This is a build your own review! If you haven’t read the book yet and want to, I’d recommend reading only the quick overview below. If you’ve done the reading, are in a hurry or simply aren’t into critiques, go straight for the Snippets section. Want a closer look? Head down to the specifics. If you’re all in, no turning back, read the in-depth analysis at the bottom.
A Quick Overview
|By day, Winter Makepeace is the owner of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children on Maiden Lane, but by night, he roams the streets of St. Giles in a harlequin’s motley, saving those innocents for whom no one cares when the established pattern of his life is interrupted by Lady Isabel Beckinhall. Baroness Isabel Beckinhall is a wealthy widow and patroness of the home who spends her days and nights occupied with pleasurable pursuits, but her head is filled with more than empty headed chatter, so when she stumbles upon a recalcitrant man who regards her opinions she is enticed by him.Winter has vowed never to marry, and Isabel’s husband left her with a complication in the form of a four year old boy named Christopher. Overcoming the past and trusting in another person doesn’t come easy to Isabel or Winter. With the path obscured by differing stations, internal threats to the home, and danger from the lassie snatchers, can the mismatched pair overcome their greatest obstacle and see through each others masks?|
Want to appear knowledgeable about romance novels? Need to pull out some quick party conversation, but don’t have the time to read the full novel? Be ready for your next girl’s night out!
Series: Maiden Lane, Book 4
Genre: Historical Romance (1738)
Trope: A celibate man and an experienced woman, and secondarily, a Schoolmaster and his Lady Widow (A new trope?!)
Setting: Fairmont House, Streets of St. Giles, Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children
Unique: We get more than one Ghost! (You can’t see it, but I’m drumming my fingers together in excitement!) Also, we get the re-entrance of Lady Temperance Huntington, Baroness Caire, and I enjoyed seeing the progression of her life as an aristocrat and her happy marriage to Baron Caire. (Who is still Lucius Malfoy in my mind.)
Sequel Bait: Lady Margaret and Sir Godric seem destined to be intertwined, based on her brother Griffin’s interference in the epilogue and the fact that our first diversion from the main story is that of Lady Margaret Reading.
Sex Scene Rating: Lady Isabel is knowledgeable about not only her anatomy but Winter’s as well, and we get realistic fellatio and cunnilingus! Although some women and men are reticent to take that trip, in this book we get two people who thoroughly enjoy the process.
Sex Scene Grade: B+ for holding back on the sex for about a thousand pages, Hoyt really teased this one! After the teasing ends, the sexual encounters begin, and I loved her placement. We get a carriage occurrence as well as multiple late night trysts in Isabel’s library. We are also privy to a particularly rousing phallic encounter in D’Arque’s bedroom.
Social Issues Tackled: Racism against Jewish people and enforced child labor.
Guiding Narrative: The Legend of the Harlequin Ghost of St. Giles. An enjoyable read, but it didn’t grab me.
Words of Note: Cor, La, Clocking, Bam, Tupped.
Favorite: I love that Sir Stanley Gilpin’s voice is heard through Winter’s memories! And in my head I call them: Gilpin’s Witticisms, and though he is a former playwright, being as he didn’t have much success, I think the list I’ve compiled of his witticisms are his most notable work to date. (See below.)
Hooked By: This book took a little longer to catch me than Hoyt’s earlier work, but there are passages that I just need to quote, because they struck a chord that resounded in my mind. “He parried her flirtation with disconcertingly plainspoken answers. She simply wasn’t used to such frankness. All the gentlemen of her acquaintance knew to speak in elegant riddles that in the end meant nothing at all.”
Let’s get a bit more particular about some of the snippets listed above. Shall we?
In the “let’s expand our vocabulary category”:
Cor: Expressing surprise, excitement, admiration, or alarm.
La: Exclaiming wonder or surprise.
Clocking: A short embroidered or woven ornament on each side or on the outer side of a sock or stocking, extending from the ankle upward.
Bam: Not telling the whole or complete truth.
Tupped: to have sexual intercourse with a woman or man.
