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REVIEW: The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Dear Ms. Hoyt,

Raven Prince by Elizabeth HoytMany readers (including Jane and Jayne) have fallen in love with your debut, The Raven Prince. I wish I were one of them, but unhappily, I have to report that I closed the book feeling that the fan bus had left the bus terminal without me. As I sit here, figuratively waving to all those folks whose faces are plastered to the bus windows, wondering how to explain to them why I couldn’t get on board, the bus turns smaller and smaller, until it’s a dot on the horizon. I look around. Yup, I’m all by myself out here.

The Raven Prince takes place in eighteenth century England. It’s the story of Edward de Raaf, the temperamental Earl of Swartingham, and the widow Anna Wren, whom he nearly runs over with his horse one day. Shortly after that, Edward finds himself in need of a new secretary, and since he doesn’t give his steward, Mr. Hopple, much time to come up with one, Hopple hires Anna, a woman.

It doesn’t take long for a sexual attraction to emerge between Edward and Anna as they spend time together at luncheon and touring his estate. One day Anna discovers a bill from a house of ill repute called Aphrodite’s Grotto, and she realizes Edward is a customer there. Soon afterwards she (somewhat conveniently, I thought) finds an ailing prostitute lying in a ditch and takes her home to nurse.

Edward’s family died of smallpox when he was a child, and he lost his first wife in childbirth, so starting a new family is important to him. Anna is infertile and not of his class, so he feels he can’t marry her, and he goes to London to propose marriage to a young lady.

While in London, he plans to visit Aphrodite’s Grotto. He is not aware that Anna, thinking he has left the village to assuage his sexual desire for her with someone else, has, with the help Pearl and Coral, the prostitute and her demimondaine sister, come to the whorehouse wearing a mask, to be his lover for the night.

Almost from the very beginning, I had difficulty getting involved in this book. The biggest issue for me was probably how anachronistic it felt to me. In the first scene, after Edward departs, Anna says “Bastard!–? I didn’t think this word would be likely to be uttered by a respectable middle class woman in 1760 England.

Then, Hopple and Edward hired Anna as a secretary, at a time when only men were secretaries. I found this even more difficult to believe. The characters continued, it seemed to me, to behave and speak like twenty-first century people. For example, Anna goes on about Edward’s attractiveness to her mother-in-law. Later on she tells her friend that the earl isn’t likely to seduce her. Here’s a snippet from that conversation:

“Of course he won’t while you’re wearing that awful cap.–? Rebecca gestured with the teapot at the offending article of clothing. “I don’t know why you wear it. You’re not that old.–?

“Widows are supposed to wear caps.–? Anna touched the muslin cap self-consciously. “Besides, I don’t want him to seduce me.–?

“Why ever not?–?

“Because—-? Anna stopped.

She realized –” horribly–”that her mind had gone blank, and she couldn’t think of a single reason why she didn’t want the earl to seduce her.

I just couldn’t suspend disbelief that this conversation was taking place in 1760. There were other examples of speech that seemed contemporary to me. Edward says “Shit,–? in Anna’s presence. He also refers to another character as “that baboon.–? There’s mention of a “crackpot theory.–? Edward’s valet says to Anna, “Don’t have to be snotty.–?

It’s not just the characters’ behavior and speech that feels modern to me, but the narration and character thoughts also seem to me to use contemporary expressions. For example, Edward is described as having “demolished the food on his plate.–? Another time he thinks that something “had blown up in his face.–?

Understand, I’m not saying that these words themselves are actually anachronistic. They may in fact have been in use in 1760. But the expressions comprised of those words sound contemporary to me, and that was enough to pull me out of the story.

For these reasons, I had considerable difficulty suspending my disbelief enough to keep reading. I kept at it though, largely because the sex scenes were hot. Indeed, I have no gripes at all with Anna and Edward’s erotic encounters, which were sensual and rich with sensory descriptions.

Another issue I had (and perhaps it was partly because of my distraction due to the reasons I mentioned above), is that I didn’t see much romantic love between Anna and Edward. Their initial attraction seemed largely physical to me. Anna speculates about Edward’s chest hair, and Edward wonders about the color of Anna’s nipples. There’s nothing wrong with good old fashioned lust but in this case, I found myself longing for that lust to be conveyed in a fresher way, and even more importantly, I also wanted to feel more of other emotions between Edward and Anna, too.

