Country bred Lucy Craddock-Hayes is content with her quiet life. Until the day she trips over an unconscious man-a naked unconscious man-and loses her innocence forever.
HE CAN TAKE HER TO HEAVEN...
Viscount Simon Iddesleigh was nearly beaten to death by his enemies. Now he's hell-bent on vengeance. But as Lucy nurses him back to health, her honesty startles his jaded sensibilities-even as it ignites a desire that threatens to consume them both.
OR TO HELL
Charmed by Simon's sly wit, urbane manners, and even his red-heeled shoes, Lucy falls hard and fast for him. Yet as his honor keeps him from ravishing her, his revenge sends his attackers to her door. As Simon wages war on his foes, Lucy wages her own war for his soul using the only weapon she has-her love...
About the Author
Elizabeth Hoyt is the New York Times bestselling author of over seventeen lush historical romances including the Maiden Lane series. Publishers Weekly has called her writing "mesmerizing." She also pens deliciously fun contemporary romances under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with three untrained dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the long-suffering Mr. Hoyt.
The winters in Minnesota have been known to be long and cold and Elizabeth is always thrilled to receive reader mail. You can write to her at: P.O. Box 19495, Minneapolis, MN 55419 or email her at: Elizabeth@ElizabethHoyt.com.
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Read an Excerpt
The Serpent Prince
By Elizabeth Hoyt
ForeverCopyright © 2007 Elizabeth Hoyt
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMAIDEN HILL, ENGLAND
The dead man at Lucinda Craddock-Hayes's feet looked like a fallen god. Apollo, or more likely Mars, the bringer of war, having taken human form and struck down from the heavens to be found by a maiden on her way home. Except that gods rarely bled.
Or died, for that matter.
"Mr. Hedge," Lucy called over her shoulder.
She glanced around the lonely lane leading from the town of Maiden Hill to the Craddock-Hayes house. It appeared the same as it had been before she'd made her find: deserted, except for herself; her manservant, puffing a ways behind her; and the corpse lying in the ditch. The sky hung low and wintry gray. The light had already begun to leak away, though it was not yet five o'clock. Leafless trees lined the road, silent and chill.
Lucy shivered and drew her wrap more closely about her shoulders. The dead man sprawled, naked, battered, and facedown. The long lines of his back were marred by a mass of blood on his right shoulder. Below were lean hips; muscular, hairy legs; and curiously elegant, bony feet. She blinked and returned her gaze to his face. Even in death he was handsome. His head, turned to the side, revealed a patrician profile: long nose, high bony cheeks, and a wide mouth. Aneyebrow, winging over his closed eye, was bisected by a scar. Closely cropped pale hair grew flat to his skull, except where it was matted by blood. His left hand was flung above his head, and on the index finger was the impression where a ring should have been. His killers must've stolen it along with everything else. Around the body the mud was scuffed, the imprint of a boot heel stamped deep beside the dead man's hip. Other than that, there was no sign of whoever had dumped him here like so much offal.
Lucy felt silly tears prick at her eyes. Something about the way that he'd been left, naked and degraded by his murderers, seemed a terrible insult to the man. It was so unbearably sad. Ninny, she chided herself. She became conscious of a muttering, drawing steadily closer. Hastily, she swiped at the moisture on her cheeks.
"First she visits the Joneses and all the little Joneses, snotty-nosed buggers. Then we march up the hill to Old Woman Hardy-nasty biddy, don't know why she hasn't been put to bed with a shovel yet. And is that all? No, that's not all by half. Then, then she must needs call round the vicarage. And me carting great jars of jelly all the while."
Lucy suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. Hedge, her man, wore a greasy tricorne smashed down over a shock of gray hair. His dusty coat and waistcoat were equally disreputable, and he'd chosen to highlight his bowlegs with scarlet-clocked stockings, no doubt Papa's castoffs.
He halted beside her. "Oh, gah, not a deader!"
In his surprise, the little man had forgotten to stoop, but when she turned to him, his wiry body decayed before her eyes. His back curved, the shoulder bearing the awful weight of her now-empty basket fell, and his head hung to the side listlessly. As the pièce de résistance, Hedge took out a checkered cloth and laboriously wiped his forehead.
