His Royal Favorite by Lilah Pace is the concluding story in the duology that began with His Royal Secret. It’s not meant to be read as a standalone, as it starts directly after the first one ends. Having read and very much enjoyed the first part of James and Ben’s story, I was eagerly awaiting this one. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down until I was finished.
If you haven’t read His Royal Secret, there may be some spoilers in this recap of where things stand. James is currently acting as the Prince Regent, leader of the British monarchy as his grandfather is too ill to assume his duties as King. During his reign as Regent, he met and fell in love with Ben, a journalist with whom he had a secret affair. The first story gave us a happy for now ending, with James deciding to come out as a gay man to the world, and Ben willing to stand up with him as his partner. His Royal Favorite begins right after James and Ben have made these decisions, and it’s the start of an intense time for them as James waits to tell the world at a press conference and Ben tries to prepare himself for the media onslaught. When the news is out in the world, things are going to change drastically for them both, in ways that could be as much negative as positive. Do they have the strength of will and a deep enough love to see things through?
Once again, I was captivated by this fictitious but wholly engrossing view into the workings of the British royal family and the behind the scenes look at the reality of being a monarch in the 21st century. I don’t know where the author gets her information, but she’s fooled me into thinking she’s got hidden cameras or an inside source in Buckingham Palace because I found everything that happened to be believable. From the descriptions of the different royal residences, to the royal family meetings to discuss current events and appropriate responses to them (including, first and foremost James’ desire to come out to the public as gay), to the day to day life and roles of the various staff – it all paints a compelling picture of the world James lives in.
James’ biggest concern is what the reaction will be from the Church of England, led historically by the monarch in power. While there has been progress on this front for gay rights, the fact remains that without the church’s endorsement, his position as the future King, once the natural succession goes through will be in jeopardy. But James is tired of living a lie and hiding his true self. Coming out to the public will mean dealing with these issues up front and center. I really liked the threads of all the consequences to James’ coming out that played out in the story. Once the press conference has been achieved, the fallout for James ranges from amusing, with suddenly gay aristocracy coming out of the woodwork to vie for his attention and the ludicrous tabloid headlines, to relief that he can free his best friend Cassandra from acting as his ‘beard’, to heartbreak as he sees the struggles Ben is facing. To their credit, the British populace are smart enough to know that his sexual orientation doesn’t affect his ability to lead the country and are for the most part accepting of his announcement. All in all, for James, things are going better than expected even as he waits for news from the Church about his decision.
For Ben though, it’s a much tougher challenge than he expected. He thought he’d prepared himself for the paparazzi onslaught that he would face while trying to hold down his job as a reporter at the Daily Mail. He’d moved out of his apartment into the spare room in James’ suite, and was already feeling some of the loss of his autonomy. Now, with the news out in the world, his co-workers, with the exception of one who stays a tried and true friend, see him as a news item, not as one of them. He feels their scrutiny, their ears listening to his phone conversations, their stares. And he can no longer call up sources to get information without getting questioned himself, once they realize he is James’ consort, or, as the press has named him, ‘His Royal Favorite’. The bitterness of this grates and and suddenly the walls of James’ suite feel like a prison. The tabloids are relentless in their pursuit of Ben and his past, digging up things he never thought to see as front page news. Ben told James he would stand by him and see things through, but suddenly he doubts whether he has the mental stamina to do so.
The ups and downs of James and Ben’s relationship as they struggle to keep their love front and center moves the story along at a smooth and swift pace, with several nail biting moments where it seems like they can’t possibly end up happy together. Their love scenes are steamy and emotional, a key part of the connection that binds him. But while their story is unfolding, there are some other secondary characters of note, in particular James’ sister Amelia. It was established in the first book that she’s mentally ill, with a history of self harm. That all comes to the forefront again in this story in a compelling plot line that shows that mental illness can affect anyone, no matter their social status. We also get some scenes with James’ best friend Cassandra whom I adore. She adds the bright touch to an intense story with her wit, outspokenness and sense of humour. In the end, everyone gets their happy ending in a splendid epilogue that brings tears and laughter and a sense of relief that James and Ben have weathered the storm and are stronger for it. His Royal Favorite definitely has a place on my favorite’s list.
Aug 16, 2016 | Berkley | His Royal Secret #2
The conclusion of Lilah Pace’s racy, romantic male/male duology following His Royal Secret…
James, Prince of Wales, is making history. He’s decided to come out to his subjects—and the world. However, telling the truth means exposing his relationship with lone-wolf reporter Benjamin Dahan. Although Ben never wanted commitment, the unexpected depth of his feelings leads him to join James in the media’s harsh spotlight.
When the news story explodes across the globe, Ben can endure the mockery and dirty jokes. But after his tragic past is cruelly revealed, his life begins to implode. Can even his love for James be worth this?
James has it no easier. His revelation divides the country and sparks turmoil within the royal family. He must struggle to defend not only himself and Ben, but also his younger sister, who hovers on the brink of a breakdown that could endanger her life.
Is Ben strong enough to survive the onslaught and stand by James’ side? And will James have to make a choice between Ben and the crown?