Three Nights With the Princess by Betina Krahn


Three Nights with the Princess

by Betina Krahn
Historical: European



I thought I was getting a forced proximity medieval, and I thought maybe this could be cool and fun, and then I saw that it’s a reprint of The Barbarian and the Princess, which Krahn published in 1993, so I thought “Oh, Old Skool wackiness! I’ve kinda missed that!” and then I got some of the shittiest world building EVER and I’m just annoyed.

It’s roughly 1200 or so, and Thera is the Crown Princess of a tiny kingdom called Mercia (not the real one, which was the bulk of what is now England, but a fake one, tucked into the edge of Brittany in France). In order to become queen, she needs to get married. While out on a husband hunting trip to… somewhere in France-ish (It doesn’t matter), the town she’s in gets attacked by barbarians or mercenaries, and she flees with her lady in waiting. She gets rescued by another barbarian mercenary, Saxxe Rouen, who because he is a mercenary, demands payment for helping her, and the payment he demands is that she spend a night in his blankets. She’s like, cool, we can do that, also you lay a hand on me and I’ll cut your dick off (right on). As the trip goes on, she needs to bargain for other things  (like being saved from a snake) and he gets a promise of three nights of pleasure.

Okay, we’re gonna stop right here for a minute. Yes, from the moment they meet, the sexual attraction sparks are flying. Yes, this is a uptown girl and a downtown boy thing. Yes, this is still kinda gross, even if Saxxe is like “I am REALLY good at the sex, and I know you want it” and Thera is like “I know I want it, but I don’t WANT to want it.” It’s still an Old Skool rapey premise.

Then they get to Mercia, which WEIRDLY, even though it’s hanging off the edge of France like a pointless appendix, NO ONE SEEMS TO KNOW ABOUT. And then things get really stupid. No one in France knows about Mercia….except for a handful of nobles that Thera was considering as potential husband material. Mercia has completely different customs and religious beliefs than LITERALLY ALL OF EUROPE. Because what makes Thera married is not a ceremony, and apparently it doesn’t matter how many people she bangs, as long as she doesn’t spend seven nights with someone. See, she spends seven nights with a man (sex or no) and she’s married!

I guess Christianity just skipped over this gallbladder of a kingdom.

So when Saxxe and Thera show up, and he’s like HEY WHAT UP THIS WOMAN (he didn’t know she was a princess, just that she was rich) OWES ME A BUNCH OF SEX, her people are like “Does that mean she’s finally gonna get married and be our Queen for reals?” No concern about literally any other part of this. None.

But that’s not all. Mercia, because NO ONE KNOWS IT’S THERE, doesn’t have walls. Or an army. People can’t really fight. There’s no garrison. Somehow, this little kingdom has thrived and it’s a lovely SUPER CLEAN place because… like… all the people do there is clean and count things.

This is not great for the plot that has been following Thera and Saxxe across France. The plot is in the form of a younger son who wants to conquer something and prove that he’s awesome and powerful and I am so sick of men who are grasping at power and bullshit all the goddamn time. Anyway, I gave up on the book at the point that Saxxe was like, “but where’s your army tho” and the people of Mercia were like “Well, we’ve never needed one” and I was like “that’s bullshit tho and I’m going stop reading something that makes me mad. Life is short.”

Because yeah, if you want to make it as a tiny little toe kingdom off the foot of France, YOU NEED AN ARMY. AND A WALL. Especially as power struggles have been swirling around your head for centuries and will continue to do so. And there’s no way (NO WAY) that they’re completely self-sustaining. They need to trade with SOMEONE, and people talk! Traders talk! Traders talk a lot!

And this whole “Well, marriage happens after the seventh night, this is out sacred law” and like…no. I just…no. Everything about the world building made me angry. And it would totally work as a fantasy! A fantasy where there’s a spell around the kingdom that makes people forget about it, or not be able to see it, like, I dunno, Wakanda. And maybe, WHILE I AM DRAFTING A WISHLIST AND MAYBE REWRITING IN MY HEAD A LITTLE OK MAYBE MORE THAN A LITTLE, the power dynamics could be less rapey and gross.

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