Cover comment: I know folks are getting sick of half-heads, but I think this perfectly captures the promise and peril Simon represents to Lucy, right down to the slithery “Rs” in the title font.
Setting: Eighteenth century Georgian England, both rural Maiden Hill and London
Main characters: Lucy Craddock-Hayes, sensible but impressionable virgin daughter of a widowed sea captain, living in rural England, and Viscount Simon Iddesleigh, who presents as a gorgeous, if slightly jaded, dandy with a self-deprecating sense of humor — a persona which serves as cover for some deep insecurities, a tragic recent past, and some very bloody secrets.
Plot: Opposites attract in Lucy and Simon, and they come together more or less straightforwardly, but his secret pursuit of revenge against his brother’s killers presents a huge challenge to their growing bond.
Distinctive features: 18th century setting (powdered wigs and man hose!); marriage represents midpoint, not culmination, of relationship development; hero is a cold blooded killer and his duels are not romanticized; and (I can’t resist adding this) the hero “jostles his elder” after spying our heroine in her conveniently located “kitchen bathtub”!
My take in brief: I’m one up/one down with this author. I loved The Raven Prince, while The Leopard Prince was not my cup of tea, and her most recent, To Taste Temptation, was just “meh”. But I really enjoyed this book because Simon is so unique and well drawn, and because the heroine is principled without being a prig. Their relationship is very romantically dramatic and the conflict is very dire and very real, with a truly unexpected denouement.
Word on the Web: Positive.
Jane and Jayne, Dear Author, B+ and B
AAR, Sandy, A-
TGTBTU, Gwen, A+
TGTBTU, Larson, A
The Romance Reader, Lesley Dunlop, 4 hearts
Book Binge 9Casee) 4.25
Book binge (Holly), 5 out of 5
Amazon, 4 stars after 41 review
Renee Reads Romance, tops in 2007
Curled Up With a Good Book, Helen Hancox, 4 stars
Nights and Weekends, Colleen Snodgrass, mixed
The Mystic Castle, Castle Keeper
Tyranny of Reading, mostly negative
Romance Reviews Today, very positive
Thread at AAR, with some scathing comments mixed in with praise
HK’s Funny Falsoid (you know, like a factoid, only false): “When Simon learns that his nurse is an artist, he hires her to illustrate the fairy tale The Serpent Prince and the Goat Girl.” !!
Jessica’s Factoid: The Serpent Prince won the AAR’s Best Romance published in 2007 (tied with another excellent read by Jo Goodman, If His Kiss is Wicked) and Most Luscious Love Story.
This one made some waves thanks to the gory nature of the hero’s duels, but if you’ve read Outlander or most paranormals without incident, you should be ok. I don’t think it’s easy to write this kind of action and keep it suspenseful (no fangs, guns, or spells to jazz it up), but I was on the edge of my seat every time Simon picked up his sword, and I think the gory details helped with this. It really is a wretched way to die. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the Avada Kedavra every time over getting slowly hacked to death with a sword.
Simon duels to avenge his older brother Ethan’s death and the dishonor which it brought to his family (we learn this by Chapter Two). Since there were several folks involved in the conspiracy to kill Ethan, Simon has been busy. His luck has turned against him when we meet him, naked and unconscious in a ditch near the heroine’s country home. (I would have liked a bit more back story on Simon — I never felt his motivation for avenging his brother’s death was that strong.) In the first third of the book, Simon’s self-deprecating humor and charm are strong, and his infatuation with Lucy is very sweet and funny and touching. One scene in particular, which takes place in the dark in a winter garden, is really lovely. This side of Simon fades away almost completely when the action moves to London and the book takes on a much bleaker, darker tone.
Simon and Lucy are drawn to each other and, being smart adults, they both acknowledge it pretty quickly. Lucy’s attraction to the handsome and charming viscount is easier to explain than his attraction to the lovely, sincere, but somewhat less well drawn Lucy.
More jarring for me than the scenes of violence were the sex scenes, not for the action, which are nothing out of the ordinary, but for the coarse language. In the “cocking the rifle” scene mentioned above, for example, the hero’s genitalia are referred to as “meat”. In a later scene, Simon shares a few rather vulgar fantasies with his only recently deflowered country bride. I have no problem with vulgar language and racy sex scenes, but I found them jarring in this particular novel. I liked, however, that the intensity of Simon’s lovemaking reflected not just his love and passion for Lucy, but the way in which she represents his salvation, and a reprieve from the evil deeds he has felt forced to do.
Another thing I really liked about this book is the genuine moral conflict both the hero and heroine face. For her part, she has promised to love and cherish him no matter what, but he has killed several men, and plans to kill more. For his, he feels he must avenge Ethan’s death, but doing so is costing him his soul, and possibly his relationship with the love of his life. The book asks us to think about moral duties, and what to do when they conflict, and that’s great. It also presents their mixed motivations realistically: does Lucy want to stay with him because it’s her wifely duty? Or because she’s in love with him (not to mention the amazing sex). That she herself is not even sure is very realistic to me.
I do wish these moral dilemmas had been explored a bit more in conversation by the hero and heroine, however, and I think his was never really resolved, while hers was resolved quite abruptly.
This is the third in Hoyt’s Prince trilogy, and each book has had a fairy tale woven in somehow. In the first two books (if I am remembering correctly — alas, they weren’t keepers for me so I can’t check), the fairy tale was revealed in bits in epigraphs at the start of each chapter. I confess that I skipped them. In this one, Simon tells Lucy the fairy tale of the Serpent Prince (he makes it up actually) as the story progresses, and I felt it was an important part of the novel, both because the characters in it mirrored Simon and Lucy, and because their conversations about it were, especially in the beginning, so delightful.
This was a very enjoyable book — my favorite Hoyt — and I do recommend it strongly.