Book: Scandalous Desires
Series: Maiden Lane, #3
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Reviewed by: Ellyce
Rating: 5/5 stars
I’ll admit that despite rave reviews from my friends, Elizabeth Hoyt’s books have been a bit hard for me to get into. There’s no doubt that she writes well, but many of her romances feel extremely rushed. This leads to the characters only being really attracted to one another due to physical attributes or how great of a kisser or lover they are, and the emotional side of the story doesn’t really come into play until it’s too late (or at all, sometimes). Going into the third book of her Maiden Lane series, I had my doubts as to whether it could hold up to all of the praise it’s gotten.
Of all her work, Scandalous Desires is the one that shines brightest and delivers more than expected. The characters are incredibly fleshed out and don’t fall into the genre tropes that you might expect of them, and there’s a deep emotional attachment and growth between them that is truly the heart of the story.
Scandalous Desires builds upon previous interactions between Silence and Mickey from the first two Maiden Lane books, and that backstory is key to the dynamic between them. For the love she bears the child he left on her doorstep several months, the widowed Silence Hollingbrook agrees to stay with the notorious pirate Mickey O’Connor as he protects them from his enemies.
There is immediate tension between the two of them, as their history together ignites a series of angry exchanges. It’s such a wonderful clash of personalities, as they’re such opposites. Mickey is a hardened, cold personality who will take ruthless measures to get what he wants. Silence, gentle but incredibly strong in her own right, is the perfect contrast for him.
Trust and deeper emotions slowly bud between them, and it’s beautiful to watch it unfold. Hoyt takes her time with these two, building a strong emotional connection and incredible awareness of one another. The constant tension in their interactions, whether it be through simple touches here and there, or the banter in their conversation, had me reading with bated breath. All of the slow buildup pays off as the gorgeous story of these two unfolds and blossoms into something that is truly magnificent.
I wasn’t sure that I could like Mickey after what he’d put Silence through in Wicked Intentions, but Hoyt masterfully builds him as a character with realistic vulnerabilities who possesses an intriguing personality and is willing to change. That’s not to say that what he’s done is dismissed or is simply written off by either of them, as is so normally done with love stories. There is no “I’ll forget what happened and can easily forgive you because we’re in lust with one another” or “Although you appear to be the worst of scoundrels, I know you had a heart of gold and that was just you expressing your affection to me in a strange way” here. Silence, though she forgives Mickey, confronts him head-on and makes him uncomfortably face how he shamed her. It’s at that moment in the book that he realizes he has begun to change, and although we the readers have been able to progress so beautifully, it’s an incredibly touching moment.
At this point, it might seem like the book ends with the “love of a good woman changes his villainous ways and all is well” trope. Hoyt doesn’t take the easy way out, however, instead painstakingly building this book into something that is more than just your typical bodice ripper. The change in Mickey happens more than halfway through the book, and from there it’s a series of plot turns that allow the love between the two to shine. There is no doubt that Silence and Mickey are Hoyt’s most engrossing and lovable characters, as they make us laugh, cry, and worry in equal measure.
Wonderful love story of the book aside, the plot is equal parts brilliant and thoroughly absorbing. The Vicar of Whitechapel does fall into the typical villain trope so usually employed in the romance genre, but there are a few plot revelations about him that serve to add to the adventure, intrigue, and mystery and don’t him seem too cheesy of a cardboard cutout blackguard. The constant sense of bad events about to happen made the pages fly by as I waited for what the Vicar’s next move would be and how the beloved characters would react.
One of the things I love about Hoyt’s books are the fairy tales that she manages to incorporate. The tale is spread out through the book, with about two paragraphs preceding the beginning of a new chapter. These are by no mean new fairy tales; rather, Hoyt takes the traditional ones and adds new things here and there and makes it fit with the main story she is telling. The one in this book, Clever John, was a lovely and fitting match that was equally beautiful and on par to the ongoing tale.
The seeds for Winter and Isabel’s story in the next book, Thief of Shadows, are wonderfully sown. It’s well done with Hoyt’s usual handling of the subplot, making the reader intrigued about what is in store for these two. There’s tension, banter, and just the right amount is dangled before us to keep us hanging. It doesn’t interfere with the main story, like Eloisa James’ Desperate Duchesses series (which I loved, but all of the subplots going on with other characters that took up several chapters was extremely distracting and took away from my overall enjoyment of the individual books).
Elizabeth Hoyt is one of those authors whose first few books are mediocre, but comes to gradually improve with each new publication. There’s a shine to her style that keeps one coming back for more, and it pays off, especially when you get to the treat that is Scandalous Desires. It’s a prize of a book that will capture your heart and remain with you long after you finish reading the last page.