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, and 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, but if you’re all in, no turning back, read the in depth analysis at the bottom. I’d focus on the analysis because you’ve already read the book head straight for the bottom!
A Quick Overview
Want to appear knowledgeable about the newest romance novels? Pull out some quick party conversation, but don’t have the time to read the full novel? Read the snippets section below and be ready for your next girls’ night out.
Series: Maiden Lane, Book 2
Genre: Historical Romance (1737)
Trope: Little Miss Can’t Do Wrong (Princess) and Mister Never Could Do Right (Rake)
Setting: The streets of St. Giles, the Home of Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children, Harte’s Folly (a pleasure garden), Wakefield House, Hero’s town house, Mandeville House, and Griffin’s town house.
Singular: How to describe the female vagina? Hoyt knows! Cunny… The word always makes me laugh, such an odd and unsexy way of describing female anatomy.
Sequel Bait: Charming Mickey O’Connor and Silence Hollingbrook’s are next. They just have to be next. Who do I hope gets a story? Lady Phoebe Batten, the Ghost of St. Giles, and perhaps the Duke of Wakefield.
Sex Scene Rating: Obsessed with breasts! The attention that Griffin lavs on Hero’s breasts verges on obsession. Each sex scene focuses heartily on nipples.
Sex Scene Grade: A. You might be surprised at this rating because most of the sex took place in a bedroom. Also, none of the sex was particularly inventive but the language was! (Imagine my voice going all high and girly at the end there.) The attraction between the two is so hot to trot that description alone can leave you breathless.
Guiding Narrative: The story of Queen Ravenhair presents each chapter, and her forethought and intelligence, along with a subtle sadness is reflected in Hero, while Griffin is representative of the Queen’s future husband, a man who is quick and competent, as well as caring.
Favorite: I love the phrase “the cut direct,” although I imagine it would be horrid to receive.
Hooked: “Everything, in fact, Lady Hero Batten reflected wryly, but how to address a gentleman coupling vigorously with a married lady not his own.” I love the ‘not his own part.’
Let’s get a bit more particular about some of the snippets listed above. Shall we?
I’m rubbing my hands together in anticipation of sequel bait, because it’s clear that the Maiden Lane series is going to be a long one! Charming Mickey O’Connor and Silence Hollingbrook’s story is book 3. I know this because Silence is again featured heavily in this book. (We’ll set aside the issue of if her presence is to the detriment of the novel as a whole and continue on to say-) She ends the novel. I better get their story next. (Petulance would not sufficiently describe my reaction if their story isn’t next.)
Who do I hope gets a story? Unequivocally, Lady Phoebe Batten, her enthusiasm and charm in the face of hardship is delightful, and a lady who’s going blind as a heroine will be novel to read.
In the category of: This would definitely be interesting, the Ghost of St. Giles, who is back again in Notorious Pleasures for a cameo! Tantalizing us at every turn, that Hoyt! The Ghost saves Silence from the untoward advances of a drunken lout in the final pages, so get ready for a close call! (Can you ready yourself for a close call? No matter.) Also, honorable mention goes to the Duke of Wakefield whose implacable facade would be fun to destroy in a book down the lane!
Who wouldn’t want to get with this ghost? Big Fella!
Queen Ravenhair guides the narrative in Notorious Pleasures. The lonely queen decides it’s time to choose a king and produce an heir so that the kingdom and her people’s future is assured, but none of her advisors, ministers, or men of letters staff can agree on which prince is right for her. The queen then invites three princes to her castle where she gauges their worth through their answers to her queries: “What is the foundation of my kingdom?” “What is the strongest thing in my kingdom?” “What is the heart of my kingdom?” The beauty of the story is that although the queen asks the right questions, she doesn’t know the answers. The only person who satisfactorily answers her thoughtful questions is a man in her employ, a stable master who takes care of her favorite horse.
This guiding narrative connects to our main characters, Griffin and Hero, with the queen and the stable master, because each has similar personality traits that are paralleled in the fable. Griffin is the second son of the family, but he has traits such as common sense for monetary issues and hard work that the former of the Mandeville brothers, Lord Thomas Mandeville, the next Marquess of Mandeville, lacks. Griffin took charge of the family’s monetary issues (the problem was they had none) after his father died, and now, his family depends upon him (and his gin business) to make their lives comfortable. As you can see, his subservient position in the family does not make his participation less meaningful.
