If you’re a fan of Alyssa Cole’s The Reluctant Royals series, you will enjoy His Defiant Princess by Nana Prah. Published by Love Africa Press that celebrates all things African in romantic fiction, Prah’s novel follows the age-old questions of lovers separated by an ocean: Who should give up their established life to move? Are friends and family and career more important than the love of your life? How to sacrifice one for the other? These are difficult questions that people struggle with in real life, so it was interesting to see how Prah has her characters wrestle with it and come up with a solution that is unique to them.
Now imagine, she is a princess of a fictional African country and he is a dentist from Vermont… What does their future hold for them?
Jake Petersen and Amira Oware Saene meet online on a social media site about superhero movies while he is living in Vermont and she is studying for a year in Europe incognito. That year of connection with Jake keeps her loneliness in a foreign place at bay. People loudly proclaim that online friendships are fake and cannot substitute for in-person friendships, but the more people become socially isolated, the more they turn to online connections because, inherently, we are social beings.
For Amira and Jake, that one year of soul-searching conversations has led him to fly thousands of miles to West Africa to meet her in person. I loved how Prah examines their relationship in this book. In most stories, the protagonists take one look at each other and discover they are attracted to the other person. Prah turns that notion on its head in this story. Their friendship is so strong and they have become so close to each other that when they first see each other, it’s a shock of recognition and euphoria — they have been in love with this other person whom they’ve only seen over fuzzy Skype, but of course, the other person is intensely attractive to them. This is a case of love leading to attraction.
But at the first meeting, Jake discovers that his sweetheart isn’t just an ordinary girl, but a pampered, highly protected princess of Bagumi. He feels betrayed. All along, he has been aboveboard and vulnerable to her and felt she was doing the same thing, but in fact, she was hiding her identity. Suddenly he starts to question everything: her integrity, her feelings, his feelings. Seeing Jake’s inner turmoil, Amira is filled with remorse at her deception even though at the time it had felt it was a good decision to connect with Jake as an ordinary individual rather than a famous persona. Life as a royal can be lonely — you never know if the person you’re dating is dating the real you or the larger-than-life profile. Prah skillfully has the protagonists dance around this emotional minefield and emerge even more strongly bound together.
Contemplation of marriage between Jake and Amira is fraught with political maneuvering and emotional manipulation by the people around them and between themselves. Were they to marry, where would they live? Both love their families, the friends they have, the place they live, the career they have — in short, the life they have built. It does not automatically follow that Jake should give up his life because his social capital is perceived as much lower than Amira’s. Prah does not take the easy route out of their dilemma, but instead has them work through their difficulties and compromise and come up with a solution that is built on trust and respect, and of course, love.
I have seen very good books come from Love Africa Press, and His Defiant Princess is another such book.