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"Elizabeth Hoyt writes with flair, sophistication, and unstoppable passion."—-Julianne MacLean, author of PORTRAIT OF A LOVER
"Hoyt is firmly in control of her craft with engaging characters, gripping plot and clever dialogue."—Publishers Weekly
"The new master of the historical romance genre."—-HistoricalRomanceWriters.com
"A sexy, steamy treat!"—-Connie Brockway, USA Today bestselling author on THE RAVEN PRINCE
From Eloisa James's "READING ROMANCE" column on The Barnes & Noble Review
When it comes to romance writers, lifetime membership in the Optimists' Club is practically a prerequisite. More than the writers of any other genre, we must keep the faith: that a thoughtful, sexy, and loving relationship is possible, long-term. But that doesn't mean that we're optimistic about so-called "perfect" matches or, for that matter, "perfect" people. Perfection is highly overrated when it comes to love, as these five romances demonstrate.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips's Call Me Irresistible opens with two flawless people on the verge of marriage…until the bride's best friend shows up. Meg is far from perfect: she never graduated from college, and doesn't have a job, a decent car, or a career. But when she says -- skeptically -- of the groom, Ted (a gorgeous millionaire with umpteen degrees), "He sounds like Jesus. Except rich and sexy," the bride realizes that she's not ready to marry a deity. This plot could easily turn dizzy and light, but instead the novel offers a fascinating picture of two people who have made a lot of mistakes. Meg truly has wasted her life, and Ted is so overwhelmed by his own reputation that he can't emotionally connect with anyone: beneath her banter and his aloof demeanor is a deep loneliness. Yet for all their antagonism (Ted blames Meg for his failed wedding), it turns out that they are at their best together. Meg learns to be responsible, and Ted finds his wild side. But Susan Elizabeth Phillips doesn't pull her punches: a man who is unavailable emotionally is not a good lover, no matter how many orgasms are exchanged -- and it takes Ted a long time to reform. In fact, in the last chapters, when it isn't clear whether Ted will be able to win Meg back, I defy you not to be turning the pages as fast as you possibly can read.
In Elizabeth Hoyt's Notorious Pleasures it's the heroine, rather than the hero, who seems to gaze down from an unapproachable height. Lady Hero Batten is the daughter of a duke: she's beautiful, tactful, intelligent, and witty. Even so, she is mortified when her fiancé's brother Griffin mocks her with the title Lady Perfect. Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading, is Hero's polar opposite. His reputation is even worse than Meg's in Call Me Irresistible: he has made himself notorious for drinking, carousing, and general worthlessness. In reality that façade hides an even more terrible truth about his activities, as Hero discovers. One of the wonderful things about this novel is that, like Phillips, Hoyt doesn't underestimate the challenges of falling in love with someone who has made dreadful decisions. But it's the downfall of Lady Perfect that gives the book its tantalizing, seductive pleasure: when Hero wonders whether "she could ever resurrect her perfect façade again," you'll be rooting for Griffin, sins and all. This is a novel that laughs in the face of anyone who believes that romances can't or don't depict the dark side of life -- while still standing up for the idea of real, long-term happiness.
Courtney Milan's Unveiled also contrasts a high-born heroine and a flawed hero, but here again, the stakes are much higher than mere reputation. Lady Anna Margaret Dalrymple is in a dreadful position. Her ancestral home, Parford Manor, now belongs to a vengeful distant cousin named Ash Turner; discovery of her father's bigamy has resulted in his children's disinheritance. Margaret promises herself that "she would be noble, even if she was no longer considered nobility." But perfection comes at a price. Since her horrible father is dying in the master bedroom, Margaret poses as a nurse in order to stay with him. And when she falls in love with Ash, Margaret finds herself torn between her role as a dutiful daughter and sister, and the man she loves. Only after she realizes that Ash would sacrifice everything to make her happy does Margaret understand love is the real yardstick by which we should measure loyalty.
Jill Shalvis's Animal Magnetism pits the perfectly sweet, charming Lilah Young against a weary, battle-worn ex-soldier named Brady Miller. He's spent the last few years in battle zones where "grime and suffering trumped hope and joy," whereas Lilah lives in a Disney-ish small town named Sunshine, where everyone loves her and she loves everyone -- including the baby animals she's surrounded by. In short, she's a princess, and he's a cynic. Her real perfection (from Brady's point-of-view) is that she accepts his wandering nature and offers red-hot sex with no strings attached. But, as he comes to understand, that may sound "perfect. Only it wasn't. Not even close." This is a wildly sexy, sweet story, as Lilah and Brady realize that falling in love with a flawed person can be a passionate affirmation of love's ability to bring people together.
