For the first time in a generation the Castle of Lotzen was entertaining its lord. He had come suddenly, a month before, and presently there had followed rumors of strange happenings in Dornlitz, in which the Duke had been too intimately concerned to please the King, and as punishment had been banished to his mountain estates. But Lotzenia was far from the Capital and isolated, and the people cared more for their crops and the amount of the tax levy than for the doings of the Court. And so it concerned them very little why the red banner with the golden cross floated from the highest turret of the old pile of stone, on the spur of the mountain overhanging the foaming Dreer. They knew it meant the Duke himself was in presence; but to them there was but one over-lord: the Dalberg, who reigned in Dornlitz; and in him they had all pride—for was not the Dalberg their hereditary chieftain centuries before he was the King!
True, the Duke of Lotzen had long been the Heir Presumptive, and so, in the prospective, entitled to their loyalty, but lately there had come from across the Sea a new Dalberg, of the blood of the great Henry, who, it was said, had displaced him in the line of Succession, and was to marry the Princess Dehra.
Sometimes with these old romantic adventure books, the language is overly flowery and the plotline melodramatic and terrible. And SOMETIMES that’s fun, but mostly it’s annoying (to me). When I started reading The Princess Dehra for Distributed Proofreaders’ smoothreading thing, I was worried it’d be one of the annoying romances and I’d get pissed off and then I’d have to back off from the project and feel massively guilty about it for a few weeks. So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be really good!
The language, if flowery, isn’t overwhelmingly so. It’s elegantly purple, if you will. The story balances that out by being fast-paced and thrilling. And the characters! They’re totally stereotypes of romantic fiction, but they’re the BEST stereotypes and thus tolerable.
The plot, while somewhat simplistic, still managed to keep my on my toes. Probably that’s because there are sword fights and traitors and royalty fighting amongst themselves, and it’s all terribly exciting. If you’ve read Raphael Sabatini or Anthony Hope’s books, The Princess Dehra is somewhat along those lines– so if you like those books, you’ll no doubt like this one, too.
Oh, sure, there’s the usual early 20th century misogyny, what with calling grown women “little girls” and the like. There’s even a passage where Dehra says that women don’t think, only feel. Which– bah. Of course it’s BAH, but John Reed Scott almost makes up for it by having such INTERESTING female characters that I’m inclined to be more lenient than I usually would. Plus, what Dehra said is almost entirely contradicted by the very existence of another female character, who is brainy and evil and plots even more than the (male) villain does.
This is actually the sequel to another book, The Colonel of the Red Huzzars, though I didn’t know it at the time. There’s a scant amount of information about John Reed Scott– we don’t even know his death date! Project Gutenburg has a good amount of his books available, though, and I look forward to reading the rest. Hopefully they’re as good as The Princess Dehra is!
Read: June 12-14, 2012
If you download a copy from Project Gutenburg, be sure to get a version with the illustrations. They’re LOVELY.