The voice of a mentor interspersed with the thoughts of the student is fascinating. Let’s look at some examples.
People see only the surface. Give them a showy costume, a mask, and a bit of cape and they’ll swear to phantoms in the night and never notice the man beneath. – Only fools take victory for granted. – Always attack from above if you are able. – When you’ve exposed a weakness in battle, attack, don’t retreat.
Since we’re already talking about passages from the book, let’s discuss some of the compliments that Lady Isabel pries from Winter’s lips, and what compliments they are indeed. I much prefer them to the odd and two pronged compliments that other men deliver. Their straightforward nature would make a girl swoon, but not literally. I also enjoy how Winter’s outward behavior contrasts sharply with his inner monologue, which makes me love his compliments more. Didactically, it’s also why it took me so long to warm up to him and this book.
Winter’s Compliments (in thought and practice)
I would do violence for one glimpse of your naked breasts. Bleed for one taste of your nipple on my tongue. – But you must be awash in a sea of compliments, my lady. Every gentleman you meet must voice his admiration, his wish to make love to you. And those are only the ones who may voice such thoughts. All about you are men who cannot speak their admiration, who must remain mute from lack of social standing or fear of offending you. Only their thoughts light the air about you, following you like a trail of perfume, heady but invisible. – Surely the quality of a home should be measured by the comfort one receives there? In which case, calling your home very comfortable is the highest of compliments. – As you wish.
If you’re a fan of The Princess Bride then you’ll know those words really mean “I Love You.”
WAIT a minute… Commonalities are surfacing beyond dialogue. Westley and Winter wear masks, climb using rock handholds, are excellent swordsmen, and work against a larger political and individual force to right wrongs. Maybe Hoyt used Westley as a template for Winter.
Except Westley’s mask isn’t as ridiculous as that of the Harlequin.
He’s in love with a woman who a far more powerful man covets, but lest you fear, they both get their happy ending.
Warning: This is a kissing book!
Let’s flip the script with this book when we talk sex. The man is a virgin, and the woman has experience. Isabel has taken numerous lovers since her husband’s death. Needless to say, she knows her way around the male anatomy. (A quality I admire in a heroine or everyday woman.) Despite their obvious sexual tension, Winter won’t consummate the relationship, and it’s not nerves or prudishness on his part. See, Winter has already committed his life to helping the unfortunates of St. Giles, and therefore he has no room for a wife and children, so he refuses to engage in a physical relationship. (I will say that write more love scenes when I’m not having sex than when I am so maybe he operates off the same principle. Channel that energy!).
However, he inevitably gives into his bodily urges. (Who can fault him?) He also says I love you first (She did take his V card), but wait, he isn’t ashamed of his feelings or uncertain, perhaps that’s because he’s male! He’s also taught the art of lovemaking by Lady Isabel, and instead of being reticent to learn, he takes the pointers with aplomb. (I love that Hoyt went there. Because its true!)
Let’s go further down this path and discuss the subject of sex (-this is a romance novel after all-). Let’s not talk about the book, movie, or play version of sex. Lets talk about the real way sex happens. Care to hazard a guess? (Ding. Ding. Ding!) If you said, trial and error and communication then you got it right! Those are key to a healthy sexual relationship. This is the road that Winter and Isabel travel, and Hoyt doesn’t digress far down this road, because Winter is a quick study. However, she does give a realistic view of a man trying to find a woman’s clitoris for the first time. (Needle in a haystack, anyone?) Winter is up front and honest about his feelings and any confusion throughout the experience, while Isabel is up front about her needs and guides him effectively. She teaches him the art of (as he calls it) “lovemaking” while Isabel refuses to call it anything but “sex.” A point emerges from this topiary, which is that sex is about communication, letting your partner know what you do and don’t like.
By reversing the sexual roles and making her characters real, Hoyt is flying in the face of older (and BAD) romance novels who make the male the guiding force (he knows just the right way to touch her to make her come apart) and the female a supplicant (she accepts everything he does and loves it regardless). Instead, Elizabeth Hoyt gives both the woman and the man the responsibility to communicate their needs and pleasure during sex. (Here’s a Woo! And there’s a Hoo!) Because let’s be honest, in the real world whatever a man does is not always sexy and the same goes for women.