My last romance poses a particularly modern conundrum: what if the person you fall in love with online, your Tweetheart, isn't really as unblemished as his electronic persona seems to be? Teresa Medeiros's Goodnight, Tweetheart moves between text and tweets to depict a love story between a struggling novelist, Abby Donovan, and an English professor on sabbatical, Mark Baynard. Their tweets are fascinating, as they joke about everything from Project Runway to Velveeta. It's impossible not to fall in love with someone as witty and sweet as Mark (he signs off as Goodnight Tweetheart), even though Abby does realize that he's using humor as a defense mechanism. Can someone so glowingly "perfect" ever live up to his Twitter feed? Of all the novels, this one falls most firmly into the "no one is perfect" camp. When Mark reveals a shocking truth about himself, Abby realizes that perfection is deeper than tweets: it's Mark's smile, the smile that says "I will always love you no matter what you've done and no matter what you'll ever do."
My latest romance, When Beauty Tamed the Beast, has just been published -- and as you can imagine, my hero is definitely less than perfect. I chose to rewrite this particular fairy tale because I think that a love story between all-too-human persons is far more interesting than that between "golden boys and girls," as Shakespeare had it. In fact, these novels are a splendid antidote to an overdose of sickly sweet Valentine's Day sentiments. Buy your beloved a card that insists he or she is the perfect match for you -- and then remind yourself that love trumps all those flaws the card pretends don't exist.
Once upon a time, in a land quite on the other side of the world, there lived a queen both beautiful and wise. She was called Ravenhair….
—from Queen Ravenhair
The daughter of a duke learns early in life the proper etiquette for nearly everything. What dish to serve roasted larks in. When to acknowledge a rather risqué dowager countess and when to give her the cut direct. What to wear while boating down the Thames, and how to fend off the tipsy advances of an earl with very little income at the picnic afterward.
Everything, in fact, Lady Hero Batten reflected wryly, but how to address a gentleman coupling vigorously with a married lady not his own.
“Ahem,” she tried while gazing fixedly at the molded plaster pears on the ceiling overhead.
The two people on the settee appeared not to hear her. Indeed, the lady gave a series of loud animal squeals from under the skirts of her atrocious puce-and-brown-striped gown, which had been flipped up to cover her face.
Hero sighed. They were in a dim little sitting room off the library of Mandeville House, and she was regretting choosing this particular room in which to fix her stocking. Had she picked the blue Oriental room, her stocking would be straight by now and she’d already be back in the ballroom—far away from this embarrassing predicament.
She lowered her eyes cautiously. The gentleman, wearing an anonymous white wig, had discarded his embroidered satin coat and was laboring atop the lady in his shirtsleeves and a brilliant emerald waistcoat. His breeches and smallclothes were loosened to facilitate his endeavors, and every now and again a flash of muscled buttock was visible.
Sadly, she found the sight mesmerizing. Whomever the gentleman was, his physical attributes were quite… astonishing.
Hero tore her gaze away to look longingly at the door. Really, few would find fault with her should she turn and tiptoe from the room. That was exactly what she would’ve done when she’d first entered had she not passed Lord Pimbroke not two minutes before in the hallway. For, as it happened, Hero had noted the atrocious puce-and-brown-striped gown earlier in the evening—on Lady Pimbroke. Much as Hero was loath to embarrass herself, her own feelings were not, in the end, as important as the possibility of a duel and subsequent injury or death to two gentlemen.
Having come to this conclusion, Hero nodded once, took off one diamond earbob, and lobbed it at the gentleman’s backside. She’d always quietly prided herself on her aim—not that she used it much in everyday life—and she was rather gratified to hear a yelp from the male.
He swore and turned, looking at her over his shoulder with the most glorious pale green eyes she’d ever seen. He wasn’t a handsome man—his face was too broad across the cheekbones, his nose too crooked, and his mouth too thin and cynical for true masculine beauty—but his eyes would draw any female, young or old, from across a room. And once drawn, their gaze would linger on the look of arrogant male virility he wore as naturally as he breathed.
Or perhaps it was merely the, er, circumstances that gave him the look.
“D’you mind, love?” he drawled, the anger in his expression having changed to faint amusement when he’d caught sight of her. His voice was gravelly and completely unhurried. “I’m busy here.”
