Once Upon a Maiden Lane (Maiden Lane 12.5) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Finally, FINALLY, we get the story of Mary Whitsun! If you don’t know who Mary Whitsun is, either you’re not a true “Maiden Lane” fan or it’s time to go all the way back to the beginning and start rereading!

Once Upon a Maiden Lane cover (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette)

THE PLOT: I honestly just don’t want to give too much away here. Mary Whitsun was one of the original children in the foundling home run by Temperance Dews, Winter Makepeace, and their family way back at the beginning of the series. You know, when the Ghost of St. Giles was  running around. Now grown, Mary has become a nursemaid to the children of Temperance, Lady Caire. In this novella, her true origins are revealed. (Or are they? Wait…yes, they are.) And her true identity may win her an unexpected true love…or will it? (Maybe.)

MY TWO CENTS: So I didn’t totally love the last full-length Maiden Lane book, Duke of Desire (reviewed here), but I DID love this novella! I was partially disappointed in Duke of Desire because we didn’t see many of the other characters. It didn’t make me want to go back to the beginning and read the whole series over. This story definitely does that! (Yes, you get to see the Duke of Montgomery from Duke of Sin, previously reviewed here). And on a related note, if you’re a Loki fan and haven’t seen Thor: Ranarok yet, do go.)

Readers have been asking for a long time for grown-up Mary to get her own story, and Hoyt delivers. It’s a darling story for a character who’s been with the series from the beginning. It’s also a reminder that the “Maiden Lane” series covered all classes. Sure, lots of characters were dukes or otherwise noble, but not everyone was. Some were servants. Some were illegitimate. We even had a pirate. So why not explore the story of a foundling girl who maybe goes from rags to riches? (And that’s all I’m going to say.)

If you want to know the timeline here, this story is chronologically the last in the Maiden Lane universe. Book 1, Wicked Intentions, starts in February 1737. Book 12, Duke of Desire, takes place in April 1742. Once Upon a Maiden Lane is set in September 1747, while the very last novella, Once Upon a Christmas Eve, jumps back to Christmas 1741. (Review coming soon!)

COVER NOTES: This is likely a gown that Mary wears in the course of the story. Also, that gown is just stunning. LOOK at the fabric in that skirt.

BOTTOM LINE: LOVED IT. Mary Whitsun’s long-awaited story doesn’t disappoint! It made me think it’s time to start over with Wicked Intentions and reread the entire series.

TEACUP RATING: Five out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available November 14, 2017, in eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES:  The very last “Maiden Lane” entry will be Once Upon a Christmas Eve, available December 5, 2017. I’m going to be devastated when this series is over.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Duke of Desire (Maiden Lane #12) by Elizabeth Hoyt

I’m so sad that we’re at the last full-length novel in the “Maiden Lane” series! In my opinion, though, this one plays out very much instead like the end to the miniseries focusing on the Lords of Chaos instead of the full series finale. Maybe it’s because of the two novellas still to come in the next months.

Duke of Desire front cover (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette)

THE PLOT: The Lords of Chaos (an extreme, sexually violent kind of Hellfire Club) have kidnapped Iris, Lady Jordon, mistakenly believing that she is the new bride of the Duke of Kyle. Raphael, the new Duke of Dyemore, is attending the revel to save the woman he believes is the Duchess of Kyle, but also to find out the identity of the group’s new leader. Raphael’s father had been the previous “Dionysus” of the Lord of Chaos (you may remember him from Book 7, Duke of Sin, previously reviewed here.) Raphael plans to destroy the group once and for all, even if he dies in the process.

Raphael claims Iris as “his” plaything for the night in order to rescue her. Iris doesn’t get his intentions right away, though. She doesn’t take to the “lady in distress” role, and ends up shooting her would-be rescuer. The two of them escape to his estate, but Raphael is in a weakened condition. He’s afraid the Lords of Chaos will pounce on them both if they realize he’s in a vulnerable state. Iris is doing her best to nurse him back to health, but of course she’s drawn to the enigma that is Raphael. But Raphael has been so damaged by his father that he has no intention of entering into any kind of relationship with anyone, ever. He insists on marrying Iris immediately to make sure she’s protected, but he doesn’t want her getting close, emotionally or physically.

