Saturday, July 2, 2011
The Raven Prince
Anna Wren has been widowed six years and has been living with her mother-in-law and a maid of all trade, but they are barely scraping by on the money they are earning. Her entire town of Little Battleford is abuzz that Lord Edward de Raaf, Earl of Swartington, has returned after years away. Edward wants a family because he misses having people around, after his entire family died from a smallpox epidemic that left him with scars that would later terrify his wife before she died in childbirth. Edward has quite the temper and after one more secretary quits, his estate manager hires Anna to be the new secretary even though he has some reservations. Meanwhile Edward is in London finishing up an agreement with an upstanding family to marry the daughter of a Barron. He wants a large family, wants the laughter and excitement and warm fuzzy feeling that feeling like he belongs, but his lack of people skills has lead him to a very arranged marriage with a woman he doesn't truly care for. He meets his match in his new secretary and immediately the two of them get off to an exciting start.
Anna accompanies him across his farm to help with the tenants, she diligently helps him work on his new book on horticulture, she soothes his temper and looks after him when he gets in a fight. Edward cannot fight the attraction he feels for his new secretary so he makes arrangements to go to London and visit Aphrodite's Grotto. Anna is furious that he is turning to other women, but luckily her newest friend is the older sister is one of London's most famed courtesans, so she finagles her way into the Grotto. She is the masked woman who greets Edward and the two spend two nights together before Anne realizes she wants more from Edward than just sex; she is in love with her caring, temperamental, and very intelligent employer. There is also the matter of the woman who Anna's husband had an affair with and she is desperate to keep Anna quiet so that her own husband does not find out. She wants to keep Anna and Edward apart and knows just how to do it; by revealing all their secrets to each other. There is a lot standing between Anna and Edward but they know it is best to work them out for the sake of love.
I immediately loved Anna because she was self-assured and able to take care of herself in a genuine way, not in the way many helpless heroines think they can take care of themselves. However, she was not scared to admit that she needed outside help or that she wanted someone else in her life. She knew what she wanted and she definitely went out on a limb to get it and she took some major risks by taking in a sick prostitute and then traveling to London to be with Edward. She had true friends who she treated well and held her own with her enemy and she faced some pretty tough situations in her marriage with her head held high. Edward was a little unusual in a hero because he was physically imperfect, we were told numerous times about his pox scares and how they had horrified his deceased wife, and he did seem to be a genuinely angry person. He wasn't a mean angry, although he did not deal with incompetence well, but he was hard to get along with and at one point he berated his own house which I had never heard of a romance hero doing. Nevertheless he was incredibly sweet with Anna.
The majority of the book was spent with these two spending time together which is really important to me in a romance novel and it really allowed me to see that these two worked really well together. They had common interests, they cared about the other, and they were willing to go out of their way to do nice things for each other. There was a sexual undertone throughout the book and when it was finally unleashed it exploded and set the pages on fire. It was HOT, it was slightly kinky, and it was great to read about these two outwardly staid people finally getting it on with each other. The sex was really just down perfectly because I was so invested in them falling in love and finding their happily ever after. There were a few side plots, including a really interesting one involving small town morals and a prostitute that Anna takes in and cares for that really shows off her great character. There was also the mean spirited woman who wanted to hurt Anna and while her attempts were short lived, still added a nice little "what might happen" to the book.
Rating: Another stupendous showing from Hoyt and I really hovered between 4 and 5 hearts here, but Hoyt just impresses me so much on all levels.