Desert Isle Keeper Review

The Serpent Prince

Elizabeth Hoyt
September 2007, European Historical Romance (1760s [Georgian] England)
Warner, $6.99, 362 pages, Amazon ASIN 044640053X

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Hot

If you’ve ever seen the classic movie Tom Jones you know just how much fun bawdy innuendo can be. I was reminded of that film and it’s irrepressible joie de vivre as I read The Serpent Prince and, considering my extreme fondness for Tom Jones (not to even mention the incredible deliciousness that was the young Albery Finney), that is a very big compliment, indeed.

Not that this novel is a light one – there’s more than enough angst here to satisfy those who like their heroes on the tortured side. Still, no matter how dark the twists and turns of her tale might be, Elizabeth Hoyt manages to infuse a sense of joy and sex and fun - always period-appropriate, I might add - into this novel that really works. Boy, does it ever.

Young country woman Lucy Craddock-Hayes is returning from a walk to the village with her manservant in tow when she comes upon a naked and unconscious man left for dead in the road. The forthright Lucy does what any Good Samaritan would do: She takes him home to her threadbare manor home against the objections of her cranky father.

Soon enough the man – one Simon, Viscount Iddesleigh – awakens. From that moment on, Lucy’s home and her life are turned upside down by the force of the man, his powerful personality, and his rapier-sharp wit. Lucy knows he’s jaded and sinfully sexy. She knows he’s very likely embroiled in something so dangerous that he was nearly murdered. But, despite what her good sense might tell her, she can’t help her attraction to the man and it’s a tribute to Elizabeth Hoyt’s skills that the reader doesn’t question Lucy’s attraction either. She’s not TSTL for allowing herself to tumble headlong into lust with a mysterious and possibly dangerous man, she’s just…well, a woman.

The plot here involves Simon’s quest for vengeance against a group of men who murdered his brother, but, truthfully, that storyline takes second place to the development of the relationship between Lucy and Simon. At first, it begins in sort of classic invalid-nurse kind of style, though Simon does emerge fairly quickly from his sick room to needle Lucy’s father. But even as the stage widens and more characters are introduced, the focus remains on Lucy and Simon and that is all to the book’s good.

To take matters into further positive territory, Ms. Hoyt gives a real sense of time and place to her book. The setting is Georgian and the reader always feels it, from the detailed descriptions of wigs and powder (and red-heeled shoes) to Simon's elaborate silk embroidered coats. But, while I really enjoyed the skill with which the author so vividly brings her period to life, Simon and Lucy and their delicious (and, once again, period-appropriate) exchanges – both verbal and otherwise – are what made this book so special for me.

With only three books published and all awarded DIK status from three very different reviewers, Elizabeth Hoyt has clearly got something going on. For any readers of historical romance who haven’t yet tried her, I can’t urge you strongly enough to hop off the fence and jump in with both feet. With nary an anachronism in sight and with characters who really feel as if they stepped from the pages of history, Ms. Hoyt is a fresh, fun, smart new voice and a gift to readers of historical romance.

-- Sandy Coleman

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