The Clever Book at the End of a Romance Novel: Elizabeth Hoyt’s Scandalous Desires

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

ScandalousDesiresCoverandOverview2

Snippets

Want to appear knowledgeable about the newest 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 3
Genre: Historical Romance (1738)
Trope: The Pirate and His Lady (Widow)
Setting: The Palace of Mickey O’Connor, Streets of St. Giles, the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children, Windward House, and Newgate Prison. Did you get whiplash from how quickly we jumped around during our journey?
Unique: Fionnula (an Irish name) Imagine it in Brogue, fairly rolls off the tongue.
Sequel Bait: Hoyt introduces so many characters which makes identifying sequel bait difficult, except that I think most characters will get their day in the sun. She’s a trickster that Hoyt, but Winter Makepeace and Isabell Beckinhall are definitely meant for the next novel in the Maiden Lane series, and closely following should be Lady Penelope and Artemis, since they are featured heavily in Scandalous Desires. The cousins have an interesting dynamic, and I’m excited to see it explored further.
Sex Scene Rating: Food porn mixed with masturbation fantasies by both parties. Also, can Stockholm syndrome work both ways? Because if it can, then it does in this book.
Sex Scene Grade: B+ for delving into forbidden territories! Our hero pleasures himself while he thinks about performing cunnilingus on our heroine (*eyebrow raise*) while our heroine watches through a slit in the door. (*whew*) Then Silence alludes to the fact that she has touched herself while thinking about Michael mastering his own body to the thought of her. (Feel that trickle of sweat? Is this room hot to you?)
Social Issues Tackled: Racism against the Irish immigrants, of which Mickey’s mother is one. Violence against women perpetrated by randos in St. Giles and the Vicar of St. Giles. Animal Cruelty with respect to bull baiting, which is exactly what it sounds. Hoyt gets an A+ for tackling all of these social issues. She definitely understands the historical implications of the period.
Guiding Narrative: The story of Clever John guides this novel, and I’d like to note that he isn’t super clever until the end of his story when he FINALLY decides that what matters is to him is Tamara, and not the riches, kingdom, or army with which she provided him.
Favorite: Didactic pairings appeal to me. We get the pirate King of the slums and the savior mother extraordinaire – the man who refuses to love and the woman who forces him to.
Hooked By: “Wolves, as Silence Hollingbrook well knew, are savage beasts, little given to pity or honor. If one must face a wolf cleverly disguised in human form, it did no good to show fear. Rather, one must throw one’s shoulders back, lift one’s chin, and stare the damned beast down.”

Specifics

Let’s get a bit more particular about some of the snippets listed above. Shall we?

Some things I love about this book: Mary Darling is delivered to Silence’s doorstep via stork. (As all babies should be delivered.) Mickey O’Connor’s throne room is described as “corrupt.” I just love that idea that a man’s influence is so corrosive that it could corrupt a room. Animal issues in the form of Lad, a dog used for bull baiting before Harry rescued him. (Peta would have a field day in 1700s.) And let’s not forget Gin.

Enter Gin. She is a comely lass of ten and eight who rotates her hips making men swoon with the sight of her wares – but really, gin was a problem during this time period, which is another point that Hoyt brought up in the novel. She gets to experience both sides of the gin debate (admittedly to a lesser extent) again through her characters just as she did in the second book of the series, Notorious Pleasures. Mick understands more than any other that the old women who are being picked up aren’t the problem with St. Giles, and his opinion has merit.

Poverty is discussed in the form of Mickey O’Connor and to a lesser extent Silence Hollingbrook. Rampant prostitution, by women and children of both sexes, is seen on the streets, Mick even sleeps with numerous prostitutes at the very beginning of the book. Begging as an honorable profession is seen, and that’s the idea that truly caught me, because our society faces the same problem that 1738 London did. Too many people, not enough jobs. In America, we have service industry jobs for which the employees aren’t paid enough and don’t receive benefits. Yes I’m looking at you, McDonalds! Your arches be damned! Hoyt brings up the idea of labor inequality and discusses that the many immigrants, like the Irish and even other native Londoners, want to work but don’t but can’t find employment. The public deteriorates in a state of languish. Robbery, rape, gin over consumption, and general violence are all symptoms of the larger economic problem, one that can still be seen in our society. (Think Detroit. Think about towns that die when jobs leave and good jobs can’t be found, but it is the service industry that should be forced to pay a decent wage… and I think I should stop right there and move on.)


