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CONVERSATIONAL REVIEW: The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Serpent Prince (Warner Forever)The Serpent Prince is the final volume in the fairy tale trilogy offered by Elizabeth Hoyt. Jayne and I have both enjoyed Hoyt’s work despite the accusations of anachronisms. We both would rate the book a B, with me giving the extra plus on the end. The story is about Simon Iddesleigh who is seeking to avenge the honor of his brother, his brother’s wife, and his brother’s daughter. One of his attempts at vengeance brings him to Lucy Craddock-Hayes, a country bred girl, near death. Lucy nurses him back to health and the two disparate individuals fall in love, but Simon cannot give up his quest and Lucy can’t understand it.

The transcript below is a chat that Jayne and I had regarding the book. Some of it is spoilerish and I’ve tried to denote that but if you don’t want to be spoiled at all, please don’t read this before you read the book.


[14:23] Jane: let me bring up the topic that I think might be of concern to readers and that is the violence. Did you think it was more violent than you had read before
[14:24] Jayne: Yes, and I wanted to bring that up too. I liked the fact that Hoyt showed duels as slug ’em out affairs instead of Hollywood Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone prancing about though I there were too many of the standardized movie “close-ups” where duelists could glare at each other over their touching sword hilts.
[14:25] Jane: Yes, they were quite gritty, bloody and generally quite gruesome
[14:25] Jayne: indeed
[14:25] Jane: I thought that her imagery was strong. Did you think it was too violent, i.e., gratuitously so?
[14:26] Jayne: weeeeel, maybe a little bit after the third duel we actually see and Simon’s recollection of the first one.
[14:27] Jane: I didn’t feel like there was too much violence. In fact, I thought it was important to show how ugly these duels really were in order to convey the emotional growth of Simon.

[14:29] Jane: He, on the one hand hated the dueling, the killing. On the other, he felt compelled to finish the task, felt like his honor demanded it
[14:30] Jayne: His honor and Rosalind’s
[14:30] Jane: He wasn’t. Even after the first one, he appeared resigned. As if this was abhorrent to him but that he couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t follow through.

[14:33] Jayne: Next question:

[14:34] Jane: How about Lucy? What did you think of her?
[14:34] Jayne: Why did Lucy turn into such a religious nut at the end? If Hoyt had made her a Quaker or a Methodist then fine, I could understand it but this seemed to come from nowhere. I could understand Lucy being more worried over the state of Simon’s soul before I’d go for her blathering on about murder. In the eyes of mid 18C Europe aristocracy, it wasn’t murder — it was justice.
[14:34] Jane: I didn’t understand the religious underpinning either.
[14:34] Jayne: It came from nowhere and Lucy had to know from the way she found Simon that he has some “issues”
[14:34] Jane: I thought it was the best thing Hoyt could come up with to convey the disstaste Lucy had toward murder. I appreciated the sentiment but not the execution.
[14:35] Jayne: indeed
[14:35] Jane: I.e., I appreciated that the act of murder appalled Lucy because I think too often death is treated blithely in books
[14:35] Jane: I don’t think Lucy needed to have a reason to hate the idea of murder, of killing.
[14:36] Jayne: well, there was Simon’s soul to worry about. Maybe that’s what brought on her violent objections and felt too modern and PC.

[14:37] Jane: I never quite get the integration of the fairy tale and maybe that was the genesis of the “soul” thing. It was unnecessary. I think its natural for a person to be disturbed by killing and the way in which Simon was going out of his way to call these men out would be chillingly to anyone.
[14:38] Jayne: maybe the original ending of Simon’s tale was meant to convey how he thought his soul would end. He would do what he felt was right but it would kill him in the end.
[14:38] Jane: yes, I agree with that concept.

[14:39] Jayne: I did also wonder why would Simon have not used de Raaf as his second for all the duels? I could see why he wouldn’t use Pye as Henry wasn’t a nobleman but why not use de Raaf? Yeah, okay for the plot but it still doesn’t make sense to use someone Simon has just gotten to know over an older friend.
[14:39] Jane: I thought it was the “sequelitis” coming into play. It should have been de Raaf

[14:41] Jayne: I did think that for once, the reason behind Simon’s need to fight these men makes sense. Most Romance plotlines end with something silly behind it all. Not this one.
[14:41] Jane: yes
[14:42] Jane: It used the historical conventions to provide the external conflict as well as the internal conflict
[14:42] Jayne: well done

