Thursday, September 1, 2011
The Leopard Prince
Lady Georgina Maitland is accompanying her land steward to visit her estates when their carriage overturns and while the groom goes to get help she stays with Harry Pye. Harry has known many aristocrats and has tried to keep his distance from his beautiful and intriguing employer, but this adventure is bringing them closer. When they finally make it to her estate they discover that sheep on the neighboring estate of Lord Granville are being killed with hemlock and that Harry is the prime suspect. Years ago he and his father had worked for Granville and there had been a big fight that still remained fresh in people's minds. George knows that Harry could never do what he has been accused of, especially as she spends more time with him and truly feels for the land and the people who work it. As George listens to Harry explain the estate business to her, he realizes that she is different than aristocrats like Granville, who don't care for the people. George has never been one for adhering to the class hierarchy, even less now that she is falling for Harry.
Granville has harbored a grudge against Harry for years, ever since Harry refused to bow to Granville's superior standing, and he is using the sheep killings as a way of getting back at the upstart. George is determined to help prove that Harry is innocent, even if it means showing up at his doorstep very early in the morning, or very long late at night, and riding with him across the estate. He knows that anything more is impossible, but both of them can't help but give in to lust and begin a very physical relationship. When the other townspeople begin to sneer at their relationship, Harry wonders if he is being used as nothing more than George's low-class fling and he is angry and hurt about the possibility. He starts to push her away and when George discovers there have been consequences to their liasion, she too begins to doubt Harry's feelings for her and leaves her estates. But Granville is not willing to let natural justice take it's course and Harry is forced to call for help and he is left with the realization that he needs George in his life no matter their social standings and he will stop at nothing to convince her of the same.
Elizabeth Hoyt is without a doubt one of my favorite romance author, hitting it out of the park with nearly every single book. As a result I recognize that I expect a lot from her and judge her more harshly than many other authors, and luckily this book does not disappoint at all. She always writes characters that are realistic, flawed, and slightly different from the norm while still being comfortable enough to read about. George was excellent as the independent woman living in a time when men still controlled everything and I found her perceptions of class differences enlightened, if not particularly in keeping with the time period. She understood her own shortcomings and was willing to listen and learn to those who could enlighten her and I loved that she was the oldest and only girl in her family because it led to some wonderful interactions between her and her, also very enlightened, brothers. Her determination to help Harry and prove his innocence was admirable and I admired that she did so in a composed and thoughtful way and not by running in their guns drawn as many heroines seem to do.
Harry was also great because he worked his way up the working class social ladder and was proud of what he accomplished and, while not scared of offending people who thought he should stay in his place, he also recognized that there was a social hierarchy. His dedication to the land and his own background involving Granville and his actions since them made him clearly a wonderful hero for a book. George and Harry had so many important interactions, talking, riding, working out the mystery of the poisoned sheep, and it really showcased how great these two were together. Those moments are always my favorite in a book. As usual Hoyt excelled at writing steamy and passionate love scenes that brought more emotion to the story. The mystery of the poisoned sheep was intriguing, well written, adn truly blended well into the story without overwhelming the romance aspect of the story. Even though this is part of a series, it works completely well as a stand alone as the leads from the other books only make brief and fairly minor appearances, which totally works for me.
Rating: Hoyt writes another wonderful read with two excellent characters who had a great romance with an intriguing mystery thrown in.