Hero is the daughter of a deceased Duke and the sister of the current one, so she is in a position of power and prestige not unlike Queen Ravenhair, and like the queen who is lonely in her tower far above her kingdom, Hero feels that her social status has separated her from the world and those who inhabit it. People treat her differently once they find out that she’s the sister of the Duke of Wakefield, and several times throughout the novel, Hero references this fact with sadness. Not only are there parallels between the characters, but so too are there parallels in their love stories.
It is the men who pursue the women but not for the purpose of sex (or not only for the purposes of sex. It is a romance novel after all!) The a-typical plot throws love off kilter when it is the lord who pursues the lady bent upon a love match, all the while declaring that true love will prevail while he persuades his reluctant woman to take a chance on love. I must say that I enjoy when an author turns a love story gently on its ear.
So, let’s talk writing style. My initial shock at Hoyt weaving LARGE chunks of backstory into her current book all in service of the sequel threw me for a loop. She also goes at the story from different perspectives, outside the hero and heroine, and while this does help set up sequels, (Let’s face it. That’s where the real business is found.) I’m still not sure if the divergence helps the later stories more than it hurts the current story… I will update you more about the phenomenon of Hoyt’s writing as we follow the Maiden Lane path together.
The yellow brick road, like Maiden Lane but with less recidivism rates in the proletariat.
(Bet the munchkins don’t get hung for indulging in poppy fields.)
Sex. (I’m the master of segues.) Hoyt is singular in the words that she uses, unlike any other writer (that I’ve read so far) in this department. The phraseology and the lack of sentimental description have an edge that adds up to some rather intense almost pornographic description, not based on flowery prose but a strictly sexual desire. It’s base and driven by its own nature and need for fulfillment which makes for some steamy feelings in both the reader and the scene participants.
Since we seem to be on a racy subject already, let’s throw in another. #TheSlap No, I’m not talking about that television show that no one watched, and you’ve probably already forgotten. (I’m a television hound and even I couldn’t bear to watch one episode.) No reader, I’m talking about pre-spousal abuse, specifically the beat down perpetrated by nobody’s man Thomas. (I pity his wife.)
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book in which one of the main characters, who I think is supposed to be likeable seeing as his love story was entwined in this one, physically assaults his fiancé, and the readers are supposed to forgive and forget.
Well this reader (points to self) forgives and forgets nothing! Thomas physically assaulted my heroine, our heroine, Lady Hero, who takes the beating in stride as a good punishment for her wanton and disreputable ways. *The victim always blames herself.* (Side note: No matter the situation, violence is never acceptable.)
What really got me was that Griffin seemed to be the only person outraged by the attack. #gratefulforthebeatdownhegavehisbrother. Although I realize that in this age, women beating was acceptable, it bugged me that it was presented in a casual manner. Hero thinks what all battered women think: It’s my fault. I did something wrong and provoked him.
Hero should just be glad that the Symphonie Fantastique hadn’t been written yet.
Some persons have a propensity toward violence, and that nature is a character trait that Hoyt allows us to see on several occasions in Thomas. When she writes from his POV, he thinks in entitled and vengeful ways. When he’s with his ex Lavinia, he’s forceful, and she accepts his advances because she loves him. (Run, girl, run!) At one point in the novel, his internal monologue states that he wouldn’t stop having sex with Lavinia even if she pushed him away. Coincidentally, she doesn’t, but the implication and his intent is rape.
I’d also like to point out that Hero’s brother, the illustrious Duke of Wakefield, condemns Thomas’s actions but still wants his sister (whom he professes to love on many an occasion throughout the book) to marry the asshole who blackened her eye and bruised her cheek. Yeah, not cool bro!
No bro points for you!
An In-Depth Analysis
The novel presents gin as the central problem not only in St. Giles, but also in Hero and Griffin’s relationship. However, Hoyt portrays both sides of the argument, both for and against gin in her main characters. Clever, no?