MY TWO CENTS: If it weren’t for the Lords of Chaos connection, this would almost read like a standalone book and not part of a series…let alone the series finale. I was a little disappointed that more series characters weren’t involved (for example, we do get Kyle at some point, but not Alf).

Let me make this clear: this book is absolutely about sexual violence. Raphael has been very, very damaged by his father. He also has a massive scar on his face (although you’d never know it from the cover), and it’s a bit of a mystery about how the scar was inflicted. But everything is tied to the Lords of Chaos, which is clearly why Raphael wants to end them.

His relationship with Iris is more of a breakthrough on his part, a march back to humanity. He really has no urge to become a person again, but feeling responsible for Iris is the first step. That is one thing that doesn’t thrill me about this book: Iris doesn’t really grow as a character on her own. Her character is pretty much just a catalyst to Raphael’s growth.

This is not a “fun” romance. It’s dark. In fact, Raphael thinks of himself as the darkness and identifies Iris with light. If this weren’t a romance novel, you would sincerely wonder if both characters will survive the book. It’s a good story and a fitting ending to the Lords of Chaos arc. I just don’t love it as the end to the “Maiden Lane” saga, which is why I’m thrilled that two more novellas are coming. We better get a “and here they all are together” wrap-up. I know we had something like that with the last Christmas story, but the series wasn’t over yet, so…yes, please.

COVER NOTES: The model is attractive enough and I like the coloring, but…WHERE IS THE SCAR??? If they didn’t want to show on the scar on the cover, use a profile shot! I think about the cover for Kerrigan Byrne’s The Duke, cleverly shot to hide the missing hand. I also dislike that the publisher is reissuing all the previous books with the “single man” cover. I’m very “eh” about that. I like consistency in a series, and I guess they’re going back to make it consistent with the way the series has evolved over the years…it’s fine. I liked the old covers.

BOTTOM LINE: A good finale to the Lords of Chaos arc, but not a fitting finale to the series. It’s full of darkness, violence, and a romance that helps heal the damaged main character.

TEACUP RATING: I’m wavering between three-and-a-half and four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP FROM THIS AUTHOR:  I will shortly be reviewing the penultimate novella in the series, Once Upon a Maiden Lane, which is at long last Mary Whitsun’s story and releases November 14. Then I’m assuming we’ll get the real series wrap-up in the final novella, Once Upon a Christmas Eve, which releases December 5.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Once Upon a Moonlit Night (Maiden Lane 10.5) by Elizabeth Hoyt

 

ONCE-UPON-A-MOONLIT-NIGHT-Launch-Day-Blitz

So excited to be part of the Launch Day Blitz for Elizabeth Hoyt’s e-novella, Once Upon a Moonlight Night! NOTE: This review will contain some spoilers for Duke of Sin, Maiden Lane #10 (previously reviewed here), as the heroine of this novella was one of Val’s blackmail victims in that book. And if you haven’t read it yet, enter the giveaway for a SIGNED copy of DUKE OF SIN here!

Once Upon a Moonlit Night Front Cover

Once Upon a Moonlit Night Front Cover (Grand Central Publishing)

THE PLOT: After Hippolyta Royale escapes from the Duke of Montgomery’s captivity with Bridget’s help, she doesn’t exactly look like the greatest heiress in England. She’s been kept in a stone cell, and she’s running wildly looking for help when stumbles upon Matthew Mortimer’s carriage. Matthew has just inherited the earldom of Paxton, and he believes the woman who stopped his carriage is mad, or at the very least lying. He’s sure she’s either a beggar or maybe even a prostitute. Her claims to be wealthy are obviously nonsense since she looks like she’s been living in a stable. But he agrees to take her to the next town. Eventually his protective nature takes over, and while he may not believe her, he does find that, cleaned up, she’s pretty darned attractive.

But remember, even if Matthew realizes that Hippolyta is telling the truth, and she’s the perfect match for an impoverished earl…there’s a reason Val was blackmailing her into marriage. Will that ultimately ruin their chance for happiness?

