The Secret King (Conspiracy Against the Crown) - C.J. Miller

Series: Conspiracy Against the Crown (Book 1)

A princess in peril must choose between duty and desire in this electrifying romance

 

No one believes Princess Serena has the strength to rule Acacia...least of all Serena. But the assassins that placed her in line for the throne have turned their sights on her. And the mysterious Casimir Cullen--who's already saved her life once--is the only man she trusts. Serena is drawn to Casimir with overwhelming ferocity. But affairs of state require that she marry King Warrington of Rizari.

 

Casimir's relationship with Serena was supposed to be a means toward revenge against Warrington. Falling in love was never part of the plan. Now, protecting Serena and bolstering her self-confidence has become his priority. But what will happen when she learns his secret destiny?

 

Good book that starts with a bang and keeps the suspense level high. Serena is at a birthday celebration for her father, the king, when the lights go out and gunfire erupts. As her father and older sister fall, Serena is determined to get them to safety. As she attempts to do so, she is faced with a man with a gun and is certain she is about to die, when another man saves her life.

 

Casimir is at the party to kill the other king in attendance, King Warrington. Before he can do so, the room erupts in chaos and his chance is lost. He sees that Serena is in trouble, and though she is no part of his plan, he can't stand by and watch a woman in distress. He arrives at her side in enough time to save her life, then disappears to avoid questions. It is later suggested to him that he use his new acquaintance with Serena to get closer to King Warrington.

 

With the deaths of her father and sister, Serena is next in line to be Queen, which terrifies her. She has always been the quiet one who avoids the limelight. She's had no experience in dealing with the politics of her country and is afraid that she doesn't have what it takes to rule. This feeling is reinforced by her uncle and the council members, who encourage her to take her sister's place and marry King Warrington and form an alliance that way to protect her country. What she really wants is to see the mysterious stranger who saved her life, and who gave her a feeling of safety as soon as she saw him.

 

When Casimir reappears, that sense of safety and trust continues. He's the only one who seems to have confidence that she can do the right things for her country. She is also very attracted to him, something she knows is wrong with her impending engagement to King Warrington. But she can't stay away from him, and is determined to enjoy a bit of time for herself while she still can. She also can't help but compare Casimir to the king, who comes up short every time. She'd like to be able to stay with Casimir, but duty to her country pushes her at the king.

 

Casimir had started his relationship with Serena for one reason - to further his own goals. It didn't take very long for him to start to care for her for herself. The closer he got to her, the more he wanted to protect her from getting involved with the king. He has personal experience with just how bad the king is, but he can't tell Serena the truth.

 

I really liked seeing the relationship develop between Serena and Casimir. It was wonderful to see someone who believed in her and had no trouble showing it. I really liked his protectiveness and how he tried to take care of her without getting her into trouble. It was very hard for him to accept the idea that she could contemplate marrying the king, though he knew that she was determined to do what was right for her country. It took him a while to accept the truth of his feelings for her. Serena is drawn to Casimir from the beginning. She is physically attracted to him and his confidence in her makes her feel that she can handle anything, at least when he is near. It gets harder for her to accept the idea of marrying the king as her feelings for Casimir continue to grow. When certain information about him is revealed, she feels hurt and betrayed. She must decide how to deal with it and if she can trust in their feelings.

 

The suspense of the story was good. We learn from the beginning just what Casimir has against King Warrington and what his intentions are. His friendship with the president of the other country plays an important part in the process. There are further attacks on Serena, and the question is who is behind them and why. The king and his mother are certainly suspects, given their attitudes and history. But there is also the question of whether President DeSante is on the side of good or bad, given his own actions and attitude. The final confrontation was pretty intense with a surprise player showing up. The conclusion was quite satisfying. I'm looking forward to the next book, and the complication that is hinted at for Serena's cousin Iliana.