Oh my gosh, how much do I love this cover! First, the female model looks realistically like she could be blind, as is the character she’s portraying. Then you add in those amazing spring colors (both mentioned in the book, bonus), her sweet expression, that gorgeous dress that I wish I could wear only because I’ve never HAD to, and of course the nicely chiseled jaw of the only partially unclothed hero. All this succeeds in making me want to be Phoebe Batten…which is okay. Because the whole point of this book is: having a disability doesn’t mean you don’t get a chance to live.
THE PLOT: When Maiden Lane readers first met Phoebe in Book #2, Notorious Pleasures, the younger sister of the Duke of Wakefield was 17 years old and already going blind. Now at age 21, Phoebe has completely lost her sight and is protected by former dragoons officer Captain James Travillion. James left the army because of an accident that damaged his leg, leaving him with a partial disability as well (Book 6, Duke of Midnight).
Phoebe is clearly struggling against her family’s attempts to keep her safe, which also leave her feeling caged. She can’t go anywhere without James. She can’t go out in society unless it’s with people her family knows. Of course, to make things worse, someone is absolutely determined to kidnap her. After a few attempts plus a rescue, James whisks her off to his family home in Cornwall until her family can figure out who is behind the kidnappings and why.
Meanwhile, Phoebe has just started to become interested in her bodyguard, not knowing that he loves her completely. But James believes their different social statuses are a permanent barrier. She’s the sister of a duke, and there’s a reason he ran away from Cornwall and joined the army.
MY TWO CENTS: Anyone who has a family member with a disability will completely relate to this book’s love story. While James is there to protect Phoebe, he loves her enough to let her live, and possibly fall down and hurt herself, rather than sit quietly in complete safety. (On a personal aside, my younger brother has Down Syndrome, and my family has always fought to make sure he has a life and not just air to breathe and food to eat.) Someone with a disability deserves the same freedoms everyone else enjoys unthinkingly. James understands this about Phoebe, more than her brother Maximus does. This aspect of the book gives it a special place in my heart.
It’s also different in that romance novels don’t usually feature blind heroines and heroes who can’t run. Thank you, Elizabeth Hoyt, for variety! This romance is both tender and fiery. It may seem very different from the other “Maiden Lane” novels, given that much of it takes place in Cornwall, but the author anchors it well by using previous and future series characters.
It’s too bad that the Makepeace family members only have cameos in this entry, but the next book, Sweetest Scoundrel, belongs to Asa Makepeace.
BOTTOM LINE: Readers have been waiting for these characters’ book, and they won’t be disappointed. This one book made me want to go back and reread the whole series.
TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.