Lucy ignored all this. She'd seen the act hundreds, if not thousands, of times in her life. "I don't know that I would have described him as a deader, but he is indeed a corpse."
"Well, best not stand here gawping. Let the dead rest in peace, I always say." Hedge made to sidle past her.
She placed herself in his path. "We can't just leave him here."
"Why not? He was here before you trotted past. Wouldn't never have seen him, neither, if we'd've taken the shortcut through the common like I said."
"Nevertheless, we did find him. Can you help me carry him?"
Hedge staggered back in patent disbelief. "Carry him? A great big bloke like that? Not unless you want me crippled for sure. My back's bad as it is, has been for twenty years. I don't complain, but still."
"Very well," Lucy conceded. "We'll have to get a cart."
"Why don't we just leave him be?" the little man protested. "Someone'll find him in a bit."
"Mr. Hedge ..."
"He's stabbed through the shoulder and all over bloody. It's not nice, that." Hedge screwed up his face until it resembled a rotted pumpkin.
"I'm sure he didn't mean to be stabbed, through the shoulder or not, so I don't think we can hold that against him," Lucy chided.
"But he's begun to go off!" Hedge waved the handkerchief in front of his nose.
Lucy didn't mention that there hadn't been any smell until he'd arrived. "I'll wait while you go fetch Bob Smith and his cart."
The manservant's bushy gray eyebrows drew together in imminent opposition.
"Unless you would prefer to stay here with the body?"
Hedge's brow cleared. "No, mum. You knows best, I'm sure. I'll just trot on over to the smithy-"
The corpse groaned.
Lucy looked down in surprise.
Beside her, Hedge jumped back and stated the obvious for both of them. "Jaysus Almighty Christ! That man ain't dead!"
Dear Lord. And she'd been standing here all this while, bickering with Hedge. Lucy swept off her wrap and threw it across the man's back. "Hand me your coat."
"Now!" Lucy didn't bother giving Hedge a look. She rarely used a sharp tone of voice, making it all the more effective when she did employ it.
"Awww," the manservant moaned, but he tossed the coat to her.
"Go fetch Doctor Fremont. Tell him it's urgent, and he must come at once." Lucy gazed sternly into her manservant's beady eyes. "And, Mr. Hedge?"
Hedge dropped the basket and took off, moving surprisingly fast, his bad back forgotten.
Lucy bent and tucked Hedge's coat around the man's buttocks and legs. She held her hand under his nose and waited, barely breathing, until she felt the faint brush of air. He was indeed alive. She sat back on her heels and contemplated the situation. The man lay on the half-frozen mud and weeds of the ditch-both cold and hard. That couldn't be good for him, considering his wounds. But as Hedge had noted, he was a big man, and she wasn't sure she could move him by herself. She peeled back a corner of the wrap covering his back. The slit in his shoulder was crusted with dried gore, the bleeding already stopped to her admittedly inexperienced eyes. Bruises bloomed across his back and side. Lord only knew what the front of him looked like.
And then there was the head wound.
She shook her head. He lay so still and white. No wonder she'd mistaken him for dead. But all the same, Hedge could've already been on his way to Doctor Fremont in the time they'd taken to argue over the poor man.
Lucy checked again that he was breathing, her palm hovering above his lips. His breath was light but even. She smoothed the back of her hand over his cold cheek. Almost invisible stubble caught at her fingers. Who was he? Maiden Hill was not so big that a stranger could pass through it without notice. Yet she had heard no gossip about visitors on her rounds this afternoon. Somehow he'd appeared here in the lane without anyone noticing. Then, too, the man had been obviously beaten and robbed. Why? Was he merely a victim, or had he somehow brought this fate upon himself?
Lucy hugged herself on the last thought and prayed Hedge would hurry. The light was fading fast and with it what little warmth the day had held. A wounded man lying exposed to the elements for Lord knows how long ... She bit her lip.
If Hedge didn't return soon, there would be no need of a doctor.
