CONVERSATIONAL REVIEW: The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
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+