this the song "Love and Marriage" by the great Frank Sinatra was in my brain the WHOLE time. Like they needed to know that song LOL

I did admire seeing their interactions together and seeing them learn to let go of what they thought to expect in a royal marriage, and find their way through the marriage and ruling the country as a partnership. They have their ups and downs but seeing them discover each other was the beauty of this book and realizing what true love is capable of is what made this book such a gem of a read!! I definitely couldn't get enough of seeing this romance develop in such vibrant ways.

Overall I found How To Catch A Queen to be a story of delights, journeys, and gems to delight in the intricate layers that Alyssa Cole delivers in!

 photo Addicted To Romance Reviews 2_zpsplp8m0tb.png
Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,119 reviews1,332 followers
December 13, 2020

Alyssa Cole is one of my favorite authors and her Reluctant Royals series sits at the top of my top romance series of all time. Though I was sad to see it end, I was excited when Runaway Royals, a spinoff series, was announced. How to Catch a Queen felt different than the books in the Reluctant Royals, which made it a fresh experience.

One of Alyssa Cole's strengths lies in her characters. She is incredible at writing nuanced characters that you want to become best friends with. The protagonist in How to Catch a Queen, Shanti, originally made an appearance in the first book of the OG series and let's just say that she wasn't particularly likable. Here we got to see a completely different side of Shanti, which allowed me to get a better understanding of her actions in A Princess in Theory. Shanti has always aspired to become a Queen. She craved responsibilities and she wanted to do good in the world. Marrying Sanyu, she thought, was the key to achieving her dreams. Except that she found herself being isolated from her new husband with no real way be part of any decision-making in the patriarchal Kingdom of Njaza. It's always a wonderful experience for me reading about driven women who don't settle, so I had no trouble championing Shanti. She was an intelligent woman with all these great ideas she wanted to implement. She could have easily given up, but Shanti wasn't a woman who easily backed down. She was someone who was confident being outspoken and numerous times throughout How to Catch a Queen, readers got to observe her put people who mistreated her in their places. Shanti was incredible and I have no doubt fans of Alyssa Cole's characters will cheer for her!

Sanyu, on the other hand, was a little bit harder for me as a character. He wanted nothing to do with the responsibilities of being a King. In fact, he tried to unsuccessfully rebel and escape multiple times. He grappled quite a bit with his lack of interest in wanting to lead his country and the responsibilities dumped on him at birth. We saw him struggle and be easily manipulated by his late father's advisor, who was also his current advisor. I felt for Sanyu, but there were times I did want him to open his eyes to the truth right under his nose. He did eventually show some backbone and I thought his private scenes with Shanti showed a side of him that I enjoyed much more than his public persona. Given that he grew up in a low-key misogynistic environment - women didn't have a strong place in his Njaza and his father, the King, was constantly swapping wives for reasons - he had a lot of unlearning to do. It was done very realistically and his arc was satisfying.

Shanti and Sanyu as a couple also had a lot of work to do. They were pushed into this marriage-of-convenience and their circumstances meant that there weren't many opportunites for them to intimately get to know each other in the beginning. There was an undeniable connection between the two, but I did feel like the romantic element took a backseat to each of their individual arcs. I was personally still satisfied and it especially brought me joy to read the scenes of them cooperating, having conversations, and eventually falling in love in the process. I also wanted to take a minute to mention the world-building in How to Catch a Queen. It's rare to get world-building in a contemporary romance, but because Alyssa Cole has set this spinoff in a fictitious Kingdom it has provided her the opportunity to showcase yet another talented side of her. The politics, though frustrating, were intricate and seamlessly incorporated into the story. Honestly, Alyssa Cole is a genius and I can't enough of her writing! Fans of the Reluctant Royals will also be pleased to see the cameos from the main characters of that series. The group chats, in particular, were so funny!

I've said this before, but I don't normally enjoy royalty romances. Alyssa Cole is the exception to that. How to Catch a Queen was such a good read. I'm excited to see who the other couples will be in the series. Bring them on!
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,694 reviews701 followers
November 12, 2020
Well. This was everything.

I love love loved Shanti. She’s smart and driven and a little sassy. Sanyu is a little gruff and uncertain. Together they have instant intrigue and chemistry. There are a few other characters, but they seem a bit on the fringes.

Plot wise, it was so satisfying. I loved the slow burn of their relationship and the growth of the kingdom. The conflict of the wedding added a slight angst, but nothing that was horrible. I could have done with a million more scenes between Shanti and Sanyu, but I’m being greedy.