For two people who had been through the wringer (Anna with her infertility and her late husband’s cheating, Edward with all the loved ones he’d lost), these two did not seem to carry any truly deep wounds, and I didn’t feel the psychological angst I would expect from a relationship between them.

There were places, too, where I felt a desire for more subtlety in the writing. Here’s an example:

He stopped suddenly as if she’d interrupted.

She hadn’t.

For me, the words “as if–? are sufficient to indicate that Anna hadn’t interrupted Edward in this exchange. As a reader, it’s important to me to feel that authors trust my intelligence and know that I will understand their words. The scene in which these two lines appeared is meant to be an emotional one, and it would have had a lot more power for me if I hadn’t been distracted by the unnecessary explanation in the second paragraph.

Nonetheless, there were also things I liked about this book. The fairy tale of the raven prince was lovely, and I enjoyed the way the bird theme was woven throughout the book, with Anna’s last name and the comparisons of Edward to a raven. I like that the main characters were both relatively plain (in Edward’s case, even ugly).

I also liked the character of Coral, the demimondaine. Her cynicism really appealed to me and I hope that she makes further appearances in future books. Some of the character names were evocative and enjoyable (though others, like Chilly, Dreary, and Lazarus Lillipin made it difficult to suspend disbelief). There were some nice turns of phrase in places, too. And as mentioned before, the sexy scenes are very sexy.

Overall, though, The Raven Prince was a frustrating reading experience for me, enough so that by the second half of the book I was skimming. So many readers have loved this book, and I’m glad that it found an audience and that its fans have enjoyed it so much. I truly wish I felt the same way.

I have no doubt that there are and will continue to be other readers for this book, and I recommend that our readers who haven’t done so yet read Jane’s review and Jayne’s review as well before deciding whether to buy it. Since I skimmed the second half and did not go back to read it in its entirety, for me The Raven Prince is a DNF.

Sincerely,

Janine

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Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

37 Comments

  1. Janine
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 13:53:07

    Go ahead, guys. Tell me I fell on my head with this one.

  2. Jayne
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 17:50:13

    As seemingly the only person not to like “Never Deceive a Duke,” I’d be the last person to say “Oh Gawd! How could you not like that book?” :)

  3. Janine
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 12:07:47

    I haven’t read Never Deceive a Duke yet so I can’t take you to task yet, Jayne. Not that I would, either. But I’m fully prepared for disagreement in this case. That’s one of the things the comment section is for, isn’t it?

  4. Ann Bruce
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 12:55:57

    Yup, I'm all by myself out here.

    Janine — I’m right beside you. I tried and tried very hard to like it because of all the rave reviews, but it just didn’t click for me.

    I’m going to give The Leopard Prince a try, though.

  5. Janine
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 13:08:07

    Ann — It’s good not to be completely alone. I haven’t ruled out trying Hoyt again, either. I’ve heard that The Serpent Prince has a dark and tortured hero, and I’m a sucker for those, so I may give it a try.

  6. Meljean
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 14:16:40

    I liked this one, but even if I hadn’t, I’d probably pick up The Serpent Prince just because of the tortured hero.

    My sister had a completely different reaction, though. When I told her I was going to look for TSP, and that it was the follow up to TRP and TLP, her reaction was “meh.” I think she finished both of them, but it was a skim for her to the end, and she said the characters never engaged her (although she remembers the sex scenes very well :-D ).

  7. Angela
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 14:40:03

    I really liked this one first time around, but a re-read caused it to drop a few grades for the same reasons it was a slog for you. And I didn’t really care for The Leopard Prince–seemed too much like TRP all over again. I’ll probably try TSP because of all the positive buzz, but you’re not a freak for not liking the book.

  8. Jennifer McKenzie
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 14:42:50

    I’ve felt the same way about all sorts of “popular” books. Barbara Kingsolver. Don’t like her. Never will. I slogged through two of her books before I said “Enough!”
    Not a big Harry Potter fan either. And while I loved the movie “A Series Of Unfortunate Events” I found the books almost painful to read to my boys. I do love my happy endings.
    I also disliked “Titanic”.
    I think it’s better to be honest so that other people can say “That’s what I thought too.”

