Duke of Desire: Maiden Lane #12 by Elizabeth Hoyt

Duke of Desire: Maiden Lane #12 by Elizabeth Hoyt

Elizabeth Hoyt returns to the blog today with the 12th installment of her Maiden Lane series, and the story of Raphael in his quest to bring down the Lords of Chaos. Please read on for my review of

Duke of Desire

A far different tone and weight than earlier titles in the series, Holt is telling the story of Raphael de Chartres, Duke of Draymore. Scarred, aloof and determined to bring down the Lords of Chaos once and for all, he’s a rather anti-heroic hero, and full of trauma and pain from his past. Believing that the Lords had been disbanded, everyone in society had breathed a sigh of relief until a new leader is chosen, one believed to be more ruthless and unconcerned with society’s censure than ever before.
When Lady Iris Jordan discovers she is the target of their next plot, and is hied off to a carriage by a man, the story starts. Unfortunately for Iris, her story almost stalls here, and while she is determined to play a part in Raphael’s investigation, and has agreed to marry him despite his not really wanting a relationship, particularly not with someone who won’t do his bidding, her story and character becomes a sort of window dressing: always there, constant, allowing Raphael’s story and struggle to take center stage.

And Raphael’s story is a traumatic one: scarred and closed off from much real emotion BUT anger and his desire to do something major, a childhood of sexual and emotional abuse stalled and hindered his well-being, and his attraction to Iris was like a plant turning to the sun – he wanted it, but at a distance. Unfortunately he was so broken and closed off for so much of the book that interactions (what few there were) that could be considered ‘romantic’ and allow the development of true feelings between Iris and he were few, and lacked much of the quick-fire banter, flintiness and lightness of Hoyt’s previous works. Yes, I understand this is a new character with plenty of baggage and a little black cloud that seems to follow him, but even Iris’ attempts to show him (as telling wasn’t even close to acceptable) that she was in his corner, wanted to be there and he was worth having that didn’t make much of an impression. Sadly, the balance of issues with hope and light was off, and the pacing in the first and second halves of the book were uneven, leaving me with conflicted feelings. Hoyt gave us a character in Raphael who was palpable and developed, with enough issues to warrant empathy and sympathy, but he didn’t move from that aloof and suspicious man until far too late. And Iris never really grabbed me: it would take a strong and determined woman, one not afraid of conflict and willing to push, prod and insert herself, challenging his reserve and remove – and she never quite hit those marks.

An interesting installment that diverges greatly from others in the series, and works well on its own as none of the other characters from this world of Maiden Lane appear or move their own earlier stories forward in this one. The highlight for me in this book was Raphael and his own struggles with a past and present that were not the easiest, and his determination to move on, if not exactly forward.

Duke of Desire: Maiden Lane #12 by Elizabeth Hoyt

Title: Duke of Desire
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane #12
Also in this series: Dearest Rogue
Genre: Georgian, Historical Romance, Setting: Britain
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 1455539147
Published on: 17 October, 2017
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 364
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 55 minutes
Rated: three-stars
Heat: One FlameOne Flame

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A LADY OF LIGHT

Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.

A DUKE IN DEEPEST DARKNESS

Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.

CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DANGER . . . AND DESIRE

Much to Raphael's irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he's drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael's past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael's own demons?

See the Maiden Lane series on Goodreads

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

 

 

Chapter One

Once upon a time there lived a poor stonecutter.…

—From The Rock King

Considering how extremely dull her life had been up until this point, Iris Daniels, Lady Jordan had discovered a quite colorful way to die.

Torches flamed on tall stakes driven into the ground. Their flickering light in the moonless night made shadows jump and waver over the masked men grouped in a circle around her.

The naked masked men.

Their masks weren’t staid black half masks, either. No. They wore bizarre animal or bird shapes. She saw a crow, a badger, a mouse, and a bear with a hairy belly and a crooked red manhood.

She knelt next to a great stone slab, a primitive fallen monolith brought here centuries ago by people long forgotten. Her trembling hands were bound in front of her, her hair was coming down about her face, her dress was in a shocking state, and she very much suspected that she might smell—a result of having been kidnapped over four days before.

In front of her stood three men, the masters of this horrific farce.

The first wore a fox mask. He was slim, pale, and, judging by his body hair, a redhead. His inner forearm was tattooed with a small dolphin.

The second wore a mask in the likeness of a young man’s face with grapes in its hair—the god Dionysus if she wasn’t mistaken—which, oddly, was far more terrifying than any of the animal masks. He bore a dolphin tattoo on his upper right arm.

The last wore a wolf mask and was taller by a head then the other two. His body hair was black, he stood with a calm air of power, and he, too, bore a dolphin tattoo—directly on the jut of his left hip bone. The placement rather drew the eye to the man’s…erm…masculine attributes.

The man in the wolf mask had nothing to be ashamed of.

Iris shuddered in disgust and glanced away, accidentally meeting the Wolf’s mocking gaze.

She lifted her chin in defiance. She knew what this group of men was. This was the Lords of Chaos, an odious secret society composed of aristocrats who enjoyed two things: power and the rape and destruction of women and children.

Iris swallowed hard and reminded herself that she was a lady—her family could trace its line nearly to the time of the Conqueror—and as such she had her name and honor to uphold.