Overall, this was a delicious start to a new series and I cannot wait to see the next book.

**Huge thanks to Avon for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Carole Bell.
Author 3 books117 followers
April 18, 2021
Excellent, unexpectedly feminist slow-burn romance with a kick ass ambitious queen and a reluctant, nearly runaway king. It's a cross between the romcom vibe of Reluctant Royals and the more serious political tone of Cole's Loyal League historical romance.

Longer review to come
Profile Image for Lacey.
317 reviews122 followers
February 2, 2021
I've figured out what it is about this series I love so, so much: the character development. Which, duh. Characters are half the reason people read romance. But this series (or universe, I guess, since this is technically a spin-off of the Reluctant Royals series) does such a great job at fleshing out and developing those characters' lives and perspectives beyond the romance.

The leads in the Reluctant Royals/Runaway Royals are some of the most neurotic people I've ever read about. Compared to Beverly Jenkins' leads, who are all strong, accomplished and have their shit together, Alyssa Cole's have WAY more baggage. (I can relate!)

Neledi is the former foster kid who doesn't believe she's lovable; Portia is a socialite with a drinking problem, undiagnosed adult ADHD and parent issues; and Nya went through a whole arc where she had to learn how escape the cage in her mind brought on by growing up with an abusive parent. The heroes have their issues, too. (Johan needed therapy yesterday; glad he's finally getting it.) What makes them all so great is that the couples work through these problems together. Neither the romance nor sex fixes everything; rather, it's having a person who values them and helps them find their own worth that makes big changes.

Before starting this one, I read some of the reviews. A few of the negative/leaning negative ones included a lot of criticism of the hero, Sanyu, and his advisor/dad surrogate, Musoke. Granted, a lot of that criticism is fair. Sanyu is an indecisive mess for a good portion of the book. Musoke is a borderline despot, who's really great at manipulating his ... son ... person? (Look, I don't know what to call him. Their relationship is weird.)

By the end of the book, neither one of them is much different. Sanyu still has anxiety and issues surrounding the pressure of being king. He's learned to better deal with them, with help from Shanti and others in his life. He's on the road to becoming a better man, but there are still challenges he has to work through. Musoke never really gets the comeuppance you want him to get. There's no big confrontation where Sanyu orders him sent to the dungeons or something.

It all works, though, because their development feels realistic. Sanyu was never going to cut off the man who not only fought for their country's independence, but helped raise him. He still had too much baggage with the man and a whole swarm of daddy issues; rather, he has to learn how to set boundaries and deal with having him in his life. That's messier and much more interesting to read about.

Shanti is the who helps him do this simply by listening to him, validating his ideas and empowering him to take control of his kingdom. She's not his therapist, thought, and isn't expected to be. There's a really good conflict between them toward the end where Shanti calls him out for taking so much from her without giving back. The resolution of that is a bit quick, but I didn't care. It was all v. sweet and dropped a few anvils that needed to be dropped.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first book of this new series. Cole's writing is a lot of fun (I will forever love the "Coming to America" Easter eggs) and it's so comforting to come back to all of these characters. The more time I spend with them, the more I love them, even the ones I was so-so on at the beginning. (Portia may be my new favorite heroine. I love her.) I can't wait to read the rest, and I hope this series never ends. 😭
Profile Image for BeesBookHollow ♡.
171 reviews173 followers
December 8, 2020


I am a crazed fan of The Reluctant Royals Series but this one right here? Might be shoving that one to the side because it was so.....refined? Grown? Just an all around example of how much growth she’s had in her writing? The bangers keep coming. Please be aware of parental loss and grief in this novel

This one follows Shanti Mohapti, she’s always wanted to be Queen so she could make a change, she has her own Field Guide to Queendom, A degree to back up her intelligence and knowledge and she’s a stunner. But when she arrives in Njaza, a country that seems stunted and unwilling to grow in many facets, she realizes that The Queen isn’t allowed to do anything and she has no say in the goings on in her country and is expected to be seen and not heard. For months she is isolated and looked down upon in her own Palace and even with a few familiar faces from The Reluctant Royals series by her side she still feels alone and lost.