The harsh words, spoken at Sir Rupert Fletcher's side, were much too loud in the crowded ballroom. He glanced around to see who stood near enough to overhear, then stepped closer to the speaker, Quincy James.
Sir Rupert gripped the ebony cane in his right hand, trying not to let his irritation show. Or his surprise. "What do you mean?"
"Just what I said." James smirked. "He's dead."
"You've killed him?"
"Not me. I sent my men to do it."
Sir Rupert frowned, trying to comprehend this information. James had settled on a course of action by himself, and it had succeeded? "How many?" he abruptly asked. "Your men."
The younger man shrugged. "Three. More than enough."
"Early this morning. I had a report just before I left." James flashed a cocky grin that gave him boyish dimples. Seeing his light blue eyes, regular English features, and athletic form, most would think him a pleasant, even attractive, young man.
Most would be wrong.
"I trust the matter cannot be traced back to you." Despite his efforts, an edge must've crept into Sir Rupert's voice.
James lost the smile. "Dead men can't tell tales."
"Humph." What an idiot. "Where did they do it?"
"Outside his town house."
Sir Rupert swore softly. To waylay a peer of the realm outside his own home in broad daylight was the work of a half-wit. His bad leg was giving him the very devil tonight and now this nonsense from James. He leaned more heavily on the ebony cane as he tried to think.
"Don't get worked up." James smiled nervously. "N-n-no one saw them."
The elder man arched an eyebrow. Lord save him from aristocrats who decided to think-let alone act-on their own. There'd been too many generations of leisure for the typical lordling to easily find his own prick to piss with, never mind something more complicated like planning an assassination.
James was blithely unaware of Sir Rupert's thoughts. "Besides, they stripped the body and dumped it half a day's ride outside London. Nobody'll know him there. By the time it's found, there won't be much to recognize, will there? P-p-perfectly safe." The younger man's hand crawled up to poke a finger into his golden-yellow hair. He wore it unpowdered, probably as a vanity.
Sir Rupert took a sip of Madeira as he contemplated this latest development. The ballroom was a stifling crush, redolent of burning wax, heavy perfume, and body odor. The French doors leading into the garden had been thrown open to let in the cool night air, but they had little effect on the room's heat. The punch had given out a half hour before, and there were several hours yet before the midnight buffet. Sir Rupert grimaced. He didn't hold out much hope for the refreshments. Lord Harrington, his host, was notoriously stingy, even when entertaining the cream of society-and a few upstarts such as Sir Rupert.
A narrow space had been cleared in the middle of the room for the dancers. They swirled in a rainbow of colors. Lasses in embroidered gowns and powdered hair. Gentlemen turned out in wigs and their uncomfortable best. He didn't envy the young people the pretty movements. They must be dripping sweat under their silks and lace. Lord Harrington would be gratified at the massive turnout so early in the season-or rather, Lady Harrington would. That lady had five unmarried daughters, and she marshaled her forces like an experienced campaigner readying for battle. Four of her daughters were on the floor, each on the arm of an eligible gentleman.
Not that he could stand in judgment with three daughters under the age of four and twenty himself. All of them out of the schoolroom, all of them in need of suitable husbands. In fact ... Matilda caught his eye from some twenty paces away where she stood with Sarah. She arched a brow and looked meaningfully at young Quincy James, who was still standing beside him.
Sir Rupert shook his head slightly-he'd rather let one of his daughters marry a rabid dog. Their communication was well developed after nearly three decades of marriage. His lady wife turned smoothly away to chat animatedly with another matron without ever revealing that she had exchanged information with her husband. Later tonight she might quiz him about James and ask why the young man wasn't up to snuff, but she wouldn't dream of badgering her husband right now.
If only his other partners were so circumspect.
"I don't know why you're worried." James apparently couldn't stand the silence anymore. "He never knew about you. Nobody knew about you."
"And I prefer to keep it that way," Sir Rupert said mildly. "For all of our sakes."
"I wager you would. You left m-m-me and Walker and the other two for him to hunt in your stead."
"He would've found you and the others in any case."
"There's s-s-some who would still like to know about you." James scratched at his scalp so violently he nearly dislodged his queue.
