I mentioned in my last reading post that I have been somewhat obsessed with Elizabeth Hoyt of late. After finishing the Prince series, I snatched up books 2-4 (not sure why I didn’t grab book 1… perhaps the blurb didn’t quite capture my attention) of the Legend of the Four Soldiers series to read on my road trip (I didn’t drive, somewhat obviously). Unlike the Prince books, these four books are closely knit together by the harrowing event that connects all four of the male characters and by the reading, translating, transcribing, and binding of a book of fairy tales (the Legend of the Four Soldiers), all of which connects each of the female characters. In addition, each book weaves the story of its hero and heroine with one of the legends from the book of fairy tales. The result is an interesting, multifaceted series that is superbly constructed. Elizabeth Hoyt could write anything, I’m convinced, but I’m so glad that she devotes her considerable skills to the romance genre. There are so many terrible romance novels out there in the world, and it’s fantastic to be able to read a book from my favorite (definitely guilty pleasure) genre and know that I’m actually reading a genuinely good book. At some point, I’ll pick up the first book in the series so I can have a better understanding of how it all begins, but these books really do stand alone quite well, despite all the interweaving legends and the overarching plot line.
To Seduce a Sinner tells the story of two believable, messed-up people who marry fairly early in the book and then muddle through their relationship. There is a whole sub-genre of romance novels devoted to the notion of marrying a stranger (not sure what that says about the women who read them, but I can’t judge: I have some of those books myself), and most of them are either creepy or lame. This book manages to be neither because it relies on the strength of its characters. What does it mean to trust someone (or, more importantly, to trust yourself)? How do you build trust? What is the difference between a person’s true self and the self he/she presents to the world? These are not the sorts of questions one would expect to encounter in a romance novel, but this one is full of the meat of interpersonal relationships and all their messy glory. As an added bonus, the secondary characters are fabulous as well.
This book, already rich with interesting characters, clever plot points, well-written children, and POV from multiple characters and bolstered by a fascinating legend, draws upon the familiar beauty and the beast story to great effect. I’ve always had a soft spot for beauty and the beast stories. They represent women rather well, right? The beauty, far from being repulsed by the beast, nurtures and heals him, restoring him to his proper self. That is a very positive representation of the feminine. This book merges certain qualities of the beauty and the beast archetypes into fully fleshed characters whose backgrounds and motivations go far beyond what one would expect from a retelling of a popular fairy tale.
Back story… it can be necessary to a book, especially one that references a past event in its major plot, but it’s very difficult to manage. Isn’t it annoying to read a book that spends more time catching you up to the characters than it does advancing their story (the one you’re actually interested in reading)? My favorite thing about To Desire a Devil is that the back story is delivered in such a clever way. The other two books in the series delve a bit into the past – that harrowing event that I mentioned in my discussion of To Seduce a Sinner – but the events of the past are more important to the development of the hero’s character in To Desire a Devil, so there’s even more of a need to share the events that helped shape him into the man he is when the heroine meets him. Hoyt manages it in a truly lovely way through believable dialogue delivered here and there throughout the book. Think how lame it could have been: Reynaud thought back to his time as a captive – how horrifying it was. He shuddered, thinking about the frigid winter, the lack of food, the fear of imminent and ignoble death. That’s how most romance authors would have handled that bit of exposition, but Hoyt lets Reynaud tell Beatrice, the heroine, and you the reader what he experienced during his seven years of captivity. What is particularly interesting is that his telling of the tale is absolutely believable coming from a male. There’s no mention of feelings, no shuddering in horror, no dwelling on how awful it was. Instead, he tells just the facts and leaves it to Beatrice and the reader to figure out (because women must) what the emotional cost of all of that horror must have been. Brilliant.
So… have I convinced anyone to check out any of these books?