After reading Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Prince Otto is a startling change of pace. From adventure and pirates and sailing and treasure in the Caribbean–to political intrigue and romance in Germany.
The book, as I understand it, was not well-received in its time, and to be fair, I can see why. It did not fit the culture of the age, with its romantic optimism and vague opposition to monarchy, but it is still an enjoyable read–provided you like dialogue and romance. It was certainly far more pleasant than other romances I have perused lately.
The characters are written well and consistently, although it seemed Stevenson was adding a new name or title to some characters every chapter. (It helped once I realized that some titles were simply the German counterparts to titles he had already used in English.) The romance between Otto and Seraphina is… complicated, to be trite, but not unbelievable. Otto, apart from a brief (and destructive) moment of monarchic ire, is dedicated entirely to serving and pleasing the wife he always knew he had disappointed. Seraphina, meanwhile, is so focused on ruling the princedom that she sacrifices her personal life in frustration with Otto’s political shortcomings; yet in the end, she realizes whither her manipulations brought her and remembers her love for Otto.
I was delighted to read allusions to Scripture several times in each chapter. They were often poignant and effective, especially if you know the context, and they spiced up a book which would otherwise have been rather dreary.
The book does have a happy ending, so if you’re opposed to that, I suspect you should avoid it. If, on the other hand, a romance is only good when it all works out in the end, this is a fine choice. Not Stevenson’s best work, of course, but thoroughly pleasant.