June 27, 2016
Cat-and-mouse - big time!
Webster defines Cat-and-mouse as: "a: the act of toying with or tormenting something
before destroying it. b: a contrived action involving constant pursuit, near captures, and repeated escapes (played a game of cat and mouse with the police); broadly: an evasive action."
Where to begin, where to begin? In the world of Romanceland, we are oftentimes faced with bad boys, rakes, and rascals. You know those handsome devils who supposedly do bad things while all the time helping the orp-fi-ans of London. Well in Elizabeth Hoyt's latest, Duke of Sin, we have a bad boy with a capital B. In fact he comes really close to being a narcissistic sociopath. Think back to some of those Anne Stuart hero/villains. Yes my little petunia's, Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, fits in comfortably with fellow scary hero/villain Sebastian from The Devil in Winter. And, Sebastian is tame compared to Valentine. A word of warning - some readers may find Valentine too much to accept and I suspect you are either going to love this guy or hate him. I loved him. From the very first scene I wanted to know just how Ms. Hoyt was going to save Valentine. Ms. Hoyt has created a most memorable character in Valentine. I couldn't put this book down. I was mesmerized - ooooOOOoooo.
Spoiler and warning ahead. Valentine is a dark, cold, unfeeling man. He doesn't seem to have a concept of what is right and what is wrong. People live in fear of him (and they should). He is ruthless, he sees nothing wrong in kidnapping, blackmailing and even dispatching someone if the need arises. There is only one person in his life who he has ever had any feeling for and that is his half-sister Eve. But even with her he isn't sure what he's feeling. He enjoys making people uncomfortable, afraid, desperate. He uses blackmail not because he needs money, but to alleviate his boredom and because he loves to play with people’s lives. Which is what he intends to do when he catches his housekeeper snooping into his secret hiding places. By the way, he's been hiding in the secret passages of his home because he's supposed to have been banished to Europe. Anyway, when he spies his housekeeper snooping he is intrigued and he begins a game of cat-and-mouse with her. In this book the Webster definition hits the nail on the head. By the way, Valentine is the cat.
The mouse would be Bridget Crumb. Bridget is also an interesting character. She considers herself to be the best housekeeper in London. While she has a great deal of fondness, even love for the woman (her adopted mother) who raised her - there is a sadness about her because her biological mother gave her up. Pay close attention to Bridget's back story because it has made her what she is. She has worked her whole life to prove that she is worth something. Bridget is a very strong woman, intelligent, and stands firm against the odds she is confronted with. She needs to be, because Valentine is one cold manipulator. How does she end up in his household? You see, Bridget is the illegitimate daughter of Lady Caire. Lady Caire has been careless with some of her correspondence. She is being blackmailed by Valentine, so she has asked Bridget to retrieve those letters. Much like a mouse, Bridget gets into places she really shouldn't be.
Dark warnings. For those of you who worry about animals making it through movies (regardless of how many humans bite the dust), there are some parts in this book which will be very upsetting to you. Valentine's horrible father belonged to a group of creeps who called themselves the Lords of Chaos. His father used all kinds of torture to control his son when he was a youngster. One of his many twisted beliefs was that a way to control people was to kill the thing they love. Without going into too much detail, when this was revealed in Valentines back story, it was heartbreaking and very upsetting. So, be warned. Valentine has made it a priority to find and seek revenge on the Lords of Chaos. I believe we will see further Chaos people in future books.
Now, everything in this book is not all dark. Even in all of the blackness there are moments of humor - two of them stayed with me. There is a confrontation between Lady Caire, Lady Caire's son, Bridget, and Valentine. Valentine loudly announces he has been bedding his housekeeper - he gets punched in the nose for that one. There is also a moment of funny revenge toward the end of the book when Lazarus Huntington's little daughter tells Valentine "I don't wike you." What does Valentine do? He gives the little girl a tiny kitten and then proceeds to hand out seven more little kittens to all the little children. These little children happen to belong to heroes from previous books and these heroes haven't decided to accept Valentine yet - so this is his revenge. After all what hero can deny his child a cuddly kitty? It was a sweet funny moment.
Overall, this was a great addition to the Maiden Lane series. Everything about this book was spellbinding and I had a hard time putting it down. The story has some amazing writing, and amazing storytelling. It takes a truly gifted author to pull off a character like Valentine and to make us, the reader, cheer for him. He has joined my list of favorite heroes (even though I don't know if hero is the correct word) - what a dynamic guy. Loved this story and it stayed with me long after I closed the book.
By the way I somehow missed Eve's story Sweetest Scoundrel - I need to take another look at how I'm cataloging my books cause it's there on my Nook but never been opened. It will be soon.
PS - There is one Hot Hot Hot bathtub scene in this book and it's not the water!!
Time/Place: 1741 Maiden Lane England