Princess Andrea is the fourth daughter in the kingdom of Xaren-Ra, a position she doesn’t exactly relish. She doesn’t feel like a lady, she doesn’t particularly get along with a couple of her older sisters. She would rather be off riding her horse or training to be a squire. Her mother has different ideas for her, so Andrea runs away. She finds an arch, a doorway, that her uncle, Tio Romero, has off-handedly mentioned, and she decides to see where it leads.
Then she discovers 20th-century California.
It’s a bit of a leap, there, to go from a princess fantasy book to an immigrant immersion experience, but, for some reason, it works. Andrea’s experience with college life — what they speak in Xaren-Ra is similar to Spanish, and she picks up English fairly well, so they’re passing her off as a semester-exchange student — is intriguing. There’s a twist to the immigrant experience: Andrea is discovering things like phones and electricity on top of other, more cultural, differences. But she finds a way to bloom, even falling in love with a fellow student, John.
Then she and John fall through the arch, back into Xaren-Ra, and inadvertently start a war. Which means it’s up to Andrea — who has an idea about how to avoid too much bloodshed — to fix the whole mess. Which involves a whole slew of things, including saving the life of Don Julian, the enemy king.
If there is one failing in this book, it’s that it tries to do too much. Is it a fantasy? Yes, and it works fairly well as a historical-type fantasy; the premise is unique, but even though the ending feels a bit forced, it’s generally fairly good. Is it an immigrant story? Yes, and while it doesn’t work as well as that, it’s still an interesting aspect to the overall story. Is it a romance? Yes, and this is the part that ultimately fails; it’s not that it’s unbelievable — though it is to a certain extent — it’s that there is really no chemistry between Andrea and either of the men she falls for. Add it all together and it’s just one too many elements to the story. It’s not that it’s a bad story, or even badly written: it’s neither of those things. There are some parts that flow well, and it’s a good first effort by the author. It’s just that it needed a bit more focus, something to pull it a bit tighter together, perhaps do a bit less with the plot and the characters to make it a truly good book.
But, all that said, it really wasn’t bad at all. And that’s a good thing.