August 9, 2016
Pass me a fan.
I've been reading romance for waaaaay tooo long. Have you ever had the feeling that you
are being surrounded by hordes of Mr. Toads? In the last few books I've read, it seems as if these smarmy guys have taken on a life of their own. They have been painted very vividly! Reminds me of one of my guilty pleasure movies, Five Million Years to Earth, aka Quatermass and the Pit. There is a scene in the movie where there are thousands of insect/grasshopper aliens hopping, jumping, leaping and the abundance of Timothy Toads in the last few books reminded me of that really bad special effect scene. I had visions of all these Timothy Toads jumping all over the place. The most impressive Mr. Toad I've read about so far this year belongs to the hero of Sweetest Scoundrel, by Elizabeth Hoyt. What a gritty, earthy, humongous guy - he's got personality.
Welcome back to Elizabeth Hoyt's Maiden Lane. Sweetest Scoundrel was another book I over-looked in my flood of Nook Books. I love Ms. Hoyt's dark, steamy world of Maiden Lane and this one is one of the steamier ones. I will confess, I suspect there will be some readers who will not be enthralled with this story, mainly because the hero is rather raunchy and he may be tooo much for some. While I found him to be pretty bawdy, for me he wasn't disgusting - he was mesmerizing though. I have to pat Ms. Hoyt on the back for creating a character who I should have found vulgar but instead I found tantalizing.
Sweetest Scoundrel picks up where the other books in the series left off, with the burning to the ground of Harte's Folly. In this book Harte's Folly is being rebuilt by its owner Mr. Harte, aka Asa Makepeace. Asa is borrowing heavily from the unscrupulous Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery. Now it just so happens that Valentine is supposedly in Europe and cannot manage his affairs, so he has left his half-sister Eve Dinwoody in charge of paying the bills. The book begins with a normally quiet Eve pounding on Asa's door because she wants some answers regarding why he's spending so much money. This first chapter allows us to find out right away just what kind of characters we are dealing with. A very stiff, reserved Eve disrupts the play-time of the very male Asa. She storms into his flat only to be stopped by the sight of a nude woman in the middle of his bed. They are instantly irritated with each other. I loved this first engagement between the two.
After a bit of some fit-throwing, Asa decides to allow Eve to oversee his finances. Along the way, there are numerous times when they bicker, but there are also those times when they talk. For all of Asa's crudity, he knows that Eve has had some kind of trauma and he becomes very protective of her. I had one of those moments when I wondered why he was attracted to her in the first place. His initial response to her besides irritation is that she's plain, has no chest and is the owner of a long, large nose. She's not his normal female diet. I became a tad bit distracted just wondering what about her would spark that first attraction for him. Sometimes in Romanceland I have trouble understanding why these people are interested in each other. Eve and Asa rub each other the wrong way from the very beginning, but all of a sudden Asa can't seem to get her out of his mind. I just found it a little hard to buy into Asa's sudden interest in her. Oh well, this is Romanceland, anything is possible, even an extremely sensual guy being interested in a woman with no chest and a big nose.
Thanks to Ms. Hoyt's wonderful writing, we once again get to visit a time period in Great Britain's history that was in flux. This period was the time of George II, after the Stuarts but before the Regency. Morals were coming out of the wilder Restoration period and headed toward the Victorian period. The clothing was heavy duty and the hair was headed toward outrageous. For the wealthy this was a time period of lavishness, for the poor things were pretty bleak. One of the reasons I like the Maiden Lane series so much is that Ms. Hoyt's writing brings this time vividly to life. Plus we get to revisit the Makepeace family.
There is a pretty poignant yet humorous scene which revolves around Asa visiting his family. A family he hasn't seen for over ten years. He doesn't want to go, but Eve forces him. He reciprocates by forcing her to go with him - if he has to go, she's going too. Things are a little tense; there are children galore, the room is full of past heroes and heroines - then Asa gets into a fist-fight with his elder brother Con. It was pretty amazing with testosterone being thrown all over the place.
And now a moment of cleansing. Gather around, my little Petunia's. If you read this book, some of you may feel the need to bathe after some of Asa's dark dippity-doo moments of seduction. Ms. Hoyt has written some pretty descriptive doodling - there's sweat, moisture, grunts, groans; hands here and there. There is even Asa taking things in hand in a dark carriage while wide-eyed innocent Eve watches. The amazing thing is that Ms. Hoyt gets pretty close to the ick line, but then turns it into something gentle. Warning - you will need an iced drink after this book.
Over all, I thought this was a good book and it enhanced a wonderful series. I even liked Asa, with all of his bawdiness. There was a bit of a mystery, but not overpowering. If I had any quibble with the story it would have been the rushed ending. I would have preferred hearing more from Asa. Anyway, for those of you who love Maiden Lane, The Sweetest Scoundrel will not disappoint you. And, Ms. Hoyt, keep those interesting characters coming.
Time/Place: 1700s England
Sensuality: Hot! Hot!!
This is dedicated to all those gazillion of humongous Mr. Toads out there:
"'Cause you've got - (personality)
Walk - (personality) talk - (personality)
Smile - (personality) charm - (personality)
Love - (personality)
'Cause you got a great big heart
Well over -and over
I'll be a fool for you
Well, well, well over and over
What more can I do" - Harold Logan and Lloyd Price