REVIEW: Lord of Darkness 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
You guys are on fire today with the mental illness metaphors.
@Ridley: Not to mention, of course, that schizophrenia doesn’t mean what most people seem to think it does (or at least, what most people are referring to when they claim that something feels “schizophrenic”).
I felt the same way about this book. It was very disjointed and because of that I didn’t connect with the characters as much. The St. Giles Ghost plot thing just seemed like a (bad) rehashing of the last book. I did enjoy the uniqueness of the character’s situation, but I just couldn’t lose myself in the story. But I would rec it just for series continuity.
I like the small moments of books, so I’ll probably enjoy this more than you did, whenever Hoyt decides to wrap the series up already. I’m a completist with series books (yay, Guardian Demon is coming soon).
@Meri: How about discombobulated? I would think a narrative that verges on the schizophrenic could lead to discombobulation. Or it could simply leave you torn .
I’ve read the review, looked at the cover and have no clue when this book is supposed to be set. Godric and the ghost sound medieval, the dress looks like nothing historical but might be intended for 18th century, and the rest is all wallpaper.
I really liked the romance in this one. I was surprised and disappointed the ghost plot was recycled.
@Mandi: Unfortunately it looks like there is at least one more ghost of st.giles for us to suffer through.
@Ridley: I can do better and will.
I also found this book to be disappointing. (Bad release day; dropped the Higgins after 2 chapters.) I think Elizabeth Hoyt normally excells at using those quiet moments to really build the characters and the romance, but in this case disjointed is an excellent word choice (my thesaurus also offers fragmented and discontinuous). The quiet moments are there, but they don’t go anywhere. There is a world of difference between this book and the first in the series.
Personally I still like the Ghost of St. Giles plot; I think it could be really interesting, and the book needs a strong plot to hold up the quieter romance (if it were as it should be). But the Ghost plot is weak at best here, and rather than holding anything up, it’s just another fragment? disjointed bit?
@Ros: Hoyt writes Georgian-set books. I think most of hers are 1760s (though she had mentioned going earlier last time we talked). And yes, the costumes on most covers are more “evocative” of the setting (to put it politely) than accurate. But this is true of just about every historical romance I’ve ever seen.
I didn’t expect much from this one but I actually like it much better than the two previous books in the series. And it has a pretty cover.
I am however ready for this series to end.
My favorite Hoyt romance remains The Serpent Prince.
I’m enjoying this one, although I agree that I’m getting tired of the Ghost subplot. I think it should have been retired with Winter’s story in the previous book.
I kind of gave up on this series a couple of books ago. I read the first and it was Ok, then I skipped the second because I tried to read it three times and I never made it pass chapter 2, I read the third because I thought Mickey O’Connor would be interesting. He wasn’t. Or at least not that much.
So yeah, I’m just kind of waiting for Ms Hoyt to start another series.
I’m so over the Ghost of St. Giles and I think I would be VERY annoyed with Godric and Megs.