[14:45] Jane: We’ve been kind of critical but I loved the story. I really felt emotionally engaged and was moved by the plight of the characters
[14:45] Jayne: Yes, very moved. and Wow, Simon’s maids must have had to do a lot of laundry.
[14:45] Jane: lol
[14:45] Jane: the imagery was excellent.
[14:45] Jane: the bloody hand on the white dress
[14:46] Jane: the fingers in his dreams
[14:46] Jane: the scene where Lucy, in her barefeet, vomits at the scene of the duel
[14:46] Jayne: how dark were the colors that Simon’s bedroom was decorated in
[14:46] Jane: yes, good call.
[14:46] Jayne: and those red heeled shoes!
[14:46] Jane: yep
[14:47] Jane: that was the best imagery there – the false image of Simon as the lazy dilletante
[14:47] Jane: Is that how you spell it?
[14:47] Jane: he was a dangerous, dangerous man
[14:47] Jayne: the imagery felt very period to me; all dressed up in satin and lace which is one reason I adore 18th C books

[14:52] Jayne: anyway back to TSP
[14:52] Jayne: Love how Patricia got Eustace to propose to her — kind of like Scarlet luring Mr. Kennedy after the war by warming her hands in his pockets. Here Eustace, my fichu has come loose. Stick it back down my bodice please.

[15:03] Jane: so which was your favorite Hoyt book?
[15:03] Jayne: hmmm, it’s a toss up. I liked the emotional connection of the first but the second was more believable. I do wish that Lucy hadn’t left Simon. At first, she didn’t and I breathed a sigh of relief that the standard Romance cliche got avoided then, bummer, she did leave. Lucy and Simon fell in love awfully quickly but at least they were married before the whoopee started.
[15:04] Jane: Ah, I thought that was very consistent with her characterizations
[15:06] Jayne: I wonder if we’ll see Pocket again? I loved her soldiers and warplay. Can’t wait for her to get her Naval ship, sailors and Royal Marines. I also loved the images of Simon teaching her to play soldier and comforting her at her father’s funeral.
[15:06] Jane: Yes, the relationship that Simon had with Pocket and with Rosalind was very endearing.
[15:07] Jane: Pocket was very endearig.
[15:07] Jayne: Which book did you like the best? Least?
[15:07] Jane: I liked the LP the least. I think RP was my favorite because it was the first Hoyt I had read and there is something special about the first book of a new author that you love. Second would be the Serpent Prince. It had an emotional intensity and a gritty feel to it that isn’t often seen in romances
[15:08] Jayne: I noticed that some of the love scenes (not sex) in LP seemed a little derivative of those in RP.
[15:08] Jane: I thought Lucy’s characterizations were very believable and that Hoyt didn’t diminish the violence; didn’t condone it. I thought that the villians were well nuanced. I was disappointed in the ending. But ultimately I felt that Hoyt took me places where few romances recenlty have taken me and I give her high marks for that

[15:10] Jayne: yes, I’ve enjoyed all three books

[15:13] Jane: what is your final grade for it?
[15:13] Jayne: B
[15:13] Jane: I would give it a B+

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Estelle
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 05:25:47

    Funny, The Raven Prince was my least favorite in the series, the ‘In Disguise’ subplot turned me off faster than you can blink. I still enjoyed the book but it’s far behind The Leopard Prince and The Serpent Prince for me.

    And I don’t know which one I like best of the two. Maybe the Leopard Prince though, I’m always a sucker for the’still waters run deep’ kind of hero and Harry was just the best kind of hero there is. But the blend of wit, humor, darkness and angst in the Serpent Prince got to me also. So it’s a difficult choice!

    Kuddos to Hoyt for really showing the gruesome side of duels. Like mentioned in the review, it’s not often that you see this in a romance novel. What got to me the most was the vision of the severed fingers. Powerful stuff. And when Lucy got sick when she saw Simon kill his opponent. I was actually amazed that we didn’t get much of a follow up on what she had seen. Sure, she went away, but I know that had I been in her place the sight of the sword going through the eye of that man would have stayed with me for a long while. So maybe the ending was a bit rushed for me. Of course she loved Simon, but I would have thought she’d need a bit more time to get over it.

    Still this is only a nitpick. Like you, J&J, I really loved this protrayal of a man dressed in satin, lace and red-heeled shoes who was deadly and dangerous. The contrast is very striking and erotic and that’s one the reasons I love this period in history so much.