She could feel heat suffusing her cheeks—really, this was an impossible situation—but she met his gaze, making quite sure hers did not wander lower. “Indeed. I had noticed, but I thought you should know—”
“Unless you’re the type who likes to watch?”
Now her face was aflame, but she wasn’t about to let this… this wretch get the better of her verbally. She allowed her gaze to drop swiftly and scornfully down over his rumpled waistcoat and shirt—fortunately the tail hid his open breeches—and back up. She smiled sweetly. “I prefer entertainments in which I’m not in danger of falling asleep.”
She expected her insult to anger him, but instead the rogue tutted.
“Happens a lot to you, does it, sweetheart?” His voice was solicitous, but a sly dimple appeared beside his wide lips. “Falling asleep just as the fun’s about to begin? Well, don’t blame yourself. Like as not, it’s the gentleman’s fault, not yours.”
Good God, no one ever spoke to her like this!
Slowly, awfully, Hero arched her left brow. She knew it was slow and awful because she’d practiced the movement in front of a mirror for hours on end at the age of twelve. The result made seasoned matrons tremble in their heeled slippers.
The devilish man didn’t turn a hair.
“Now, as it happens,” he drawled obnoxiously, “my ladies don’t have that problem. Stay and watch—it’ll prove instructive, I guarantee. And if I have any strength left over after, maybe I’ll demonstrate—”
“Lord Pimbroke is in the hallway!” she blurted before he could finish his dastardly thought.
The mound of puce-and-brown-striped skirts quaked. “Eustace is here?”
“Quite. And heading this way,” Hero informed Lady Pimbroke with only a touch of satisfaction.
The gentleman exploded into action. He was up and off the lady and throwing down her skirts to hide her pale, soft thighs before Hero could even blink. He caught up his coat, made one swift, appraising glance about the room, and turned to Hero, his voice still unhurried. “Lady Pimbroke has torn a ribbon or lace or some such thing, and you’ve kindly consented to help her.”
He placed his forefinger against her lips—warm, large, and quite shockingly inappropriate. At the same time, a male voice called from the hallway.
Lady Pimbroke—or Bella—squeaked in fear.
“There’s a good girl,” the rogue whispered to Hero. He turned to Lady Pimbroke, bussed her on the cheek, and murmured, “Steady on, darling,” before disappearing under the settee.
Hero had only a moment to watch Lady Pimbroke’s pretty, insipid face go ashen as she realized fully the peril she was in, and then the door to the sitting room crashed open.
“Bella!” Lord Pimbroke was big, reddened, and quite obviously intoxicated. He glanced belligerently around the room, his hand on his sword, but froze in consternation when he saw Hero. “My lady, what—?”
“Lord Pimbroke.” Hero casually stepped in front of the settee, obscuring a large masculine heel with her wide skirts.
She employed her left eyebrow.
Lord Pimbroke actually backed up a step—quite gratifying after the reception her eyebrow had received from the rogue—and stammered. “I… I…”
Hero turned to Lady Pimbroke, touching lightly the horrid yellow braiding on the elbow of her gown. “That’s fixed, I think, don’t you?”
Lady Pimbroke started. “Oh! Oh, yes, thank you, my lady.”
“Not at all,” Hero murmured.
“If you’re done here, m’dear,” Lord Pimbroke said, “then perhaps you’re ready to return to the ball?”
His words may have been a question, but his tone of voice most certainly was not.
Lady Pimbroke took his arm rather sulkily. “Yes, Eustace.”
And with a perfunctory good-bye, the two left the room.
Almost immediately, Hero felt a tug upon her skirts. “Hist! I can hardly breathe under here.”
“They may return,” she said serenely.
“I think I can see up your skirt.”
She moved back hastily.
The rogue rolled out from under the settee and stood, towering over her.
Nonetheless, she glared down her nose at him. “You weren’t—”
“Now, now. If I was, do you really think I’d tell you?”
She sniffed, sounding rather like Cousin Bathilda at her most priggish. “No doubt you’d boast of it.”
He leaned over her, grinning. “Does the thought have you all hot and bothered?”
“Is your wig growing tight?” she asked politely.
“Because I would think your swelled head would make it quite uncomfortable.”
His smile became a trifle grim. “My head isn’t the only thing out of proportion, I assure you. Maybe that’s why you came in here? To sneak a peek?”
She rolled her eyes. “You have no trace of shame, do you? Most men at least pretend to be abashed when caught in wrongdoing, but you—you strut about like a feckless cockerel.”
He paused in the act of donning his coat, one arm thrust out, the sleeve half on, and widened his beautiful green eyes at her. “Oh, of course. Moralizing. Naturally you must hold yourself superior to me when—”
“I saw you engaging in adultery!”
