This is the sequel of The Decoy Princess. I had a hard time with this one at first. There was a lot of first person agonizing, which I always tend to skip. And if it is a large part of the book, which it was, then I stop reading.
David finished it and he kept telling me to keep going, that it got better, so I finally did. And he was right. It did get a lot better, I was very impressed with the last third of the book. And, in retrospect, I liked the earlier bits better, because they turned out to be very relevant to the plot at the end.
Dawn Cook is an interesting author. Her style is like a lot of throwaway fiction, especially of the romance variety: very light and breezy, with much anguish about this or that man's attentions. The humour is conversation based, like reading an episode of Friends. But she does amazing things with her plotting. And her characters are much more developed than a lot of light fiction. It is as if she starts out with a stereotype and then sees what new territory she can find with those starting parameters.
Spoiler -- if you have any desire to read this book, don't read the next paragraph.
The twist that made me really like this book is that she makes the main love interest from the last book and this one be the bad guy. Now it isn't unusual to have the new guy be the bad guy, but she has spent two novels building up how great this man is, and then he turns out to be a craven opportunist. He isn't even evil, plotting dastardly schemes, just an selfish no-account, who is hanging out with our heroine because she lives in the palace and he might be able to make a big score if he keeps stringing her along.
So all of the "Oh, what about Duncan?" that was driving me nuts in the beginning was a set-up for just how taken in and emotionally at risk Tess was at the end. I was very impressed, not many people writing a series are brave enough to spend that much time on that type of deception.
Princess at Sea. Dawn Cook. Ace Fantasy. 2006