  9. erastes
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 14:44:01

    This sums up exactly why I dislike a lot of historical “Romance” – it seems to me that the romance writers don’t seem to bother with such things as accuracy as – for example – the crime writer or the sci-fi writer. Get your poison wrong in a crime novel, or describe the rifling on a bullet wrong and your readers will jump on it like a trampoline. But a lot of the feedback I’ve had from romance readers is “but it’s escapism, I don’t care about accuracy”

    I do. I do a LOT. I don’t want my heroine striding about treating her slaves like her best friends and complaining about wearing a cap (sheesh – EVERYONE wore caps – http://www.englishcountrydancing.org/clothing3.html)

    Modern behaviour just pulls me out of a story. Will miss this one.

  10. Sunita
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 15:35:05

    Add me to the DNF list, for many of the same reasons. I really really wanted to like this one, but the contemporary language, relationships, and plot points kept pulling me out of the story. And I have a pretty low tolerance for the “hey, let’s be courtesans!” storylines as it is, so I knew that if I wasn’t sucked in before that, it wasn’t going to happen. Oh well. Great review, BTW. The examples of what did and didn’t work for you make it very clear for the reader.

  11. Janine
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 16:57:07

    Meljean – I think the diversity of reader responses to the same book is what makes book discussions so enjoyable.

    Angela – Interesting that you had two different responses to the book so close together. That happens to me sometimes, but usually when a few years have passed since I last read the book.

    I’m a fairly picky reader and there are a lot of books that I don’t finish and don’t review, because I only read a chapter or two and therefore can’t say much about them. I don’t write DNF reviews unless I’ve read at least a third of the book which is enough to provide our readers with an idea of what it is about. So for me to write a DNF review, the book has to have some merits, because it keeps me reading at least that long.

  12. Janine
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 17:18:59

    Jennifer – I am smiling at your list. I never read the Lemony Snicket books. Only read one Harry Potter; maybe someday I’ll be inspired to read more. I thought “Titanic” was quite flawed, but I enjoyed it very much nonetheless. And when I first read it well over a decade ago, I adored Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. But then I tried something else of hers, and couldn’t get into it.

    We can’t all like the same books all the time, and the world would be a lot less interesting if we did.

    erastes – The funny thing is that I don’t often catch anachronisms. I’m not as educated about previous centuries as I’d like to be, so often times anachronisms go over my head. One of the reasons I prefer historical romance to contemporary romance is that I’m more likely to catch inaccuracies in contemporary novels.

    I’m also not as well-read in the science fiction or crime genres as I am in romance, but even so I’ve seen some dubious science in some of the science fiction I’ve read. I also get the impression that some romance authors are quite meticulous in their research — for example Madeline Hunter is a history professor as well as an author of historical romance. Perhaps if you seek out these authors you will enjoy your reading in the romance genre more.

    Sunita – Thank you so much for your kind words on my review! I sometimes have some willingness to tolerate contempoary-seeming behavior in historicals, so I think it was the contemporary-sounding language that made it harder for me to do so in this case.

  13. Jen
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 17:42:25

    I’m going to buy The Serpent Prince because I really like Hoyt’s voice- anachronisms and wall-paper history have never bothered me. But when I read The Raven Prince, I couldn’t get past the fact that the heroine posed as a prostitute in a brothel. Did no one else think that qualified as TSTL? It just seemed like a really weird and kind of nonsensical plot device, and it killed my enjoyment of the love scenes. I’m surprised none of the reviews have had the same problem.

  14. erastes
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 17:55:30

    But surely, Jen, the TSTL point you mentioned, IS exactly the sort of anachronism that makes me ditch a book.

    Jen: I agree. There are dodgy sci-fi,fantasy,crime books too, but the readers are vicious. Look at (for example) the recent (erroneous) rumour that Rowling was about to do a crime novel. The whole thing turned out to be a publicity stunt but it was very telling. The adult portion of JKR’s readership (pretty large) told her clearly that they would accept her mistakes in Kids fiction but they would not in crime. And I don’t blame them.

    “‘Ello ‘ello ‘ello, what’s goin’ on ‘ere, then.”

    “Oh, thank goodness you’ve come, officer, my handbag’s been stolen.”

    “You’d better give me some details, miss.”

    “A man with a a knife came out of that sidestreet and swiped it.”

