“I was happy with myself before – with my little life. But this is different. It feels like I’m on the edge of a mountain cliff, the wind whipping my hair, the sun blinding – but there is no fear. Only exhilaration, pure and right. I’m not going to fall. I can’t. Because Henry has shown me how to fly.”
Emma Chase has really knocked me straight on my ass with the Royally series. While I loved the dynamics in Royally Screwed, and connected with the characters on some level, Royally Matched blows the previous book out of the water. I had a feeling I would enjoy Henry's story but nothing prepared me for how much I loved seeing him and Sarah's romantic tale progress. To make things better, we see some familiar faces from Royally Screwed and it's just as delightful as you'd think. More importantly, Matched is far steamier and the superior of the two novels. That's hard for me to say because they are both some of the best royal romances I've ever read. I think the only way to accordingly describe the second installment of this series is: hot. So hot that I would put the fire emoji all over this review if I could.
At first glance, Royally Matched would appear to be an adult version of Kiera Cass' The Selection series. Very, very, very adult. But I don't need to tell you that. Sexy prince? Check. Quiet girl who (kind of) is on set for a reality program similar to The Bachelor, but doesn't really want to be there at first? Check. Fireworks from tension and respect? Check, check, check. Although the premise is entirely similar, the stories aren't actually much off a mirror image and there's plenty to satisfy fans with this one.
Let's talk about dynamics, shall we? I love seeing Henry interact with the Queen. She fascinated me in Screwed, of course, and her relationship with Nicholas was interesting enough. I felt like in Matched, though, she has a different kind of fondness for Henry. One thing I've noticed is that she is for sure Queen first and Granny second; she still melts (in some ways) around her grandsons and seems to really, truly, and completely, love them. I would love to see a spin-off of hers. She's tough but still clearly cares.
Onto the main attraction: Henry and Sarah. Shit. Fuck. Hell. I think my laptop just caught on fire just by mentioning their names. Is that possible? Well, maybe not--but it sure felt like it whilst reading the scenes between these two. Even at the beginning I was like, "Phew. Oh. Okay, kids. I need to cool off. Later."
You get my point.
See, the relationship could have gone horrible wrong and awkward but the thing about Emma Chase is, she has that effortless prose to her that will make familiar plots become new again. Still fluffy, but not dull as dirt. She knows her characters and smartly ties them together at a pace that is real to life and still part of a fantasy. It's like watching them fall in love in real time and I really appreciated the way their relationship progressed in a way that was quite different than the relationship in Screwed.
The trope of the bad-boy-reforming-for-a-good-girl is a tired one, but something about the way we see it unfold in Matched provides a refreshing throwback to this.
It's not painfully awkward. It's sweet and sexy and full of respect, despite the bumps in the road. Like, Henry's overall temper (which wasn't out of control but still a fucking problem that needed to be fixed and was) and the reality series kind of going off on its own/throwing things up in the air. I do wish we would have touched on more topics that were mentioned but not entirely explored to their best lengths (Henry's nightmares and substance abuse, Sarah's PTSD, the creep who tried to take advantage of Sarah, etc etc) but for the most part the novel was incredibly well put together.
Another thing I loved about Matched is the relationship between Sarah and her sister Penelope. I thought the dynamic was a nice trade off from Olivia and Ellie (who I definitely love, as you know) in the sense that sisters are sisters no matter what. I liked their backstory despite the fact that it broke my heart into about a thousand pieces when we figured out why Sarah has moments where she blacks out and disappears off into another time of really horrendous memories.
And then there's Sarah's job and her two best friends. Annie and Willard were a nice bit of fluff to insert into the plot and I just liked that Chase fleshed out the leading ladies like she has. A lot of the time, there's no balance in romance novels and in the Royally series we see more friends/families.
At the end of the day, I am quite surprised with the series as a whole and of the two that I've read this one is my personal favourite. It felt like something truly special whilst reading it and I would gladly pick it up again in the future. Henry and Sarah are easy to root for and I only wish we had more time getting to know them and seeing their future. A very satisfying chapter in this series.
P.S., Emma Chase: WRITE A NOVEL ABOUT THE LADIES HAVING A GIRL SQUAD. Nope? Oh fine. But really, guys. Picture the girls (Olivia, Sarah, Penelope, Ellie, Annie and Franny) getting together and being the ultimate squad goals. The guys could totally have their own #SQUAD too. I mean, hello?