Deb Caletti’s The Secret Life of Prince Charming

The Secret Life of Prince CharmingQuinn lives with her mother, grandmother, aunt, and little sister – a supportive crew of women who love each other but haven’t been able to hold onto romantic love. They’ve all suffered heartbreak caused by the men formerly in their lives, not least of all Quinn’s father. Quinn herself takes their words of wisdom into account, but doesn’t believe she’ll suffer the same since she’s in a comfortable (if unexciting) steady relationship – until her “reliable” boyfriend dumps her unceremoniously for another girl.

Meanwhile, Quinn and her younger sister Sprout are tentatively reconnecting with their father Barry, the titular Prince Charming who walked out on their family when they were kids. Visiting him every other weekend, Quinn is drawn in by his goofy antics and tall tales, and feels like he’s changed his ways after settling down with his current girlfriend. But then she discovers that he collects trophies from all the women he’s hurt, she realizes her image of him is nothing like the truth. She tentatively reaches out to her half-sister Frances Lee, and they work together to reunite Barry’s ex-girlfriends with their beloved possessions, hoping to mend some hearts along the way.

Quinn begins the story as a safe wallflower, reluctant to take risks or put herself out there because of the horror stories she has heard about men. She wants to believe the best of her father, which is understandable, but fairly quickly manages to banish her delusional image of him while realistically grappling with her new perceptions. It was touching to see how she bonded with the women in her immediate family, but also the women in the extended family that Barry connected her to. Most of the supporting women don’t get fleshed out much, though they are distinct, except for Frances Lee. She’s spunky and angry, a good influence for Quinn in helping her be more upfront and open to adventure. It’s cute how the relationship between the three sisters develops over the narrative as the get to know each other better.

I don’t know how I feel about the side romantic plot. Although Jake came off as a pretty decent guy and certainly challenged Quinn’s misconceptions, he was an unnecessary aside. There are other ways Quinn could have realized that not all men are terrible without shoehorning in the “perfect guy” into her life. I think it detracted from the focus on the women and their resilience, while not responding to the general negative attitude towards men permeating the novel.

This book is light and fluffy, with no real stakes. Yes, Quinn’s worried about maintaining her relationship with her father, but there’s nothing really climactic about how the story is handled. It’s a slow journey of self-discovery that makes the plot pacing slow as well. Although the premise is original, it’s not a gripping, page-turning read.

Enjoyable for fans of Maureen Johnson or Sarah Dessen.

3 Stars


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