Serving broken dreams since 1940.

Two strong associations were pulled from me based upon that first line: The Call of the Wild by Jack London and the corresponding episode “Beauty and the Beasts” in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Mickey is the wolf of St. Giles, and has been so since he was thirteen years of age when his father tried to make him prostitute himself. He attacked his dear old dad with acid, scaring the side of his face, and then roamed the streets that he would later come to own, begging and stealing, until he worked his way up through the ranks of its criminals. Needless to say, people give him a wide berth. They feel what my association does, which is that Michael gave into the call of the wild, just as Buck did in London’s novel, and the civilized veneer that society cultivates falls away. – This association brought to you by Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


“From the depths of the forest, the call still sounded.”

The instinctual violence that Mick and his pack show tells us that their mentality is fostered by their breeding (Mick’s father was a violent man) and their upbringing in a city that preys upon those who are weak.

In an earlier review I proposed the idea that Michael was the Ghost of St. Giles. I was wrong. I’ll admit. Was I crazy for thinking so? Perhaps. But I still think it could’ve been a great storyline! A superman story. Clark Kent is Michael O’Connor and the Ghost of St. Giles is Superman, aka, who Michael really is. Eh? Eh?

The Ghost of St. Giles is revealed at the end of the book, and I won’t spoil it. No, I won’t say a thing, as long as you skip past the end of this paragraph without reading on, because I’m about to say who the ghost is! Winter? Really? Well, I suppose it makes total sense if you look at his personality. He’s Mr. self-sacrifice guy, that’s true, but can I just say one thing?

Where does this guy find the time?! He runs the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children, gives lessons to the male children, helps take care of all the kids, goes to meetings with prospective patrons, tracks down wayward children… and sisters, in addition to planning lessons and answers letters, then he somehow finds time to roam the streets and prevent crimes. OH! Also, he just happens to show up right when he’s needed… So, it’s he who’s supposed to remind me of Superman! Come down from Krypton to save us all from the crime in St. Giles!


Could he pull off a Harlequin Motley? Yeah, those muscles could pull off a garbage bag.

An In-Depth Analysis

Hoyt did well when she chose to utilize the St. Giles dialect throughout the novel. The changes are simple (and listed below), but they do much to give the proper atmosphere of the slums to the characters. Hoyt has used this dialect in past books with minor characters but never with a main character, and boy did this book call for it. It wouldn’t make sense for Mickey to speak proper English, and I’m glad that she forsook the debate over whether or not to use a dialect throughout a novel (because it can be difficult to read) and made the right decision. Examples:

Me: me and my
Wi’: dropping the th
Thoughts in clear speech
Ye:you
O’: dropping the f
Yer: you are/your
Barrin’: drops g
Afore: before
If ‘n: ?
D’ye: do ye
M’self: exclude y
Mightn’t: might not
Et: ate
A’glowin’: glowing

I want to talk in depth about that first sentence and the thoroughfare that the book follows based upon Michael Connor’s comparison to a wolf. That first sentence threw a hook into me. I love it when a writer (like Hoyt) does that. Silence’s thought has a tonal implication of unrepentant fearlessness that tells the reader her story will be about struggle, danger, and how to meet them head on. The nature of the sentence and perhaps of Michael and Silence’s love story reminds me of a poem by Margaret Atwood “You Fit Into Me.”


Now you can feel superior to the masses. You’ve read a poem today!

My associations aside, comparing Michael O’Connor to a wolf is apt, owing to the type of prey he stalks, his offspring, the hierarchy of his crew, and food habits. For although he hunts larger prey than himself, aka the Vicar of St. Giles and his father (wow at the paternal issues and psychological consequences of that), he also toys with ship captains from which he routinely requires tribute.

Next, there is Mary Darling. In a pack, the dominant male and his mate are the only ones to breed, and undoubtedly, this lovely toddler is Mickey and Silence’s offspring and the only child who matters in this storyline. Yes, we should point out that she is not Silence’s biological child, but the woman who takes care of you when you’re sick, soothes you before you go to sleep, and protects you from any threat is absolutely your mother. Biology isn’t everything. Also, the submissive wolves help care for the leader’s children, and we see that Finnoula, Bert, Harry, and the pack pirates tend to Mary Darling throughout the story.

