The Ring & the Crown

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
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Titillation the main attraction of this predictable romance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This romance, set in an alternative timeline with imagined history affected by wizards and magic, is meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

Don't try to be someone you're not; the secret to a happy life is accepting who you are. Being royal means sacrifice, not privilege.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The large cast of characters feature older teens (16 to 18) struggling into adulthood. Isabelle's naivete and lack of self esteem are the roots of her bad decisions. Wolf is honorable but needs the physical sensations of fighting as an emotional outlet. Leo presents a perfect facade but uses women for his own pleasure. Marie tries to run away from her responsibilities, but learns to face them in the end. Aelwyn tries to be someone else, but in the end learns to accept herself. Ronan lacks the courage of her convictions, which causes her to miss out on her best opportunities.


There are several slaps in the face. Injuries from a fight are mentioned but not described in detail. There's a duel with pistols and one party is shot and later dies. One character's stabbed in the back. Blood's mentioned half a dozen times or so, usually briefly, but the duel victim lies in a "river of blood," and the stabbed character's blood pools in his mouth. A past rape is mentioned; one character's past sexual molestation as a child is recounted vaguely.


The large cast of characters frequently kiss and embrace. There are two explicit sex scenes that don't mention specific body parts except for breasts: In one, it's implied that the boy puts the girl's hand on his erection, kisses hard with his tongue down her throat, was "inside her again," and "ravished her body" The other mentions "thrusting into her" and crashing "against her until she thought she might break." One male character likes to play "strip billiards" with young women who are mentioned as naked and anxious to "show him everything." A girl's physical exam includes her "unmentionables" and an assessment of her virginity and fertility. One kiss from a villain feels disgusting. A couple lies together half undressed and kisses.


"Bastard" is used as name calling once, and a couple of times illegitimate children are referred to as bastards. "Hell" is used once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Older teens, presumably of age in this alternative reality, frequently drink alcohol. Most often it's champagne, but mulberry wine, mint juleps, and Pimm's Cup are also mentioned. One main character is depicted as very drunk and later suffers a bad hangover. One character suspects she may have been drugged; she wanted to say no to sex but was physically unable to. Two characters are once depicted smoking in bed after sex. A minor character's physique is compared to a cigarette holder. A young man smokes a cigar, which the main character doesn't like.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Melissa de la Cruz​'s The Ring & the Crown is a bodice ripper that will titillate young romance fans with lots of kissing and embracing and two explicit sex scenes. Blood is mentioned half a dozen times or so; other violence is confined to a few punches or slaps, but two climactic events involve a duel with pistols and a stabbing, without much descriptive detail other than blood. The older teens frequently drink alcohol, and though it seems as if they're of age in this alternative reality, it's pretty glamorized.

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What's the story?

In order to preserve the empire, Princess Marie will have to marry Leopold, the Crown Prince of Prussia. But Marie's in love with her bodyguard Gill, so she enlists the help of childhood friend Aelwyn to escape the arranged marriage. Aelwyn's inherited the magical abilities and power of her father, Merlin, and agrees to use them to switch places with Marie. Much of the drama centers around the London social season's dazzling balls and glamorous dinner parties in anticipation of the royal wedding. Navigating these rough waters are Isabelle, descended from the overthrown French royal family and Leopold's lover, and Ronan, an American socialite who needs to marry into money in order to save her own family. On the verge of leaving the palace forever, Marie discovers a plot that could mean the end of the monarchy, and she'll have to decide between pursuing her own dreams and accepting the fate she was born into.

Is it any good?

With THE RING & THE CROWN, veteran author Melissa de la Cruz presents light fare that will titillate and thrill kids who love romance, dazzling costumes, and courtly intrigue. Otherwise, there's not much on offer here. The narration alternates among the large cast of characters whose voices aren't very distinct and is sometimes confusing, although it gets easier to follow once the characters become more firmly established. It's unfortunate that de la Cruz's alternative timeline, with fantasy elements of Arthurian-based magic, and in spite of some powerful female characters, presents a world of such old-fashioned sexism in which "a wife's job was to placate her husband and learn to hold her tongue." 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why romances are so popular. Do they help us understand relationships, or do they create unrealistic expectations?

  • Young women in this world don't have many opportunities in life except to marry well. Do you think that was true in the real world in the early 1900s? How have opportunities for women changed over the years?

  • Characters use magic in lots of ways, from winning a battle to changing their appearance. What magical ability do you wish you had? How would you use it?

Book details

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For kids who love Romance

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