Love is the most dangerous gamble imaginable for Johan Maximillian von Braustein, stepson to the king of the tiny, tumultuous nation of Liechtienbourg. Bullied as a child for his sensitive heart, he’s learned to protect himself with an unending display of glamour and debauchery designed to keep everyone distracted and at a distance. Known as “Bad Boy Jo-Jo,” he’s on a first-name basis with members of the paparazzi, and there are online communities dedicated to the appreciation of his, ahem, assets—which are on frequent display. Every move he makes is orchestrated and calculated to protect himself from ever having to be genuine or vulnerable. And while he’s known for his wild stunts, the one risk too hazardous for him to even consider is the idea of falling in love.
Meanwhile, love is quite literally a game for Nya Jerami. Sheltered (read: stifled) by her manipulative, controlling father for most of her life, she seeks refuge in online games that let her play at romance, intrigue and seduction. And if her favorite happens to be One True Prince, in which her character is required to seduce a certain Prince Hojan transparently based on a Liechtienbourgian playboy, then who’s to know? It’s not likely that a man like him would ever notice a wallflower like her.
A series of comedic mishaps throw Johan and Nya together during a mutual friends’ wedding celebration. Nya finds herself thrust into Johan’s arms—and right into the media spotlight. It’s her chance to chase the adventure she’s always craved, with the man she has always desired. But years of treating love as nothing more than a harmless, consequence-free game have done nothing to prepare her for the moment when it’s there in the flesh, right by her side.
Cole has a lot of fun with the luxury and decadence of the settings in A Prince on Paper, and plenty of palaces, private jets and other trappings of wealth play into the escapist tone of the story. Yet that privilege comes at a price. As the daughter of a powerful government minister whose Machiavellian tactics have landed him in jail, Nya faces equal measures of pity, suspicion and scorn from people all too willing to tar her with the same brush. On the other hand, Johan is solely responsible for his reputation, but that doesn’t stop it from being a burden. It just happens to be a burden he willingly bears, drawing fire on himself to protect his beloved half-brother, the heir to the throne, from media scrutiny.
But with Johan, Nya doesn’t have to hide. And with Nya, Johan doesn’t have to dissemble. Their no-holds-barred honesty with each other is shocking compared to all the wheels-within-wheels manipulations surrounding them, and that’s exactly what makes it so sweet and satisfying. Johan puts all his masks aside while Nya steps out of the shadows, and they meet in the middle in a love that’s not a gamble or a game but a reward for their courage and trust.