Monday, April 9, 2018

Book or Movie? "Once Upon a Prince"

Five years ago, I read (and loved!) the first book in Rachel Hauck's Royal Wedding series, Once Upon a Prince. Earlier this year, I heard Hallmark was making it into a movie. It's been so long—and so many books—since I read it that I couldn't remember much about it, aside from the fact that I loved it! I decided a revisit of the book was in order before the movie's premiere. I finished it just in time, as I wrapped up the book Saturday afternoon, and the movie premiered Saturday night!

Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess—just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn't going according to plan. When her high-school-sweetheart-turned-Marine-officer breaks up instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life. 
The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simon's Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family's tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna's aid under the fabled Lover's Oak, he is blindsided by love. 
Their lives are worlds apart. He's a royal prince. She's a ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel's coronation. 
It's the ultimate choice. His kingdom or her heart? God's will or their own?
This book is just as charming the second time around! It was almost like I was reading it for the first time—I only remembered small bits and pieces of the plot (though I did remember that Susanna and Nate/Prince Nathaniel ended up together).

I'm going to quote from my original review, as I don't think I could say it better now:
While Nathaniel was a prisoner to the expectations of an entire nation, Susanna's entrapment was of her own making[...] As God stripped away everything Susanna had clung to for so long, she finally experienced the freedom that comes from surrendering to Him. That freedom didn't mean life would be easy—in fact, she spent much of the book wondering what on earth God was doing—but it did give her peace. What a great lesson—all wrapped up in a thoroughly romantic story!
It's that strong faith thread that gave me pause as I anticipated the movie. While Hallmark's movies are always squeaky clean, the faith thread is very light. Very occasionally characters will be seen in a church service, but that's as far as it ever goes. And I was pretty sure that Aurora, the homeless woman/prophet, would not make an appearance in the story, though she's quite important in the novel.

I decided that I should just enjoy the movie for what it is and not expect it to hold too closely to the book.

Susanna gladly accepts help one day from handsome stranger Nate at her parents’ garden store in small-town Georgia. Sparks between them fly, but when a photo of them gets leaked to the press, Susanna is in for the shock of her life when Nate is called back home by his mother…for his coronation as the King Nathaniel of Cambria!
Soooo...I tried, I swear, to judge the movie on its own merits and not constantly compare it to the book, but it was really difficult! I watched the movie with a friend who hadn't read the book, and I had to keep biting my tongue because I wanted to point out all the changes. (I didn't always succeed in keeping my mouth shut, but I did a fairly decent job. And then I sent her home with the book 😏.)

The movie made lots of changes—in addition to the ones I expected and talked about above. Most of them I was okay with (though why did they have to change the name of the country?), but the truncated timeline bothered me. Let me explain ...

Hallmark movies used to end with an engagement about 50% of the time, and it drove me crazy because more often than not, the couples barely knew each other. That trend has changed recently, and most of the movies end with couples together but not taking that engagement step. Usually when the couples do get engaged, they've been friends forever (like in Very, Very, Valentine, my favorite of this year's Countdown to Valentine's Day movies).

Not so here. The engagement happens very much like it does in the novel. The difference? The book takes place over an extended amount of time—I'd guess nine months to a year. The movie spans maybe six weeks, and that's being generous. So in six weeks of knowing Nate (with at least half of that time being physically separated), Susanna is ready to give up her life in Georgia and marry a European prince? Strikes me as a tad unrealistic...

The film also took away the major obstacle to Nate and Susanna's happily ever after—a law stating royalty may not marry foreigners. Instead, it was just "custom," and, as the king, Nate could simply choose to defy custom and marry Susanna. The stakes were definitely lower.

That said, this is an enjoyable Hallmark movie. Jonathan Keltz and Megan Park are quite charming as Nate and Susanna, and they have good chemistry. I also enjoyed Kayla Wallace as Susanna's sister Avery, and I hope Hallmark will choose to make a movie out of her love story (A Royal Christmas Wedding), too. They name dropped Colin, the man she marries, in this movie, so I have hope.

So ...

Book or Movie?

Book! While the movie is good, the book is so much deeper and richer. (Book: 5 stars. Movie: 4 stars.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


  1. I had no idea this was a movie!
    But I didn't read the book either... I should.

    1. You should DEFINITELY read the book ... and then the rest of the series! The movie is fun, but the books are fantastic :-)


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