    “Did you see what he looked like?”

    “He was tall and had black hair, and a very distinctive mole on his left cheek.”

    “What was he wearing?”

    “Jeans, tee-shirt and a balaclava. He waved his gun at me and ripped my rucksack out of my hand.”

    And so on. *headdesk* Seeing as how George’s ear seems to have grown back by the time of Muriels Wedding, and Relashio seems to do something different every time it’s cast -anything is possible….

  15. Janine
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 18:01:46

    Jen – Interesting that you say anachronisms and wallpaper history don’t bother you but Anna’s posing as a prostitute does. The main reason I didn’t mention it in my review specifically is because to me the decision to pose as a prostitute in a brothel seemed like part of the book’s contemporary sensibility.

    It’s something I could envision a 21st century woman doing without being TSTL. Providing that high class brothels were to exist today, that is. They don’t, but if they did, I don’t think it would be so dangerous to go there, and I can see a modern woman thinking “No way am I going to let him expend all that desire for me on someone else.”

    Actually, I could also accept it in a woman from the Georgian era provided she was both sexually experienced and relatively powerful (say, a wealthy widow who was also a member of the aristocracy). In Anna’s case, though, she was a middle class woman who relied on her reputation in the community.

    Her behavior does seem to me to make less sense if I take that historical context into account, but if I could ignore her place, social/economic status and time, I don’t think it would bother me. So I didn’t refer to her choice in my review because I had already given enough other examples of what seemed to me to be anachronistic behavior.

  16. Janine
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 18:11:29

    But surely, Jen, the TSTL point you mentioned, IS exactly the sort of anachronism that makes me ditch a book.

    I was composing my post when erastes’ went through, so I didn’t see that we had the same reaction. I think whether or not something qualifies as TSTL depends a lot on social and historical context.

  17. Angela
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 18:42:41

    Angela – Interesting that you had two different responses to the book so close together. That happens to me sometimes, but usually when a few years have passed since I last read the book.

    I actually purchased the book when it was released and then re-read it when the buzz online reached a fever pitch, so it was about a two or three month window in between each read. The thing is that I enjoyed it, but not enough to read it again unless prompted(online talk)–which should have been warning that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought since I generally re-read books I love immediately after the first time.

  18. Jen
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 19:10:48

    I can’t figure out how the block quotes html, so quotation marks will have to do…

    “But surely, Jen, the TSTL point you mentioned, IS exactly the sort of anachronism that makes me ditch a book.”

    Hmm, okay, I see your point, but I would still separate the two. When I read the book, I didn’t think, “Anna is behaving out of character for a 19th century heroine. Ick.” I thought, “what a stupid thing for this character to do.” In essence, I didn’t perceive my annoyance as a function of anachronism. I was irritated because it seemed like a very artificial way to create conflict when the characters would have been better off talking to one another. And it seemed out of character for the heroine as she had been previously established. I don’t think I would perceive my annoyance in terms of historical accuracy– the quotations Janine mentions, blowing up in his face and such, those don’t bother me at all. In fact, I’m much more likely to be bothered by anachronism in contemporaries. I remember one contemp short story in the “Once Upon a Pillow” anthology- I think it was one of the stories by Christina Dodd, although I’m not certain- the hero proposes to the heroine right after sex because she was a virgin before they slept together. That to me screams silliness.

    “It's something I could envision a 21st century woman doing without being TSTL. Providing that high class brothels were to exist today, that is. They don't, but if they did, I don't think it would be so dangerous to go there, and I can see a modern woman thinking “No way am I going to let him expend all that desire for me on someone else.â€?

    I couldn’t accept a 21st century hero that went to a brothel to work off his lust for the heroine. Not to mention the fact that I’d wonder what the heroine sees in some guy who chooses to expend his desire for her on a prostitute. That would be a wallbanger for sure.

  19. RfP
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 19:54:32

    I found the plotting transparent and implausible. Too many coincidences, stupid decisions that happen to turn out conveniently for the author, justifications that made me roll my eyes. I didn’t believe in the characters’ actions–I mean, didn’t believe they made sense even to the characters themselves.

    I thought I might try Hoyt again after she’s written a couple more books, but reading this review reminds me how flimsy I found Raven Prince.

