Elizabeth Hoyt is one of the big names in historical romance and her novel The Raven Prince is considered a classic of the genre. She tends to be a little earthy for my tastes, but I have read portions of several of her novels and I did indeed read all of The Ice Princess and Scandalous Desires. I really liked the former, the latter was nothing special.
A novella, The Ice Princess features Coral, the madame of a brothel called The Grotto which is featured in other Hoyt works, and Isaac Wargate, a naval captain who spends time in the brothel not being serviced, but looking out for his men and watching out for Coral. In a common romance trope, Isaac wins exclusive access to Coral for a period of seven nights in a card game. (My inner feminist cringes while typing such things, then I read another romance because being a feminist is about the right to make choices.) Coral has not been with clients in a long time, although she was not spared years as a prostitute, and Isaac wants desperately to get to the woman he glimpses underneath her literal and figurative mask. He is a patient man. Coral uses her experience and acumen to put him off, but he wins her over with kindness and patience, she rescues herself, and they sail off into the sunset together. It’s a lovely little novella not about the redemptive power of love exactly, but more the power of seeing one’s own freedom through another’s eyes.
Scandalous Desires is a standard up-from-the-gutter romance featuring a Pirate King because, yes, this is a genre in which a “Pirate King” is standard fare. Mickey O’Connor works ships on the Thames for his living and he has amassed a considerable fortune and a formidable reputation. Romance heroes who clawed their way up from nothing always do. About a year ago, Silence Hollingbrook (I don’t care what you say, that name is AWESOME) spent one night with Mickey because of something, something, her husband, something, widow. Mickey has a bastard daughter he wants Silence to take care of, first at the foundling home she helps run and then living at his Pirate King pad. Hijinks and romance ensue. Hijinks that weren’t very compelling to me, didn’t rise above what is common in the genre, and, this is important part, their relationship was uninteresting. It always comes back to that one detail. If the emotional lives and connection of the characters are sincere and well-portrayed, the book becomes engaging. Mickey and Silence’s weren’t and the book wasn’t.