Queen Agnesse was not supposed to become playboy Prince Sebastien’s bride.
But, forced to cohost a charity gala, the incendiary, off-limits chemistry they’ve long ignored explodes…and the consequences will be legally binding!
Seb vowed he’d never marry. Not after his own unhappy past.
Still, he’ll do anything to protect Agnesse and her hard-won reputation. They have faced heartbreak apart.
Now the love developing between them could help them face their biggest trial together…if they can finally believe that love exists.
This is an adult 18+ story that may contain language, possible violence, and/or sexual situations geared to an adult audience.
Title: Rivals at the Royal Altar
Author: Julieanne Howells
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: May 23, 2023
Publisher: Harlequin Presents
My Rating: 4
I have to admit that in Rivals at the Royal Altar, I was completely on Prince Sebastien’s side. Was he completely right in his actions? No, not always. But compared to Queen Agnesse’s actions, well, Seb was a saint. Both were wrong, yet I only saw one try to right some of those difficulties between them. It was well into the final chapters of their story that I began to warm up to Agnesse. For me, she was so wrong so many times in her interactions with Sebastien that I couldn’t find much to like about her, certainly not enough to root for her happy ending. Yes, she’d been done wrong by someone she should have been able to trust… but that wasn’t Sebastien’s fault, now was it?
There were interesting layers to Sebastien; he was far, far more than a playboy prince (a persona that he often takes on simply to annoy others, especially Agnesse). His upbringing, and how he overcame his past and turned himself into someone so much stronger (and independent) than anyone could have imagined made him a compelling figure in this romance. In her need to hold onto a hurtful comment in the past, to an unwavering belief in her sister’s lie, and in the face of her mother’s callous disregard for Sebastien she lost the chance to see a real man… and that was particularly sad to me.
In fact, I enjoyed Rivals at the Royal Altar very much – in spite of my annoyance at Agnesse and her family. I saw two wounded people, each reacting to those wounds in different, almost self-destructing ways. They faced some enormous challenges and heartbreak together, and eventually, their love for each other overrode those moments when neither was at their best. The most poignant moment for me was on the very final page… when Sebastien finally saw a truth he’d been denying for so long. The epilogue was where I believed in their happy ever-after future for they had to get through the very bad to appreciate what they truly had together. I think theirs is a very unique romance, and it would be a mistake to dismiss their story based only on Agnesse’s reactions to the past and her royal future. Dig a little deeper, and I’ll think you’ll discover a lovely, hard-fought-for love that can eventually stand the test of time.
I own a Kindle edition of this title.
Available in print or for your favorite e-reader