  20. Teddy Pig
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 20:03:37

    “No way am I going to let him expend all that desire for me on someone else.�

    HUH? See I could see joining him for a workout at the gym over this… but a cat house?

    The whole idea of “gettin some strange” due to sexual frustration then undermines the character. He basically is indicating he could have sex with anyone and be fine with it because he does not place any emotional value on sex. Let’s hope you are not counting on the sex scenes to get your two h/h together then. Most guys into anonymous sex are into it for the anonymous part.

    Not something I would use to prove dedication or strength of character in a hero after he supposedly meets his match.
    You would have to work hard to redeem that quality or lack there of.

  21. RfP
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 20:30:58

    undermines the character. He basically is indicating… he does not place any emotional value on sex.

    That’s a good point, Teddy Pig. The moral dimension (“Horrors! Whores!”) doesn’t bother me as much as the switcheroo from hero who doesn’t see sex as personal, to sex with heroine being a turning point.

    I also think the glittery hooha and subsequent cleaving-unto-her is all too often a way to prove the heroine’s wonderfulness rather than the hero’s attitude toward sex and love.

    I liked that in one of the Crusie novels, the sex started out imperfect–that’s a much more vulnerable state for both characters than presto!perfecto! But all too often, the heroine has to be an incredible lay (her first time, even) and that makes her special AND changes his life on an emotional level. Talk about pressure. To me, the subtext of that is: if the sheet-wrestling isn’t awesome, why would he remember her?

  22. LinM
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 21:26:13

    … when I read The Raven Prince, I couldn't get past the fact that the heroine posed as a prostitute in a brothel.

    Exactly!

    I think that Hoyt creates wonderful characters and I love the beginning of her novels. I heard about “The Raven Prince” about a month before it came out and haunted my local bookstore for weeks after everyone else had a copy. Finally, it arrived, I curled up for an evening of magic. I loved the opening scene – the grumpy hero, the compentent heroine, the heroine’s life with her mother-in-law. I accepted the secretarial job – thought that Hoyt had justified an anomalous position satisfactorily. The language seemed appropriate. Janine wasn’t drawn in but at this point I was enchanted.

    But suddenly, the novel needed a love scene. In came the demimondaine with the heart of gold and the brothel. It was a tired cliche; it was totally out of character. I felt like I’d missed the last step on a staircase and knocked the breath out of my body. My reaction was extreme, over-the-top but I’d given myself up to the story and it had suddenly morphed from a wonderful fantasy to a travesty.

    This takes me back to my opening point. I do think that Hoyt creates fascinating characters and starts her novels with compelling premises. I hope that with time, the middle and conclusion of her novels live up to the beginning although given the universal acclaim, her own talent will be the only spur for improvement.

    I find it interesting that Janine found Coral likable because by that point in the novel I was howling – “no, no, no – don’t do this” and wasn’t paying any attention to the characterization.

  23. Janine
    Aug 25, 2007 @ 00:27:07

    Jen — to use the blockquotes, just copy the text you want to blockquote into the reply box, select it with your cursor, and then click the “B-Quote” button over the reply box.

    You make an interesting point about how some things (such as brothel-going) are somewhat more acceptable to readers in historical romances than in contemporary ones.

    But what I was trying to say was that if you transported a 21st century woman to 1760 and had her view the guy the way we view historical romance heroes, with the same kind of carte blanche to sleep around that we readers often give them, then going to the brothel and playing the part of the prostitute with a man she found attractive might seem like believable behavior. What made it questionable to me was the fact that she was this respectable middle class widow who didn’t have much money, at a time when so much depended on her maintaining her reputation.

    Teddy Pig — It’s actually been a while since I read the book. Due to some computer problems I’ve had the review sitting around on a hard drive I wasn’t able to access for months. So my memory is fuzzy, but I *think* that Edward went to the brothel partly in an attempt to put the heroine and his attraction to her out of his mind.

    The point you make is interesting too. I think that some of us readers have become so used to rakes and other male protagonists who engage in casual sex that we sometimes give them a free pass for that without really thinking about why they do that and whether they’d be likely to change.

    Not to mention the fact that I'd wonder what the heroine sees in some guy who chooses to expend his desire for her on a prostitute. That would be a wallbanger for sure.

