When a Rogue Meets His Match
Here’s the good news – the second book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Greycourt series is (marginally) better than the first. The bad news is that it is still not up to the standard of the usual Hoyt offering.
When a Rogue Meets His Match begins right after the end of the first book in the series, Not the Duke’s Darling. Messalina Greycourt is returning home when her carriage is stopped by Gideon Hawthorne, one of her uncle’s hired thugs. Gideon instructs Messalina that she is to leave her sister Lucretia and come with him to London to see her uncle, the Duke of Windermere. Messalina equally hates and fears her uncle, who has kept her and her siblings under his cruel thumb for a long time. When they reach London, Messalina is informed that today is her wedding day and that the groom is Gideon.
“Your uncle wishes me to do a certain task. I refused. But then he offered a very tempting enticement.” His gaze wandered down her frame before that distracting mouth twitched and he met her eyes. “You”.
She wanted to strike him. The intensity of the violent urge shocked her. Her words came out in a stutter, she was so angry. “So you’ll m-marry Lucretia if I refuse?”
“No.” The wine had left a wet stain on his bottom lip, shining and mesmerizing. “I want only you.”
She refuses. But the duke threatens to give her sister to Gideon instead and Messalina is not about to sacrifice Lucretia, and Gideon and Messalina come to an understanding. They will wed and after one month, they will consummate their marriage and Messalina will receive one-tenth of her dowry – enough in Messalina’s mind for her and Lucretia to leave both her uncle and Gideon and escape to a new life. Over the course of the month, Messalina comes to know Gideon better and to see the man he really is – not just the knife-wielding thug from St. Giles.
Gideon has loved Messalina from afar since he first came to work for the duke fourteen years earlier and he will do everything in his power to make her happy. Unfortunately, the task the duke traded Messalina for will break whatever bond he forges with her – the duke has instructed Gideon to kill Messalina’s brother Julian.
Oh this book! So many terrific things going for it. Gideon is an intriguing hero, deeply flawed with an interesting combination of darkness and light – a hero type that Hoyt excels at. And her sensual descriptions of men are really in a league of their own:
Mr. Hawthorne was apparently asleep now that the danger was over. His booted feet were crossed at the ankles, his arms over his chest. The carriage lantern threw a glow on a sculpted chin and breathtakingly high cheekbones. His mouth was curled at the corners as if even in sleep he were privately amused at some lewd joke. The upper lip was thin and strictly constrained to a classical Cupid’s bow, but the lower lip belied the upper’s repression with obscene plushness.
He had the most depraved mouth Messalina had ever seen on a man.
Well then! There are moments of the true Hoyt brilliance throughout the book, but especially in the first half. Hoyt is a master at slowly developing the love between the hero and heroine and I was all ready to fall in love alongside Gideon and Messalina. And I think I would have and all would have been well – if this book hadn’t suddenly remembered halfway through that it was part of a series.
In Not the Duke’s Darling, we were introduced to the main crux of the series. Fifteen years before, Messalina’s sister Aurelia was killed and everyone suspected their good family friend Ranulf de Moray of the crime. The Greycourts and the de Morays were reconciled at the end of book one but we were no closer to knowing the identity of Aurelia’s true killer. In this book, there is talk of the Aurelia plot but no movement forward. There is also a nod to the Wise Women – whose group played such an important role in book one. But just a nod. Hoyt’s novels (especially the later Maiden Lane ones) always had an odd twist but here, in book two, we are told the Wise Women have decided to dismantle themselves. Which is just confusing! It felt like all the tie-ins to the first book – and to the series – were mere afterthoughts in this one.
I also was confused by Messalina. She is unbelievably naïve about what poverty looks like in London and vacillates so much between wanting to leave Gideon and wanting to stay that she just comes across as wishy-washy. Towards the end when Gideon confesses to her what he has been hired to do – and after he states empirically that he is not going to do it – she freaks out and leaves him. This was an unbelievable turn of events. The ending is also unsatisfying, with the duke temporarily silenced but not at all vanquished and a last minute villain thrown in for no apparent reason.
Ugh! So much great writing but too many convolutions. A story about Messalina and Gideon and how they outsmarted the duke and came to love each other would have been perfect. But as it stands, I’m not sure how the events in When a Rogue Meets His Match move the series along at all, and can’t help thinking it would have worked better as a standalone.