Picks and Pans Review: The Last Princess
by Cynthia Freeman
So truly stultifying is this novel that it should come with a warning label: "Do not read if planning to drive or operate heavy machinery." Freeman, author of best-selling romantic tales such as Come Pour the Wine, has produced a ninth novel that is a predictable, cliché-studded tale she spreads gummily over nearly 400 pages. The novel's heroine is Lily Goodhue (even the name sounds like something out of a Mel Brooks parody), an auburn-haired, green-eyed young heiress whose cold parents have always unfairly blamed her for the death of her younger brother. Beautiful, obedient Lily is all set to enter an arranged marriage when she meets Harry Kohle, a "tall, extraordinarily handsome young man." Like Lily, Harry has been a constant source of parental pain. The trouble with Harry is that he has these damn-fool romantic notions about becoming a novelist rather than entering the family banking business. This is clearly a couple primed for gush at first sight. "Although Harry Kohle had known a thousand beautiful women, he was mesmerized by her vivid green eyes and the luminous skin set off by double strands of pearls." For Ms. Goodhue's part, Harry "takes her over the heights of joy." Within a few weeks, Lily throws over her fiancé (he's gay and relieved), throws herself into Harry's arms and is thrown out of the Goodhue family. Harry's parents disinherit him too. Can Harry and Lily live on love, kisses and the liberty bonds left to Lily by her grandmother? Freeman doesn't so much unfold a plot as pile event on top of event. Lily gives birth to three of her four children in under five pages. Harry becomes a best-selling novelist in about as little space. Then there's Freeman's characterization of Harry: He is portrayed as so inattentive and cruel to his children, so neglectful of his wife, that it is impossible to understand Lily's ardor. It is an unconvincing tale told badly. "The words flowed from his mouth like molten lava," she writes at one point. At another: "But the glow of those few days had left her feeling for the first time in many years less like a mother, more like a woman." The dust jacket for The Last Princess says that Freeman is "currently at work on a new novel." Please, someone, STOP her. (Putnam's, $18.95)
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