Desert Isle Keeper
Duke of Sin
It is amazing to me when an author can sustain a series as long as Elizabeth Hoyt has her Maiden Lane novels without their becoming stale or tedious. But I knew this particular author was something special as soon as I finished reading The Raven Prince and felt compelled to immediately turn back to page one and re-read it. I always look forward to new titles by this author, and generally buy them as soon as they are released.
So I am not quite sure how it happened that I missed reading Sweetest Scoundrel, one of the books that sets up Valentine Napier’s story. I will have to remedy that oversight as soon as possible! However, not having read that did not cause me too many problems with this one as it can easily be read as a standalone. I will say, however, that if you really cannot stomach a very bad guy as the hero, then this book may not be for you.
Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, is in the business of blackmail. He deals in using other people’s foibles, crimes, secrets and mistakes against them because he can, not because he wants money or power. It is all a cynical game to him. He is a wealthy hedonist with absolutely no scruples whatsoever. The only person that he might claim to care about other than himself is his half-sister, Eve, although Val is not really even sure how he feels about her. Love is a foreign concept to this anti-hero, though he does recognize loyalty. When the book opens, he has just “returned” from his banishment to the continent after engaging in a duel with another peer. His ticket to getting around his banishment? Why blackmailing the king’s heir of course. The king is not the only important personage in Val’s sights though. He has dirt on most of the peers of the realm which is the only thing that allows him to move about in society unchallenged. Everyone is terrified of him. Everyone except maybe for Bridget Crumb.
Bridget Crumb is the illegitimate daughter of Lady Amelia Caire. She was given up by her to be raised in the country by commoners, but it was Lady Caire’s connections that helped Bridget to gain work as a domestic servant and she is now considered one of the best housekeepers in London. Her mother is also the victim of one of the Duke of Montgomery’s blackmail games and she implores Bridget to help her out by gaining employment with the Duke and finding her incriminating letters. Using her mother as a reference, Bridget does get the housekeeper’s job, but as luck would have it, the duke returns and walks in on her in his rooms just as she finally discovers the hiding place of Lady Caire’s letters. Val is used to people being terrified of him, but the fact that Bridget stands up to him is something he finds very intriguing. He intends that she become the mouse to his cat in a seduction game that becomes the focus of their relationship. Little does he realize that his little mouse is not easily deterred.
Oh, where to even start!!! Val is very nearly evil personified. He has no moral center and does not even really recognize a difference between good and evil. It is beyond his scope of understanding. If he can do it, he will…regardless of what his actions might do to someone else. He is almost entirely narcissistic in his behavior. However, being wealthy and powerful does have one drawback. Val is easily bored with a life where almost everything is his for the taking with little or no effort. Bridget’s main attraction is not her physical appearance. She is actually described in the book as plain. The attraction she holds for Val is her courage in standing up to him despite her fear. He wants to see how long he can play with her before she breaks. But Bridget sees something in Val that draws her and she becomes complicit in her own seduction, and what a seduction! Hoyt understands the distinction between sensuality and carnality.
The blackmail of Bridget’s mother provides the framework for her and Val’s relationship, but his schemes are very much secondary to his interactions with his housekeeper. This is very much a character driven story and considering the deficiencies of Val’s character, there is a lot of material to work with. Hoyt takes two broken people, one goodness and light and the other darkness and despair and somehow creates almost a new persona that is Val and Bridget combined into one entity separate from their individual selves. Theirs becomes a symbiotic relationship where one cannot exist wholly without the other. Val names Bridget ‘Seraphine’, his avenging angel, in order to mock her but she becomes his angel in truth. It really is just delicious watching her work miracles with this badly damaged hero.
The only criticisms I can dredge up are of Bridget’s surname and the degree of Val’s redemption. Is her name too cutesy a way of encapsulating the entirety of her life prior to meeting Val or a clever use of Crumb to describe the affection and love she has received growing up? I will not go into Val’s redemption in depth because I do not want to spoil anything for Hoyt’s readers, but she handles it so adroitly that it will be hard to remember why he was once despised and readers will be rooting for him to see the light. I anticipate this will be the most discussed aspect of the story.
Duke of Sin is pretty much another winner in a long string of winning novels by this author. Read and enjoy.
