Sunday, 26 August 2012

Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt

Scandalous Desires (2011)
Elizabeth Hoyt
Grade: B+
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: not quite as hot as might be expected from Elizabeth Hoyt
Source: library
Maiden Lane: (1) Wicked Intentions, (2) Notorious Pleasures

Widowed Silence Hollingbrook has a history with Charming Mickey O’Connor and it’s not a very pleasant one. A year ago, she spent the night in his bedroom (quite possibly the most innocent night of Mickey’s life) in order to free her husband from a crime he didn’t commit. Though they did nothing but stare at each other all night, neither her husband nor her siblings would believe that Mickey – the most notorious pirate in St. Giles – hadn’t touched her. When William died at sea, Silence moved into the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children run by her brother, Winter.

As manageress of the Home, Silence must care for and ensure the safety and well-being of all the children in her care, but one child holds her heart: Mary Darling was left on her doorstep a year ago as a newborn infant and Silence has raised her as her own. When she wakes one day to find Mary Darling missing, Silence goes to the only person who might have a clue where she is: Mickey O’Connor.

Mary’s safety is no longer guaranteed outside his palace, and so Mickey moves his daughter inside its walls. Mickey’s greatest enemy, the Vicar of Whitechapel is now pursuing Mickey with greater vengeance than ever and Mickey knows that he will stop at nothing to destroy everything that Mickey holds dear using his preferred method of destruction: vitriol. He is adamant that Mary shall not be leaving the premises until the Vicar is dead and if Silence doesn’t like it, then she doesn’t have to stay. Mary helped keep Silence grounded in the terrible aftermath after her husband’s death and she’d no sooner leave Mary alone than cut off her arm. Despite the potential ruin that would come to her reputation and that of her family and the Home, Silence becomes Mickey’s newest housemate.

It’s neither a happy nor a peaceful existence: Silence won’t bend to Mickey’s will and Mickey isn’t used to having people disobey him – least of all his staff who take to serving Silence despite Mickey’s orders. As the pair are forced together by their close quarters, Silence starts to question her happiness during her marriage, and Mickey his future career as a pirate. With the Vicar getting closer with every day that passes, Silence and Mickey must make sure that their growing relationship doesn’t get in the way of the danger that looms ahead…

This is perhaps the Maiden Lane novel that I’ve looked forward to and enjoyed the most. I’ve said before that I like to read series books in their proper order; the Maiden Lane series has been read in anything but: I started with book two, went back to book one, jumped to book four before getting my hands on book three. As a result, there’s been all sorts of confusion about the characters and the goings-on in St Giles, especially since I’ve read the books so far apart, but I feel that Scandalous Desires has definitely confirmed some of the things that I read in Thief of Shadows (book four) as well as remind me of events of books one and two pertaining Silence.

It’s Silence and Mickey’s previous history which really made the book for me. Their initial meeting is practically the only thing I remember about books one and two (whichever one their meeting took place in) and as a result, I’ve been anticipating their story ever since. Mickey had ‘acquired’ some cargo from a ship and Silence’s husband, William, was accused of stealing it. As a loving and devoted wife, Silence confronts Mickey and asks that the pirate give back what isn’t his. Mickey hasn’t got to where he is by doing favours for people; in return, Silence must spend the night in his bedroom. Mickey doesn’t touch her but no one believes her and Silence’s marriage and reputation is ruined. She’s hated Mickey ever since, which is why their story is so cute.

Mickey’s manner of speech is … authentic to say the least. I’m a London girl and so I’ve heard my fair share of London accents (and some pretty terrible fake ones at that) as well as those that I’ve read in books. Mickey’s is definitely one of the more pronounced and sustained accents that I’ve ever read. Ms Hoyt doesn’t do things half-way and I can’t imagine how long it must have taken to try and spell the words as she has had to get Mickey’s accent across. It’s awesome, crazy stuff.

I guessed the identity of the Vicar of Whitechapel early on, but it was still interesting to see it all unfold. Mickey’s history is a fairly typical one for an impoverished child of the rough areas of London and it isn’t surprising that he’s wanted to make himself the rich man he is today. I guessed the other part about the traitor too, but it’s exciting to see that I can do it, rather than annoying that it isn’t a surprise when we properly find out. One thing I hadn’t been expecting was the news about Mickey’s other business interest … that was both sweet and satisfying to discover. That he’s had the foresight to plan that far ahead makes him even more of a man and brilliant hero.

The secondary characters were very cool. Everyone in St Giles is terrified of Mickey, yet his staff still disobeys him when it comes to Silence and Mary. Harry and Bert are the sweetest bodyguards and I love it when macho men are reduced to cooing spectators when babies/small children win them over. Mary Darling herself is a seriously adorable baby. She refers to her father as ‘Bad’ every time she sees him and is a bright and inquisitive child. I’d like to see her have her own book in the distant future.

Having read book four first, it was interesting to see the trails being laid for Winter’s book and I know have a much better understanding of how events between the two books are connected. It helps that I’ve read the two not a month apart and that Thief of Shadows is still pretty fresh in my mind – hopefully this will help when I actually get around to starting it’s review once I’m done with this one.

I actually got the significance of Ms Hoyt’s ‘other’ story that was going on in the chapter-header-things, which is definitely a first. Like Mickey, the protagonist of the chapter-header-thing has everything he could ever want, yet is still unhappy. Like Mickey, he doesn’t realise until the end of the novel that it isn’t money or jewels or material things that he needs: he needs love. As always, Ms Hoyt does her chapter-header-things well and I actually didn’t mind the length of these ones (usually I find them too long) and it did well to compliment the main story. Possibly my favourite yet.

The sex was less hot than I would have expected from Elizabeth Hoyt. She did well to portray Silence and Mickey’s relationship through the sex, but I had anticipated … more. Nevertheless, my expectation loss did not lower my overall enjoyment of the novel.

As if I didn’t love this book enough already, the cover is gorgeous. The colour of the model’s dress is sublime and it sort-of echoes Silence’s dress in a scene in the book. It’s a typical romance novel cover pose, but the colours and setting are perfect and along with the models’ embrace, matches the title wonderfully. The step-back is similarly beautifully depicted and adds an element of spice in comparison to the front-cover’s sedateness. Ewa da Cruz is a stunning woman (almost 100% sure it’s her; anyone care to correct me?) and it’s possibly one of my favourite step-backs ever. In comparison, the UK covers are really really awful and so I’m glad that the US publishers have got it right.

If you’re going to read this, definitely read the other two Maiden Lane books first. I didn’t do too badly reading them out-of-order, but it’s not something that I would recommend. You’ll get a much better picture of the Home and Silence’s relationship with her siblings if you read the books correctly, as well as not get horribly confused with everything that goes on; it will be worth the wait.

Image courtesy of Book Depository

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