    Well, it was fairly early in their relationship and to be completely fair, he felt he couldn’t marry her because she was (A) not an aristocrat and (B) infertile. His entire family died and he felt he not only wanted children, he also felt he was obligated to them to continue his line. He couldn’t offer her marriage (or so he felt) and sleeping with her outside of wedlock could jeopardize her reputation. That (and the wish to be able to put her out of his mind) was why he chose to go elsewhere for sex.

    RfP – Which one of Crusie’s novels is that? It sounds interesting and I might pick it up.

    LinM, it’s not that I found Coral sympathetic, but rather that I thought her cynicism was refreshing. I would say that I liked her and enjoyed reading about her rather than that I found her likable. The romance genre is so often peopled by wide-eyed innocents and other romantics that a truly cynical character can be really invigorating.

  24. RfP
    Aug 25, 2007 @ 00:47:05

    in one of the Crusie novels, the sex started out imperfect

    RfP – Which one of Crusie's novels is that? It sounds interesting and I might pick it up.

    Appropriately enough, it’s called Faking It ;) The heroine’s decidedly off-kilter–which is part of what I like in Crusie’s novels. That’s one of the good things about Agnes and the Hitman too–an unusual, off-center heroine.

  25. Emma
    Aug 25, 2007 @ 00:52:58

    I’m relieved to see such a thoughtful critical review of this book, because when I put it down about 50 pages in, I couldn’t quite articulate why it had failed to grip me. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to cite the anachronisms you noticed, Janine, but what sums it up quite nicely for me is your point that such language — while perhaps *not* technically anachronistic — nevertheless conspired to create an anachronistic feel. And having been led by endless positive reviews to expect a DIK — or, at the least, a solid read — I felt very disenchanted with how artificial the whole thing felt. In other words: rather than being sucked into the tale of two people falling in love in the 1780s, I felt forced by the prose to a very conscious awareness that I was reading a contemporary author’s fantasy about two people falling in love in her own version of the 1780s. That consciousness of the author-at-work (as opposed to an awareness of the author’s voice) can be pesticide to that ‘lost in another world’ experience I associate with a good romance.

    The other point you made that I found myself nodding about was the puzzling lack of depth to both the hero and heroine. When you introduce characters with complex pasts, you create the expectation that the characters themselves will be complex. I was disappointed in this expectation as well.

    However… if Hoyt’s books are selling well, I’m happy, because perhaps that will demonstrate to The Powers That Be that an established name isn’t always necessary for a successful historical. In turn, this might move the gatekeepers to let a few more newbies in, one of which may just be my new Judith Ivory. :)

  26. Janine
    Aug 25, 2007 @ 12:40:10

    RfP – I haven’t read Faking It yet, but I’ll have to pick it up.

    Emma – Glad you enjoyed the review. Like you, I hope to see more new authors enter the historical romance subgenre. I love historicals and new blood helps keep a genre fresh.

  27. TeddyPig
    Aug 25, 2007 @ 12:44:57

    Teddy Pig -’ It's actually been a while since I read the book. Due to some computer problems I've had the review sitting around on a hard drive I wasn't able to access for months. So my memory is fuzzy, but I *think* that Edward went to the brothel partly in an attempt to put the heroine and his attraction to her out of his mind.

    The point you make is interesting too. I think that some of us readers have become so used to rakes and other male protagonists who engage in casual sex that we sometimes give them a free pass for that without really thinking about why they do that and whether they'd be likely to change.

    Well I have not read this particular book, but my opinion is that men do compartmentalize sex and emotion, they are the gurus of the casual sex act. This is not just a historical thing that men did, it is something they do today. They have sex for personal enjoyment (sometimes not surprisingly bisexual) and they have sex based on expectations of others (wife and kids), much like a murder mystery with opportunity and justification.

    I believe when the author goes there with the male character they can not just rely on “boys will be boys”, they have got to be very careful what the guy is thinking sexually, what are the motivations that might lead to him seeking sex with someone else and set the boundaries, maybe it is just the way they have always blown off steam, a literal fuck buddy.

    Would any of those reasons really help the heroine’s plight if she made sure he had sex with her magic hoo-hoo in the brothel? Maybe she is reinforcing his use of this brothel later in the relationship when she is not wanting the sex or something. If it is just for the purpose of replacement sex then I think you could be undermining the hero on the way to the HEA. Unless you find some way to sell it outside of the sex.

