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Elizabeth Hoyt

REVIEW:  Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

REVIEW: Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

Dear Ms. Hoyt:

You are a superior writer and because you are a superior writer, you can get away with things that lesser writers cannot. First, let me commend you for writing about non titled characters. This is such a rarity in historical romance that the success of your series is a testament to your storytelling skills. Second, every book I’ve read of yours has a fairytale woven throughout, usually as the epigraph. These fairy tales are always so finely crafted and in “Thief of Shadows” it is no different. The “Legend of the Harlequin Ghost of St. Giles” is pitch perfect for the story with all the elements of a classic fairytale. Finally, your love scenes are the definition of erotic, yet tasteful and emotionally fitting.

Thief of ShadowsHowever, while “Thief of Shadows” was an enjoyable read, the mutability of the hero, Winter Makepeace, diminished the emotional power of the story.

Winter Makepeace is the schoolmaster and manager of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children. It has recently received a large influx of cash from a coterie of new patrons, particularly one Lady Penelope. She is displeased with Winter’s performance because he seems unfit to consort with society and raise additional money for the charity.  Lady Isabel, Barroness Beckinhall, disagrees. While she finds Mr. Makepeace a bit stodgy and uptight, maybe even rude, she recognizes that he does a good job for the Home and she offers her services as a social tutor.

Winter reluctantly agrees to this because he believes manager of the Home is his calling.  Being the manager of the Home is so important to home that he has eschewed the pleasures of the flesh.  He makes an impassioned speech to Lady Beckinhall when she questions why he cares so much and why he is still a virgin.

He glanced down at her, so beautiful, so full of that life. “No, I don’t believe so. A husband and father’s first duty is to his wife and family. Everything else is secondary. How can the people of St. Giles ever come first if I am married?”

Her eyes widened in astonishment. “I don’t believe this. You’re attempting to become a saint.”

His mouth tightened. “No, I’ve merely dedicated my life to helping others.”

“But why?”

“I’ve told you why,” he said, trying to still his impatience. This discussion was like cutting open his chest, putting a hand in, and stirring his organs about. He did not like it at all. “The children, the poor of St. Giles, the terrible lives they lead. Did you not hear me when I spoke?”

“I heard you well enough,” she snapped. “I’m asking why you. Why must you be the one to make this sacrifice of your entire life?”

He shook his head helplessly. She was of the privileged class. She’d never known want, never counted coins to calculate whether they should go to pay for coal to warm the body or bread to feed it, for they would pay for only one, not both. She simply could not understand.

Winter dropped his hand from her arm and stepped back, putting prudent distance between them. His voice was carefully modulated when he spoke.

Carefully gentle. “If not me, then who?”

This was a beautifully expressed sentiment and his rigid control over his life, his abstaining from the pleasures of the flesh, his almost ascetic lifestyle made sense against this backdrop.

While there were some nods toward the pygmalion set up, the real crux of the book is about the Home, lost children of St. Giles, and Winter’s dangerous capers as the Ghost of St. Giles, a sort of avenging angel in St. Giles that is there to protect the poor and helpless and was last seen cutting down Charming Mickey O’Connor from the gallows.  The pygmalion plot allows Winter and Isabel to spend quite a bit of time together but otherwise has little impact in the overall story.

Isabel is a rich woman who had enjoyed lovers in the past.  She’s not opposed to letting Winter into her bed, but she doesn’t want to expose her heart to him or to anyone else.  She’s lonely and closed off much like Winter is, only they show it in different ways.  Isabel expresses her loneliness in indifference and casual societal gaiety; Winter by holding himself aloof.

The problem is that Winter is a malleable character in the book, so malleable that the impossible conflict becomes no more difficult to overcome than a divot in the grass.  The deflowering of Winter happens so casually, with so little forethought that it diminishes his lofty principles and reduces the conflict to weightless chaff.  His flirtations don’t match his professed piety.

