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. If you’re all in, no turning back, read the in-depth analysis at the bottom.
A Quick Overview
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 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Trope: A dark and stormy night
Setting: In and around the slums of St. Giles and the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children
Unique: The names in this book: Temperance, Lazarus, Silence, Winter, the list goes on!
Sequel Bait: Because so many secondary stories are mixed into the main story, sequel bait abounds! Silence, Lady Hero Batten, the Ghost of Saint Giles (Am I reaching? I don’t care! I want it!), and Mickey O’Connor. They are all possibilities. How to choose… How to choose?
Sex Scene Rating: Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down!
Sex Scene Grade: B for sexual healing subject matter, light bondage, dirty talk, and a penchant for self-recriminations about sexual desire.
Guiding Narrative: King Lockedheart
Favorite: Lord Caire’s long black walking stick (phallic imagery anyone?), the end tipped with silver (C’mon!).
Hooked By: “Tis said the Ghost of St. Giles haunts on nights like this.” (I have a penchant for ghost stories, which is why this line worked on me.)
Let’s get a bit more particular about some of the snippets listed above. Shall we?
The most startling aspect of our hero is his silver hair, and my first thoughts about silver hair date back to my childhood reading of Harry Potter. Both the vela and the Malfoys are known for their silver hair. (Work brain, work!) What a coincidence! Lazarus and Lucius are both about thirty-five, silver haired, and carry a walking stick tipped in silver… from which comes a sword in Caire’s case and a wand in Lucius’s. Hmmm…
I can’t find him sexy… Is it just me?! It’s the bad deeds. I can’t get into them.
Surface similarities aside, Caire and Malfoy aren’t alike, so I’ll move on to my next point about flaws.
Both Temperance and Lazarus have them, in spades! Oddly enough most of their flaws relate to their sexual appetites and nature, or not oddly enough, seeing as their story is more about overcoming their sexual demons than finding the killer in St. Giles.
Temperance carries guilt over her desire for sex (A basic human function, I remind you.) bred into her by her religious upbringing, pious husband, and society. Lazarus has a disproportionate response to being touched, which is that he can’t, without being hurt. Flawed main characters give this novel, the “will they, won’t they” touch that all romance novels need. Let’s face it, without flaws, no one is interesting! What we despise in life, we admire in novels, go figure.
The guiding narrative of this book is King Lockedheart. The theme behind that story is that love is known only when what you love has left you. Likewise, Temperance can only know that she truly loves Lazarus when she almost loses him.
In the story, the king cannot recognize that he loves Meg because he only knows what his courtiers, guards, and people show him, which is a perverse version of sycophantism. Likewise, Lazarus doesn’t know that he loves Temperance because he lost his surrogate mother and sister at a young age.
Yet, love overcomes all when you allow what you love to leave you and it returns to you instead. Hoyt reversed the gender roles here. Lazarus allows Temperance to leave him, so that she will recognize that she loves him, while in the narrative Meg leaves King Lockedheart, so that he may realize that he loves her upon her return.
While we’re on the subject of love, may I draw your attention to the masked harlequin? Ahh, the masked harlequin… I can only hope that he appears in more books or has his own story. (Crossing my fingers!) May I share my outlandish idea? The pirate king is also the harlequin… I think that dichotomy would make for a very interesting story. Sequel bait?! I can only hope.
Let’s talk tropes. The dark and stormy night trope used in conjunction with a meet cute trope? Indubitably wonderful! Temperance and Nell are hurrying through the streets of St. Giles carrying a sick infant to her safety, when they encounter Lazarus fighting for his life. They quickly continue home on their journey. But what makes this meet cute so wonderful is that the hero follows the heroine back home. (Stalker? But in a good way.) I sighed when Temperance found Lazarus waiting for her in her tiny sitting room.
Sequel baiting abounds, but perhaps my favorite was Silence. Her story is a main part of this book, intertwining with Temperance’s. Silence also appears in the final pages of the novel, and the story between her, her husband, and Mickey O’Connor is obviously unfinished. Lady Hero Batten is introduced in several scenes as a benevolent friend, and I have an inkling that she’ll be a sequel all her own.