Sanyu has recently lost his father and in an attempt to hold onto his father��s legacy he is determined to keep Njaza on the same path it has been. His trusted advisor and father figure Musoke always on his neck about what he’s doing wrong he’s barely been a king to his people while shrouded in grief and he hasn’t paid a lick of attention or respect to his wife. His anxieties over failing and depression over his loss have caused him to fall behind in all facets of his life but he’s never allowed to show weakness. Njaza is rooted with misogyny and views emotions and love as weakness, its people are struggling while the royals do nothing needless to say it’s not lookin’ too hot.

When Sanyu and Shanti do meet, it’s full of intense desire and passion while she questions his authority and gives him advice on how to better rule his people. She also reassures him of his worries and becomes a place of comfort for him, Shanti who is unwilling to open her heart finds her walls falling for him as she learns he’s not a stoic asshole, and they both learn to communicate with each other for the better.

I loved how she tackled toxic masculinity in this novel and how its ego can ruin things if allowed. I enjoyed the lens on therapy and the power that each of the women portrayed. I loved the way she wove in the characters from her previous series and the ending literally made my heart warm. It’s a definite slow lead up to the sexy stuff but oh my god it is some of the best I’ve read from her and it’s full of such chemistry between the two characters. I need book two right now, like right now.
Profile Image for Kameel.
780 reviews80 followers
December 8, 2020
This idea of the story was fine. However, it took entirely too long to get to the point....this plot was kind of boring for me. I like the idea of an arranged marriage for a story and they eventually started to communicating with each other and teach each other about love (neither believed in love)...He was the newly crowned King after his father took ill and passed away. Both the king and Queen were young and contemporary and wanted to bring modern ideas to the throne. The young King was dealing with his father's old advisor who was sabotaging as well as having anything sabotaged that was the idea of the new Queen.....There was just a lot of unnecessary dialogue to me that dragged the story out.
Profile Image for Lois .
1,694 reviews459 followers
May 27, 2021
I liked this.
It was escapism at its best.
I liked the setting, the characters the set up.
Romance isn't great literature but this was a decent installment in the genre.
I'd give this 3.75 stars rounded up.
It was an enjoyable way to pass the afternoon and I loved the audiobook narrator.
Profile Image for Talie.
543 reviews9 followers
December 20, 2020
Thank you to Avon Books and Harper Audio for the complimentary paperback and audiobook of this title.

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole is the first book in Cole's new Runaway Royals series.

This book would be perfect for someone who loves royal romances and is also looking to diversify their bookshelf.

Shanti Mohapi grew up idolizing the queen of her country. At a young age she decided she wanted to be a queen and did everything she could to educated herself to accomplish this goal. When she weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. What she didn't realize is that the country of Njaza, and reluctant King Sanyu, are living under the shadows of a country where women, and queens is particular, are not valued.

I liked Shanti a lot. She's an interesting character because in a lot of ways she is incredibly focused and calculating. So she isn't a typical, really likable character to start with. But I loved her strength and perseverance when faced with an incredibly difficult situation. As for the King, honestly he is a bit of a tool, who eventually redeems himself.

Character flaws aside, I did find the book itself to be enjoyable. I really like the concept of an African nation rebuilding itself after a civil war. And how a lot of the flaws of the monarchy were leftovers from measures taken post war.

I will say that one part of the book I found a little odd is that a lot of couples in the book have triad marriages. This is mentioned a few times but never really developed. I guess this is something I wanted fleshed out a little more.

Anyway when it comes down to it, I really did find the overall premise of the book interesting and it kept me engaged throughout.

I listened to the audiobook on this one and felt that the narrator did a good job bringing the characters to life. If there was a weakness, I'd say that there could have been more differentiation in accents. Especially with the European characters.

Profile Image for Leigh Kramer.
Author 1 book1,163 followers
January 13, 2021
Alyssa Cole is one of my favorite authors and I’m still firmly in her corner even though this one didn’t work for me. Truthfully, I should give this two stars but everything in my being rejected rating an Alyssa Cole book that low. Really, I’m giving it 3 stars for the strength of Shanti’s character, the only star of this book. She was incredibly smart, gifted, and a true queen. Had this not been a romance and Shanti had left Sanyu far behind, it would have been a much more successful story. Alas, this is a romance but I could not root for the central relationship. Sanyu was too awful and for far too long for me to believe he was worthy of Shanti. I could have bought them as an arranged marriage once he got his head on straight because they will be good rulers together. But I didn't see the point of introducing sex or love into the equation. It wasn't believable, after the way he treated her for three entire months and yet we're supposed to think she's distracted by his thighs when he finally deigns to grace her with his presence. It didn’t add up for me.

