Desert Isle Keeper
The Raven Prince (#22 on our Top 100 list)
An AAR Top 100 Romance
originally published on January 18, 2007
The Raven Prince is classic romance. It is the type of book that reminds me why I love this genre. Elizabeth Hoyt’s debut novel brings emotion, sensuality, and wit to the forefront, blending it all together with a deft hand. The characters are not new to us: A nobleman with a heart-hardening past and a country widow as poor as a churchmouse. Edward and Anna might not be ground breaking in their roles, but they more than make up for it in personality. A more real cast of characters is hard to find.
Anna Wren negotiates herself into the role of secretary for Edward de Raaf, Earl of Swartingham. He has recently returned to his family home, not having been back since he was a young boy. After going through countless secretaries due to his foul temper, he charges his steward to find a suitable replacement while he is away. He certainly didn’t expect to find a plain little woman sitting at the desk in his library upon his return. Though she ruffles his feathers, he gives her a chance and finds her indispensable. She also doesn’t cower against his bellows and bluster and gives as good as she gets.
They both silently acknowledge the attraction they feel for one another. Edward doesn’t look down at her status, but knows that he needs to have an heir and she is barren. He is also unsure of her attraction to him. His family was stricken with smallpox when he was a child and the illness left him horribly scarred. And, from Anna’s first impression of him, he isn’t the typical Roman God even without the pock marks.
The turning point in the relationship comes when Edward decides to journey to London for “business.” Anna knows he is actually visiting a high class brothel to work off his attraction to her and she won’t stand for it. When a series of events gives Anna the opportunity to pose as Edward’s paramour, she takes it. So under the cover of a mask and dimly lit room, Anna experiences Edward’s passion even if he isn’t aware it’s her. This pivotal point in the plot could have been a downer, but Hoyt manages to give us realistic reasons for Anna’s duplicity in tricking Edward. Her actions aren’t contrived and fit along with her character and the growing relationship between the pair.
Needless to say Edward isn’t a complete twit and soon realizes who the wonderful woman was that he visited in London. This leaves him angry and confused about why she would go to such lengths to be with him, an ugly, foul-tempered man. He wants to marry her, but she won’t stand for it. She understands his earlier reasons of needing an heir and she doesn’t want to be married only for honor’s sake. From here it’s a battle of wills until they realize that one cannot live without the other.
Not only can you see the love that Anna and Edward have for each other, but you also see the attraction and companionship. These two are obviously friends even before they are lovers. They transform each other in our eyes from a plain and dowdy widow and scarred hulk to a beautiful woman and her handsome gentleman. They will remain a favorite couple of mine.
There wasn’t much that didn’t work. There is a slight secondary plot involving an ex-lover of Anna’s husband. The author doesn’t dwell on this, thankfully, since it really didn’t pan out, and this was not enough to spoil the story or hamper it in any way. Even the excerpts of a fairy tale about a raven prince at the beginning of each chapter are intriguing. I’m usually one to skip over the quotes with which some authors tend to start their chapters, but I read and enjoyed these ones.
It all comes together in a beautiful and sensual story. If this first offering is any indication, I think Ms. Hoyt has a grand career ahead of her. I look forward to reading the next book in the series and heartily recommend this one.