Gin is a symptom of the real evil that lurks in the streets of St. Giles, known only by the name poverty, but not the devil, a mantel that Hoyt gives to the Vicar of Whitechapel. (Murdering men by the roll of the dice should qualify you as insane right?)
Let’s flip the coin… and take a chance.
Hero as the anti-gin and Griffin as the pro-gin, and both have their reasons. Hero lost her parents to a mugging when they were attacked by men drunk on gin. Griffin present another side of this two faced problem. He feels that he has the right to sell and distribute gin because he knows that gin will continue to be sold in St. Giles. He runs a clean business, but Hero only sees the ramifications of the men and women who are brought low by the drink. So his above board business is soured based upon how his product is abused. He’s using the spoiled grain from his farm to make the gin, so he’s putting a bad crop to good use. Recycling at its finest and he’s providing for his family in the process. However, a head for business can’t make way against Hero’s fear that her brother who is devoutly against gin will arrest him.
Griffin represents the sane point of view while Hero represents the emotional one. Reading feels that the poor have the right to purchase the cheaply made liquor, but his final turn from the business has more to do with the Vicar’s murderous behavior and Hero’s distaste for the business.
I enjoy that Griffin turns away from making gin for financial and emotional reasons, rather than any moral implications of making gin. (That decision makes him one of my favorite characters!) There are no moral implications of gin making, nil. There are physical and moral reasons why one shouldn’t drink too much, but no reasons for total absentia from alcohol.
So, we’ve looked at this gin situation from both sides, Hero’s and Griffin’s. Now, let me present a third side of this issue that isn’t discussed in the novel, the dynamic of the rich versus the poor. While the rich people (Reading, Hero, Mandeville, Wakefield, ect.), are having a discussion about the evils of drinking gin and how the people of St. Giles are going to ruin because of the drink, they are drinking wine and/or brandy! Ha for hypocrisy! So, you can see that me referencing the two-faced issue above is appropriate on more than one level.
In their eyes, there is a magical difference between brandy and gin. However, in the eyes of anybody else, there’s no difference in poor people drinking gin and rich people drinking brandy or wine. Wine just happens to be better for you than gin. Gin rots your insides because it’s a hard liquor, while wine and brandy are smoother.
However, when you’re poor, starving, self-medicating, and down… gin is definitely your best friend. Let’s say you’re cold, so you drink some gin and at least for a little while, you feel warmer. Let’s say that you’re feeling sick, so you drink some gin, and at least for a while, your aches and pains subside. How about the fact that you feel down because you lost your job or you don’t have a steady job, or you have no job at all, (which is absolutely the plight of many of these poor people)… gin is suddenly your best friend. He’s the shoulder you cry on, the lover who makes you forget all your problems, the thumb that you suckle on to go to sleep. If your life was complete shit, you lived in an overcrowded city, have no health care, don’t have enough food to eat… wait is any of this sounding familiar? Sounds a lot like the types of conditions that the poor still live in today! (Which many Republicans condone-That’s all I’m saying. Really, my lips are zipped.)
The real issue that isn’t discussed in the novel is that the rich feel entitled to tell the poor what they have the right to do, and they don’t have the right to drink gin. Hypocrisy at its finest. The wealthy can afford the legal drinks, but the poor can’t afford them, so they turn to other avenues like gin to assuage the same fears that rich men and women self-medicate with brandy. The only difference in the people and drink is the name of whose doing the drinking and what they’re drinking. However, this issue no longer relates to our perfect modern society. I feel accomplished! You should, too! Have a drink to celebrate the fact that liquor is legal, and both the poor and the rich have the right to drink whatever they can afford! Hallelujah! Score one for Team America!
David Beckham here doing it all for his beloved Team America.
Just because romance heroes do it doesn’t mean that over imbibing is good for your body. Alcoholism is a real problem that affects our society, and if you are an alcoholic, you need help. However, the freedom that America was based upon means that every person gets to use their body as they see fit. I’ll fight for that idea with anyone. Gin, marijuana, marriage equality – moving on up the ladder.
I told you! This story was half about the gin and half about love.