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REVIEW: The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Dear Ms. Hoyt:

The Raven PrinceAt first blush, this isn’t a book I would buy. The back cover blurb reads as follows:

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.

Frankly the blurb reads like some idiotic erotic romance book that publishers seem to think are so popular. Virginal heroine turns skanky ass prostitute like in order to sate her newly discovered passions. What it turns out to be is a believable love story between two lonely people who experience some smoking hot, but totally integrated, sex. I wondered if Julie Ann Long and Elizabeth Hoyt shared the same editor because it had a similar feel to it and I may start buying into SB Sarah’s theory

Anna Wren is widowed and she lives in a small cottage with her mother in law (called Mother Wren) and a young and incompetent maid, Fanny. The investments that Peter Wren left to his wife and by extension, his mother, are not doing very well and Anna is forced to go out into her village to seek employment. She even has to seek to offer her services to the Squire’s wife who suggests that because Anna isn’t well trained in musical deportment that Anna may best suited as a scullery maid. It’s pretty humiliating for Anna.

One thing I have always found a bit clever is when an author gives a name to a character that has meaning for the story. Maybe it’s a silly thing to find clever, but alas, what can I say? In this book, Anna Wren is very wrenlike in the beginning. She has tart thoughts but isn’t one to give them voice. Being at the end of her rope, gives her the courage to start speaking out. After all, what does she have to lose? Circumstances make it difficult for Anna to be just a widow gentry woman. She takes advantage of the Earl’s absence to become the Earl’s secretary without him realizing she is a woman. Once she starts giving voice to “her” opinions, she finds it very exhilarating. It was a pleasure to read her character and watch her unfurl her wings.

The Earl, Edward, suffered a terrible loss when small pox swept through the village. His entire family succumbed and he fell ill. Everyone else died. He’s marked by this incidence with small pox scars and the emptiness that his life has become. He wants to have a family more than anything and contracts a marriage with the daughter of a respectable Baron whose wife has a record of being a good breeder. Given time spent with Anna as his secretary who listens to him, who talks back to him, who isn’t afraid of him, he begins to have untoward thoughts of her. He spends virtually no time thinking about the Baron’s daughter because she is merely a means to an end for him. This sounds callous but you tend to believe that family means everything to Edward and that he would be honorable to his wife, whomever she was.

There is a deception involved and that is Anna sees a receipt on Edward’s desk for Aphrodite’s Grotto. She asks a fallen woman about it and learns that it is a place where masked society ladies go to mingle with the prostitutes and that the men go there not sure of whether they are getting a lady or a whore (thus more titillating). Anna believes that there is an attraction between her and Edward but that it wouldn’t be right to act on it. A number of believable circumstances occur which gives Anna the chance to go to the Grotto. This gives rise (pun not really intended) to some torrid love scenes. There is a sense of total anonymity in these sexual encounters and not a little illictness. The anonymity and the fear of discovery add to the heightened sensuality of the scenes. Torrid would be a good word to describe the Grotto encounters. Anna discovers that in sex, she can have power over this man — this domineering, overbearing man. It’s a real awakening for her.

Of course, as all deceptions are wont to do, this turns badly. The ending is a bit of a farce but I still enjoyed the book and look forward to the next one, The Leopard Prince.

One thing that I need to give some thought to is that each chapter starts out with a small portion of the fairy tale of The Raven Prince. I am not sure what the corollary was between the story and the fairytale. It just wasn’t immediately clear to me but I did enjoy that part too. I know that historical sales are down, but I hope that you hang in there. Yours is a voice I want to keep reading. B.

Best regards,

Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

11 Comments

  1. Meljean
    Nov 07, 2006 @ 12:37:07

    I wouldn’t have picked it up by that blurb, either. It screams of tossing hair and stamping feet. But it sounds pretty good, and I love a “torrid” well done — the masked bit just seals it for me. Will have to add to my list.

  2. Maili
    Nov 07, 2006 @ 15:26:24

    Anna becomes the earl’s secretary and talks back to him? *laughs* Good to see that some things in romanceland haven’t changed.

  3. Jane
    Nov 07, 2006 @ 15:28:42

    Only cynics and haters like you would find fault in the improbability of this setting. Can’t you see the romance? Put on some rose colored glasses. (oh and welcome back).

  4. Maili
    Nov 07, 2006 @ 15:34:01

    I can’t wear my rose-tinted glasses because they are sitting on your mug. Seriously since you rated it a B, I’ll give The Raven Prince a try.

  5. Meljean
    Nov 07, 2006 @ 16:21:02

    *blink blink* Maili? *blink blink*

    I just left a dumb message at your blog, too. Weeeeird.

  6. Keishon
    Nov 08, 2006 @ 12:35:25

    Must mark this one down **making note to self** Oh and thanks.

  7. Shay
    Nov 10, 2006 @ 17:30:15

    I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to The Leopard Prince. She has that witty, dark, sexiness that I look for in historicals that only FEW authors are able to do(Liz Carlyle, Jane Feather, etc).

  8. Heather
    Jan 23, 2007 @ 07:34:29

    I just finished reading the book The Raven Prince. It was a quick read, but throughly enjoyable in my view considering it is the author’s first book. However, the reason I’m responding to this is not the reason I’m writing but merely to make note of your reference to not understanding the fairytale to the actual happenings of the book.
    In my view, the fairytale is more of a children’s story of the book itself. You have a lord who hides himself behind a number of things. His scars, his heritage, his wealth. Everything he basically throws in Anna’s face. Circumstances that are part of him, just as being a raven was part of the Prince’s curse.
    Then you have Anna, who is Aurea. Anna, in the beginning has always kept her place within society’s structures, always being a lady, though far from a duke’s daughter. But circumstances led her to step out of that role and take a chance, to protect those she loved, just as Aurea did.
    It is Anna’s jealousy for the woman that Edward could be sleeping with at the brothel, the voice of Aurea’s sisters, that leads her to do something further that she wouldn’t normally do. And in doing so, creates a rift between her and Edward.
    And from that Anna must fight her fears and all else to find herself to find her love. In the fairytale, Aurea is even willing to share her last piece of food with a crone who had nothing, just as Anna was willing to sacrifice her good standing in a community, and in the end that helped return them to their love. In which case they did live happily ever after.

    But that’s just my opinion.

    -Heather

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