Review: The Loveless Princess by Lilian Bodley

34608556Princess Anette doesn’t love her fiancé, Prince Everett, and despite constant assurances from everyone around her, knows she never will. It’s not that he’s terrible, it’s simply that she doesn’t love anyone, or want to be with anyone, the way the rest of the world says she should.

But princesses must marry princes. She’s expected to have her proper happily ever after. So Annette tries her best to be happy in her new life—until she catches her husband with the stable boy, and in a moment of anger wishes Prince Everett would just disappear.

And then he does.

Boy, do I have Thoughts(tm) on this book.

Full disclosure: I’m aroace and I think the author is also aroace. So there is that. Also: spoilers ahead.

The first thing that made me a bit wary of The Loveless Princess was its title. It’s clear by the blurb that Anette is aromantic and probably asexual, and while it’s quite obvious the most aromantic people never experience romantic love in their life, we do experience other kinds of love (most of us, anyway, which is to say, aromanticism isn’t the absence of all love, it’s the absence of romantic attraction). One of the biggest myths about aromantic people is that we are incapable of every type of love ever. That’s why so many people call us psychopaths. Or liars and manipulators. The fact that we usually don’t feel romantic love is used to mean we don’t feel any love at all, so it was extremely disappointing to see an aroace princess being called “loveless”. She isn’t loveless. She loves other people in other ways. She just doesn’t feel romantic love. That’s it.

Unfortunately, the distinction is not made in the book as well. Anette thinks, and at one point even says, that she doesn’t feel love, which… isn’t true. She loves her parents. She is capable of empathy. Again, she just doesn’t feel romantic love. I know it might seem like as small thing, but believe me, as someone who had “cold”, “frigid” and “monster” thrown in my face because I have no interest whatsoever in finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, the distinction is not only important, it is essential. Being aromantic and asexual doesn’t make me into a loveless monster and doesn’t make it impossible for me to love. I still love. A lot, even.

(And I’m a bit uncomfortable with not feeling love being equated in society with being monstrous as well, but that’s not my lane).

Things only got worse when it was revealed that the villain of the story is also an aroace person who tried to free Anette from her marriage by kidnapping the prince. And then even worse (again) when said aroace person conjured a beautiful woman and a beautiful man to make out in front of Anette so she could prove (by being disgusted by them) that she was also aroace.

Look, I have no words to explain why this scene infuriated me, but I will try: not all aroaces are sex- and romance-repulsed. Not all aroaces are sex- and romance-repulsed. I can’t believe that 1. this needs to be said and 2. that a scene like that made it into a real book. I’m aroace. I fluctuate between being sex indifferent and sex repulsed, and I do enjoy romance. Hell, I wrote a whole post about being aroace and loving romance. Anette being or not being disgusted by two people making out in front of her would NEVER be enough to prove she’s aroace. We are a very, very diverse group. I, an aroace person who is definitely, aggressively, aroace, wouldn’t be disgusted by two people making out in front of me (I mean, it’d be awkward, all right, but disgust? No). Does that make me less aroace?

No, it doesn’t, and having a scene like that in a book that already fails to make a distinction between romantic and platonic loves implies just that.

The book also fails in other aspects: the characters are one-dimensional, the dialogue is awkward and the writing is well… Not the best. The Loveless Princess needed at least one more round of editing before being published, and honestly, not even it would’ve saved it for me. It’s tricky to write books with aro/ace chars because there are so few of them out there that we risk making generalizations that just aren’t truth and centering experiences that are not universal. That’s why we need to be careful. This book presented only One Way to Be AroAce and it didn’t contradict that in any way. Anette’s and the villain’s (can’t be bothered to remember his name, sorry) experiences with being ace and aro are not the only ones out there and that awful scene failed to address that. That’s why this book failed me.

Overall, this wasn’t a good book, in my opinion, when it comes to the rep but also to the story/writing itself. 1.0 star to The Loveless Princess.

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