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.
“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-
I really liked this title…Mickey was a tough ‘hero’ because honestly, he was a hardened criminal. I wasn’t convinced he’d redeemed himself by the end but I was hopeful!
I don’t think part of me wanted him to be wholly redeemable because part of what made him so attractive to me (for wrong or right) is the fact that he has made some bad decisions, downright wrong decisions, and he doesn’t really care. He wants what he wants and he takes it. He really isn’t someone I should even want to like but I did but I didn’t want him to turn into some mild mannered man of his time and he didn’t, even by story’s end. Granted, he will be impersonating that role but I’m glad he didn’t lose all his selfishness, for want of a better term.
I think you would enjoy this much more if you read the other two books in the series first. Although this book is a “stand-alone” so much of importance happens in the first two books. In the first one you get to see Silence and her husband interact and understand his coolness to her at times and how he blames her for being “too desirable” after the goods from the ship are stolen. It’s “her fault” in some way that he rushed home to her. The scene with Silence and Charming Mickey initially, and the development of her relationship with Mary Darling (and indirectly Mickey) helps the reader to understand how all this tension has been building for some time. If I had read only this book I wouldn’t have had the same connection to the characters. Therefore my grade would be higher closer to a B+
@Christine: I definitely got the sense from reading other reviews that there was some build up in intensity in the relationship between Silence and Mickey. Unfortunately I hadn’t read the two prior books.
I think Silence’s marriage was already not in the greatest state before Mickey ruined it that one night. Her husband was not that great of a guy. But maybe that needed to be rehashed more in this book so it could be read as a stand alone better.
I think that is what drew me to Mickey so much – he has these horrible faults yet I still felt him to be such a romantic hero. I don’t think he is redeemed for his criminal actions, but I felt he redeemed himself for his action with Silence that one night he kidnapped her.
I also thought Silence’s lack of anger fit her character – although maybe she could have been a tiny bit more angry at the beginning.
I can’t wait for Winter’s story – I think he is set up nicely :)
@Jane That is unfortunate, because they are really good!
@Christine: I agree that the two previous books enhance this story. I didn’t much care for Silence’s husband from the little shown. Too be honest, I didn’t much care for the test of Mickey’s sadly correct perception of her husband either (book one).
Overall, another good read from Ms. Hoyt
@Mandi- I completely agree about the husband- his betrayal of Silence was far worse than what Mickey, a stranger to Silence at the time did to her.
I thought Silence was a great name for her as it was really about her finding her voice. For the first time she really stood up to people including her relatives and Mickey. For so long no one listened to her, I enjoyed that Mickey did. In fact all the names in this series are very apt Temperance (who isn’t Temperate) and Winter who is perceived as cold but as this book shows clearly isn’t.
@MarieC- I agree the men really let Silence down but I appreciated that Mickey seemed to value her when the husband didn’t. I liked how he realized how sincere she was right away and it obviously made an impression on her. Like you, I think Elizabeth Hoyt has written another really enjoyable book.
I am really looking forward to this book as Mickey has been a character that has intrigued me from his first appearance in the series. Maybe it’s that “bad boy” lure, but I get the impression that he’s no fake rake. Will have to get this one soon.
Having read the other books in the series I am looking forward to reading this one. I try not to cast to many 21st century judgements on characters in historical novels…I try to keep an open mind…but sometimes awful is just…well…awful and I have read many of those…Elizabeth Hoyt is one of my many “favorite” authors and I know that Scandalous Desires will live up to her skill!
I’m really loving this series and as a few others have mentioned I’m also really looking forward to Winter’s book. I was glad that Mickey wasn’t magically sorry for what he had done and I also think its pretty realistic that when you come from nothing it can seem like you never have enough. I think of someone I know who grew up in poverty and didn’t have enough to eat – she cannot have an empty cupboard or fridge, it just terrifies her. Me, it doesn’t bother me if I go to the fridge and all I see is milk. I’ll just go shopping. I also liked the character of Silence – she constrasts strongly to her sister Temperance (book 1), and I think the family dynamic works well together. I think in that regard reading the other two books would have given a more rounded view of the world of the books.
