Thursday, 25 April 2013

Review: To Taste Temptation (Legend of the Four Soldiers) - Elizabeth Hoyt

The ton loves nothing more than a good scandal, and they're giddy with the appearance of wealthy Samuel Hartley. Not only is he self-made, American, and in the habit of wearing moccasins, but he is also notorious for fleeing a battle in which several English gentlemen lost their lives. What the ton doesn't know, though, is that Samuel is in London because of this massacre. He believes his regiment was given up to the enemy and won't rest until he finds the traitor. 
Lady Emeline Gordon is captivated with Samuel. Not only does he defy convention with his unusual dress, his sensual smile, and his forthright manner, but he survived the battle that killed her beloved brother. Samuel suspects that the person responsible for her brother's death is Jasper Renshaw, Viscount Vale, a family friend since childhood—and Emeline's fiancé. Despite Emeline's belief in Vale's innocence and her refusal to break off her betrothal, she and Samuel begin a passionate affair. But can their relationship survive the fallout from Samuel's investigation?

For some reason, despite numerous recommendations, I had actively avoided Hoyt's novels and I can't for the life of me remember why. After yet another recommendation (Goodreads of course, good ol' Goodreads) I decided that I'd give her a shot, after all what had I to loose? I decided to start with the first in Hoyt's 'Legend of the Four Soldiers' series after the plot of the first novel appealed to me. Having now read To Taste Temptation, and quickly devouring the following three novels, I cannot believe I had avoided Hoyt for so long.

Now, the plot-line of the novel really isn't anything special and I must admit I normally avoid historical novels with a mystery or investigation aspect (I had a horrible experience with To Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn), I am aware, however, that plot progression in historical novels without suspense is quite difficult. While Samuel's investigation obviously takes up a good portion of the book and dictates the character's motivation it does not feel like it overtakes the novel.

One of the reasons that I enjoy historical romance novels is the, in my opinion, necessary emphasis on dialogue within the novels and Hoyt does not disappoint. Dialogue between hero and heroine is witty and believable, the budding romance follows the same line and the ubiquitous sex scenes do not feel forced or unnatural given the time period's restrictions. Hoyt herself has a way with words, she doesn't shy away from biology with cringe-worthy euphemisms and her descriptions of the era are detailed without being too heavy.

On a personal level, I enjoyed the jealousy aspect of the plot which, again, did not feel forced. I actually felt dismay for the unwitting Jasper who is a brilliantly amusing character (whose story is the second in the series, To Seduce a Sinner, possibly my second favourite of Hoyt's novels so far). Finally, I found that Hoyt's male heros are as well developed and relatable as her female, something that I feel few authors manage to achieve. Sam's development throughout the book takes more of an emphasis than Emeline's as Hoyt tackles his battle with what can only be PTSD.

To conclude, Hoyt's novel is witty and romantic with just enough intrigue to keep you interested without overshadowing the character development. The only mystifying aspect of the novel is Hoyt's inclusion of a fairytale which mirrors her main romantic plot, the fairytale appears throughout a small snippet appearing at the beginning of each chapter. While this was interesting and enjoyable in its own way, often adding to our understanding of the hero's internal view, I don't think the inclusion added anything special to the narrative.

Having gushed enough about TTT I feel that I can sum up the rest of Hoyt's four soldier series relatively briefly. Unlike other authors, Hoyt's novels stand up to quick successive reading without feeling repetitive. The heroines are all different enough to be distinctive, as are our heroes. Samuel and Jasper are clear favourites, closely followed by Alistair of To Beguile a Beast. The only sticking point for me is the final book in the series, To Desire a Devil. The plot line seemed vaguely ridiculous and I had little  sympathy for the hero (spoilers) - I must admit one of the only reasons I read the book was to tie up loose ends in the continuing storyline, I wasn't overly disappointed but I don't think that it is as good as its predecessors.

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