Marie Kemei, the Night Manager at Kuramathi Island in the Maldives, has the perfect job. She is intrigued by the enigmatic Liv, a strikingly beautiful, mysterious guest who hides behind a hoodie and dark glasses. They strike up a friendship, as the stranger confides that she needs a short breather to rid herself temporarily of the sword hanging over her head.
Marie is intrigued but does not want to probe. Her advice to Liv is to forget who she is and make the most of the holiday, and in the process, make enough memories to last a lifetime. Marie has had her share of tragedy in life and she knows what it is to help someone live a little. A makeover and a change of wardrobe turn Liv into a younger and sexier woman with fighting spirit and daring.
The introduction of Christian, Liv’s brother, is equally intriguing for Marie, as she looks on at the siblings with “enthralling green eyes and strange inherent grace.” Christian has come to take back his sister, Olivia, the Crown Princess of Taragonia, who is to be married to the Crown Prince of Visteria. It is only just before they leave that Marie realizes that she has been hobnobbing with royalty.
Christian is almost Darcy-like in his persona, as “he stood like a silent sentinel, untouched by the laughter, glass-clinking, singing and dancing around him.” However, he and Marie develop a strange attraction, even though he disapproves of the manner in which she has helped his sister transform from “a rare moth of royal grandeur to a vivacious butterfly of startling appeal.”
The tempo of the book suddenly changes as Marie finds herself invited by Olivia to Taragonia for the royal wedding. She finds herself an outsider, in this “intimidating yet fascinating place”, as she tries to find her bearings. She breaks many rules of correct behaviour, as she tries to adhere to the formality of the royal family. Christian does not make it any easier for her with his stiff–necked pride and traditional outlook.
Marie never really does settle down in the gilded cage, but Devika Fernando adroitly showcases the changes in her feisty heroine’s perceptions, as she realizes that “royalty wasn’t only about riches and outdated customs, rigid rules and unfair advantages.” The royals have their moments of being human and charitable as well.
Beautiful descriptions make the reader see the places through the author’s eyes, even as Marie observes that life in Taragonia is like being “in a fairy tale, but much realer in its gilded-cage impression.” While Christian is singularly focused on what is best for his kingdom, his mother, the Queen, reigns supreme, forbidding and autocratic, “her piercing blue eyes, which swept over everyone and everything in a heartbeat, seeing all, judging all, never letting themselves be touched by anything.”
What are the circumstances that turn an unwilling Marie into the Prince’s special bride? Is she able to stand up to the challenges before her? Who is the one person who stands in between her and happiness? Devika Fernando proves once again that romance is her metier in the midst of all the intrigue in the royal court.
Maybe that is why there are lines of sheer poetry in the book, when Marie is described. “Everything she did was like music, a startlingly charming tune that took a classic and reinterpreted it – neither too different nor a mere imitation.”
Another line that remains with the reader even after the book has been read is uttered by Christian to Marie. “You are the one who can make it a fairytale or choose to let others write and ruin your story.” Isn’t that a universal truth, after all?