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Princess by Gaelen Foley
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I was hooked on HR for a very long time - this is my top favorite series
( )
  Deleine | May 10, 2016 |
There are a few of my favorite authors who’ve not yet failed me once (meaning I’ve not yet rated any of their books below four stars and the majority of them were keepers). Gaelen Foley is one of them, and Princess just became the latest book I’ve read by her that has earned keeper status from me. It was an incredible read full of adventure, passion, and romance. I’m always up for a tortured bad boy hero, and Darius is definitely one of those. His torment runs deep and the love of only one woman can satisfy and heal him. Unfortunately that woman is the princess he’s been guarding for most of her life, and he believes that to give in to his feelings for her would be to betray his king. Our heroine, Serafina, has worshiped the ground Darius walks on since she was a little girl and he was her personal bodyguard. When she was twelve, he nearly died, taking a bullet meant for the king, and she sat by his bedside praying for his recovery and threw a tantrum when she was asked to leave. When Serafina declared her love to Darius at her come-out ball on her seventeenth birthday, he ran the other way, fearing not only his king, but also the depth of emotion she stirred within him. Despite their considerable age difference, theirs was a love written in the stars that was always meant to be. It just took a lot of determination and courage on both their parts to finally grasp their happily ever after.

We met Darius in The Pirate Prince, the previous book of the Ascension Trilogy, when he was just a boy. He was the slave and plaything of the same Arab prince who had once captured Lazar, but he was rescued by Lazar and Allegra. He grew up in the royal palace on Ascension, where he was well-educated and treated like their son. When he reached adulthood, he was assigned to be the young princess’s bodyguard, a duty he initially resented, but as she grew, so did his affection for her. Eventually Darius became Lazar’s right hand man and the commander of his military, as well as a brilliant spy, assassin and businessman, amassing a small fortune of his own. But despite his place of privilege, his past still deeply torments him. Abandoned by his father and mother as a young boy, he ended up on the streets, surviving by becoming a pickpocket. Somewhere along the line, he was molested and eventually came to believe that was all he was good for. He’s desired by most of the ladies at court for his gorgeous good looks. With his reputation as a skilled lover, the ladies all but fall at his feet for a chance in his bed, but he derives little satisfaction from his sexual encounters. It's so sad that he feels like everyone he's been with only desired him for sex but never really wanted him as a person, leaving him feeling like he's being raped all over again. The only person who has ever seen him and appreciated him for himself is Serafina, but he won’t betray Lazar’s trust by giving in to his feelings for her. Not to mention, he feels worthless and not fit for the likes of a royal, which really tugged at my heartstrings. Darius is a very controlled and organized military man, pushing himself to do everything perfectly even at the risk of his own health and life. It was utterly heartbreaking that much like Lazar, Darius also has a death wish, except that rather than committing suicide when his mission is done, he plans to go on a suicide mission to assassinate Napoleon and go out in a blaze of glory. He loves Serafina so much, he’s willing to die for her, convinced that the only way to stop her impending wedding to a cruel Russian prince is to eliminate the threat that necessitated the marriage pact in the first place.

Serafina is the daughter of Lazar and Allegra. She’s a little spoiled and used to getting her own way, but she doesn’t really lord her position over others. She does pull rank on Darius a couple of times, which leads to some trouble between them the second time, but her heart was in the right place when she did it, feeling that it was for his own good. She basically has her daddy wrapped around her little finger, but at the same time, she feels like she was something of a disappointment to her parents because she was the firstborn girl rather than the hoped-for son and heir. I admired Serafina for her boldness in knowing what she wants and going after it, namely Darius. She doesn’t let his protestations stop her, nor does she allow him to scare her away with his intense moods. If anything, she’s pretty intuitive about knowing when he’s deliberately trying to drive her off, and it only further steels her resolve to get him to open up to her and accept her love. I love her free-spirited nature, how she runs around barefoot half the time and has an affinity for plants and animals. She doesn't feel like anyone has ever truly understood her except Darius. Serafina may be bold and feisty when the situation calls for it, but she still has a sweet and gentle side. I love the way she wants to take care of Darius, because she knows and recognizes that he doesn't take care of himself. Even though she doesn’t know the full extent of his plans or his background, she senses that he’s in pain and that he needs her to heal him and embraces that role wholeheartedly.

