Starring Brooke D’Orsay and Will Kemp
Charlotte (D’Orsay) is a tabloid journalist for Royal Gossip Entertainment. Her sleazy boss will only give her a raise if she can snag an interview with the Count of Sorhagen, who no one’s seen in years. Inside the palace, she encounters a groundskeeper, Adam (Kemp), who she mistakes for the count. Claiming to write for a respectable publication, she requests an interview. They’re interrupted by Sir Gustus (Roy Lewis), a royal adviser who angrily chases Charlotte out. He tells Adam that the count left the palace years ago after meeting a girl in Daytona Beach during spring break. Soon, however, Sir Gustus asks Adam to impersonate the count for the interview, as he thinks the publicity will revive tourism at the palace. Everyone then continues the ruse. Charlotte and Adam begin falling for each other, but their budding romance is endangered when a cheesy story about them surfaces.
The movie was directed by Jonathan Wright, whose credits include another Will Kemp film, Jolly Good Christmas, and The Royal Nanny, both from 2022.
Refreshing twists on the usual. Hallmark’s royalty movies are typically formulaic. They feature an ordinary American girl who unwittingly falls for the prince of some fictitious European kingdom in which everyone sounds sort of British. Trouble ensues when the prince’s lie is revealed. A Not So Royal Christmas turned the royalty movie subgenre upside down by featuring an average guy posing as an eminent person, which might remind you of Dave (1993), in which Kevin Kline’s character impersonated a US president. And there was an additional twist here: both main characters, not just one, lied. To add to the fun, Adam pretended to Charlotte that his Clark Kent glasses and cheap, wrinkled clothing prevented him from being recognized as the count, but his “disguise” was only his usual nerdy look! Much like The Royal Nanny, this movie breathed new life into Hallmark’s royalty rom-coms. Kudos to Anna White for a delightful script.
Loveable liars. Bubbly Brooke D’Orsay and dashing Will Kemp made an irresistible pair. Kemp is a contemporary Cary Grant—effortlessly charming and witty, and convincing as the fake count. He could also be bumbling, which was obvious when Adam, trying to hide from Charlotte, drew her attention by colliding with some glassware. The leads’ undeniable chemistry was apparent throughout, such as when Adam told Charlotte that “your eyes get a sparkle when you go all historical” (her secret passion was history, not journalism) the night of the tree lighting, and when they admitted while watching the northern lights that they were each having the best Christmas ever. And as if that wasn’t enough, they almost kissed three times—surely a record number for almost-kisses in a Hallmark movie—before the kiss during their dance.
Revealing the truth. Adam was ready to reveal his identity to Charlotte just when Sir Gustus burst into the room. The adviser had discovered the story about her romance with the count—apparently written by her but actually rewritten by her boss, to whom she said “I quit.” She’d lied about who she worked for, infuriating Adam, who needed reminding that he’d lied too. Then she realized he wasn’t the count when she stumbled across photos of him with his mother, Rayna (Lisa Bunting), the bakery owner. Charlotte threatened to go public with Adam’s lie. This double whammy of revelations caused an explosion of fireworks between the pair. The anger, the hurt, and the regret were perfectly portrayed by D’Orsay and Kemp.
The yuletide ball. As the supposed Count of Sorhagen, Adam hosted the yuletide ball. There, he confessed publicly that he wasn’t the count and explained why he’d pretended to be. For the occasion, Charlotte appeared in a gorgeous emerald-green satin dress and said she wouldn’t be writing the exposé after all. The king and queen, impressed with how Adam had urged the royal advisers to open up the ball to the general public and support local suppliers, made him an honorary count, which he accepted providing he could still be himself. I liked that this ordinary character unexpectedly grew into his role as count and was acknowledged for it.
The supporting cast. This movie’s many excellent supporting actors including Roy Lewis as Sir Gustus. The adviser was required to uphold tradition and to ensure that scandal didn’t touch the palace. Lewis showed the right amount of bluster whenever catastrophe threatened, which was fun to watch. I also enjoyed Lisa Bunting as Rayna, Adam’s splendidly no-nonsense mother. She was critical of Adam for his years of travelling and working dead-end jobs, but she had his best interests at heart and in the end was proud of him.
My grade for A Not So Royal Christmas: A
Caroline Kaiser is a professional book editor who specializes in fiction and memoirs, and she’s been guiding writers toward publication since 2007. Caroline is also the author of two ghostly mystery novels, Virginia’s Ghost and The Spirits of South Drive. Before she embarked on an editing and writing career, she spent many years working in a Toronto auction house as an antiques appraiser. Apart from curling up on the couch and drinking tea as she watches Hallmark movies, Caroline enjoys baking and exploring London, Ontario, the picturesque city she now calls home. Her website is www.carolinekaisereditor.com.