"But it would not be in your best interest to betray me," Sir Rupert said flatly. He bowed to a passing acquaintance.
"I'm not saying I would let it out."
"Good. You profited as much as I from the business."
"Then all's well that ends well."
"Easy for y-y-you to s-s-say." James's stutter was growing more frequent, a sign the man was agitated. "You didn't see Hartwell's body. He was skewered through the throat. Must've bled to death. His seconds said the duel lasted only two minutes-two minutes, mind you. A-a-awful."
"You're a better swordsman than Hartwell ever was," Sir Rupert said.
He smiled as his eldest, Julia, started a minuet. She was wearing a gown in a becoming shade of blue. Had he seen it before? He thought not. It must be new. Hopefully it hadn't beggared him. Her partner was an earl past his fortieth year. A mite old, but still, an earl ...
"P-p-peller was an excellent swordsman, too, and he was k-k-killed first." James's hysterical voice interrupted Sir Rupert's thoughts.
He was too loud. Sir Rupert tried to calm him. "James-"
"Challenged at night and d-d-dead before breakfast the next morn!"
"I don't think-"
"He lost three f-f-fingers trying to defend himself after the s-s-sword was wrenched from his hand. I had to search the g-g-grass for them afterward. G-g-god!"
Nearby heads swiveled their way. The younger man's tone was growing louder.
Time to part.
"It's over." Sir Rupert turned his head to meet James's gaze, holding and quelling him.
There was a tic under the other man's right eye. He inhaled to begin speaking.
Sir Rupert got there first, his voice mild. "He's dead. You've just told me."
"Therefore, we have nothing further to worry about." Sir Rupert bowed and limped away. He badly needed another glass of Madeira.
"I'LL NOT HAVE HIM IN MY HOUSE," Captain Craddock-Hayes pronounced, arms crossed over his barrel chest, feet braced as if on a rolling deck. His bewigged head was held high, sea-blue eyes pinned on a distant horizon.
He stood in the entrance hall to Craddock-Hayes house. Usually the hall was quite large enough for their needs. Right now, though, the hall seemed to have shrunk in proportion to the amount of people it held, Lucy thought ruefully, and the captain was right in the center of it.
"Yes, Papa." She dodged around him and waved the men carrying her stranger farther in. "Upstairs in my brother's bedroom, I think. Don't you agree, Mrs. Brodie?"
"Of course, miss." The Craddock-Hayes housekeeper nodded. The frill of her mobcap, framing red cheeks, bobbed in time with the movement. "The bed's already made, and I can have the fire started in a tick."
"Good." Lucy smiled in approval. "Thank you, Mrs. Brodie."
The housekeeper hurried up the stairs, her ample bottom swaying with each step.
"Don't even know who the blighter is," her father continued. "Might be some tramp or murderer. Hedge said he was stabbed in the back. I ask you, what sort of a chap gets himself stabbed? Eh? Eh?"
"I don't know, I'm sure," Lucy answered automatically. "Would you mind moving to the side so the men can carry him past?"
Papa shuffled obediently nearer the wall.
The laborers panted as they wrestled the wounded stranger inside. He lay so terribly still, his face pale as death. Lucy bit her lip and tried not to let her anxiety show. She didn't know him, didn't even know the color of his eyes; and yet it was vitally important that he live. He'd been placed on a door to make it easier to carry him, but it was obvious that his weight and height still made the maneuver difficult. One of the men swore.
"Won't have such language in my house." The captain glared at the offender.
The man flushed and mumbled an apology.
Papa nodded. "What kind of a father would I be if I allowed any sort of gypsy or layabout into my home? With an unmarried gel in residence? Eh? A damned rotten one, that's what."
"Yes, Papa." Lucy held her breath as the men negotiated the stairs.
Excerpted from The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt Copyright © 2007 by Elizabeth Hoyt. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read all the time and only write reviews when I find an outstanding book and this is one of the few. Absolutely amazing book. Written the way a Romance novel should be put together. I LOVED it! Thank you, Ms. Hoyt!
