Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Ice Princess by Elizabeth Hoyt

Aren't I on a roll these two days? I've probably jinxed it now, but here's another while I'm at it. I'm really quite pleased with my output, but really need to work harder to tackle my backlog of reviews. As a result, I've not really been able to start a lot of books that I've wanted to, but I figure that it's the reviews that are the priority, rather than the new books.

Blogger is annoying me at the moment. I can't figure out how to post a post with a picture on the top without Blogger automatically inserting a blank line at the top before the text. It hasn't happened in this post since I've got this note at the top, but it's done it to the last half dozen reviews or so. Any ideas? Fixed it!

The Ice Princess (2009) (novella)
Elizabeth Hoyt
Grade: A
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: not quite hot
Source: NetGalley
Princes Trilogy: (1) The Raven Prince, (2) The Leopard Prince, (3) The Serpent Prince

Coral Smythe is the madam of the most infamous brothel in London, Aphrodite’s Grotto and does her job well. At only twenty-four years old, her age is one of the things that she’s most desperate to hide behind her elaborate mask and brazen behaviour. Coral knows her way around any man, but there’s one who is impervious to her and her girls’ (and boys!) advances that always presents an irresistible challenge.

Captain Isaac Wargate never makes any attempt to hide his contempt for the woman he only knows as Aphrodite. When he wins seven nights of her exclusive company, Isaac would rather use his time to uncover her secrets and past rather than her body.

Coral isn’t used to men just wanting to talk to her. She started out in the business young, and while it’s been two years since she’s last let a man touch her, Isaac is different. Isaac wants to know her, not Aphrodite and Coral doesn’t know how to be herself around men when all she’s learned to do is try and please them. As their relationship progresses at a lightning fast speed, Coral is in danger of letting Isaac penetrate the only place she’s never let a man enter: her heart.

I first read The Ice Princess when it was released as a chapter-by-chapter instalment on Ms Hoyt’s website. Looking back at my emails, this was back in 2009, quite early in my romance-reading career. I had discovered the story about halfway through and so eagerly anticipated each chapter as each month passed. Reading it again for the second time has been just as exciting as the first time around.

I’ve said somewhere that novellas and short stories aren’t really my thing. SevenDay Loan proved me wrong about short stories, and for some reason, I always happen to conveniently forget The Ice Princess when talking about novellas. This is a fantastic one. Ms Hoyt manages to fit in enough character development to make the Coral and Isaac well-rounded without making it seem too forced. Since Isaac’s aim is to find out as much as possible about Coral, their nightly conversations are a great way of doing it.

Coral is a great heroine. As madam of Aphrodite’s Grotto, she’s worked her way up to her position and so knows how terrible life can be as a prostitute. The stark reality of her childhood and time spent selling her body shows the grimmer side of life that is all too often almost glorified in other romance novels. These aren’t the courtesans or mistresses of members of the ton; these are poor, working girls who have turned to this life because they can’t make good money elsewhere. Ms Hoyt portrays this as she should: honestly, without frills and bows.

Ms Hoyt made Coral and Isaac’s seven-day romance believable and innocent. They aren’t strangers when he collects on his wager, but they’ve never exchanged civil words. All her adult life, Coral has taught herself not to trust men and Ms Hoyt depicts her initial wariness and suspicion about Isaac’s possible ulterior motives well. For Isaac’s part, once he discovers the truth about Coral’s history, he immediately loses his condescending and superior behaviour. It’s nice to see heroes in the wrong and getting told and it was no different here. Both are disillusioned about love for their own various reasons and so don’t expect it when it sneaks up on them and smacks them in the face. Their love story is a wonderful example of two normal people getting their chance at love; no waltzes around the ballroom, afternoon social calls or countless dress fittings getting in the way. Don’t get me wrong: I love all the intricacies associated with the members of the ton, but it is lovely to get away from it all once in a while, and Elizabeth Hoyt always delivers a refreshing, if sometimes grim picture of society. A great, quick read that touches deep without being too intense and overpowering in such a short amount of space; well done Ms Hoyt.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction

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