Wicked Intentions is the first book in Hoyt’s new Maiden Lane series. Despite the author’s success, this is only the second book of hers I’ve read. And, while it will probably make me unpopular, I have to say that I wasn’t overly impressed with this one. It was good – certainly above average – but I didn’t think it was great.
Temperance Dews and her brother run the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children. Their location in St. Giles is perfect for their callings, since children are often cast aside or orphaned. But times are getting hard and money is running out. Their previous patron died and they’ve been told that if they continue to be late with the rent, they will be kicked out. It’s imperative that they find a new patron, and soon. Still, the work marches on and Temperance walks the dangerous streets of St. Giles as the book opens. She and her maid are hurrying home with the baby girl they just picked up. It’s best not to pay too much attention to the nighttime occurrences around them, but they can’t help but notice a large, silver-haired man crouched over a prone body. The maid urges Temperance on and warns her to keep clear of the man. That becomes a little difficult, however, when she walks into her little sitting room after everyone is in bed and finds the silver-haired stranger sitting in her chair.
Lazarus, Lord Caire is in need of a guide around St. Giles and he’s targeted Mrs. Dews. She’s well-known around the neighborhood and he believes she can gain him access to certain places and the confidences of certain people. If she will accept his proposal, he offers to return the favor by giving her access to his wealthy peers in the hopes of snaring a patron. Temperance knows that she shouldn’t make any kind of agreement with this man, but desperate times call for desperate measures. When they begin their adventures the next night, Temperance learns that Lord Caire is attempting to track down the man who murdered his mistress.
Lazarus is a man who feels no emotion and for whom physical touch is painful. He’s never loved anyone and is fascinated by people who claim to feel strong emotion. When Temperance exhibits intense feeling, he’s drawn to her, wanting to know what makes her tick. He’s also very attracted to her and wonders what she would do with all that passion in the bedroom. He’s not afraid to tell her exactly what she does to him and what he would like to do to her. Temperance is overwhelmed by his attentions, but not because she doesn’t know what to do with them. She’s always felt that her greatest weakness is sexual desire. Despite her portrayal as a pious, virtuous woman, it doesn’t take much prodding from Lazarus for her to drop her barriers and give her carnal self free rein.
I could see the strength of Hoyt’s writing. There was definite depth to it and this book was certainly meaty. I would try to read it quickly, but couldn’t due to its content. The characters were richly-drawn…mostly. Secondary characters and storylines were intriguing, making me want to continue with the series. The premise of the story was different and kept me guessing. For example, there is a Ghost of St. Giles, a masked person who runs around at night saving people and dispensing justice with a swift sword. I thought I had the character pegged twice and was wrong on both accounts. The love scenes were also hot, with some light bondage, in case you wanted to know.
Lazarus was the more interesting and full-bodied of the main characters. You saw him change as emotions were finally pulled from him. But, there was something missing. I kept expecting to come across a reason for his abhorrence of physical contact, but I never found it. Something else I wanted to see was his process of understanding what love is and feels like. He has the words in the end, making romantic declarations, but for a man who claims to know absolutely nothing about emotion and lacks the ability to feel, I thought there would be more explanation of his transformation. Temperance was well-rounded in the beginning of the book, but by the end she seemed a bit one-dimensional. Suddenly, everything in her life, all of her actions, were directly related to her intense sexual need. Every definition of her centered around her desire. I wanted there to be more to her.
Like the shift to a central character trait that I mention above, there were other aspects of the writing that I found a bit easy. I was overwhelmed by the number of times the characters inhaled, caught a breath, exhaled, etc. I haven’t been that in touch with people’s breathing habits since my daughter was a couple days old. This was the fall-back expression of emotion and it was used ad nauseum. There was also some repetition, such as Temperance’s realization that Caire accepts her for who she is. It was a big moment of truth that was repeated not twenty pages later. And can I just ask, what’s with the names? I know they are valid options for the time period, but “Oh, Temperance” “Oh, Lazarus” just made me giggle. In the grand scheme of things, these were small detractors from a deep, intelligent read, but they buffed some of the polish off the book.
There’s a downside to having numerous DIKs: When a book then gets a B, it’s easy to focus on it not measuring up rather than realizing that a B is still better than most. And Wicked Intentions does blow by the average fare out there. The writing is intelligent and mature, and there are interesting characters whose upcoming stories I want to read. I will keep trying Hoyt’s books; I want to love them as others do.