In the Snippets section, did you say bondage? Yep, that’s right, ladies! I said the magic word. Blindfolds, Hoods, Ropes, and Chains…. Wicked Intentions has it all. Tame is the word to describe it, so don’t expect 50 Shades, but the bondage factor is another pleasing asset to a thoroughly saturated reading experience.
My sister will be so disappointed that this book doesn’t have whips.
Also, nine years is quite a dry spell, Temperance…
An In-Depth Analysis
Children are again integral parts of Hoyt’s story, and I love that they’re motivation for our heroine, because that echoes real life. The orphanage is a family work as well as a major part of Temperance’s life. The real joy I get from the story is that Hoyt takes a frank look at how children are valued in the Eighteenth century, and the picture isn’t pretty with abuse, both physical and psychological, perpetrated against those less fortunate or unprotected. Children were preyed upon by the influential and powerful, and this picture hasn’t changed as much as we would like to think that it has. Overcrowding, malnutrition, and sexual slavery still exist in our society, just as in this book.
On the flip side, the orphanage shows that while the children are cared for, they are also interchangeable in this century, which is a far cry from today’s society. Hoyt maintains the idea of their importance with how the sister and brother tag team cares for them, but she pairs that idea with the naming process. Each girl is named Mary and each boy is named Joseph.
These interchangeable first names are then paired with random last names, which leaves the reader with a decisive feeling that the children matter but are named to be let go. The reality of child mortality in eighteenth century London sticks in your teeth. The contrast of the unique names of the Dews family with the monochromatic names of the children was instrumental in highlighting the issue.
The characters and plot are legitimately intriguing, keeping this book from being a stereotypical bodice ripper. Lazarus and Temperance’s quest leads them through the streets of St. Giles in pursuit of a killer who’s murdering innocent prostitutes in a Jack the Ripper style. Temperance leads the charge, meeting danger at our hero’s side, and sheds the damsel in distress cloak while searching for a patron for her beloved orphanage on the side. (That’s quite a plot if I do say so myself.)
However, Hoyt weaves in a side story of Temperance’s sister, Silence, who overtakes the focus for so many pages while being interesting on her own, that I was loathe to return to the main story. (I must admit. That’s never happened to me before!) When the side story takes center stage to the detriment of the main story, something is wrong. Good stories don’t make the plot and subplot fight to the death. Let’s have some fun with it though! It’s plot versus subplot, who will get the KO? It’s a battle to the death!
Plot vs. Subplot: AND Fight!
Hoyt’s sexual prowess in writing both enjoyable and uniquely phrased sexual situations makes me a fan of her work. Untamed is the word I use to describe it. Unfortunately, this book didn’t hit my sweet spot. I have a particular liking for heroines who embrace their sexual destiny instead of wrestling with it. If you are unlike me and love the latter, then this book is for you!
Temperance not only denies her sexual impulses but also feels the appropriate amount of guilt for her carnal desire of Lazarus. (Humph!) The idea that women should fight against their nature while men concede to them is broken. The world bombards women who enjoy sex with terms like slut and whore, but even in the pretext of a historical romance novel, this concept is one that I cannot embrace. Even though it fits into the eighteenth century setting, a society wherein women were taught to despise their own desires, this idea still flourishes today.
That is a legacy which both women and men (#HeForShe) should fight against. It’s the same type of thought that says that men should screw anything that moves but a woman is a slut when she engages in sexual congress… Uh oh, I seem to have climbed atop this soapbox somehow!
In any case, Hoyt achieves the “will they, won’t they” aspect that fans love in love stories, and that is something I can get behind. She mixes their frequent sexual connections with Temperance or Lazarus pulling back from the relationship.
Note: I understand that every heroine cannot be the same, and Hoyt does an admirable job of mixing up hers.
I need a hero-ine who can embrace her sexual destiny!