Princess Ariella is being groomed to be the future queen of her kingdom, but she cares little for court life or making a smart match—especially with the snooty Prince Jeshua, who won’t leave her alone any time he visits her castle. Ariella finds herself interested in the common people, their daily lives, and their customs. When she meets Gavin, the gardener who maintains the maze, she believes she has finally found a friend.
The sparks fly between Ariella (who prefers to be called Ella) and Gavin, but how can they be together when she is royalty and he is one of her royal subjects? Though he resists a friendship with her at first, Gavin soon finds himself unable to deny Ella anything she wishes—including helping her sneak outside of the confines of her castle and into the town where he lives. Ella feels at home with these people, but soon her royal duties intrude upon her.
As Ella’s sixteenth birthday approaches and her father realizes that Gavin is a threat to her taking the throne, Gavin is sent away from the palace. Ella overhears her father promising her hand in marriage to Prince Jeshua, she will stop at nothing to prevent the marriage from taking place. When she is reconnected with Gavin, hope swells in heart, but is soon dashed when she learns he is to be wed as well.
In Just Ella, Annette K. Larsen has written an engaging love story about two people who must overcome all sorts of obstacles to get their happily ever after. I immediately was on board with a relationship between Ella and Gavin, booing the awful Prince Jeshua every step of the way. Larsen proves that writers don’t need to include sex or tons of descriptive physical encounters to show that two characters are deeply in love with one another.
But Just Ella is more than a love story. It also includes themes of father/daughter relationships, mother/daughter relationships, friendship, and being true to oneself. In the beginning of the story, Ella misunderstands her relationship with her father. She thinks they are close because he spends a lot of time with her, but later believes it was only because he was preparing her to be a future ruler. Ella has never felt close to her mother, but after Ella’s heart is broken when she loses Gavin, she and her mother are brought together. I especially loved that the statues in the garden that Ella loves so much were commissioned by the queen; she relates to Ella more than Ella even knows. I loved that Ella reached out in friendship to Gretchen, her maid, and Gavin, the gardener. She put aside her royal title to really get to know them, and eventually their stations did not matter. And while it looks pretty touch and go for awhile, Ella does eventually get what she wants most.
I highly recommend Just Ella for romance readers looking for a cleaner story, anyone with an interest in reading about the contrasts between royalty and common folk, and enough suspense to keep you turning the pages as quickly as you can so Ella can live happily ever after.
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I was born in Utah, but grew up in Flagstaff Arizona and St. Louis Missouri, the fifth of seven children. I attended college at Southern Virginia University and Brigham Young University where I studied English and Theater. I now live in Idaho with my husband and four children.
I have Charlotte Bronte to thank for the courage to write novels. After being bombarded with assigned reading about women who justified abandoning either their families or their principles in the name of love, I had the great fortune of reading Jane Eyre. And that was it: finally a heroine who understood that being moral and making the right choice was hard, and sometimes it hurt, but it was still worth it. After rereading it several years later, I realized that if I wanted more books to exist with the kinds of heroines I admired, then I might as well write a few myself. My books are about women who face hard choices, who face pain and rejection and often have to sacrifice what they want for what is right. The consequences are often difficult or unpleasant, but it the end, doing what’s right will always be worth it.
I believe there is no substitute for good writing or good chocolate. Fortunately, one often leads to the other.
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