Saturday, March 20, 2010
Lucy Craddock-Hayes thought the man lying in the ditch was dead, but he survived the assault. With the help of her servant, Lucy brings the gentleman home, and learns that he is Viscount Simon Iddesleigh. As Simon slowly recuperates, he finds himself falling in love with sharp-witted and surprisingly sharp-tongued Lucy, but he also knows that the longer he stays, the more likely it is that his quest for vengeance will endanger Lucy and her family.
I really enjoyed this romance, the last of the Prince's Trilogy that have all involved three very different men who are friends with one another in Georgian England. They know each other through their common interest in botanical matters and are members of the Agrarian Society, a loose-knit club in which everyone, members of the peerage or not, are interested in agriculture. The previous books involved Edward de Raaf, the fifth Earl of Swartingham and Harry Pye, a commoner who married a noblewoman. Their romances were tops, and this one is no different, though I think it's the weakest of the three. The Serpent Prince follows Viscount Simon Iddesleigh who has the misfortune to find himself stabbed in the back and left for dead somewhere in Kent. Simon has pissed someone off!
Lucy Craddock-Hayes, a spinsterish country maiden, comes upon Simon's nude body while out on her morning errands. Upon mistaking him for dead, she soon realizes he isn't dead afterall and she takes it upon herself to help him by bringing him home. I wonder if she would have been as eager if he had been short, bald and ugly, instead of looking more like a felled blonde Adonis! Against her retired sea captain father's oaths and threats that nothing good will come of this, she oversees Simon's recovery back to health. Little does she know that nothing will ever be the same for her again. The local vicar that has been wooing her for the past three years now seems hopelessly dull and ordinary compared to the blasphemous charm and wit of the Viscount Iddesleigh. As soon as Simon can sit up in bed, he wastes no time in noticing the beautiful daughter of the house. They have a non-courtship of sorts. Lucy resists and Simon, who claims to have no gentlemanly manners, cannot. He is shameless in his flirtations with Lucy, who is not used to someone like Simon - much less living under the same roof with her! Their courtship is enhanced by Simon's made up as he goes fairy tale of the Serpent Prince, which parallels Simon and Lucy's story as well. Lucy is falling for this man, yet he will leave her as soon as he is well again. How can she return to her humdrum life with her cranky father and boring vicar?
Simon has his own set of problems in addition to the strong feelings he's harbouring for Lucy. He is hell bent on avenging the death of his brother who was killed in a duel two years earlier. Unused to dueling, his brother was at an obvious disadvantage and sacrificed himself to save his wife's honor from a vicious rumor started on purpose. Simon feels partly responsible for the death since he was part of the rumor! It was all a set up and untrue, but the result ended in tragedy. An expert swordsman himself, Simon is determined to duel and kill each one of the men he holds responsible for the death of his older brother.
Although Simon is preoccupied with his many duels and avoiding getting killed himself, he still cannot get Lucy out of his head once he returns to London. In one of the most romantic proposal scenes I've read in a long time, he returns to Kent and asks for her hand. She gladly accepts and wedding plans ensue. Lucy travels to London and stays with Simon's widowed sister-in law. While there, Lucy learns of her fiancee's unusual propensity for dueling! Unaware of why Simon can't seem to stop himself from calling men out and killing them over and over again, she is torn - what kind of man can go around killing other men all the time? She has no idea about his vendetta. She finds the idea of killing abhorrent, yet she is even more alarmed at herself because her repugnance doesn't seem to be stopping her from still wanting Simon! How can she rationalize it? She can't. She's basically in lust with her soon to be husband and marries him anyway.
Once married, they have a sizzling love life, yet all is not perfect as is often the case in romance novels. There are complications about who is the mastermind behind Simon's brother's death, and now Lucy's life is threatened to boot! Before long, Lucy has had enough! She cannot live with Simon any longer and his obsession. She leaves him and returns to her father in Kent, even though she has promised Simon she would never leave him! Grr - and yet she does it anyway! I hate it when people do that! Naturally, Simon can't bear losing her and destroys his greenhouse and his roses that are his prized possessions. More angst, but Lucy soon realizes she can't live without her wayward husband and returns to London on Christmas Eve only to witness another duel that Simon is in! Will it never end?
Thankfully, it does, and it all ends well, although my heart nearly stopped beating more than once during those nerve-wracking duels! Although Simon's obsession over avenging his brother became tiresome, I still really loved this book and found Simon and Lucy's courtship engaging and romantic. I cared about them and wanted things to be settled. Ms. Hoyt wraps it all up nicely and our hero and heroine are able to live happily ever after.
Despite his predilection for dueling, Simon is a worthy hero. Sexy, funny and totally shameless in his red heels (he's somewhat of a clothes horse) he was an amusing foil to Lucy's gray gowns and practicality. Love brings out the best in them and it was gratifying to see how they each come to terms with their issues so that they can get on with their lives and forgive and forget.
I recommend this series as a whole. The side characters are good too, her father in particular was amusing, he had some of the best lines (most of them derogatory about Simon). The book is sexy, compelling and entertaining, Ms. Hoyt has a real talent and I look forward to reading all of her books eventually!