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Elizabeth Hoyt

REVIEW:  Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt

REVIEW: Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt

Dear Ms. Hoyt:

I was in happy-making-trope heaven with this story. A cold, proper hero, check. A heroine he can’t possibly marry, check. A double life, check. It could have been written for me!

Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth HoytFor readers who haven’t previously tried the Maiden Lane series, this sixth book would be an excellent place to jump on in — although there are some recurring characters, it’s the first since book one that doesn’t contain major threads from previous stories. You will encounter one series spoiler, but it’s nothing you won’t learn just from reading the book blurbs. (If you have resolutely not read any of the blurbs to this point, leave this review now or forever hold your peace.)

The series revolves around a mysterious vigilante character known as “the Ghost of St. Giles” — and as has become clear, there’s more than one of them, and a ghost is often the hero of whichever book you’re reading. (St. Giles was an extremely poor, crime-ridden area of London.) I originally called the Ghost “a vengeful Georgian Batman,” and Hoyt plays with that conceit even more than usual in this book, providing the current Ghost with a vendetta, an Alfred, and even a sort of bat-cave. Despite that bit of whimsy, the overall tone of the book is pretty somber. Our heroine Artemis is facing an insecure and lonely life, as circumstances frequently conspire to remind her. Her beloved twin brother is locked up as a madman. And having witnessed his parents’ death as a boy, in true Batman fashion, Maximus feels compelled to avenge them and to live up to the dukedom he inherited. Which means not marrying a lady’s companion with a brother in Bedlam, no matter how much he cares for her. Maximus is also facing a lonely life with his appropriate chosen wife, even if he refuses to acknowledge it.

The emotion in the story at first comes from the fact that these two are falling for each other while they’re officially barely acquaintances. Maximus is courting Artemis’s cousin and employer, Penelope; Artemis is dutifully being a proper companion. Then Artemis meets “The Ghost,” changing Maximus’ view of her forever:

She’d dared to draw a knife on him in the worst part of London, had stared him in the eye without any fear at all, and it was as if she came into focus. Suddenly her edges were sharp and clear, standing out from the crowd around them. He saw her.

As their attraction grows, all unspoken, into what Artemis thinks of as “a peculiar relationship,” they become capable of causing strong emotions in each other. The quiet intensity of the desire or hurt feelings that can’t be acknowledged is really stirring.

Even after things come to a head between them, so to speak, their relationship continues to be vague:

He shifted finally, swiveling his head to look at her over his shoulder. “Don’t call me that.”
“What?”
“Your Grace.”

His reply made her want to cry, and she didn’t know why. He was… something to her now, but it was all so complicated…

Artemis thinks this after they’ve already slept together, making it all the more poignant.

Since this is a book featuring a starchy hero, of course part of it will be about his losing control over himself as he falls headlong in love. But it’s also about Artemis slowly throwing off the chains of propriety to become more and more her true self, the “goddess” Maximus thinks of her as — til by the end of the story, she does something so reckless and brave, I was swept away with admiration.

I’ve been doing so much out of the box reading lately, it felt really comfortable and homey to be back in the land of the solidly written European historical. There’s nothing especially new about this story, but it’s emotional and intriguing — I didn’t even hate the mystery element, except for one moment in which Maximus was a real doof. There are quite a few minor loose ends hanging out for future stories, so if you’ve been thinking about trying this series… come on in, the water’s fine. B+

Sincerely,

Willaful

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REVIEW:   Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt

REVIEW: Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt

Lord of Darkness (Maiden Lane #5) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Dear Ms. Hoyt:

I felt schizophrenic reading this book.  Part of the story of Lady Margaret Reading and Godric St. John is heartwrenching, subtle and evocative.  Part of it lacks believability, relies too heavily on past characters and books, and plods along at speeds that a snail would get impatient with.

In a previous book, Lady Margaret Reading or “Megs” fell in love and allowed herself not only to be seduced but impregnated by a man who is then killed.  Megs believes the killer is the Ghost of St. Giles.  She is hastily married off to Godric St. John under threat of blackmail by Megs’ brother.

Lord of Darkness opens with Megs returning to London after a two year self imposed exile into the country with two tasks. She will avenge her dead lover’s death by going into the slums of London, finding the elusive Ghost of St. Giles, and killing him.  She will also get impregnated by her husband Godric.  Megs declares that she will never love again but having suffered a miscarriage she determines that the only way to go foreward is to have a child.  Given that she is not interested in cuckolding her husband, he must be the one to father her child.

Godric married the love of his life, Clara; but after only one year of bliss, Clara fell ill.  He was informed that even the slightest movement may cause her pain and thus he removed himself from their marriage bed and remained steadfast by her side for nine years while she wasted away in pained illness.  Godric’s love for Clara was so great that he informs Megs:

“I agreed to Griffin’s mad plan,” he rasped, his voice like gravel, “only because it was more than obvious that you would never have any interest in me or a real marriage.”

“But—” she said, realizing suddenly how this was going to end. She took a step forward, her hands reaching for him, fruitlessly clutching empty air in front of her.

“No.” The word was grimly final. “I haven’t lain with another woman since I married Clara, and I never intend to do so. I had my love. Anything else would be a parody of intimacy. So, no, Margaret, I am sorry, but I will not lie with you to make a baby.

Godric’s pain in this scene is visceral yet all the emotion that is developed is dashed away when a day or so later, Godric agrees to lie with Megs to give her that child she wants.  Not only does he lie with her, but he wants to pleasure her while doing so.   The transformation between “I’ve never lain with another woman and don’t intend to do so” to being so jealous over her flirtation with another man that people in the ballroom buzz about a potential duel is too swift for me.  I wished that Godric’s appreciation of Megs’ vivaciousness was revealed earlier in the story. There was no reason for that to be hidden and it would have helped to make Godric’s turnabout more palatable.

I found Megs to be frustratingly obtuse about the character of her dead lover who a) debauched a virgin b) ruined her c) got her pregnant and d) never married her. COME ON MEGS.

Yet every time I was about to give up on the book, I was met with a delicately written, emotional wrought scene such as the first time the two have sex.  It was erotic and painful because neither character wanted to enjoy their interaction and they fought, emotionally to stave off the pleasure because such a pleasure found in another’s arms would be some kind of rank betrayal to the memories of their past dead loves.

The love scenes in this book are superbly written to advance the emotional conflict.  It is in the bedroom and between their lust dampened skin that they fight and overcome their past romances.

The external elements feel like a crutch and gives rise to some of the more melodramatic lines and activities such as Megs telling Godric “I think you lose a bit of your soul every time you go out as the Ghost of St. Giles.”  Lines like those are so obvious and yet do not pull out the same emotion as the gut wrenching “Please” voiced by Megs during one lovemaking session when Godric’s pleasuring of her makes her feel like she is violating a death bed oath to her dead lover.

I’m ready for the Ghost of St. Giles to be retired.   When the story focuses on Megs and Godric’s struggle to be true to their past loves yet willing to open themselves up to a new one that the writing shines and I am truly swept away.  When I am forced to read about Megs’ plans for revenge and Godric’s roof top jumping, it becomes boring, trite and unbelievable.  C

Best regards,

Jane

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