The patriarchal Njazan rulers were very Republican-reminiscent and so this was really not a great week to read that, especially because none of them are held accountable or pay any consequences for undermining the king's authority. This felt unrealistic (or maybe too realistic given everything happening here and I just need someone, anyone in power, to pay for their reprehensible actions), particularly with the way chief advisor Musoke’s character was handled. He had not earned his redemption. It is possible this would have worked better for me if I had read it at a different time but I still would have struggled with the plot choices around Musoke.

Lastly, this could also be a case of mismanaged expectations. Based on the title and blurb, I thought Shanti was going to run away and Sanyu would go on a grovel tour. This might have won me over. However, Shanti does not leave until 40 pages from the end, Sanyu finds her very easily, and there was not nearly enough groveling or evidence Sanyu has changed and will treat her better going forward.

To end on a more positive note, one thing I did like was the way the gods and goddesses of Thesolo and Njaza factored in. I’m impressed with any world-building that creates brand-new religions and it was interesting to see how the country’s religions differed from one another. There’s also a great twist regarding Njaza beliefs that I really appreciated.

I'm hopeful the next book in this series will work better for me.

Character notes: Shanti is a 29 year old Thesolian woman. Sanyu is the 32 year old King of Njaza. (Njaza and Thesolo are both fictional African countries.) This is set in Njaza.

CW: anxiety (main character), sexism, misogyny, death of father, grief, secondary and minor characters with prosthetic limbs, references to land mines
Profile Image for Melissa.
2,252 reviews144 followers
July 31, 2020
4.5 stars. I really loved this layered fairy tale about a woman who made her dreams happen (Shanti wanted to become a queen to help people and studied how to do that like you would any job) and a man trapped into his destiny (Sanyu is the new king to a country that only regained its independence from the colonizers 50 years ago and is frozen between tradition and progress). The Royal Match business was a really cute addition to tie future novels together and all our favorite heroes and heroines from the Reluctant Royals series (plus a few future ones) pop up in text messages/chats. Cole really gets into the work of governing a country that wants to catch up to its neighbors and be a great country but remains deeply suspicious/skeptical/angry about what happened under colonialism and isolationist policies.

What held this back for me that half star was a small part of the resolution. There is a character - you'll know him when you read him - that really pushes some awful misogynist stuff as well as toxic masculinity and when the plot resolution happened it just....went away? I would have liked to see this character apologize to Shanti directly, rather than just Sanyu. It's a side thing, since the resolution between Shanti and Sanyu is the main point and is very good, but that little bit felt unfinished to me.
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,703 reviews623 followers
February 19, 2021
I wanted to read the Reluctant Royals series before reading this book, and I'm glad I did, because it was fun to see the characters pop up again. However, this can certainly be read as a standalone.

This novel is very politics-oriented, and while I did find that interesting, the romance felt underdeveloped in comparison. I didn't feel the chemistry between the characters, because I didn't feel like they actually got to know each other very well, and that didn't leave me too invested in their romance.
Profile Image for Izzy.
985 reviews460 followers
March 13, 2021
Not a review I want to write. Alyssa is a favorite author and it sucks to have a book not fully hit for me from her.

I tried to go in with not too many expectations but this really did not do it. The bleak moments were numerous and we spent so much time away from the couple. I needed more time with the couple. A bigger grovel from Sanyu as well.

Initial release reaction: I was so sad when the Reluctant Royals ended, but then so EXCITED at the prospect of this one. But then this cover came out and the title and the synopsis and just GIMME!
Profile Image for Sarah.
849 reviews69 followers
January 2, 2021
It's stunning, beautiful, sexy, progressive, hilarious, and everything else that makes an Alyssa Cole novel an instant must read. Go read the previous series if you haven't, then sprint right on back and start reading the RUNAWAY ROYALS series. You will not regret it.

Pre-release review: I know this doesn't come out until next spring but 'RELUCTANT ROYALS' SPIN-OFF, FUCK YES, I AM SO AMPED, GONNA PRE-ORDER IT RIGHT NOW IDGAF HOW LONG I MUST WAIT
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,124 reviews724 followers
September 2, 2020
(free review copy) LOVE. Another Cole masterpiece with a thoroughly modern romance wrapped in a monarchy that so desperately needs a queen to whip it into shape. I mostly read contemporary romances and loved this and definitely think those they typically read historical romance will love it too. So much fun!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 684 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.