I strongly disagree with Mickey that just because it doesn’t last or isn’t unshakeable, it isn’t real love. People are imperfect and so are their affections, and I really doubt that most people’s relationships or feelings could meet that standard. And I say that as a person who’s been married for twenty-seven years to a man she started dating at 14. Seriously, do we believe that every time a couple gets divorced, they must never have really loved each other?
Moreover, even if Mickey is right and William and Silence never “really” loved each other (and I note that in the previous book, Silence thinks that she really was happy with William for a time, until Mickey screwed it up), it couldn’t excuse Mickey’s behavior. What he did was purely unconscionable, and I am not sure I can bring myself to read a book in which he gets a happy ending.
@Jane- I was just rereading your review and noticed this “I did wish for more anger from Silence earlier in the book. I guess that just wasn’t her character? ”
Yes- exactly that. Silence was in many ways a contrast to her sister Temperance (the heroine of the first book in the trilogy) who was a very passionate character but always worked to tamp it down.Silence is shown as very mild and defers to her husband when he is alive. For me the first scene with her and Mickey was wonderful because she gets right in his face pointing her finger and pretty much shrieking at him something we have never seen from her up to that point. All her previous suffering was quiet and internal. I also liked how she just made her decision to leave with Mickey without asking permission or telling her family. Up until that point pretty much everything she had done was with the permission and approval of her husband or older brothers.
@Bronte said “I also liked the character of Silence – she constrasts strongly to her sister Temperance (book 1)” Yes- I think Hoyt did an excellent job of creating two very distinct and different characters who react differently to growing up in their conservative family.
@Sula and @ Lauren – I think you will both enjoy this one!
@evt13- For me the husband was far worse than Mickey in his treatment of Silence and based on what I read in the first book it didn’t seem like real love to me. Especially not on his part. Mickey in the first book was a stranger to Silence and IMHO really didn’t owe her anything. Considering he was a pirate and she went with him willing to sacrifice anything for her husband she didn’t make out so badly. Her husband IMHO owed her a great deal and showed her no respect at all. He had no basis to doubt her word or think badly of her yet he did. I think in this book Silence grows up and realises she had put her marriage up on a pedestal because that was all she ever knew. In a sense Mickey teaches her that it’s not wrong for her to choose what is right for her and what she likes. The husband was in many ways just an extension of her overbearing father and what Silence was used to. Mickey opens her eyes to what she is worth.
@Christine: Much of what you are saying, though, comes from inferences and character arcs drawn from previous books and not this book. I hardly ever saw Silence as compared to her sister and none of Silence’s husband or their marriage.
I don’t really know what to think about this. On the one hand, I think every book needs to stand on its own. This book sounds infinitely richer and more understandable read in a series. I’m actually tempted to grade it even lower reading about all the things that Silence’s character should have been but was not presented in this book.
Jane said “I don’t really know what to think about this. On the one hand, I think every book needs to stand on its own. This book sounds infinitely richer and more understandable read in a series. I’m actually tempted to grade it even lower reading about all the things that Silence’s character should have been but was not presented in this book.”
Of course everyone may have their own opinion on this but I disagree. The front of the book clearly states it is “Book Three In The Maiden Lane Series” so anyone picking it up is on warning it is book three in a series. It is common practice lately for there to be a thread running through the “series” however loosely with common characters. I really enjoy it as it gives me a chance to be introduced to characters over time and seamlessly. In this case Silence’s back story played out over a couple of years all together. While Scandalous Desires can certainly stand on its own it was a much richer read for having known about Silence, Mickey, Winter and even Temperance. I haven’t read the “Ravishing in Rubies” series yet but I recall a review of one of the books saying that you had a fuller understanding of the hero in one if you had read the first one or two. I am fine with that as long as it states (as this book did) it is such and such number in a series.
@Chrstine: “he didn’t owe her anything”? He owed her not to have stolen the cargo; having wronged her and her husband once, he then wronged her again by taking advantage of the original wrong to manipulate her into doing something that was very harmful to her marriage and happiness. Maybe she was living in a fool’s paradise with her husband, but she deserved not to have that deliberately and maliciously taken away.
@etv13 Yes, I did feel Mickey’s actions toward Silence were akin to pulling the wings off the butterfly. Let’s see how you fly now. He admitted that he did what he did because he could. It was an exercise of power. Silence’s falling in love with Mickey didn’t make her weak but she also refused to accept him while he continued to operate under the policy that he could do whatever he wanted, to whomever he wanted, just because he had the power.