MY TWO CENTS: This novella may not be as long as a regular novel, but it finishes up a piece of the story that began in Sweetest Scoundrel…and it’s also insanely steamy. Part of that is because Matthew has no reason to believe Hippolyta is a highborn lady, so he says any number of outrageous things to her. His refusal to believe she’s who she says she is gives them time to get to know each other, as Hippolyta is freed from her “heiress” persona. She’s also freed for a while from the fear of society discovering the truth about her.

COVER NOTES: Wow! this color combo is a little out of the ordinary, but sure to grab attention! The fabric of the gown is crazy rich, and Hippolyta’s coloring looks appropriate. I LOVE these tropical colors.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’ve been reading the Maiden Lane series, you can’t miss this entry. (If you haven’t been reading it, why the heck not???)

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in e-book formats!

Buy the Book!

Amazon: http://amzn.to/25YAAUD

B&N: http://bit.ly/1XkV4F0

iBooks: http://apple.co/235O4w2

Google: http://bit.ly/1UMqq4a

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1ZMbqoe

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: Duke of Pleasure, book 11 in the series, will be published November 29, 2016. This entry stars Hugh Fitzroy from Duke of Sin, and Alf, the girl dressed as a boy for a few books now. (How Eponine is she?)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

HoytElizabeth

Elizabeth Hoyt is the New York Times bestselling author of over seventeen lush historical romances including the Maiden Lane series. Publishers Weekly has called her writing “mesmerizing.” She also pens deliciously fun contemporary romances under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with three untrained dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the long-suffering Mr. Hoyt.

 Social Media Links:

http://www.ElizabethHoyt.com

Twitter @elizabethhoyt

Facebook.com/ElizabethHoytBooks

Add Once Upon a Moonlit Night to your shelf on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1S30uww

 

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Duke of Sin (Maiden Lane #10) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Has anyone read the previous few Maiden Lane books and wondered how Elizabeth Hoyt was possibly going to rehabilitate Valentine Napier, Duke of Montgomery, from a villain to a hero for his book, Duke of Sin? The short answer…which delights me to no end…is: she didn’t.

Duke of Sin Front Cover (Grand Central Publishing)

Duke of Sin Front Cover (Grand Central Publishing)

THE PLOT: If you’ve read Dearest Rogue and Sweetest Scoundrel, you already know that Val is a blackmailing, kidnapping, completely immoral excuse for a duke. Okay, he cares about his half-sister, Eve, and once saved her from the Lords of Chaos, their father’s evil aristocratic secret society/rapey hunting club. But Val’s relationship to Eve is about as close to humanity as he gets. He’s even blackmailing THE KING to be permitted back in London, for crying out loud.

Val’s housekeeper, Bridget Crumb, knows pretty much all of what he gets up to. She’s actually positioned in his home to search for the various pieces of blackmail material he keeps around, such as family portraits and old letters, and take them back to diffuse his plots. She puts up with his wild behavior, but it’s hard for a practical housekeeper to take him seriously when most of the time he’s lounging around nude, talking about his sexual prowess, and acting completely insouciant about his nefarious activities.

Bridget starts to become more attached to Val as a person when he’s poisoned and she has to help him fight for his life. She learns some unfortunate things about his childhood and begins to act as his conscience. After all, he WAS raised by monsters and never learned right from wrong. But Val has no intention of changing. And Bridget might love him in spite of that…or because of it?

MY TWO CENTS: So you guys all know Tom Hiddleston, right? The actor also known as Hiddles? I hope so. I hope you’ve seen Marvel’s “The Avengers,” because the non-hero of the 10th Maiden Lane novel is totally based on Tom Hiddleston (confirmed by the author on her Facebook page). If you already love Loki in “The Avengers,” you don’t even need her confirmation. You will realize that Tom was the inspiration for this character as you read. You will hear Valentine Napier’s speeches as recited by Loki, and that is no joke. It doesn’t just work; it’s perfect.

Loki

I’m betting Val looks just like this when he’s facing down his poisoner…

...and this when he's teasing Bridget...

