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!
For 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.”
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+
I love this series but this book didn’t quite do it for me. I didn’t feel the romance/passion as much as in the other books. I liked them individually though.
@Mandi: Perhaps repression doesn’t work as well for you as it does for me. :-) I’d say this was my second favorite after Thief of Shadows. I wasn’t that crazy about the first three.
I’ve read and enjoyed the first book in this series. Glad to hear that the later ones are enjoyable as well.
I like these books but struggle with the Ghost of St. Giles plot line. It’s just so improbable. I haven’t read the last two, but, after reading your review, I’ll give this one a whirl.
So glad to hear this book is good! I was disappointed in the last Maiden Lane series but I didn’t want to give it up totally. And all the tropes you have mentioned totally DO IT FOR ME BIG TIME so I have a feeling I have a great reading experience ahead of me.
I’d been disappointed to read Mandi’s review on this one yesterday, so I’m thrilled by your take and now will definitely be buying this book. I’ve loved this series, and Thief of Shadows was also my favorite. I hope I have your reaction to the “passion” between the couple. Thanks for the thoughtful review.
@jamie beck: Ack, I hope so too. I’m starting to get afraid this is going to turn into one of those “I’m the only one who liked it” situations. ;-)
I love this series, and the last two were some of the best romances I’ve read in a while.
Also I have to say, Elizabeth Hoyt does some of the hottest, most well-written love scenes. Every time I read one of her books I have to find myself a fan, hoo boy.
Willaful, this was my favorite so far! I loved Artemis but am confused as to whether the mystery of Apollo was solved. I went back and reread but couldn’t find the answer.
@Connie: IIRC, he was one of the loose ends still dangling at the end, presumably for his own book.
I haven’t read this one yet, but I will. Even though I wasn’t wild about the last book in the series, there’s something about her writing and her couples that always pulls me in. I don’t know why, but I just have it in my head that Apollo will be matched with (visually challenged) Lady Phoebe. I don’t know where this idea came from, but from his first scene in the last book, that thought just took hold and won’t let go! Something about what I perceived to be his gentle nature perhaps?
I assumed Apollo would be matched with Phoebe based on name compatibility alone: Phoeb(us) Apollo and all that. I really hope so. I’M SHIPPING IT ALREADY.
@EGS: Hehehe… that seems to settle it! I have this idea that Phoebe is going to wind up with some kind of dissolute lord guy? But it’s all vague in my mind. The fierce guy with the fragile girl is a certainly classic — though I would really like to see Phoebe get more power and confidence.
I finished it and, like you, liked a lot about the book and the characters. I liked Artemis and her bravery (her struggles with her station were so honest), and I liked Max (I generally love damaged/broody heroes). I did feel the emotional connection between them, too. The only thing I didn’t like was the somewhat abusive way he spoke to her at times (when he called her a b!&@#, and some of the other harsh language he used when he ‘wanted’ her…almost felt like a Christian Grey copycat at times). I do wish we’d seen a little more tenderness toward her throughout the story, and that he’d at least contemplated whether or not they could be together more seriously (instead of insisting it could never be until she almost died and he woke up to the idea of life without her)…but it is well-written, well-paced, interesting and very satisfying (in my humble opinion). Like others, I’m also interested in Phoebe’s love story-whenever that is written.
Of course, I went back to reread Thief of Shadows, too. I must say, upon rereading it, Winter Makepeace may rank up there with Jamie Fraser from Outlander as one of my all-time favorite heroes. *sigh* I prefer them (and their integrity and vulnerability regarding their love) to the current “dominant alpha-male sexual obsession/possession” heroes that are so popular in today’s romantic fiction.
@Jamie Beck: I agree, he held out for an obnoxiously long time. And Winter… *sigh*…. I think he even replaced Harry from The Leopard Prince in my heart.
The juxtaposition between what was revealed when when Apollo woke up and a very seminal moment for Artemis made me cross. I realise that violence is close to the surface here, and I appreciate the story for it. But without spoiling things for anyone this particular moment made me angry. That said, I adore the heroine’s fierceness and the hero’s aggro.
Godric is my favorite Hoyt hero so far. Angsty beta males, mmm. Also, I kept picturing him as Mads Mikkelsen, hah.
I’ve never read The Leopard Prince, but now I might have to go do so…thanks!