Genre: classic; adventure; romance
Plot Summary: These are the stories of the men who fall in love with the red-haired Princess Osra, unequaled in beauty throughout the little fictional European kingdom of Ruritania. Who will win the fair hand of the princess when her father the king and brother, Prince Rudolph, are intent on executing those they deem unfit for her?
My Book Review: Many years back I watched the movie The Prisoner of Zenda (Stuart Granger and Deborah Kerr version) and absolutely loved it! I must have rewatched it 3 times within a week. I’ve always wanted to read the book, but later I learned it is the second in a trilogy. So The Heart of Princess Osra was my foray into this series by Anthony Hope (his full name was Anthony Hope Hawkins).
This light and fun novel fully satisfied my love of melodramatic adventures! It actually is a collection of short stories, all bound by the common theme of one man after another falling in love with the Princess Osra and what each one’s fate is. Some are killed off by her father and brother, some are banned from the country, another commits suicide… There is a lot of sighing and swooning and sword fighting. That might not appeal to some, but I didn’t mind. It read like an old-fashioned black and white film and was just plain fun!
It was interesting see how each man conducted himself with Osra, as they are all different. Some are selfless and put her honor and reputation before their very lives. Others start out self-seeking, but are changed through knowing the Princess. The princess herself is a good-hearted person, but not perfect and is not free from vanity and pride. This keeps us from thoroughly gagging on sugary-sweetness otherwise. I have to mention that this novel is completely Victorian and oftentimes unrealistic. Men cheerfully throw their lives away on a whim for this maiden. Rather than take it too seriously, I just laughed and turned the page to see what happens next.
About the only thing I didn’t like was since each chapter is a tale in and of itself, they are each very long. I don’t relish long chapters or long books or long anything, so I got a little antsy finishing it.
There are nine chapters, and so at least 9 different male characters who serve as love interests for the Princess. The early 1910 edition I read had black and white illustrations, but I didn’t much care for them. So it was fun trying to imagine what each hero (or sometimes villain) looked like. Here is what my imagination came up with while reading:
Edward Petherbridge as Lord Harry Culverhouse
Jamie Dornan as the Marquis de Merosailles
Thomas Gibson as the Prince of Glottenberg
Luke Evans as the Miller of Hofbau
Aidan Turner as Christian the Highwayman
Mel Gibson as the Grand Duke of Mittenheim
Karl Urban as Stephen the Smith
Colin Firth as Giraldo the Painter
Christian Bale as the Bishop of Modenstein
You’ll have to read the book to see which of these guys wins the Princess’ heart (and how)! This book is for those who want a light, silly read full of adventure and romance. You don’t have to worry about sex scenes (in fact there is only kissing in the last chapter if you don’t count the times gentlemen kiss a lady’s hand). Just pretend you’re watching a black and white film and I’m sure it will be entertaining!