    I also loved what Hoyt did with the secondary characters, especially ‘papa’. I couldn’t stop laughing at his scenes with Simon.

    Lucy’s turn about at the end didn’t strike me as odd or coming out of the blue. She didn’t feel overly religious to me. I thought that her leaving was a long time in coming, it couldn’t be avoided. I could see myself acting exactly in the way she did. And the fact that she came back almost at once is very telling.

  2. vanessa jaye
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 06:39:06

    *sigh* I really wanted to read this review, but I can’t (thanks for the spoiler warning!) I just had to order this book, yesterday, because it’s not in any of the stores in Toronto (Canada), even with a pub date of Sept.1. I did skim the begining of the review and caught the stuff about the violence depicted with the duels. Blood-thirsty gal that I am, that just whetted my appetite even more for this book, and, like Estelle, I’m intrigue by the very capable H in lace, heels, wig & patches which in no way diminish his masculinity. yum.

  3. Jayne
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 06:42:44

    Estelle, I agree about Lucy after seeing the duel. If the vision of the fingers stuck with Simon, who would probably have seen worse in his day since the men weren’t as sheltered as the women then, then wouldn’t seeing what she saw bring her screaming out of her sleep a few times?

    What did you think of the ending and the fate of the villain. Jane and I discussed it but we edited those bits out to keep from revealing spoilers. I still can’t believe that Simon didn’t have the villain sign some kind of confession. After all, that was the whole reason Simon sought revenge, to restore the reputations ruined by what was done. And once again! the villains get shipped of to America. Thanks England, we’re delighted to take your evil ne’er do wells. But then being banished to “the Colonies” was probably viewed as a fate worse than death then. ;)

  4. Jen
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 08:16:56

    Really interesting review!

    I wanted to comment on this:

    I could understand Lucy being more worried over the state of Simon's soul before I'd go for her blathering on about murder. In the eyes of mid 18C Europe aristocracy, it wasn't murder -‘ it was justice.

    Increasingly, this was coming to be untrue. Already by mid-century there are instances of upper-class men being convicted by trials of their peers. Frequently, the determining factor was whether or not the duel took place in the heat of the moment; the law tended to be much more lenient on unpremeditated duels. If you killed someone as the result of a fight, you could only be charged with manslaughter. If you killed someone as the result of a premeditated duel planned out for some time after the offense, you could be convicted of homicide and so could your seconds. As the concept of the man of sentiment and the middle-class mentality became more prevalent and powerful in the culture, the act of dueling began to be seen more and more as an aristocratic vice, not a way of ensuring justice (hence the prevalence of dueling in “Dangerous Liaisons” as part of de Laclos’s satire of the ancien regime).

    So for Lucy in particular, who seems to be gentry but not upper class, dueling would have seemed like murder, I think. That said, I thought the violence in TSP really worked because it cut through my own inclination to think of dueling as an honorable pastime (at least within the context of an historical romance novel).

  5. Gail K.
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 09:19:53

    [14:39] Jayne: I did also wonder why would Simon have not used de Raaf as his second for all the duels? I could see why he wouldn't use Pye as Henry wasn't a nobleman but why not use de Raaf? Yeah, okay for the plot but it still doesn't make sense to use someone Simon has just gotten to know over an older friend.
    [14:39] Jane: I thought it was the “sequelitis� coming into play. It should have been de Raaf

    I think the reason Simon gives, that his new-happily-married-and-expecting-babies bosom buddies are far too valuable to potentially harm rings true. Although, being me, my immediate thought was, hmmm, so it’s okay for you risk the life of that boy you just met and to take advantage of his hero worship? I heart Christian Fletcher though. Imagine, a sequel that begins in *colonial America* and shows him somehow fighting his way back to England. or not.

    As for the dueling = murder/justice aspect, I guess in retrospect it is very modernistic, as I was nodding my head along with Lucy saying, yes, yes, murder is wrong, I too would be freaked if my new husband was out at all hours inciting people to violence.

    Hey, if I’m subscribed via email to one DA column & discussion does that mean I’m subscribed to all new ones? Cuz I was surprised to see the email alert for this entry pop up. But glad I clicked on it because TSP is now one of my all-time favorites and I love to talk about it :)

  6. Meljean
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 12:09:11

    The not-using-de Raaf as a second didn’t bother me, partially because of the reason that Simon gave and Gail notes above, but also because I thought he might fear that a) they’d talk him out of it, b) there would be a significant loss of friendship and respect from them, which — before Lucy comes along — seems to be all that he has going for him aside from the revenge.