@Jane and @etv13- I didn’t find his actions comparable to the wanton cruelty of tearing wings off of a butterfly. It felt more along the lines of the cruel “justice” of Solomon- at least in his mind. If their marriage was as wonderful as Silence told him and the husband truly loved her as she said, he would, in effect, be giving her everything she asked for because the husband would be saved and believe her. She would leave untouched with everything she asked for. Surely the cynical Mickey thought she would probably be disappointed but he believed enough in Silence’s certainty to put it to the test. Maybe a part of him wanted to be proved wrong.
@Christine: What does Mickey know of Silence’s marriage? Did he live in their house? Was he close friends with them? I haven’t read the first two in the series so how was it that he knew that what he was doing was for the good of him?
Sounds more like David than Solomon. Where David placed Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband in a perilous position so he would die and David would get to marry Bathsheba.
@Jane- as I recall from the first book Silence goes off to Mickey’s “fortress” alone as the husband is afraid to do anything and says the magistrates wouldn’t take any action against Mickey if he accused him. She has to pay her way I past the two pirates who become her friends in the third book. Mickey is holding an audience and she steps up as the next in line and bluntly asks him to return the goods he stole from the ship. (I believe she actually says stole to him.) He indulges her by listening to her say why he should return the goods, save her husband etc. He actually says he is teaching the owner a lesson and to the astonishment of anyone there is generally pleasant to her and tells her to be on her way. When she persists again he says something about already letting her out of his claws once and that she is pushing it (I’m paraphrasing of course). The jist of it as I recall is her telling him about her marriage to William and how much they are in love etc etc. He asks her what she would do to save him and of course she agrees she would do “anything” so he tells her to follow him upstairs. Silence goes, apparently willing to do “anything” for William.
The reader doesn’t find out what actually happened (or didn’t) until the next day as Silence has walked down the street (past streetwalkers mostly as it is a bad part of town which makes me think the husband or family ruined he reputation by repudiating her/talking about it as she certainly isn’t known in that area) and tells her sister about what didn’t happen.
My interpretation is Mickey’s is a kind of a diabolical two part test- does Silence truly love her husband? Yes- she is willing to do anything to save him even at great cost to herself. Does the husband truly love her? Doubtful. (It’s mentioned he knew
where she probably went but didn’t go after her for
fear of his own safety.)It’s Silence’s sister who finds her. He also coldly shuts himself off to Silence, doesn’t believe her (despite having no reason not to) and is not at all grateful when the entire cargo is returned.
Mickey had asked Silence when she was upstairs at his house (after she had said she loved her husband) if the husband loved her. She said yes and his response was “then he’ll believe you.”
@Christine Ah, well, so he doesn’t know anything about her marriage. He’s just playing with it to play with it. I don’t think that excuses his behavior in my eyes. Frankly, Silence and her husband could have had a great marriage but for Mickey’s actions. Obviously that isn’t how it is written, but Mickey’s cold actions were hard for me to overcome.
@Christine: In addition to what Jane said, it is important to note that Silence’s siblings don’t believe her either, not even Winter, who I believe is to become the hero of an upcoming book. He damages not just her relationship with her husband, but with the rest of her family and community, and inflicts a lot of pain on her.
As for the notion that he “indulges” her by listening to her, that may be his self-serving perspective, but the fact is that it is the minimum that he owes her. Less than the minimum, in fact, given that he is the thief who has stolen the cargo. He is in no way comparable to Solomon, who in fact does no harm (and there is no reason to think he would have carried through on having the baby cut in half), who is the legitimate ruler of his kingdom, and who has been appealed to to decide the issue of motherhood. (Now frankly, Solomon would have been up a creek if both women had said, “Give the baby to her,” but of course the narrative is stacked in his favor. Note too that his judgment, while purporting to determine who is the actual mother, actually determines who is the better mother.) MIckey simply takes it upon himself to impose his “test” upon people he’s already wronged and thereby inflicts further pain and wrong upon both of them.
To circle back to my original comment, I simply don’t buy Mickey’s totalizing notion of love. If William loves her, he’ll believe a wildly implausible story that no one else in her family or community believes? Why should that be the test of love?
