Set late in the year 1737, London, England. Lady Hero Batten is the lovely sister of the Duke of Wakefield. She has recently become the fiancé of Thomas Remmington, the Marquess of Mandeville. Wakefield and Mandeville are friends, as well as parliamentary alliances, who are actively fighting against the scourge of gin drinking among the poor of London. Many babies become orphans due to gin; therefore, Hero is a patroness of the Home for Unfortunate Infants & Foundling Children. Hero does not love Mandeville, but does like him and is content. But then she meets his notorious brother.
Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading, enjoys his rakish ways. His brother never had a head for business, so when their father died ten years ago, Griffin took over the financial dealing for the family. Mandeville knows that their late father left then penniless; however, he has no idea that Griffin saved them from financial ruin by becoming the biggest gin distiller in St. Giles. Though the family no longer has serious debts, Griffin feels he cannot give up the still until his family funds are stable. Things would be a lot easier if his nasty gin competitor would quit attacking his distillery and/or killing the employees.
Hero takes an instant dislike to Griffin. Due to the way she first met him, Hero calls him Lord Shameless. Griffin believes Hero is too serious and calls her Lady Perfect. Yet their battle of wills quickly sparks into the flames of desire.
**** FOUR STARS! Never satisfied to give her readers a simple story, author Elizabeth Hoyt keeps a variety of subplots running in the background. For example, each chapter begins with a short paragraph about Queen Ravenhair. By the end of this book, readers have also completed reading a brief fairy tale of Queen Ravenhair's search for a worthy king. Mixed in with the story of Hero and Griffin are sections about Silence Hollingbrook, the manageress of the foundling home. There is a teaser chapter in the back of the novel giving a glimpse of Silence's upcoming story, "Scandalous Desires". (No ISBN at the time of this review. Release date is currently set for November 2011.) If that is not enough, the Ghost of St. Giles makes an appearance once or twice. Yet none of these subplots detract from the story of Hero and Griffin. Hoyt manages to weave the subplots, not the fairy tale though, into Hero's life.
Filled with engaging and well developed characters, sizzling romance, and some suspense filled danger, I had a hard time putting this gem down. The writing style of Elizabeth Hoyt flows smoother than silk against skin and is just as seductive. ****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
The setting of this book is almost the same as "Wicked Intentions" by the same author, and is a part of the "Maiden Lane" series.
Hoyt created very high expectations with her first books published. She writes with unusual aplomb, she adds a lot of sensuality without falling into soft porn boundaries, her characters have a certain zing to them, a certain je ne sais quoi, and most of all, there is plenty of humour. And finally, the main story's progress are interspersed with fairytale blurbs that relate to the novel. This book has all that, so that's good news.
The not so good news is that I think this is one of her less memorable cast of characters. Hero might have an usual name but except for being a good but very serious girl, in peril of sitting on the shelf, with a realistic view of what a Duke's daughter is supposed to do in society, she doesn't burn the page. Not that she's unsympathetic, if anything she's almost too nice. And Griffin (eh, how cheesy is that name?) is your rake with a hidden heart and secret turmoil. Of course, they would repel one another like magnets, but also, of course, (again a cheese attack!) they're incredibly sexually attracted to one another. There's just one hitch, she's already engaged. And I lied about there being just one hitch, there's another, she's engaged to his brother. And there's bad history between them.
So can you say cookie cutter? Yes, a little I have to admit. Fortunately, Holt makes incredibly good cookies out of the dough. The characters, though run of the mill, remain very appealing and certainly are a lot of fun. The plot centers on the renovations of the Home for Foundlings and Unfortunate Children from "Wicked Intentions" and some secondary characters are back, as well as the setting of Seven Dials, the St-Giles neighbourhood, and of course, the evils of cheap gin on the populace. The emotional conflict was alright, well written and touching, though a little unoriginal. It still maintains interest throughout the book, but I expected a little more, given how much enjoyment I'd gotten from previous books that started with a premise that had been tweaked a lot more.
Still the book compares favourably to hundreds of romance novels out there, so it's still deserving of a read, which is why I give it four stars.