The scenes, however, wherein Isabel “teaches” Winter how to pleasure her are as sexy as any I’ve read.  Winter is a strong and powerful man and his willingness to do anything for as long as Isabel needs him is acutely erotic.  I felt that there were a number of good ideas being held together by strong prose but none of them reached their full potential.  C+

Best regards

Jane

 

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REVIEW:  Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt

REVIEW: Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt

Dear Ms. Hoyt:

I have not read the previous two books in the Maiden Lane series.  While I loved your initial books, Jayne began to review the series and she did such a competent job that I kept putting the Hoyt historicals aside to read and review others.  I was hankering to get back in the game.  For those readers who are unfamiliar with Hoyt or had gone on a Hoyt hiatus, like me, I can assure you that this book can be read without knowledge of the previous two in the Maiden Lane series.  However, I did get the impression from other reviews that there is backstory in the other books which might make this reading experience richer.

Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt“Charming” Mickey O’Connor is a river pirate who steals cargo and imposes a protection tax on every dock in London. Mickey stole the contents of a ship that was captained by William Hollingbrook and the theft was blamed on Hollingbrook. In order to prevent her husband from hanging, Silence begged Mickey for succor. He agreed, but for a price. Silence paid this price but it ruined her in the eyes of all that she held close, including her husband. Silence lost her husband emotionally before his physical body expired.

Whether it was an apology of sorts or a way to tie Silence to Mickey (maybe both), Mickey left his infant daughter on the doorstep of the widowed Silence a year prior to the start of the book. When Silence and Mary Darling (the infant) are placed in danger, Mickey brings the two under his roof for protection.

Mickey O’Connor is not a male protagonist that everyone can support. He’s a real criminal and his victims were often innocents like Silence and her husband. Even when Mickey’s wealth exceeded all that he could ever spend in one lifetime, the spectre of hunger and want hung close on his heels. Or at least that is the excuse he gives to himself and others for why he continues his rapacious activities and his iron hold over the docks.

I’m unsure of whether Mickey is truly redeemed at the end of the story. I don’t believe I read Mickey as repentant of his criminal activity although he does have to make a decision about where his priorities lie.

I admit to being befuddled by Silence at times. Where was her anger at being left Mickey’s bastard; at being held hostage by him; at her marriage basically being ruined by his actions? Silence grew in personal fortitude during the course of the book, challenging Mickey, becoming less of a mouse. While the focus of the story is largely centered around Mickey, it is Silence’s principles that hold sway as she learns to get what she wants without sacrificing her beliefs in right versus wrong.

There is an interesting question that is raised by Silence and William’s marriage. William never loved Silence the same way after her encounter with Mickey. Mickey points out that William must not have loved Silence. I think of all of the second chance at love stories that are premised on big misunderstandings. If Mickey’s assertions about love and romance are true, real love would never fade nor be swayed by actions resulting from sacrifice. This is the attitude of Dimitri’s wife in Archangel’s Blade. Dimitri must go off and serve, perhaps even sexually, an angel who has become obsessed with him and will destroy his family. Dimitri’s wife is understanding. I felt that Mickey’s redemption turned on whether the reader buys into concept of love and romance that is propounded by Mickey.  In essence, Mickey’s argument is that his actions shined a light on a serious flaw in Silence’s marriage.  It does make her think about love, devotion and loyalty in a completely different light.

Scandalous Desires is a deeply romantic story, with both Mickey and Silence seeking redemption albeit in different ways. The setting is primarily the palace of Mickey in St. Giles and the larger society plays only a small part in the overall story, mostly as a hint for future books.  It’s hard not to be swept away by the writing in the book and while Mickey is a scourge, he does come to love Silence unabashedly.  Silence’s internal fortitude and her growing refusal to be silenced as she was in the past tips this book into the recommended read territory but I did wish for more anger from Silence earlier in the book. I guess that just wasn’t her character? B-

Best regards,

Jane

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