|Elizabeth Hoyt's first novel, The Raven Prince, won me over with its thoroughly genuine characters. In fact, I vote it one of the ten best historical romances, if not romances, of 2006. Comparisons with her second book are inevitable. None are in The Leopard Prince's favor, but the latter remains a pleasant enough read.
Lady Georgina Maitland, or George as she is known to her friends, has
just returned from London to her country estate in Yorkshire. Someone
has been poisoning sheep, and rumor has it that the guilty man is
Harry Pye, her land steward. Lord Granville, a neighboring landlord
who holds a long-standing grudge against Harry, demands that she
sends him away. She refuses, but suggests that Harry and she
investigate the crime.
George has been attracted to Harry for a while, and now that they are
thrown into close contact, this attraction grows stronger. Of course,
there are serious barriers, including class differences, to any
relationship between them, but after a little hesitation she decides
to seduce him. Yes, her plan sounds totally implausible for an
eighteenth-century British aristocrat, but hold your horses for a
George has very convincing reasons for thinking she can get away with
an affair: she has a fortune of her own and therefore absolutely no
need for a wealthy, aristocratic husband. Marriage with someone from
the servant classes is quite another matter. Although the resolution
of The Leopard Prince will probably annoy historically-minded
readers, it does make sense, given the characters, their backgrounds
and their motivations. Besides, the real problems with historical
representation lie elsewhere.
The Raven Prince also contains several anachronisms and unlikely
mesalliances, but the characters are so real, concrete and likeable
that I quickly overlooked them. Here, however, George's thoroughly
modern lexicon almost ruined the book for me. Her rolling eyes,
oopses, and ohmygodohmygodohmygods jar with her aristocratic status.
Worse, they douse her with much more silliness than such an
independent and principled woman would have. As for Harry, who makes
a brief appearance in the other novel, he is stand-offish and stiff.
This attitude follows naturally from his past history, and it slowly
falls off to reveal an honorable and sensitive man. So in the end it
bothered me far less than it could have. Nevertheless, neither
character has the same depths and appeal as Anne and Edward of The
The novels in this series take their title from fairy tales that
provide a thematic unity to the story. In the first novel, the fairy
tale is the source for the epigrams at the beginning of each chapter;
here it is slowly unveiled through George's lips. The interruptions
require some getting used to, but both the twists and turns George's
story-telling takes and Harry's responses to them reveal much about
The investigation into the poisoned sheep keeps the pages turning and
nicely punctuates the developments in the romance plot. It also
introduces us to a largish cast of characters, farmers and
aristocrats alike. Hoyt provides the right amount of details to her
country setting to give it an authentic feel. So while The Leopard
Prince did not entrance me as much as its precursor, it certainly is an original and well-crafted story, one that is sure to be
appreciated by most romance readers.