The Queen Has a Cold

Remy, the heir to the throne of the tiny nation of Montamant, is finally free of their royal chains as they start graduate school in Boston. No one here knows Remy is royalty or intersex. It’s the break Remy has been looking for―until they meet Sam, the sassy lesbian across the hall. Sam doesn’t tolerate Remy’s snobbery and won’t let anything distract her from getting a PhD in gender studies. But Sam understands Remy in ways no one else ever has, and Remy pushes Sam to see beyond her books.

As things are starting to heat up between them, Remy is summoned home. The queen has a cold and can’t perform her royal duties. There’s just one problem: the people of Montamant haven’t seen Remy since puberty and the changes might mean Remy’s not the princess they expect. When Remy asks Sam to come with them, it might be the chance they both need to conquer their fears and find true love.

Content advisory: This book contains instances of misgendering and references to medical procedures.

Release Date: April 2021

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What Reviewers Are Saying

I absolutely loved Jane Kolven’s first romance, The Holiday Detour, and I’ve been waiting impatiently for the release of her sophomore effort, The Queen Has a Cold. I knew from the description that it was going to be another light-hearted and frothy (yet very meaningful and insightful) queer romance, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book focuses on two characters: Remy and Sam. Remy is the intersex heir to the small European nation of Montamant, while Sam is a lesbian looking to pursue a graduate degree. After their initial meet cute, they’re swept away to Montamant, where Remy’s mother Clotilde has a cold. Hijinks ensue, until at last Remy and Sam are able to set out on their royal romance, with the monarchy saved and their feelings for one another out in the open.

The Queen Has a Cold is everything that you could want in a book of this sort, and Kolven manages to thread the needle between social commentary and light-hearted romance. From the moment that Remy and Sam meet, it’s clear that they have feelings for one another; however, in true romance fashion they continue to spar and tease and criticize. Each of them brings something unique to the relationship, even as they each have to contend with their own limitations. Remy has to learn to let go of some of their upper-crust snobbery, while Sam has to recognize that her SJW zeal, while coming from a good place, isn’t always the most effective means of getting people to change their minds.

It takes a very brave author to be willing to wade into the fraught territory of intersex romance, but this is what we’ve come to expect from Kolven. As she did in The Holiday Detour — in which a lesbian cisgender woman falls in love with a nobinary person — she manages to address the issue of intersex identity with tact and grace. Throughout the book, we get a strong sense of what makes Remy tick and the struggles that they’ve had as someone growing up in a very public way. Kolven makes it clear, however, that Remy isn’t just a victim of social prejudice. They’re a person of many layers and contradictions, just like everyone else.

If their nonbinary gender is a key part of Remy’s identity, class position is a key component of Sam’s. Given that she hails a middle(ish)-class family from Indiana, she initially sees Remy as just another spoiled wealthy brat, and it’s only when she gets to know them better that she sees them for the complicated person that they are. American readers will no doubt sympathize with Sam’s plight as she struggles to navigate first the hostile environment of American graduate school as a poor person — her unpleasant encounter with her potential faculty adviser is a bit too on-the-nose — and then the unfamiliar world of protocol and tradition at Montamant. Through Sam, we’re allowed to see that an institution as seemingly old-fashioned and out-of-step with the modern world does have room for change and adaptation.

In the hands of a less competent author, all of this could have fallen flat or, even worse, veered into the offensive. Somehow, however, Kolven manages to capture these characters’ struggles without making them into stereotypes, and all while enmeshing them in a madcap adventure. The book really heats up once [SPOILERS]. If all of that sounds exceedingly unrealistic, that’s because it is, but it’s important to remember that we don’t read romances like this for realism; we read it for escapism, to get out of the humdrum lives that we inhabit. As implausible as it might be that [SPOILERS], we take it in stride because that’s what we’re primed to do in this genre. Besides which, who doesn’t want to see these two characters get together in the end?

If I have one complaint about this book, it’s that we don’t get more of two of my favorite secondary characters: Madame Pouvoir, the queen’s secretary, and Remy’s best friend Pierre, who it turns out [SPOILERS]. The mark of a good book, in my view, is its ability to give us side characters that have their own personalities and their own inner lives, and that’s what we get in The Queen Has a Cold.

Of course, no review of the book would be complete without mentioning titular royal. Clotilde is no Queen Elizabeth, but instead a middle-aged woman with a fierce desire to protect the monarchy and her own position. We don’t get a lot of attention to the inner workings of her mind, but it ultimately becomes clear that, though she’s been rather cruel to Remy throughout their life, she really does care for her child. Their reconciliation, which includes Queen Clotilde reintroducing her child to various assembled notable in new, gender-neutral terms, is one of the most moving parts of the book.

The Queen Has a Cold is the perfect romantic read, and it shows just how much Kolven has matured as an author since her first book. You can tell that she has a firm command of her material, and it’s evident in every aspect of the book. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us with her next romantic adventure!

Thomas West, Queens of the Bs, March 15, 2021

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