Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Widowed Anna Wren is having a wretched day. After an arrogant male on horseback nearly squashes her, she arrives home to learn that she is in dire financial straits. What is a gently bred lady to do?

The Earl of Swartingham is in a quandary. Having frightened off two secretaries, Edward de Raaf needs someone who can withstand his bad temper and boorish behavior. Dammit! How hard can it be to find a decent secretary?

When Anna becomes the earl’s secretary, both their problems are solved. Then she discovers he plans to visit the most notorious brothel in London for his “manly” needs. Well! Anna sees red—and decides to assuage her “womanly” desires . . . with the earl as her unknowing lover.

This is a book that has been getting a lot of positives vibes around it out in romance land, and having read it now, I can certainly see why! With the second book in the series, The Leopard Prince already out in stores, I am sure that we will certainly see more about this author over the coming weeks. I know I have already ordered the sequel. From that, you can probably tell that I enjoyed this book!

It was great to have a hero that wasn't dropped dead gorgeous. He was insecure about himself because of the physical scars that he received as a result of surviving smallpox. There are also the internal scars that are there as he was the only member of his family who actually survived. Normally we see that the heroine is more self conscious of the hero, even if they are scarred for whatever reason. Edward is a good man, but he also has a terrible temper, and managed to scare off two secretaries before he employed Anna. Anna is portrayed as being quite plain, although I have to admit that that is not something that I necessarily bought into completely.

I really enjoyed the dialogue between Edward and Anna. She was not prepared to back down just because Edward was having a temper tantrum. I did wonder about how realistic it would be that a lady would get herself into a brothel in order to seduce someone, but the scenes set there were very well written, believable and hot, as were the reactions of the characters once Edward in particular realised the deception against him. I did also wonder whether Anna's refusal to marry Edward the first several times he asked her was too much. I understand that Edward was almost obsessive about needing an heir, and that Anna thought that she was barren, but I loved how the whole issue was resolved. I did feel as though the author backed away from this issue a little in the epilogue though.

The villain of the story, Felicity Clearwater, was completely over the top, as was her cohort Chilly, but in a fun, and I gather, intentional way. I do wonder about the necessity of it, particularly since the whole blackmail plot seemed to be somewhat based on half truths, coincidences and wrong assumptions.

I was also kind of surprised we didn't find out the reasons why Edward's staff members Dreary and Davis were employed by although I did wonder if there wasn't supposed to be some correlation designed to show how alike Edward and Anna were in some ways seeing as they both had a tendency to pick up and help people who society would normally shun.

I really enjoyed the secondary story involving Mr Hopple, with the terrible fashion sense, and Fanny the former prostitute, but I did think that it did get dropped too far from the end and so their future was kind of implied, or maybe more precisely assumed by me to be a happily ever after!

The setting was 1760 - not the Regency, but I didn't really feel as though there was a reason for specifying that. I didn't feel that there was a real sense of period in the story.

I did enjoy the addition of the myth of the Raven Prince. At the beginning of each chapter we got to see a small part more of the myth, which roughly paralleled the series of events in the actual story. I wonder if she will continue with a similar theme in the upcoming books in the series.

Overall, this was a really good debut novel from an author that I am looking forward to reading more from! We did get to meet the heroes for the next two books in this one, and whilst I am looking forward to reading Harry's story in The Leopard Prince, I am more looking forward to reading Iddesleigh's story in The Serpent Prince.

Rating 4/5

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