@Jane- Jane said “Frankly, Silence and her husband could have had a great marriage but for Mickey’s actions.”
Well it’s certainly not my idea of a great marriage or even a good one where everything is about what one person wants. Everything is great when Silence does exactly what William wants when he wants it.He has absolutely no faith in her and has no reason not to. Even if Silence keeps doing everything he wants in order for their marriage to be “great” it has to be completely free of any outside influences by anything or anyone. What if someone else accuses Silence of something? What if William doesn’t like something else Silence does and decides to treat her the same way? There are only two people in a marriage and their relationship is the one that counts.
@etv13 said “In addition to what Jane said, it is important to note that Silence’s siblings don’t believe her either, not even Winter, who I believe is to become the hero of an upcoming book. He damages not just her relationship with her husband, but with the rest of her family and community, and inflicts a lot of pain on her.”
Yes, this is a key point and something I initially didn’t like but I have to take my hat off to Hoyt for character consistency. I think it’s significant on a number of levels that both Temperance and Winter don’t believe Silence even though both are close to her in some ways and are the “hero/heroine” of other books in the series. Hoyt is not afraid to write flawed characters- in fact Silence is by far the least flawed character so far in this series. Her intentions and actions are truly good. I don’t know if you have read the other books in this series (I’m guessing not) but Temperance, the heroine of the first book is a much more flawed character with a serious secret of her own. She has spent her life trying to look like she is living up to the requirements of the religion she was raised in but she is a hotbed of emotion, and not all of it good. She is constantly trying to hide what she is. It makes perfect sense that she would think Silence was lying rather than admit her shame- it’s exactly what she would do. Winter is a far more “moral” character (at least all the other people around him thinks he is) but as anyone who read this book knows, he is leading a double life, openly lying to his family and friends and clearly has some internal issues of his own. Both Temperance and Winter are familiar with the seamier side of life, Silence isn’t. Both Winter and Temperance are used to lying and deceiving in some way. I think that is why they both believe Silence lied although they don’t judge her for it.Silence is the only one in the family who “walks the walk” in terms of her religion and spirituality and seems like a contented person. When she goes to Mickey she is 100% sincere in all she says and believes and you get the sense that he realises she is the real deal.
I think Hoyt also had the family not believe Silence so William would not be a cartoon villain. It would make him incredibly villanous if he were the only one to doubt the saintly Silence. I don’t think it makes him look better, but it makes her family look worse.
Jane said “@Christine Ah, well, so he doesn’t know anything about her marriage. He’s just playing with it to play with it. I don’t think that excuses his behavior in my eyes.”
evt13 said “As for the notion that he “indulges” her by listening to her, that may be his self-serving perspective, but the fact is that it is the minimum that he owes her. Less than the minimum, in fact, given that he is the thief who has stolen the cargo. ”
Clearly Mickey starts out as the villain and nobody, especially me, is going to argue what he did was good. I guess what it boils down to is a line from Boardwalk Empire that says “We all have to decide how much sin we can live with.”
For me Mickey’s actions to Silence (as a stranger and head of a huge criminal empire) are something he can overcome through the course of their relationship. At the time he did it she is nothing to him, a complete stranger and with his background and postition it could have been far worse.
Silence’s husband was in a completely different position and should have been the closest person in the world and the person who knew her best and had her best interests at heart. IMHO he failed miserably and the relationship was completely one sided.
I enjoyed how Mickey progressed through the books and grew by the end. For me his sin was sufficient that I could accept his remorse and love for Silence.
If he had a different background, had known Silence or the husband,or been less remorseful I would have judged him differently.
In Sherry Thomas’s book “His At Night” I couldn’t stand the “hero” who was a wealthy, priviliged aristocrat who treated his family and then his wife incredibly poorly. By the time he let his wife face certain danger and get beaten up (almost at the end of the book) after a series of rotten treatment by him, I found him unredeemable and his sins too much for me to live with.
Maybe it’s because I have read all the books in the series, or just my personal taste, but I belived in Mickey’s redemption.
@Christine A character’s redemptive journey is always reader specific and I enjoyed reading your point of view (plus, you having read all three books can add a very different perspective for other readers). Thanks for sharing!
@Jane, Thank you. I love to discuss novels and ideas and thoroughly enjoyed our back and forth. It’s always nice to exchange ideas with other people who love and respect the genre.I appreciate the forum and the open access very much.
