Elizabeth Hoyt is a master — her writing is almost unrivaled, and she’s one of my personal favorites. I was delighted when I got the opportunity to review Notorious Pleasures, the second installment in her Maiden Lane series. Not surprisingly, it was good– very, very good. But unfortunately, it just wasn’t great.
Lady Hero Batten, the sister of a duke, is at a ball where she is going to announce her betrothal to the Marquis of Mandeville, when she meets his notoriously scandalous brother — while he is literally having sex with a married woman. Griffin, Lord Reading, has a reputation for his charm, debauchery, and for seducing his brother’s late wife.
Hero, on the other hand, is known for her composure, wonderful manners, and kindness. In other words, ostensibly the perfect match for the staid and respectable marquis, and the complete opposite of Griffin. Despite the fact that she initially wants to avoid Griffin at all costs, they run into each other at the most unlikely of places: St. Giles, one of the worst and most dangerous neighborhoods of London, where Hero is visiting the foundling home she sponsors, and Griffin is visiting his illegal gin distillery. He insists on escorting her into St. Giles in the future, and as they get to know each other, they begin to realize that maybe Hero isn’t so perfect, and Griffin isn’t so shameless.
Hoyt does this plot better than anyone else I’ve read. She’s wonderful at taking a prim young woman and a dark and amoral man and bringing them together. The thing is, as good as she is at it, she does it a lot. The dynamics are very similar to those of the first book in this series, Wicked Intentions, and not as memorable as my personal favorite Hoyt novel, The Serpent Prince. Hero and Griffin fall a little bit short against the rest of Hoyt’s body of work.
Of course, if you’re new to her books, you’ll probably be awed, because she truly is a skilled writer. Griffin and Hero are complex, compelling, and fully developed, and they are surrounded by secondary characters that are complex, compelling, and developed in their own right. Our protagonists have wonderful chemistry together, both physical and emotional. The writing is fabulous — dynamic, rich, and fast- paced.
There is nothing wrong with this book, really, except that it’s not quite as good as some of Hoyt’s other books, and the spark in this one is just a shade too dim for it to be vividly memorable, and truly a DIK.