…and this when he’s teasing Bridget…

...only, you know, blond. Like Tom happens to be in real life.

…only, you know, blond. Like Tom happens to be in real life.

I was concerned that by the end, Val would be a sappy romance hero who found his true love. HA! HUGE kudos to Hoyt for keeping Val in character all the way through, down to punishing his enemies through their children in a way that will make you laugh out loud.

Bridget is a match for him because she’s his perfect foil. There’s no delicate, ladylike swooning here. She’s so matter-of-fact in the face of all his drama. Lucky for us readers, she can’t actually make him behave, and doesn’t try too hard. Bridget is also interesting for her ties to other Maiden Lane characters. You’ll be wanting to re-read book one, Wicked Intentions, right after you finish this or maybe while you’re still reading it, so make sure you have it handy.

BOTTOM LINE: This duke lives up to his title! I know it’s a romance, but Val’s antics are front and center. He’s entertaining as hell. Read him as Loki and ENJOY.

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available May 31, 2016, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: Once Upon a Moonlit Night, a novella about Hippolyta, is coming July 5. Alf’s book, Duke of Pleasure, will be available November 29, 2016.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Dearest Rogue (Maiden Lane #8) by Elizabeth Hoyt

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.

Dearest Rogue Front Cover (Hachette)

Dearest Rogue Front Cover (Grand Central/Hachette)


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.

Once and Always by Elizabeth Hoyt (writing as Julia Harper)

I apologize to my readers for the lack of posts lately; I had a huge work project going through and taking all my time. But now I’m back to reading and reviewing!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I tend to pass on contemporary romances, but took a chance on a couple being released by my favorite historical romance authors. Once and Always, by Elizabeth Hoyt (writing as Julia Harper), is one of those books.

Once and Always Front Cover

Once and Always Front Cover (Forever/Hachette)

THE PLOT: Maisa Burnsey’s uncle was a member of the Russian Mafiya, but he gave evidence against a boss and has been in hiding in small-town Coot Lake, Minnesota, for years. May comes occasionally to visit him and has been stopped for speeding multiple times by Coot Lake cop Sam West. She also had a one-night stand with Sam some months ago. Now he wants an actual relationship, but May doesn’t want the police getting any closer to her and her uncle. As the town becomes snowed in, an old cohort of her uncle’s shows up with a suitcase full of diamonds. Suitcases are switched, the Mafiya shows up, and May, Sam, and most of the town are dragged into the mess. No outside help can reach them through the snowstorm, so it’s up to Sam to defend his town while trying to convince May they can make a romance work.

MY TWO CENTS: One of the main reasons I usually don’t care for contemporary romance is that I feel they often use sex to get couples together. After all, many of the circumstances that work in historical romances can’t work in contemporary. Not that I’d enjoy being forced into an arranged marriage that MIGHT work out, or caught in compromising circumstances that were actually very innocent and forced to marry a man who MIGHT become my true love. But these old-fashioned rules often work well in historical romances.

Here, I felt that the couple already had one strike against them for the one-night stand that took place prior to the book. Immediately, sex is what brings them together. Then we get a very intriguing story about diamonds and mobsters and shootouts and snowmobiles, but in between the action, we have Sam dragging May to his conveniently secluded cabin for sex. Really? Okay, I know most action movies have some sort of romantic element thrown in, but in this case, the love scenes seem to completely stop the main story and divorce those scenes from the rest of the plot. It seems like an awkward fit, like puzzle pieces that don’t really fit together.

Having said that, I did really enjoy the action part. I just think the romance would have worked better if May and Sam were just meeting and getting to know each other.

BOTTOM LINE: An interesting story, but I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t feel that the “required” steamy sex scenes had been shoehorned in. I’ll probably stick with Elizabeth Hoyt’s historical romances, which I absolutely love and highly recommend. If you usually like contemporary romances, though, this may be your cup of tea, so give it a try.