Darius and Serafina together as a couple and their love for one another is a beautiful thing. It's so sweet that they've known each other all Serafina's life and that she's been in love with him since childhood. Their personal history and deep emotional connection shows in their every interaction. The sexual tension is exquisite, intensely palpable from the opening pages and carrying on throughout the rest of the story. Darius may have taken Serafina to the country for her own safety following an attempt on her life, but their sojourn there turned into one of the most wonderfully romantic interludes I’ve ever read. I savored watching Darius finally give in to his feelings for Serafina, but he’s still every bit the man in control of his own life and destiny. He just couldn’t go to his death not knowing the sweetness of being in her arms. Their love-making is sweet and sensuous, but he’s very careful not to deflower her even though she wants it. It was one of the most if not the most beautiful love scene I’ve ever read that didn’t actually culminate in intercourse. When Darius is with Serafina, he's a different man, able to cast off his cares at least for a little while and become more playful and boyish. He basks in her love, like a starving man, but at that time, he believed it wouldn’t last and that he would soon die. It’s not until later when he realizes he can’t live without her, but also can’t quite be fully honest with her about his past and allow her to love him, that he comes to a crossroads, a place that scares him more than anything he’s ever done in life. It was hard to watch them at odds during this time, but also glorious when he finally gives in. The ending couldn’t have been sweeter, showing Darius as a new man who is so much lighter and freer than before.

Overall, Princess was an incredible love story that was perfect for me. I enjoyed seeing Lazar and Allegra again. They aren’t perfect parents, but they do love their offspring and want what’s best for them. The scene when Lazar and Darius reconcile after the big scandal was flawlessly done. Lazar’s acceptance went a long way toward Darius being able to accept himself and Serafina’s love. We’re also introduced to Serafina’s younger brother, Rafael, who’s a rakish charmer, but at the same time, he has an honorable and gallant side, ready to step up to fight for his sister so she wouldn’t be forced into a marriage she didn’t want. He struggles with feeling like his father is too hard on him and that he can’t do anything right, but he gets a chance to prove his worth in the next book of the series, Prince Charming. I really like what I’ve seen of Rafael so far, so I’m looking forward to reading his book. Here’s hoping the final installment will make this series a clean sweep of perfection for me. ( )
  mom2lnb | Apr 8, 2016 |
I read this story a number of years ago and I had forgotten how heart wrenching the last third of the story is. Darius Santiago is one of the most tortured heroes I have read about. He is so full of hate and anger which is mostly directed at him. He has been told most of his young life that he is worthless and he has come to believe that. He has work tirelessly to build himself into a better person. Someone others would be able to love and care about. While there are a number of people that do love him for himself he never really sees them. He is so sure that if he cares about anyone they will leave him. Darius is a caring, compassionate and honorable man. He is also ruthless and determined and madly in love the Serafina de Fiore. The struggle to come to terms with that love and the realization that things might actually workout for these two is the basis for this story.

Serafina is in many ways a spoiled princess. She has been raised to be a royal, but that is not what she really wants to be. She would be happier with a home, children and Darius in a villa that was far from court. She is interested in medicine and botany. She loves animals and has quite a collection at the palace. As with so many daughters she has her father wrapped around her little finger. Serafina is also strong, brave, compassionate and very loving. She knows that she can save Darius if he will only stay still longer enough for her to do so. She is stubborn to a fault and intelligent. She is a likable heroine which is a surprise in this day and age. So many heroines have become bitchy tyrants that you just want to shake until their teeth rattle.

