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.
“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-