Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

Synopsis (nabbed from author Lindsey Leavitt's website)

When a flawlessly dressed woman steps out of an iridescent bubble and wants to know, like, now if you’d like to become a substitute princess, do you

a) run b) faint c) say Yes!

For Desi Bascomb, who’s been longing for a bit of glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C–that is, once she can stop pinching herself. As her new agent Meredith explains, Desi has a rare magical ability: when she applies the ancient Egyptian formula “Royal Rouge,” she can transform temporarily into the exact lookalike of any princess who needs her subbing services. Dream come true, right?

Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras. Like, what do you do when a bullying older sister puts you on a heinous crash diet? Or when the tribal villagers gather to watch you perform a ceremonial dance you don’t know? Or when a princess’s conflicted sweetheart shows up to break things off–and you know she would want you to change his mind?

In this hilarious, winning debut, one girl’s dream of glamour transforms into something bigger: the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact Desi makes, one royal fiasco at a time.

I was initially a bit worried about the exceedingly pink cover of Princess for Hire. I'm glad I persevered and overlooked the pinkness because Desi's story is - although a bit fairytale-like - anything but pink and overly girly.

Desi's character is smart, amusing and gutsy. She hands out flyers for the local pet store, dressed as furry groundhog and debates the merciless fate that's befallen her. She watches her erstwhile friend cosy up to her (Desi's) personal hearthrob. Then she gets humiliated by said erst-while friend and whilst her dad tried to help, he just doesn't seem to get Desi's true troubles.

Desi yearns to be different, glamourous, beautiful, not mundane. Not who she is now. The fact that her parents seem preoccupied with her very pretty baby sister, doesn't help either. So she makes a wish and that wish sends her Meredith - Princess Agent Extraordinaire - in a soap bubble. Meredith wastes no time in telling Desi that she has some MP (magic potential) and that she'd be perfect for the job as a princess sub. Her real life would be paused, whilst she subbed for these princesses (magic, darling!) then resume once her duties are over.

Desi weighs this up - her normal dull and boring life or a super glamourous job substituting for princesses who'd rather be off shopping than facing certain public engagements...with the lure of money to help pay for college tuition, Desi takes the logical step and signs up.

The jobs (three of them) don't go as planned. Desi learns quite quickly that subbing for a princess is not exactly great fun. Like with most very young girls, she didn't realise that the perfect life she assumes the princesses lead, is anything but. Valuable life-lessons are learned here. She stands up for her "charge" and causes a ruckus when she shows up her older "sister" in one instance (I personally cheered when this happened!) during a public engagement. It was perfect. I fistpumped the air. More girls should be gutsy like Desi and stand up for themselves. I heartily approve.

It's as if reticent Desi in her real life feels that she can fix her princess's lives by standing up for them in times of need. It's as if wearing someone else's face gives her the courage she lacks in real life. But then these things tend to seep through into her own life and unexpectedly she starts making headway in her own.

The agency is not happy with her, they assume she's messed up her three princess's lives by acting differently to how they would normally act and they haul her off to court. Desi stands up to her accusors, facing their accusations, strong in the knowledge that she did the right thing and that she helped her charges in each instance.

I enjoyed Princess for Hire. I liked the characters but felt that Desi's parents could perhaps have had a bigger role in the story progression. However, I suspect that we may see more of them in the upcoming novels. PFH is a good origins story - well thought out, the writing is good and Desi's character is such fun to read.

Princess for Hire is published by Egmont UK and is available in all good book store, having been released earlier in February. Find Lindsey Leavitt's website here and her LJ blog here.

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