  28. Miki
    Aug 25, 2007 @ 20:51:25

    Reviews like this are one of the reasons I come back to this site, day after day. I love that one of you can post that a book’s the “next best thing to sliced bread” while the next can say “Are you kidding me?!”

    I read this book after the initial bruhaha, and while I didn’t hate it, it didn’t “wow” me either. It was…okay. Interesting in that it wasn’t about the ton, which was a big plus for me. But I wasn’t all that comfortable with the woman secreting herself away to be his secret whore, either.

    On the other hand, I very recently finished The Leopard Prince and I really enjoyed most of it (the Big Misunderstanding ending was annoying, and what criminal would really just happen to take his well-known carvings along with him?!) – much more so that Raven. I’ll definitely be watching for her third book, despite her books’ flaws.

  29. Mary
    Aug 25, 2007 @ 22:24:00

    Oh my God, finally, someone else who didn’t enjoy The Raven Prince !!! Thank you Janine! I truly wondered if there was something wrong with me, since I read nothing but praise about this novel. I bought it following Julia Quinn’s recommendation on her website but after 15 pages I already had to force myself to keep reading because it so did not appeal to me. I finished it only on principle, skimming through large portions, and brought it back to the store the following morning. It faded very quickly from my mind, so I can’t even tell what exactly felt so off to me, but I remember thinking how shallow the characters and their feelings felt. And it turned me off enough that I doubt I’ll ever give another of Ms Hoyt’s books a try. Sorry.

  30. Jayne
    Aug 26, 2007 @ 06:36:33

    Jane and I have a chat review of The Serpent Prince due out soon.

  31. Janine
    Aug 26, 2007 @ 11:09:20

    Teddy Pig -

    Well I have not read this particular book, but my opinion is that men do compartmentalize sex and emotion, they are the gurus of the casual sex act. This is not just a historical thing that men did, it is something they do today. They have sex for personal enjoyment (sometimes not surprisingly bisexual) and they have sex based on expectations of others (wife and kids), much like a murder mystery with opportunity and justification.

    I agree with you that many men do this, but it is not something we see a lot of in romances, probably because it is not romantic.

    I believe when the author goes there with the male character they can not just rely on “boys will be boys�

    A lot of books do rely on “boys will be boys” though. There is a common fantasy that runs through a lot of romances of reforming a rake, snagging the guy who lots of other women want, or who has been with a lot of women. It’s almost like relying on those other women’s judgement as a gauge that yes, this guy is desirable, this guy is worth choosing.

    they have got to be very careful what the guy is thinking sexually, what are the motivations that might lead to him seeking sex with someone else and set the boundaries

    I think Hoyt did give that some thought, and did show that Edward was constantly thinking of Anna even though he did not want to be. The book probably wasn’t as realistic about the brothel-going as it could have been, though.

    As I said in the body of the review, one of the problems I had with the book is that I felt there was a lot of lust between Edward and Anna, but I didn’t see a lot of deep love. But clearly a lot of readers disagree with my opinion.

    I think there would probably be some disagreement about whether or not going to a brothel undermines the hero. I’m sure there are readers who feel that way but the popularity of books with brothel scenes shows that there are many who don’t . In my case, it didn’t stand out as one of the things that most bothered me about the book.

    Would any of those reasons really help the heroine's plight if she made sure he had sex with her magic hoo-hoo in the brothel? Maybe she is reinforcing his use of this brothel later in the relationship when she is not wanting the sex or something. If it is just for the purpose of replacement sex then I think you could be undermining the hero on the way to the HEA. Unless you find some way to sell it outside of the sex.

    LOL. I don’t disagree with you. But I think there are many readers (and I am sometimes one of them) who are willing to give heroes a free pass on casual sex. In my opinion it’s partly that we’ve read so many books where the rake reforms that many of us have accepted it as a kind of romancelandia truth, and partly that some of the hotter books in the genre are about sex as well as love, and we are sometimes willing to excuse some things if it results in a hot scene.