In 1760 near her home in Maiden Hill, England Lucy Craddock-Hayes finds the battered Viscount Simon Iddelsleigh nearly dead in fact she thought he was dead initially. She has him brought into her home where she nurses him back to health. As he recovers, Simon teases his savior with his sweet talk Lucy already attracted to her guest, savors his gentle seductive words, but pretends otherwise.---------------- When Simon learns that his nurse is an artist, he hires her to illustrate the fairy tale The Serpent Prince and the Goat Girl. As they fall in love, his enemy learns he still lives so the killer plans to finish the job using Lucy as a pawn because this villain knows Simon will never rest until he avenges the death of his brother.---------------------- The third Elizabeth Hoyt princely Georgian romance (see RAVEN PRINCE and LEOPARD PRINCE) is an excellent historical tale. The action-packed story line is moved forward by the antics of the nurse and her patient as he charms her while he heals. As they fall in love, Simon knows he is not good enough for the kind loving Lucy as his quest must come before his desires. Elizabeth Hoyt provides an entertaining character driven eighteenth century romance.------------- Harriet Klausner
When she finds a man stabbed and near dead in a lane, the heroine proves herself to be more than a simple country miss. Fun banter in this one.
This was the final book in the "Prince" series. By Hoyt. And it certainly was the steamiest! Wow. This book is very hot. Simon, and Lucy a very mismatched couple who take deep desire in each others company and touches. But Simon has a dark side as well. Its a very good story, about a mans flaws, and his love of a woman. And the woman's love of him. A story that asks, can True love really conquer all?
I didn't like this book all that much, and it was very slow to begin with. I didn't really buy into the hero's character - the dark doomed wastrel who doesn't think he's good enough for the heroine but loves her anyway. I don't know, maybe I thought it was all a tad cliched. Saying a character is something doesn't make it so, and I felt there wasn't enough substance behind Simon. Lucy herself doesn't bear much comment. There wasn't much to her, and she was a definite weak point in this book. But somehow Simon's love for her managed to feel real anyway, and I found myself pretty helplessly moved by it in the end. The fairy tale that gives this installment its name was much better done here, in my opinion, than in the leopard prince, where it seemed awkward, forced, and tacked on, as it were. Also the fencing scenes (Simon ruthlessly seeks revenge for his brother's murder by duelling/killing the murderers one after the other) were thrilling in a death-defying way.
smoking. though the main guy is such a dandy.
The Serpent Prince was a fabulous wrap-up to an already wonderful series. It carried a lot of weight and depth that kept my mind engaged throughout. The story is a study in contrasts with a very potent mixture of light and dark, innocence and eroticism. Lucy is the lightness and sweetness to Simon's darkness and pain. Simon hasn't known anyone as virtuous and kind as Lucy since the death of his brother, and he subconsciously senses that his ¿angel¿ can bring the light of her goodness and decency into the black abyss of his soul to save him. It is also about the redemption of a man who was so consumed by the pain of the past and a thirst for vengeance that he felt he was beyond saving, and a gentle reminder of what it truly means to be patient and forgiving in the face of wrongdoing. The Serpent Prince is also a lovely story of two people discovering their true selves and in doing so, finding the one person who is perfect for them, that they can trust completely and to whom they can reveal that true self, warts and all. Overall, this was a beautifully written book that, in my opinion, went beyond mere romance into the realm of what it truly means to love someone unconditionally with all your heart and soul.In The Raven Prince, I fell in love with Edward's intelligence, earthiness and even his temperamental nature. In The Leopard Prince, I fell for Harry's calm, quiet, everyman persona. In both of their books, Simon is portrayed as a dandified peacock, and I have to admit some skepticism on whether I would like him as a hero. Now after reading his book, I can honestly say that in spite of his perfectly powdered wig, exquisitely embroidered waistcoats and gaudy red-heeled pumps, this dandy is one of the sexiest heroes I've had the pleasure of reading. I don't think I'll ever judge a book by its cover again.;-) Simon is an utterly charming rogue who seems to hide who he really is behind all the pomp and circumstance of his outer facade. He also has a tendency to babble a whole lot of nonsense for the same reason. Yet, Simon is thoroughly quick-witted and poetic but can be oh-so-naughty with words, skillfully