These…creatures might kill her—and worse—but they would not take her dignity.

“My Lords!” the Dionysus called, raising his arms above his head in a theatrical gesture that showed very little taste—but then he wasaddressing an audience of nude, masked men. “My Lords, I welcome you to our spring revels. Tonight we make a special sacrifice—the new Duchess of Kyle!”

The crowd roared like slavering beasts.

Iris blinked. The Duchess of…

She glanced quickly around.

As far as she could see in the macabre flickering torchlight, she was the only sacrifice in evidence, and she was most certainly not the Duchess of Kyle.

The commotion began to die down.

Iris cleared her throat. “No, I’m not.”

“Silence,” the Fox hissed.

She narrowed her eyes at him. In the last four days she’d been kidnapped on her way home from the wedding of the true Duchess of Kyle, she’d been bound, hooded, and thrown on the floor of a carriage, where she’d remained as the carriage bumped over road after rutted road, and then, on arrival at this place, she’d been shoved into a tiny stone hut without any sort of fire. She had been starved and had only a few cups of water to drink. Last, but most definitely not least, she’d been forced to relieve herself in a bucket.

All of which had given her far too much time to contemplate her own death and what torture would precede it.

She might be terrified and alone, but she wasn’t about to surrender to the Lords’ plans without a fight. As far as she could see she had nothing to lose and quite possibly her life to gain.

So she raised her voice and said clearly and loudly, “You have made a mistake. I am not the Duchess of Kyle.”

The Wolf turned to the Dionysus and spoke for the first time. His voice was deep and smoky. “Your men kidnapped the wrong woman.”

“Don’t be a fool,” the Dionysus snapped at him. “We captured her three days after her wedding to Kyle.”

“Yes, returning home to London from the wedding,” Iris said. “The Duke of Kyle married a young woman named Alf, not me. Why would I leave the duke if I’d just married him?”

The Dionysus rounded on the Fox, making the other man cringe. “You told me that you saw her marry Kyle.”

The Wolf chuckled darkly.

“She lies!” cried the Fox, and he leaped toward her, his arm raised.

The Wolf lunged, seized the Fox’s right arm, twisted it up behind his back, and slammed the other man to his knees.

Iris stared and felt a tremble shake her body. She’d never seen a man move so swiftly.

Nor so brutally.

The Wolf bent over his prey, both men panting, their naked bodies sweating. The snout of the Wolf mask pressed against the Fox’s vulnerable bent neck. “Don’t. Touch. What. Is. Mine.

“Let him go,” the Dionysus barked.

The Wolf didn’t move.

The Dionysus’s hands curled into fists. “Obey me.”

The Wolf finally turned his mask from the Fox’s neck to look at the Dionysus. “You have the wrong woman—a corrupt sacrifice, one not worthy of the revel. I want her.”

“Take care,” murmured the Dionysus. “You are new to our society.”

The Wolf tilted his head. “Not so new as all that.”

“Perhaps newly rejoined, then,” the Dionysus replied. “You still do not know our ways.”

“I know that as the host, I have the right to claim her,” growled the Wolf. “She is forfeit to me.”

The Dionysus tilted his head as if considering. “Only by my leave.”

The Wolf abruptly threw wide his arms, releasing the Fox and gracefully standing again. “Then by your leave,” he said, his words holding an edge of mockery.

The firelight gleamed off his muscled chest and strong arms. He stood with an easy air of command.

What would make a man with such natural power join this gruesome society?

The other members of the Lords of Chaos didn’t seem happy at the thought of having their principal entertainment for the evening snatched out from under their noses. The masked men around her muttered and shifted, a restless miasma of danger hovering in the night air.

Any spark could set them off, Iris suddenly realized.

“Well?” the Wolf asked the Dionysus.

“You can’t let her go,” the Fox said to his leader, getting to his feet. There were red marks beginning to bruise on his pale skin. “Why the bloody hell are you listening to him? She’s ours. Let us take our fill of her and—”

The Wolf struck him on the side of the head—a terrible blow that made the Fox fly backward.

Mine,” growled the Wolf. He looked at the Dionysus again. “Do you lead the Lords or not?”

“I think it more than evident that I lead the Lords,” the Dionysus drawled, even as the muttering of the crowd grew louder. “And I think I need not prove my mettle by giving you this woman.”

Iris swallowed. They were fighting over her like feral dogs over a scrap of meat. Was it better if the Wolf claimed her? She didn’t know.

The Wolf stood between Iris and the Dionysus, and she saw the muscles in his legs and buttocks tense. She wondered if the Dionysus noticed that the other man was readying for battle.

“However,” the Dionysus continued, “I can grant her to you as an act of…charity. Enjoy her in whatever way you see fit, but take care that her heart no longer beats when next the sun rises.”

Iris sucked in a breath at the sudden death sentence. The Dionysus had ordered her murder as casually as he would step on a beetle.

“My word,” the Wolf bit out, and Iris’s fearful glance flew to him.

Dear God, these men were monsters.

 

About Elizabeth Hoyt

Elizabeth Hoyt is a New York Times bestselling author of historical romance. She also writes deliciously fun contemporary romance under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in central Illinois with three untrained dogs, two angelic but bickering children, and one long-suffering husband.

 

 

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