While Aria’s narrative is faithful to the historical events, she crafts the characters of Helen and Paris in a way that is so different from any other that I have encountered. Helen is a humble princess of Sparta, destined to become a great queen. As men from all over come to seek her hand in marriage, Helen faces the most important decision of her life. This Helen is honorable, loyal, and her beauty is more of a curse than a blessing. I instantly connected with her and felt compassion for her situation. Especially after she marries Menelaus, who is a complete brute, and must suffer the carnal desire her sister’s husband, Agamemnon. Her only solace is the promise from Aphrodite of a great love.
Paris is not the spoiled prince. He is a noble prince of Troy, and a respected ambassador, but he is also a cursed man. A dark omen cursed his birth, claiming that he would lead to the destruction of Troy, leading his own mother to try and kill him. Scorned by this family and the other Trojan nobles, Paris has spent his life traveling as an ambassador, always far from home and never knowing love. The guilt he feels because of this curse and the small kindness his father, Priam, has shown him in preventing his death, drives his desire to bring honor to Troy. When his father sends him to deliver a message to Agamemnon about the strength of Troy, it is with the promise that Paris might finally be allowed to remain in Troy upon his return. Again, Aria’s portrayal of Paris makes him a much more sympathetic character. He is everything a great prince should be - handsome, brave, loyal - and his desire to overcome his fate is commendable.
Because they are such likable characters, it makes the tragedy of their situation that much greater. These two really are soul mates. Watching them try to fight their fate and feel trapped by their situations in life, made for all the angsty goodness that is a well written romance novel. The passion between these lovers makes for some steamy, but tastefully done love scenes. I found myself completely lost in their story, and even though I know the outcome, I can't help myself from hoping that maybe this time there could be a different ending for Helen and Paris.
I have few criticisms of this novel, and fans of historical romances will be pleased. There were times when Aria used a more modern dialect that threw me out of the world of the story for a moment. For example, Paris’s thought upon seeing Helen for the first time is, “Oh, f*#$ me.” While appropriate to the situation, not so appropriate for the time period. Aria did such a good job with making sure the language she used fit within the context of the time period, that when there was a change in diction, it was quite obvious and jarring. It doesn't happen often, and could have been done for emphasis. When it did happen, for me, it was like the mental equivalent of a tree root one catches their foot on while walking down the street. It caused me to stumble, but I was quickly able to regain my balance and jump back into the story.
My only other criticism is the somewhat cheesy cover. I know that you should never judge a book by its cover, but with so many options available, a good cover goes a long way. A good cover is nothing if there isn't any substance to back it up, but a good cover makes me more likely to pick a book up and read the synopsis, increasing its chances that I will adopt it and take it home. I have to say that if I saw Princess of Sparta in a bookstore and knew nothing about it, I would have most likely passed it by. The cover is just too reminiscent of the cookie cutter romance novels that you can buy for a dime a dozen at Goodwill. And that would be a shame, because despite its cover, this book is worth your time.
The Princess of Sparta only gives us part of the story, and it’s sequel, Princess of Betrayal, is scheduled for release in Fall, 2014. I will be eagerly awaiting its release.
For more information on the author, Aria Cunningham, and her novels, check out her website at http://www.ariacunningham.com/.
**Note: I received a free ARC in exchange for my honest review.