weaving double entendres into his conversations and bantering like a pro. Underneath that devil-may-care facade though, lurks a deep, dark pain and a man who is utterly consumed by his plans for retribution against his brother's murderers. I thought that the author did an amazing job with conveying the toll that the revenge was taking on Simon, and how it was completely ravaging him, both physically and emotionally. In spite of the intensity of his anger toward those who wronged his family, Simon can still, at times, be a thoroughly vulnerable and broken man who has a heartbreaking need for Lucy's presence. It is like he is a drained and starving man who just soaks up her love and light and purity and wants to take it into himself to cleanse his bitter soul. Even though Simon deeply yearns for Lucy, there are times that he seems to be afraid of corrupting his perfect ¿angel¿ and is almost embarrassed by the intensity of his desire for her. For all his worldliness, occasionally he could even be brought to a blush by merely being around his lovely wife. I thought this was absolutely adorable and an ingenious way for the author to convey the goodness in him. All in all, Simon is a larger-than-life character who really stole the show in this book.Opposite an ostentatious and deeply wounded character like Simon, Lucy could have been a shrinking violet, but I thought she held her own pretty well. She is the plain country girl who stands out in stark contrast to the sophisticated ladies of the ton with whom Simon usually keeps company, but that is what makes her so perfect for him. Unlike Simon she has had a good life with fond memories of a gentle, loving mother, and although her father is a blustery former sea captain, it is obvious that he loves her dearly too. She draws on that background filled
She has a great talent at entwining a story within a story. The endings, while happy leaves me wondering.... what happened next. Too many lose ends left unanswered. It could be because like have been reading Historical Romances for well over 50 years.
JUST SIMPLY WONDERFUL!!
Its all about the hero. He's flawed, knows he is, but is also wickedly sensual and witty and romantic. Of couse he needs the right woman to save him and her love does exactly that. But I've discovered that if I don't find the hero appealing, if he doesnt make me laugh and shock me with his wicked ways, the story is just bla for me, the steamy scenes not so steamy and I lose interest...regardless of how smart, brave, funny or unusual the heroine is. Is this just me or do others feel the same? So I recommend this book because the hero is very appealing and it was a bit of a thriller, not too unbelievable etc. Elizabeth Hoyt knows how to make her heros exciting (not always, but often) so if you feel like I do about heros, you will enjoy this book!!
This a great series. Very easy read and great for those lazy days at the pool.
~Reviewed by SUZANNE & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog …for some reason Viscount Simon Iddesleigh and Miss Lucy Craddock-Hayes didn’t capture my heart as the previous couple have. I don’t know what it is about The Serpent Prince, but it is my least favourite in the Princes Trilogy, not that it is an awful book, it is really good, it contains an angsty hero and a very likable heroine who seem perfect for one another, it seems Elizabeth Hoyt really believes in the adage “opposites attract”. However, for some reason Viscount Simon Iddesleigh and Miss Lucy Craddock-Hayes didn’t capture my heart as the previous couple have. Maybe it was the speed in which they feel in love, I know I shouldn’t moan about this, so many romances have true love in a matter of minutes that should I really whinge about characters falling in love after a week, after all in Romancelandia that’s practically a whole year. But, for some reason it jarred, Lucy was painted as being so straight forward and practical that it seemed out of character. But, although the above things did niggle at me the one thing this book didn’t lack was passion and steamy sex. I am not sure if the Serpent Prince had more sex in it or not compared to the other books, but the love scenes between Lucy and Simon were fantastic. They were great not just because they were so damn hot but because you could really feel Simon’s need for Lucy, he desperately wanted and needed her and it really came across when they in bed banging like bunnies. This remains one of my favourite historical romance trilogies, even if this isn’t my favourite book, it is full of humour, romance and really good writing and I highly recommend you give it a try.
This one is filled with angst. The hero is torn between the good love of a virtuous woman and the evil revenge he feels he must mete out to the murderers of his brother.
I've never read anything by her but I loved it. Such a good ending , it wasn't embarrassingly typical, just well written and cute.