    And even though they would have supported him, undoubtedly — because he hated what it was doing to him, I don’t think he wanted them to be tainted by it as well.

    As if this was abhorrent to him but that he couldn't live with himself if he didn't follow through.

    Just want to say, yes yes — and I loved this conflict, and Simon’s character really made the book for me. I loved that he didn’t feel indestructible, as so many heroes often do — that he felt his mortality and age so deeply.

    I had a few minor frustrations toward the end, but overall, I thought this was a freaking fantastic book. I was emotionally engaged from about the second that Simon opened his eyes, wasn’t the least bit bothered by the violence (no surprise there, I guess) and I believed in their HEA. It won’t be an easy one, but one they’ll both work toward. Definitely a keeper for me.

  7. Estelle
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 17:52:32

    Jayne, I confess to not caring much about the way the villain’s fate was handled at the end. I’m almost never engrossed in a suspense/murder subplot when I read a romance–mainly because I rarely find it interesting or well executed–so I tend to skim quite a bit. I didn’t skim here though. I think Hoyt was stuck between a rock and a hard place. The guy wasn’t a total psycho, he was more gray than black. And his family had done nothing. I guess I expected he’d commit suicide or something. I don’t know what to feel about him being shipped off to America (a century down the road and it would probably have been Australia!). In the end nothing was resolved when it came to Simon’s family honor and Pocket’s parentage is still in doubt as far as the Ton is concerned. Was it an oversight on Hoyt’s part? It doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the romance but it feels kind of unsolved. But I have a feeling we haven’t seen the end of Pocket, things might be resolved then.

  8. Gail K.
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 19:39:27

    Hmmm. Christian & Pocket? How do their ages match up, I forget…

  9. Jane
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 21:45:22

    I think that Jayne and I both felt that the end was dissatisfying. I know that the lack of written confession was concerning. Jayne mentioned to me that she was going to write one in her own mind.

  10. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2007 @ 04:26:12

    Diana Norman did something similar in “A Catch of Consequence” with those villains. Throughout the book, we see them in all their evil glory then at the end, they get shipped off to — guess where? — yep, America. I felt very let down. I wanted to see them suffer and pay for what they did. I think the villains here got off easy considering what they did and the lives they damaged.

  11. Anna
    Sep 06, 2007 @ 09:12:51

    Huh,I really liked the ending and would have been disappointed if it was cut and dried.

    Imo, Simon realize that Christian’s dad (who’s name I CANNOT remember) did what he did for his family–the same justification Simon has used for his actions. Neither are right, they’ve both chosen to go down terrible paths for a questionable reason. To me it was a sort of mirroring. And by not killing him, Simon reclaims his humanity.

    I also thought that being sent off to the colonies would have been a very big deal to a man who had worked his whole life to gain entree into the ton and who had pinned his hopes on his children being accepted by society.

    As for Rosalind and Pocket, I don’t see how that could ever be ‘resolved’. Once you’re tainted by the ton, that’s it. And I thought that was the point. There is no magic bullet and that’s pretty damn realistic, imho.

    Anyhow, that’s my two cents. Isn’t it amazing how differently we can all interpret the same thing? Humanity.

  12. Phyl
    Sep 11, 2007 @ 07:36:52

    Given the Penguin ebook pricing thread, it is worth noting that this book showed up on Fictionwise yesterday for $4.99 (hardcopy price is $6.99). With my club membership and micropay rebate, my cost for this was $3.61. I was tempted to go for instant gratification and buy the hardcopy but now I’m glad I waited.

  13. Brenna
    Sep 13, 2007 @ 08:52:44

    Did Janine read this book also? I’d really be interested to know what she thinks. I just got Hoyt’s books but can only manage the Raven Prince halfway. I’ve read Janine’s review and found myself agreeing to everything she didn’t like about the book. Some people are encouraging me to read TSP, saying that it is the best of the three but I really have my reservations. I don’t know but I found TRP mediocre at best and can’t even bring myself to read TLP. I don’t really understand the talk about how marvelous this book is and all the superlatives heaped upon it. I found reading it a mental exercise in mediocrity. And I don’t understand why authors choose to write historical romances when they can’t even be bothered to do enough research nor get their characters to act in such a way according to the time and place of setting.

  14. Review: The Serpent Prince, Elizabeth Hoyt « Racy Romance Reviews
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 21:43:54

    […] Jane and Jayne, Dear Author, B+ and B […]

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