Captain Isaac Wargate often goes to Aphrodite's Grotto, an infamous house of ill repute, to collect his errant sailors, but the handsome widower has never choses to sample the wares. He is however, intrigued by Aphrodite herself, the mysterious masked madame of the brothel. When she began working as a prostitute, Coral Smythe had few other options open to her for survival, but since becoming the owner of Aphrodite's, she has tried to avoid selling her own body. Fate has other ideas though, and before she knows what is happening, Coral unwittingly finds herself as the prize in a high-stakes game of cards. Sensing her reluctance, Isaac daringly wagers six months salary for the chance to win seven decadent nights with the woman who has filled his dreams, but the things he has in mind for those seven nights, Coral never could have imagined.
Elizabeth Hoyt has done it again, writing yet another compelling story. The Ice Princess is a novella sequel to her fabulous Princes Trilogy that features Coral Smythe, a secondary character from that series, as the heroine. In a less talented author's hands, I probably would not have enjoyed The Ice Princess half as much. Because of the brevity of the story, the time frame in which the events occur would admittedly be rather unbelievable in real life, but Ms. Hoyt has a tight writing style and a real knack for bringing out all the emotions of a difficult situation. She immediately drew me into the story and made me believe in the character's love for one another and the mental and emotional changes that Coral had to undergo in order to truly experience that love. Also, once again, the author mirrors the events of the main narrative with a fairy tale of the same title, excerpts of which begin each chapter, so it is almost like getting two stories in one.
I absolutely loved both the hero and heroine of The Ice Princess. Isaac was definitely a swoon-worthy hero. He shows his alpha-maleness in his leadership abilities as an accomplished sea captain, but at the same time is very sensitive and loving. He seems to intuitively know what Coral needs and how to tame her. He patiently gives her time to come around, and slowly coaxes her to come out of "hiding" and reveal every part of herself to him. At one point, the author very cleverly uses a game of checkers as a metaphor for Isaac's attempts to win Coral's trust and ultimately her love. Rakes are usually a dime a dozen in historical romances, so a self-controlled hero like Isaac is quite endearing to me. In my opinion, he was exactly the type of man Coral needed to show her that not all men are cut from the same cloth. Coral had worked as both a street prostitute and a high-priced courtesan, and is now the anonymous madame of an infamous brothel who hides behind a golden mask and the name of Aphrodite. She has tried to avoid selling herself for two years, but having seen the worst men have to offer, all her life's experiences have left her rather jaded. Isaac often comes to the brothel to collect his sailors but never partakes in the pleasures offered there. Coral loves to suggestively banter with him, but deep down she's both intrigued and disconcerted by him, and also very attracted to him. Some small part of her still longs to be a "normal" young woman with a husband and family, but her years of whoring make her feel unworthy of those things. I liked Coral in the Princes Trilogy and was very happy to see her finally get an HEA ending too.
I would have loved to read a full-length novel about this couple, but somehow Ms. Hoyt managed to squeeze everything that I would have hoped for them into twelve short chapters, leaving me feeling fully satisfied. The Ice Princess works fine as a stand-alone story, but readers will get a richer understanding of Coral's background and Aphrodite's Grotto, her brothel, by reading the Princes Trilogy first, particularly The Raven Prince. For me, The Ice Princess was another satisfying tale from Elizabeth Hoyt's talented pen, and in my opinion, not to be missed by fans of the Princes Trilogy. It is currently only available as a free online e-book at the author's website, so there's really nothing to loose either. It was so good, I gladly would have been willing to pay for a copy and hope that perhaps it will be published in print someday. If it does become possible for me to own a permanent copy of The Ice Princess, it will certainly take its place on my keeper shelf right next to the other three books of the series.
Note: The Ice Princess has been released for purchase and is no longer free. It is currently available only in e-book format, but plans are in the works for a print version that will be part of an anthology.
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