Men are taught that they should be all knowing between the sheets, but that kind of claustrophobic thinking has no place in the bedroom. Rather be open to guidance from your partner. Being all knowing is boring! It prohibits you from sexual experimentation and communication.Gentlemen, put aside masculine ego, pride, and what society has told you through novels, movies, and television is the proper way to have sex, because it’s wrong! Communicate your wants and desires to your partner during sex, and your sexual relationships will be better!
Really, nobody is any good at sex the first time they try it! Orange is the New Black’s Crazy Eyes admits “I don’t understand sex,” and many people don’t. Don’t be ashamed to not “know how.” (And FYI, porn is not a good teacher of how sex works.) Take the advice from Lorna. “Your first time is going to be messy, and bumbling, and weird. Everyone’s is.” Good advice from a crazy woman.
Just don’t ask her for personal finance advice. You could talk fire tips.
Ladies, you’re next, because both genders are at fault. You need to realize that men don’t have the sole responsibility for discovering what turns you on! Know yourself and let men in on the secret. Sex is complicated for us, I know! To make it less so, remember to have fun and try to discover your own sexuality. Hoyt leaves us with one more piece of advice for a successful relationship. “Mind, not to insult me too badly when we argue.” Good advice for any couple. I’m reminded of the famous lyrics “It was the heat on the moment!” Don’t let the heat of the moment ruin relationships, although now I’m digressing.
An In-Depth Analysis
Let’s talk about Winter’s Ghostly duties and why he feels that he must give them up at the end of the novel. (A viewpoint that I don’t share.) Winter repeatedly rescues men, women, and children from thieves, rapists, and any other persons who prey upon them. He fights for those who can’t fight for themselves (mostly young girl children in this novel), and although I didn’t like Winter’s personality at first, I always loved his spirit and how he fought for the poor. Yet, at the end of the novel he gives up his calling, because he feels that marrying forces him to choose his wife and future offspring over his calling. He sacrifices his ideals for his family. News flash Winter! You already have a family in the form of Silence, Temperance, and your brothers! So, your ultimatum, (which you’ve only given yourself) isn’t a true one, unless you’re insinuating that only your wife matters to you.
Here’s the deal, you as a human being have a life to live regardless of your partner and children (which doesn’t mean that you should in any way neglect your family or responsibilities!), but lots of men and women have dangerous jobs (and danger comes in many forms) so why choose between your ideals and family? His argument is that when one has a family, one must put that family first, and I don’t disagree with that assessment. You need to put your family first, but that doesn’t mean that being the Ghost of St. Giles couldn’t be put second.
The situation isn’t an “either or,” which is how its presented. The problem with that life (the life that Winter will now be living) is that its a half-life, and that isn’t an example to anyone (least of all your children) of how to live.There’s two sides to the man here. Being a father and husband provides him with love, companionship, and offspring, whereas being the ghost allows him to care for the state of his quarter and release the aggression that we see Winter holding back throughout the story.
Only when these two sides are put together can they form a complete whole.
On the subject of one man being divided into two halves, Isabel is initially attracted to the ghost and his plainspoken answers, not to the man beneath. How very Lois Lane of her. Attracted to a beast who prowls the streets looking for someone to save (more importantly someone to fight). What I find odd is that Isabel is attracted to the very persona she wishes him to leave behind because of the danger. In point of fact, it’s similar to Book 3 Scandalous Desires, except that Silence was attracted to the man and not the pirate. What’s distressing is that these men need to give up a portion of who they are to gain the women they love, and that sits badly with me. Who’s going to rescue the people of St. Giles which is described as a “a gaping hole of want.”
By the end of the book, Winter, Isabel, and the story won me over, but (side note) you don’t get points for referencing yourself in the third person, even if you’re talking about the beast inside yourself.
“The Beast” likes his chicken spicy!