Title: The Raven Prince
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Review number: 1
The Earl of Swartingham is in a quandary. Having frightened off two secretaries, Edward de Raaf needs someone who can withstand his bad temper and boorish behavior. Dammit! How hard can it be to find a decent secretary?
When Anna becomes the earl’s secretary, both their problems are solved. Then she discovers he plans to visit the most notorious brothel in London for his “manly” needs. Well! Anna sees red and decides to assuage her “womanly” desires . . . with the earl as her unknowing lover.
I meet the hero, Edward at the same time that Anna, the heroine, does. They are involved in an accident in the very first chapter when he nearly runs her over with his horse and is unseated into a puddle of mud. He does not appear to be much of a gentleman, as he does not help her to collect the things he knocked out of her basket. Instead he is rude to her and rides off! He also happens to be ugly. My interest is immediately picked. That is an intriguing opening that offers great potential for an original story.
And the story is original – Anna is a penniless, plain widow who needs to get a job (and not a rich husband as it seems to be the usual goal of penniless heroines) in order to keep herself, her mother in law and a maid in training. Edward is an Earl who is in dire need of a secretary since he appears to be unable to keep one for more than a few months due to his legendary foul temper. So, she starts working for him which is not a problem at all, I am sure women became secretaries all the time in Georgian times.
The cause for Edward’s temper is that he has issues: his family died when he was a child due to the smallpox and he is the only one to have survived – he has pox marks all over his body which makes him ugly to everyone including his late wife who died in childbirth cursing his ugliness. But it turns out, Anna doesn’t think he is ugly, she finds him attractive. He also finds her attractive but cannot make a move because she is a lady after all. Not only she is a lady, she is also a lady who cannot have children and what Edwards wants more than anything in his life, is to have a family. And this is why he goes to London in order to arrange a marriage with a chit who cannot look directly into his eyes but who says that the marks in his face do not bother her, and he is so desperate he actually believes her. Oh, he also goes to London because he needs to attend to his bodily functions and get rid of his desire for Anna by having sex with a prostitute at this exclusive brothel called Aphrodite’ Grotto.
But Anna, the plain, penniless secretary who at this point has major hots for the Earl is a cunning feminist who believes women have the same rights as men to have sex without being called whores by society. What does she do then? She asks a prostitute that by a Deus Ex Machina of a secondary plot lands at her door step to help her get into the brothel so she can pretend to be a prostitute without Edward’s ever knowing. What ensue then are two torrid encounters that leaves me, Anna and Edward breathless. Also, who ever knew that a simple mask could be such an effective disguise?
Of course, Edward ends up finding out about the plot, gets really upset (he even cries, thinking that she might have had sex with other men other than him or that she was only attracted to his pox marks) but sees no other option than to ask her to marry him. Which she refuses because she cannot deny him the right to have children. Until they eventually get together and work out their issues and there comes the Happily Ever After which surprise, surprise, involves children.
There are some other silly plots going on at the same time, which I will not dwell into as they did not capture my interest and did not add to the story in my opinion. Come to think of it, I don’t think I was really interested in any part of the story at all. What started as an original premise quickly became an unbelievable plot that involved more sex than love. I could not see how, when or why they fell in love with each other. As a matter of fact, it was not even clear to me that they were so attracted to each other or that the sexual tension was powerful enough to make Anna take such a desperate measure as to pretend to be a prostitute. Edward on the other hand, was calling her “my Anna” in a point of the story where they were hardly even friends.
I did not connect to the characters mainly because I didn’t see their connection to each other. All I saw was a horny secretary and a lonely Earl.
Eros was the son of the goddess Venus. Venus was jealous of Psyche, a mortal woman, for she was extremely beautiful and so she asked Eros (the god of Love) to make Pysche fall in love with the most horrible man on earth. But it turns out that he fell in love with her and took her to a palace where she was kept safe. They had hot steamy sex every night in the dark where she could not see his face. She was once allowed to be visited by her sisters who, also due to jealousy, convinced her that she was married to a hideous creature. Consumed by doubts Psyche betrayed Eros when she lit a lamp that showed her the handsome face of an angel. He then left her and she had to roam the earth in order to find her lost love. How similar is that to the Raven Prince?
And because I will take any opportunity to post a painting by John W. Waterhouse, one my favorite artists:
Verdict: I am going to keep it for the time being until I read The Leopard Prince. I am in no hurry though.