That was such a good discussion. Having read all three books I totally agree with everything Christine said…err, wrote. Silence was nothing to him when she came begging for her husbands cargo back. She wasn’t kidnapped or forced to do what mickey said. She struck a bargain. She was a willing participant. She knew what could happen. As for Mary darling she was given to Silence for a reason and that was because Mary Darling needed to be protected and she sure couldn’t stay with mickey. Silence needed Mary Darling. At the worst point in her life here was this baby that needed her to be strong and loved her unconditionally. It was probably the best gift that Mickey could have ever given Silence.
Okay, so while we were out walking the dogs tonight, I put the question to my husband of 27 years, a man who has known me since we were 13: Say I was out all night and came home all disheveled and told you I’d spent the night with another man, and we’d talked, but that was all we’d done — would you believe me? And he said he didn’t know, it would depend on body language and the circumstances, but whether he believed me or not he would still love me and it wouldn’t be in his best interests to make a fuss about it. (I can’t recall the exact wording, but “not in my best interests” was definitely a part of it.) So maybe by Christine’s standards I have a crappy marriage — but I don’t think so. We both agreed that Mickey’s behavior was inexcusable, and when I said Silence might understandably be angry with her husband for not believing her, he agreed with that too.
(Maybe I ought to ask him what he thinks I’ve been up to that it’s not in his best interests to raise? Maybe I ought to let sleeping dogs lie?)
evt13 said “And he said he didn’t know, it would depend on body language and the circumstances, but whether he believed me or not he would still love me and it wouldn’t be in his best interests to make a fuss about it.”
It certainly doesn’t sound like a crappy marriage to me, LOL. Silence would have been in good shape if her husband was as reasonable and thoughtful as yours seems to be.
Obviously I don’t know anything about you and your marriage but if you came home and sincerely swore on all that was holy to you (and you had never lied about anything and were known to be a pious and religious person to whom that meant a great deal) from what you have written I very much doubt your husband would coldly turn away from you.
Congratulations on 27 years by the way! That is a wonderful milestone. Maybe you should be writing books!
@Jessica, thanks for your nice thoughts. I think we may have a different perspective for having read all the books and watched Silence’s entire journey.
I too saw it as a “deal with the devil” so to speak and had lower standards for Mickey because he was a stranger.
I also was happy to find he wasn’t making up the danger to Mary Darling and Silence. If it was all just a ruse to mess with her I wouldn’t have been able to like him as well and buy into the happy ending.He definitely took advantage of an opportunity when it arose but he wasn’t a necessarily evil person.
I thought the whole series of gifts he left were very interesting too. It was such an odd and sometimes personal assortment, particularly the raspberries left in the handkerchief. There was something sweet and humble about most of the gifts (until the necklace) that I found touching. It was like he was trying to figure out how to court someone. That is one thing I like about Hoyt, there is more to her writing than meets the eye. I think she put a great deal of thought into the whole Silence/Mickey relationship.
Glad you enjoyed it too!
I do not completely buy Mickey’s view on love. Silence and William’s marriage could have been saved had the lines of communication been open, if he had been understanding. Basically if he had been an entirely different man altogether, one who was less self-serving, cowardly and foolish.
Let me paint the picture of how unsatisfactory Hollingbrooks love for Silence was;
Silence obviously loved sex and saw it as a physical expression of love, William did not allow this physical expression too often and only in the dark.
He allowed Silence to take the blame for the cargo going missing because she was too desirable.
Although he had a feeling he knew where she was and what might happen to her at Mickey’s, he did not attempt to save Silence from what he assumed was a vicious rape, he seemed to only care for how it affected him.
Although all her family assumed she was ruined, Temperance and Winter assured Silence that they loved her and would be there for her no matter what, her husband stone-walled her and treated her like a pile of shit.
William would not talk to her even though her heart was braking because of it. He ran out as soon as he could and would not let Silence speak when she wanted to talk of what happened so they might get past it.
William Hollingbrook was a stupid ass and I hated his pius cowardice, the relationship was in no way representative of a healthy relationship. However, if he had of been more like Winter in expressing his love and support, even if he did not believe Silence, the relationship would have likely survived.
Also, I liked Mickey.