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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

#TBRChallenge 2024: The Raven Prince

The Book: The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Particulars: Historical romance (Georgian!), 2006, first in The Princes Trilogy, In Print

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Because everybody and their dead grandmother has read this book - except for, apparently, me. In fact, it's my first read by Hoyt ever. Look, I know. I can hear y'all screeching across cyberspace as I type this...

Spoilers Ahoy!

The Review: I have not been reading. And when I do try to pick up a book for some good ol' fashioned eyeball reading? I've been left feeling very meh about the whole experience. Part of it is me and part of it is the books.  That is until I dug The Raven Prince out of my TBR.  I didn't read this so much as inhale it in a matter of hours.

Anna Wren is a respectable young widow who lives in a respectable country cottage with her mother-in-law and an inept maid they hired to save her from the poorhouse. They've been muddling along alright since Peter's death, but the nest egg wasn't all that robust when he succumbed to a fever and now finances are getting tight.  Anna needs a job - the problem being that jobs are scarce for respectable young widows living in the country.

Edward de Raaf, the Earl of Swartingham, is the last of his line - scarred from a small pox epidemic that claimed his entire family as a child.  His first wife died in childbirth (the babe also perished) and it's past time for him to do his duty. He needs to remarry. He needs children. Certainly for the title, but also because deep down, Edward wants a family.  It's why he's back at Ravenhill Abbey, desperately hoping to recapture the sense of home he felt there as a child.  Instead all he's done is cement his reputation for having a bad temper and scaring off secretaries.  He's gone through two already, and he's ordered his estate manager to find him another in an obscenely short amount of time.

We all know where this is going. The estate manager is in a bind. Anna needs a job. Yes, it's highly unusual, borderline scandalous, to employ a mere female as a secretary, but she's a widow (no innocent miss) and frankly the estate manager has no desire to tell Edward he's failed in his mission.  After some minor spluttering and sparring, the arrangement is made. It also doesn't hurt that Anna is intelligent and the best damn secretary Edward has ever had.

I fell right into this story. Grumpy, growly Edward who has lost so much. A widowed Anna who spent her whole life doing the right thing only to end up with a husband who did-her-dirty prior to his death.  Working for Edward is just the first step in a series of choices she makes in this story that upends her perfectly respectable and boring life. What did doing "the right thing," "the expected thing," ever get her? She's done with that. She's going with her gut, and eventually her gut tells her she wants Edward.

One thing I've always heard about Hoyt is that she has a penchant for the Bananapants - and boy howdy, she does.  I loved the set-up but will admit my eyes crossed once we got to the brothel.  Yep, you guessed it! We get the heroine who hides her identity at an upscale London brothel so she can bang it out with the hero. They meet twice (!) and in Classic Dunderheaded Hero fashion, he has no clue who he is boning.  He went there to stop thinking about Anna, had the best damn sex of his life, and failed in his mission. Yep, still getting pants-feelings around Anna.  Then, of course, he figures it out some time later when they're back in the country.  And of course this all leads to a blackmail plot thread that leads to a duel (yes, a duel) in a brothel (yes, a brothel) at the end of the story ๐Ÿคจ

Oh, and did I mention the heroine believes she is barren because she was married for something like four years and never got pregnant?  But of course our hero has a Magic Wang - so just roll with it. 

(I'm actually more forgiving of this nonsense in historical romances because lack of modern medical understanding and all that).

Which makes it sound like I didn't like this book.  I did!  Did I mention I inhaled this in a matter of hours?  Also, there's even a delightful dog in this story - hence me finally reading it during Furry Friends theme month.  An agreeably affable (and giant!) wolfhound / mastiff mix that doesn't have a name until nearly halfway through when the heroine finally goads the hero into accepting one of her suggestions.

In the end, I rather enjoyed it. Some of the bananapants stuff was a bit out there, but I liked these characters, I liked them together, and the love scenes were suitably steamy.  I've already decided that I really need to do my best to plow through the rest of this series at some point this year.

Final Grade = B


azteclady said...

Well, then I must be the only other romancelandia citizen who has yet to read this one--I have the original trilogy in the print TBR, mind you, but for whatever reason, after I stalled on the Maiden Lane novels, I never got around to these.

Ah well, time to inch them up mountain TBR.

Meanwhile, my own review will be late--hopefully tomorrow, but who knows, really ::sigh::

Miss Bates said...

I loved this one too, but if you liked it, the second book, The Leopard Prince, is even better. I've yet to read The Serpent Prince...

Whiskeyinthejar said...

I've been hoarding this one forever, one of my heaviest recc'd historicals for a while, until people gave up on me lol.
Your first Hoyt?? Sorry you had to hear my loud screeching, lol.
Maiden Lane series has some really good ones, that I'm jealous you get to read for the first time when/if you get to them but the ending ones kind of slide off for me.

I may have to try and make this one a buddy read to force myself to finally read it this year. Going for it in a brothel, duel, doggie, GAH NEED

eurohackie said...

I haven't read anything by Hoyt, either, so don't feel alone out here on this limb, LOL. I think I have one of the Maiden Lane novellas in my digital Mount TBR. I don't have a lot of patience for bananapants in my romance, I really have to be in a mood for it.

Unfortunately, my choice this month was a stinker - Love's Lady Lost by Gwyneth Moore, originally published by the Harlequin Regency Romance line (I had no idea they had a trad Regency line until extremely recently, like within in the last two years or so). It's competently written, follows all of the beats of a trad Regency, but the hero is loathsome. He is basically mean to the heroine and exposes her Big Dark Secret because he needed her reaction to be genuine and for the ton to believe her to be as awful as her reputation proclaimed, so that when he redeemed her, he'd...I dunno, look better? Bleh. He ultimately defends her honor (also in a duel) and shuts down the person making her miserable, but he did it in the most awful way. The cat side character that made me choose this was also missing for a huge chunk of the book, so I didn't even really get to read about fun cat mishaps.

Wendy said...

AL: It felt SO GOOD to just fall right into a book, ya know? My eyeball reading has been a struggle so far in 2024 and I inhaled this book in one gulp.

Miss Bates: I do have The Leopard Prince in the TBR - I need to pull the trigger on it soon.

Whiskey: Yes, my first Hoyt. And in true Wendy fashion, she's one of those authors I managed to collect several books by before even reading one ๐Ÿ˜†. I seem to have a complete set of The Legend of the Four Soldiers series but only the very first book in the Maiden Lane series.

Eurohackie: Boo! I mean, fun cat mishaps are practically tailor-made for Traditional Regencies. The very least the author could have done is give you some of those to help make up for the boorish hero.

S. said...

I have this one to read as well!
One day... lol
I will certainly read it, more so after your review perhaps; I like the author's style in general and would try this one anyway.

Holly @smut report said...

Ugh, I ALMOST also read this one (because I know Hoyt can be counted on for Good Dog Content), and am now regretting picking something else. Welcome to the Hoyt fandom, where you can always count on finding something utterly bananapants in your reading.

Wendy said...

S: If you know you already like the author's style, I think you'll like this one too. I fell right into the story once I started reading.

Holly: The duel kind of pushed me over the edge - but those hot-blooded Georgians, I probably should have seen it coming ๐Ÿ˜†

Jen Twimom said...

It's been AGES since I've read Hoyt and I have not read this one. I'll have to look over my TBR for a future month and dust one off. This review made me LOL. I forgot how much I enjoy her writing. I assume there was a dog or such in the story?

Wendy said...

Jen: Yes, the hero has a rescue (a wolfhound/mastiff mix) - although it's hard to say who rescued who ๐Ÿ˜‰