The Leopard Prince is the second in the Princes Trilogy by Elizabeth Hoyt. It’s been on my to-read list since I read the first book in the trilogy a while back. So when it came available on audio, even with a relatively unknown narrator, I bought it. I am pleased to say the story is complex and interesting, and Moira Quirk’s narration makes it shine.
Lady Georgina Maitland (Georgie) is in her late twenties and unmarried. She is singular in several ways, including the fact that she is financially independent and owns her own estate in northern England. There she employs Harry Pye as her land steward. As the book opens, Georgie and Mr. Pye have suffered a carriage accident while on route to the estate. She is standing in the rain on the side of the road contemplating both the wreck of the carriage and the fact that her land steward is a man. Georgie tells herself that she knows he isn’t an animal, of course, like a horse or a whale, but then gets sidetracked wondering if one can call a whale an animal.
“Do you consider a whale to be an animal, or a very big fish, Mr. Pye?” she shouted into the wind.
To this Mr. Pye, who is straining in the mud and muck along with the coachman to free the horses, replies in an unruffled tone, “An animal, my lady.”
I love Georgie, including her sometimes clueless way of saying out loud what is on her mind as in the example above. She’s quite intelligent, but she’s quirky, which allows her to be abstracted at times without making her seem vapid or thoughtless. She’s kind and loving to family, plus she’s self-aware and brave. Moira Quick’s voice for Georgie makes me love Georgie even more. It is so full of character that it fairly sparkles with life.
Quick’s men sound thankfully male. She does an excellent job with Harry’s low sexy voice, especially the way he calls Georgie “my lady” with his irresistible drawl. Harry is a wonderful hero. As Georgie realizes her interest in Harry, she starts finding reasons to spend time with him. She realizes the unsuitability of a relationship between a titled lady and a low-born steward, but she’s drawn to him anyway. Harry knows the relationship is not only unsuitable for Georgie, but his pride makes him reluctant to be a “kept man.” He is trying to do the right thing by remaining aloof, but Georgie is persistent and Harry eventually gives in to the inevitable. Harry is a character worthy of Georgie. He is just forceful enough to make the attraction work without being overbearing. Since he is Georgie’s employee, his deference to her helps equalize the balance of power between them, something that is rare in historical romances. . The first love scenes between the two are so sweet and, at times, funny. As good as the sex scenes are, the book has too many, and the final sex scene is awkward due to the location. However, the sex scenes are well-written, and Moira Quirk reads the scenes with just enough passion to sound believable without overacting.
The suspense plot is full of twists and turns and a few red herrings. The main foe, Lord Granville, is thoroughly unlikeable but didn’t feel cardboard. The two Granville sons are a study in contrasts and add to the character development of Lord Granville. The plot was a little dark but well executed. The relationship between Harry and Georgie was often humorous and sweet which helps lighten up the darker parts of the story.
The fairy tale that Georgie tells Harry throughout the story is a high point for me. Georgie’s method of telling the tale is winsome and charming, and it highlights the way her mind works. The inclusion of the fairy tale adds to the main story in large and small ways. Hoyt does an excellent job weaving it into the plot and making the tale important, and not just to give the book its title.
My caveats about the story are minimal but important. Georgie’s insecurities about the relationship, and Harry’s determination to not make it permanent, went on too long for me. At the end the story starts to drag as both characters follow their heads rather than their hearts. While this sets the scene for both Georgie and Harry to make the “grand gesture,” it feels contrived.
What else can I say about Moira Quirk? She gets all the voices right and her narration of the prose is lively and interesting. With her talent, I imagine she will quickly become a sought-after narrator. I only hope she continues to narrate romance novels because she is a gem we don’t want to lose!
Book Content: B+
Steam Factor: For your burning ears only
Violence: Escalated fighting/graphic- most of the book was not graphic, but there are short scenes that make the story grittier.
Genre: Historical Romance – European
Publisher: Hachette Audio