TEACUP RATING: Three out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Darling Beast (Maiden Lane #7) by Elizabeth Hoyt

What sets Elizabeth Hoyt’s “Maiden Lane” series apart from other romances? First, there’s the setting. In a genre often focused on polite Regency drawing rooms, the slums of St. Giles in 1740s London is an entirely different feel: gritty, dirty, desperate, and dangerous. Then there are the love scenes, which are unusually explicit, earthy, and carnal. What I enjoy most, though, is the way Ms. Hoyt forms her couples. She takes two completely disparate people who in no way should be together and makes it obvious that they not only do belong together, they are also the only right match for the other.

Darling Beast Front Cover

Darling Beast Front Cover (Hachette/Grand Central Publishing)

THE PLOT: Lily Stump is an out-of-work actress and single mother with a seven-year-old son. They’re living in the damaged theater of a pleasure garden that had been destroyed by a fire. Lily’s son tells her that there is a monster living out in the gardens. The “monster” turns out to be a hulking brute of a man who cannot speak. At first Lily believes the man, whom they nickname “Caliban,” has intellectual disabilities, but then she begins to realize it’s all an act.

Apollo Greaves (first introduced in Book #6, Duke of Midnight) is a viscount who escaped from Bedlam after being incarcerated for four years. And if you know anything about Bedlam in the 1700s, you can imagine it was no picnic. He was imprisoned for murdering three of his friends…a crime which, of course, he didn’t commit. He’s in hiding, restoring the pleasure garden for his friend Asa Makepeace (brother to several other Maiden Lane characters). Apollo is mute thanks to a severe beating received from Bedlam guards and its resulting psychological damage.

How will Lily react when she finds out she and her son have befriended a convicted murderer? How do these two misfits come together? Will Apollo ever be able to prove his innocence? And even if everything else works out, how can a future earl lower himself to marry an actress?

MY TWO CENTS: Nothing makes a better romance than two damaged individuals who heal each other. (Might this be a recurring theme throughout the third trio of Maiden Lane books?) Apollo is vulnerable, yet his strength becomes apparent as he interacts with other characters: friends, foes, and sometimes foes who become friends. Lily is spunky, smart, and talented, but she also has reasons to be cautious of strong men. I loved her unconditional love for her son and her need to protect him no matter what the cost. I adored the way various characters eventually ended up fighting for Apollo. I was so engrossed in this book that when I realized I was 3/4 of the way through it, I was unhappy that I was almost finished.

I will say that I missed the Ghost of St. Giles. Without giving away spoilers for the previous books, the Ghost has been such a bedrock of the series that it’s hard not to feel his loss. Other established characters do appear, most notably Apollo’s twin and her husband (Duke of Midnight), Lady Hero (Notorious Pleasures), Lady Phoebe Batten, and Captain James Trevillion.

I’m intrigued by several new characters introduced in this book, especially one in particular. I know the next book, Dearest Rogue, is about Phoebe and Trevillion, and I’m assuming that Book 9 is Asa’s book, but I’m seeing potential for at least two more books after that. One character especially has my fingers crossed, but I don’t want to elaborate because of spoilers. Let’s just say this character is definitely not standard hero material and is vastly entertaining.

Side note: The many scenes involving the reconstruction of the garden remind me of an Ewan McGregor movie called The Serpent’s Kiss. The movie takes place during the Restoration period, and it’s about a private estate’s garden and not a pleasure garden, but I get a similar feel from it. If you’ve never seen it, check it out.

Finally, for Elizabeth’s Facebook followers: perhaps Daffodil will remind others of a certain Miss Puppy Pie.

BOTTOM LINE: I continue to love this world Elizabeth Hoyt has created and thoroughly enjoyed this strong new entry in the series. Established Maiden Lane fans will devour it with great satisfaction. If you haven’t read the previous books and want to jump in, I strongly suggest you at least check out Duke of Midnight to really get all of Apollo’s story. If you prefer tasteful, formulaic romance offerings with little violence and more genteel sex scenes, then Darling Beast (and the rest of this series) may not be for you.

TEACUP RATING: Darling Beast gets 5 out of 5 teacups from me. (I still enjoyed my favorite Maiden Lane, Thief of Shadows, a teensy bit more; I’d give that one 5+ teacups.)

ON SALE DATE: Darling Beast will be available in mass market paperback and e-formats on October 14, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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