I am from Alabama where I live with my husband of over 30 years in our now empty nest. Our three adult children have flown the coop and my husband and I are getting ready to build that retirement house in the next few years when I hope to have even more time for reading. I am a lifelong reader and while I read primarily romance, I enjoy most genres. If an author can tell a good story, I will read it.
|Review Date:||May 31, 2016|
|Book Type:||Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||Georgian | Maiden Lane series | slow burn|
I was startled to see this on a list of romance novels to avoid because they’re “rapey.” That’s not my memory of this book which, admittedly, is hazy.
Do you have a link to that list, Dabney?
How does a person publish a list like that and avoid listing infamous rapemance authors like Catherine Coulter?
Er… be very young? :P
That was actually a shorter list than I expected. Kathleen Woodiwiss? Karen Robards? Johanna Lindsey?
I hear you. I also thought this book, compared to, oh Sweet Savage Love, didn’t really fit.
And how come the Hoyt book was listed first, out of all those others?
Is it possibly the attack on his little sister? or the abduction of Hippolyta (I think that was her name). Neither of which was a rape. He rescued his sister and Bridget freed Hippolyta. Re-thinking to perhaps when Bridget was grabbed by the Lords of Chaos (correct name?) and maybe tied to some altar and a last minute rescue. Or was that the Duke of Desire? This was pretty “fraught” but then he was the archetypal Bad Boy in this series.
I think it’s the heroine of Duke of Desire who was almost ravished by the Lords of Chaos.
Yes. That, I remember. And they’re both naked in the beginning of that book. It’s a wild scene.
It’s been a while since I read this–time for a re-read–but I do recall that Val, the “hero”, had a dubious moral compass. Could that be it? He is so damaged, he actually relies on Bridget at one point to help him understand whether an action he takes is good or bad.
I’m surprised, too. It’s got some dark stuff going on and IIRC there are definite allusions to the fact that Val was abused when he was younger (I think) – but the central relationship between him and Bridget is consensual. He’s damaged.his morality is a grey area and sometimes he has trouble understanding why he shouldn’t do things, but he’s not a rapey hero.
The hero of Duke of Desire was abused as a child (or maybe almost abused – it’s been a while since I read it). His father was a leading member of the Lords of Chaos and was definitely not a positive role model. The abuse is why he doesn’t want children. However, I don’t remember if Val was.
Yes, I remember him as being petulant, spoiled and demanding but in no way rapey. He was so….is louche the right word? He would have had to have been more active to be rapey.
Bridget was also there solely because of her scheme to help others- so she wasn’t dependent on him for a job and he didn’t have a real economic advantage over her either because she could have walked out anytime.
No matter how you examine it, it’s an odd choice for a list like this.
I re-read the Duke of Sin recently, and Val is definitely not rapey. In fact, he explicitly states in the book that he has a strong aversion to rape. We later find out that it is because his father had his sister raped. The list does say that it is romances where there is an unnecessary rape scene and Val’s sister’s rape is extremely violent and chilling. I can definitely see how it may be triggering for someone who has suffered from sexual assault.
Oh yes. Now I remember. Weren’t there these horrifying scenes from his childhood?
I must not remember this correctly….Didn’t Val’s father have his little sister set free to be chased down by dogs and the members of his club – with rape in mind- with Val getting to her first and running away with her? I have no memory of any on page violent rape of his sister or anyone else in the story. Please correct me if I’m in error.
Yes, that’s exactly what happened.
That’s what I thought too.
Maybe it’s in his sister Eve’s book, but she is assaulted by the villain and it is described. Val does save her but she’s attacked by the villain using his hands as I recall.
Yep. I get that language is capacious, but, in this case, I don’t really understand the application of the criteria to this book.
Having looked at the link to the list and seeing Outlander on it, it’s clear it refers to any book having an assault or rape, not that the hero is a rapist.
It’s very misleading because I would assume it’s implying the hero is a rapist or that the books in some way excuse or glamorize rape, which is not the case at all with this and other books mentioned.
Putting the book on that list implies it has a “rapey” hero, and that’s not the case at all. I suspect it’s yet another example of someone looking to find something to be outraged about.