  32. Janine
    Aug 26, 2007 @ 11:26:15

    Miki -

    Reviews like this are one of the reasons I come back to this site, day after day. I love that one of you can post that a book's the “next best thing to sliced bread� while the next can say “Are you kidding me?!�

    When I first started reviewing here, I felt I should try to review only books that hadn’t been reviewed before. But Jane quickly got that notion out of my head. She said that Dear Author’s readers love it when a book is reviewed by more than one of the reviewers. With that in mind, I’ve often reviewed books that Jane or Jayne (or in this case, both) or Janet has reviewed in the past. That’s not to say that I make it a point to do that, but I just read and review the books I’m interested in trying, whether or not they’ve already been reviewed.

    Mary — I have also had that feeling of “Is something wrong with me?” when everyone else loves a book and I don’t. One of the surprising things to me about this review is that I was expecting some readers to say that I couldn’t be more wrong, but so far, they haven’t, and some people have said that their response to the book was similar to mine. It shows, I think, that no book (except perhaps the Bible) can be universally loved, and that even when we disagree with the majority, we aren’t alone.

    Jayne – Looking forward to your chat review of The Serpent Prince!

  33. TeddyPig
    Aug 26, 2007 @ 20:57:41

    I agree with you that many men do this, but it is not something we see a lot of in romances, probably because it is not romantic.

    Sure it is that was Brokeback Mountain.

    LOL! That is exactly what I was thinking about when I typed up that response to you. Dichotomy of male sexuality as romance. I just figured it was just me being way too gay again though. And it did have a tragic ending so…

  34. Janine
    Aug 28, 2007 @ 11:49:28

    “Brokeback Mountain” was romantic, but not to the wives… What I meant was that the romance genre often sidesteps the implications of the compartmentalizing of love and sex that men do because most of the books are written by women, and generally speaking, women do not compartmentalize the same way. So it’s not what we think of as romantic.

  35. Elle
    Aug 28, 2007 @ 23:02:54

    Actually, this book was not a winner for me either, Janine. I kept thinking to myself while reading it: “Why was this book so darned popular with so many readers and reviewers???”

    The plot seemed so contrived that I could not get past it, I’m afraid. Ah, yes, virtuous widows from the country often travel to London with members of the demimonde and then dress up as whores to cavort in brothels in order to entrap their gentleman employers for a night (or two!) of illicit passion. And, of course, the duke-ish employer *never* recognizes that the unfamiliar lady of the evening is his own employee/object of lustful obsession since she is wearing a remarkably effective mask throughout their sessions of hot sex. Yeah, that is really likely….. And yes, penniless virtuous widows from tiny villages often throw their reputations away with both hands and seemingly think nothing of it.

    One of the only things that I really liked about the story was the unconventional appearance of the hero and heroine (neither being particularly good-looking at first glance.) But then the relentless mental lusting began, and the highly improbable plot contrivances started to pile up, and I (too) was left behind as the fan bus left the station.

    I actually don’t recall the hot sex scenes in this book, but that is probably more a function of my jaded romance reader palate than the author’s skill, since I find myself skimming these sections frequently these days.

    The Serpent Prince is also getting “Ooohh-la-la!” reviews, but I would be very interested in the opinion of someone else who was underwhelmed by The Raven Prince. Please write a review if you do read it, Janine.

  36. Janine
    Aug 28, 2007 @ 23:32:21

    I can’t promise to review The Serpent Prince, Elle, mainly because it may be a long time before I get to it. I have some interest in it, but my TBR mountain is in danger of turning volcanic… I’ve recently started three books, all of which sounded great and came highly recommended by Jane, and I haven’t progressed past chapter two in any of them. So I don’t think this is a good time for me to try The Serpent Prince. Jane and Jayne will be reviewing it this week, but they were both fans of The Raven Prince. But maybe someone who didn’t love TRP will comment on TSP in the comment section.

  37. Nifty
    Dec 03, 2008 @ 13:08:55

    I was initially very excited to read this book — Hoyt had been lauded all over the place, plus I was lured by the Georgian setting. But while I did finish the book, it most definitely did not win me over or create a place for Hoyt on my must-buy list. Ultimately I thought that book was just a big fake. The setting didn’t seem authentic. If the author hadn’t told us that it was set in 1700-whatever, I’d have never believed it. And the H/H, I thought, were way too 21st-century in their thinking and behavior. To me, this book was the epitome of a wallpaper romance in that regard. I also thought that the book lacked substance because so many pages were devoted to their sex life.

    It was a book with a lot of potential, but it failed to satisfy the romance reader in me.

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