The hierarchy of his crew is like that of a wolf pack, with Mickey as the dominant male who gives orders and leads his men into battle and Silence as his mate who has her share of their devotion. She holds favor with the men, (namely Bert and Harry who guard her and Mary Darling), Finnoula (her ladysmaid), the cook (who allows the dog to be given a bath in the kitchen. Let your imagination go there!), and various other foot soldiers (who seem ever present in the home). Within days, everyone comes to love Silence with a startling ferocity that owes to her purity, love, and refreshing outlook, which makes her the antithesis of Michael O’Connor. To show how far the staff will go for their new lady, when Mickey orders that Silence be denied food until she agrees to eat in the dining hall, her new friends sneak her food in a heartwarming display of their devotion to her.

While we’re on the subject of food, let’s talk eating habits. At Casa De O’Connor, everyone eats together (period). Meals filled with sweetmeats, oysters, avocados, delectable and foreign food. Mickey insists that his entire crew eat together and that Silence eat by his side. In this way, they are reminiscent of a wolf pack who when they take down large game consume the meat with no respect to moderation. Elaborate feasts bring the pack closer together, and Mickey explains that the men expect these sumptuous meals as part of their pay. Buyers Beware to enjoy the food porn that this book contains. Having a man feed your secret need for treats is quite a delectable experience. However, the idea that truly drives the feasts relates to Mickey’s upbringing.

Hunger. Oy! What would you do to avoid the emptiness, the clenching, the acid? Hunger is a demon that plagued Michael in childhood, as it is for much of our world today. He exorcises that fear by eating, and we associate the need to eat with Michael from the moment we meet him, because Hoyt is careful to introduce Michael in Book 1 of the Maiden Lane series, Wicked Intentions, while he’s eating sweetmeats. Then in Book 3 Scandalous Desires, we see him again introduced while eating sweetmeats served to him on a platter in the first scene of this novel.

Food and the lack thereof were his mother’s and his plight. “When there was naught in the cupboard, me mam would take me down to the street corner. She’d lay a handkerchief on the ground at our feet and we’d sing for pennies. It might take minutes or hours or all day afore we had enough to buy our supper”. When you grow up without enough to eat, you’ll never feel comfortable about food, and that idea is brought home by his life experiences.

Here’s where we get to the mommy issues, because really this guy’s got heaps and they’re the reason he falls in love with Silence. Her self-sacrificing nature, which we see in all the Makepeace’s, is why he initially takes her good name from her, but also why he begins to fall for her. Silence is an excellent mother who loves her child (and his too) to distraction. That coupled with the fact that she would do anything to protect her draws Mickey to Silence. (So Electra Complex anyone?) (And no, that doesn’t mean he wants to make love to his mother.) He finds Silence intriguing because she’s the antithesis of his mother in that she has a strong mothering instinct.

Let’s flip the script. Silence begins to fall in love with Michael when he opens up to Mary and sings her to sleep with a lovely ballad.

“My father and my mother
In yonder room do lay
They are embracing one another
And so may you and I
So take me in your arms, my love
And blow the candle out.”

(Oh, did I not mention yet that his voice sounds like angels singing mixed with liquid sex? Well now you know.) If you’re not a baby person then perhaps you don’t get this, but watching a man sing or care for a child is incredibly sexy. I mean, a man who plays with children and feels comfortable around them is invaluable.

So cheers! He loves her and she loves him. The only demon she fights against is convention. She shouldn’t love him or feel the level of sexual desire for him, but Silence is facing normal personal demons here, and she overcomes them readily. Yet, why can’t they be together?


#Pirating! (Say it in Jerry’s voice… I’ll wait-)

There’s the rub. So let’s talk about why Michael he won’t give up his swashbuckling ways. (Until the end of the book that is, which Smart Bitches Trashy Books and I have a problem with, but ho-hum.) A pirate’s life for Michael O’Connor is the plan, and he plans to do it until he dies. Though Silence tries to understand where he’s coming from because Mickey is reticent to leave the lifestyle even as the army closes in on him, she can only try to understand that it’s not pirating that he’ll miss but the security that pirating provides, even at the high price of his freedom and life. He even has a backup plan, Windward House, but he’s afraid it won’t be enough, and he’s pledged to never go hungry again.


Pretty much Mickey O’Connor’s motto for life.

Written by Victoria Edgewood

is an author with a predilection for love stories who enjoys writing reviews, poetry, romance novels, and other serious works. She spends time walking and crocheting while indulging in sugar binges that give rise to whimsies of stealing her four nephews. A gazelle on the walking track and a giraffe in the bed. http://www.victoriaedgewood.com

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