This is a quick read filled with lots of tense suspenseful moments that make to unable to put down the book until you have found out what the outcome will be. We see Lazar and Allegra many years after THE PIRATE PRINCE. They have built their kingdom and have two grown children, Serafina and Rafael with a child on the way. They are as much in love now as they were in the earlier book. I love Ms. Foley’s writing and always look forward to reading one of her stories. She does the historical romance genre proud with her many contributions. ( )
  LadyIsis | Jun 5, 2014 |
Overall Rating: 4.35 // Action: 3.5 / Emotion: 4 / Romance: 3.5 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 4 // Historical Flavor: 2 / Humor: 1 / Tears: 3½

Overall: 4.35: *Princess* immediately drew interest by introducing Darius Santiago and Princess Serafina di Fiore in the exciting opening rescue scene that featured the lovelorn thoughts of each character regarding the other. Foley did a great job of keeping that interest as she wove a fascinating story around their unrequited love. A Historical Romance reader will enjoy this entertaining book.

Action: 3.5: Darius was King Lazar's (*The Pirate Prince*) best intelligence-gathering man (and assassin), so the book was peppered with Darius performing the military deeds needed to save his princess.

Emotion: 4.0: Foley drew readers deep into the emotional angst that Darius suffered as the half-Gypsy bastard who felt unworthy of having the Princess Royal. Serafina's anguish at losing her love and dutifully marrying another to save Ascencion resulted in tears.

Romance: 3.5: Serafina's determination to save Darius from his self-imposed loneliness and force him to accept that they were soul mates pervaded the entire storyline. Darius's performance of his security duties were hampered by his forbidden desire for Serafina.

Sensuous: 2.5: The heat between Darius and Serafina was blazing. Foley entertained with detailed lovemaking scenes that brought heat to the cheeks (and, in the first case, astonishment).

Suspense: 4.0: The plot was intricate (involving several key secondary characters) and kept one wondering how Foley was going to extricate Darius and Serafina from the corners into which they were being painted.

Historical Flavor: 2.0: Even though the language didn't sound early 1800s, Foley did weave in relevant historical details about the warring Napoleon Bonaparte into the fabric of the story.

See Wolf Bear Does Books (http://goo.gl/CU7c6) for a more in-depth, detailed review of *Princess*. ( )
  Vonda_M_Reid | Oct 21, 2012 |
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She is a pearl
whose price hath launched above
a thousand ships,
And turned crowned kings
to merchants.

He after honor hunts; I after love.
This book is dedicated to my lifelong and most loyal friends, my sisters, Shana, Elizabeth, and Janeen.
First words
The sound of her rapid, shallow panting filled the narrow space between the box-hedge walls of the garden maze.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449002462, Mass Market Paperback)

Setting: Europe, 1805
Sensuality: 8

Imperious and beautiful, Princess Serafina has loved Darius Santiago, the king's most trusted warrior, since she was a child. But Darius was plucked from the gutter by the king to be trained as a spy, and although he loves Serafina beyond reason, he conceals his heart for he believes his background forbids a union between them. When Serafina is betrothed to a ruthless Russian aristocrat in a bargain that gains her tiny island kingdom protection from Bonaparte's armies, Darius intervenes to save her. His actions set in motion a sequence of events that will challenge the strength of their love and threaten their lives as well as the survival of the kingdom.

This energetic plot has the hero and heroine poised on the razor's edge of physical danger at the same time they're struggling to trust each other with the deepest secrets of their hearts. The supporting cast of secondary characters is excellent, especially the members of the heroine's family. Their normalcy provides a stark contrast to the hero, whose childhood of neglect and abuse has left scars and built emotional walls that only the heroine's love may heal. The delightful tales of Ascencion's royal family, first begun with The Pirate Prince, will continue with Foley's next novel, Prince Charming, the story of Serafina's brother, Prince Rafael di Fiore. --Lois Faye Dyer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:20 -0400)

In the sequel to The Pirate Prince, the king's most accomplished and intrepid spy, Darius Santiago, is on the verge of attaining his one true desire, Princess Serafina, when a deadly enemy threatens to separate them forever.

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