“You saw me engaging in a pleasant fuck,” he said with slow emphasis.
She flinched at the crudity but stood her ground. She was the daughter of a duke, and she would not flee from a man such as he. “Lady Pimbroke is married.”
“Lady Pimbroke has had numerous lovers before me and will have numerous lovers after me.”
“That does not forgive your sin.”
He looked at her and laughed—actually laughed—slow and deep. “And you are a woman without sin, is that it?”
She didn’t even have to consider the matter. “Naturally.”
His mouth twisted cruelly. “Such certainty.”
She stared, affronted. “Do you doubt me?”
“Oh, no, far from it. I believe absolutely that the thought of sin has never once crossed your perfect little mind.”
She tilted her chin, feeling a thrill of excitement—she’d never before argued with a gentleman, let alone a strange one. “And I begin to wonder if any thought of righteousness has ever crossed your shameless little mind.”
He watched her a moment, a muscle twitching in his jaw. Then he bowed abruptly. “I thank you for going against your own inclinations and saving me from having to kill Lord Pimbroke.”
She nodded stiffly.
“And I hope most fervently that our paths never cross again, my Lady Perfect.”
Unaccountably, Hero felt a pang of hurt at his dismissive words, but she made sure not to let the weak emotion show. “I will certainly pray that I never have to suffer your presence again, my Lord Shameless.”
“Then we are in agreement.”
For a moment she stared at him, her breasts pressing against her stays with each too-fast breath, her cheeks hot with emotion. They’d drawn closer in the heat of their argument, and his chest nearly brushed the lace of her bodice. He stared back, his eyes very green in his loathsome face.
His gaze dropped to her mouth.
Her lips parted and for an endless second, she forgot to breathe.
He turned and strode to the door, disappearing into the dim hallway beyond.
Hero blinked and inhaled with a shudder as she looked dazedly around the room. There was a mirror hanging on the wall, and she crossed to it to peer at her reflection in the glass. Her red hair was still elegantly coiffed, her lovely silvery-green dress properly in place. Her cheeks were a little pinkened, but the color was becoming. Strangely, she didn’t appear all that changed.
Well. That was good.
She threw back her shoulders and swept from the room, her step graceful but quick. Tonight of all nights, it was important she present a serene, lovely, and perfect aspect, for tonight her engagement to the Marquess of Mandeville was to be announced.
Hero tilted her chin at the remembered sneer of the stranger as he’d mouthed the word perfect. What could he possibly have against perfection anyway?
GODDAMN ALL SELF-SATISFIED, perfect women—and that red-haired wench in the sitting room in particular!
Lord Griffin Reading, strode toward his brother’s ballroom in a foul mood. Damnable chit! She’d stood there disapproving and priggish and dared to look down her narrow nose at him. She’d probably never felt an honest human urge in her entire, too-sheltered life. The only sign of her embarrassment had been the pink blotches climbing her delicately pale throat as she stared at him. Griffin grunted. That censorious face should have caused any man’s pride to wilt.
Except, as it happened, he’d had just the opposite reaction—and it wasn’t because he’d not reached completion with Bella, either. No, the prospect of being discovered by an irate husband, followed speedily by a bloody duel at dawn had cooled his ardor quite thoroughly, thank you. By the time he’d rolled out from under the settee, he’d been calm in both body and mind. Until, that is, he’d exchanged heated words with that holier-than-thou madam. His cock had seemed to look upon the argument as some kind of bizarre preamble to bedsport, despite the lady’s obvious respectability, her hostility to him, and his own instant dislike of her.
Griffin paused in a shadowed corner, trying to calm himself as he fingered the diamond earring in his pocket. He’d found the thing under the settee and had meant to give it back to Lady Perfect before her tart tongue had made him forget the trinket altogether. Well, served her right to lose her pretty earring if that was how she talked to gentlemen.
He rolled a shoulder. When he’d entered the ballroom half an hour ago, he’d not even had time to greet his mother and sisters before Bella had waylaid him with her naughty suggestion. Had he known her husband was attending the ball as well, he’d never have let himself be drawn into such a dangerous tryst.
Griffin sighed. But it was too late now for self-recriminations. Better to simply file the embarrassing episode under Things Best Forgotten as Soon as Possible and move on. Megs and Caroline probably didn’t care one way or the other that he’d disappeared, but Mater would no doubt be keeping an eagle eye out for him. No use in putting it off. With a last tug at his neckcloth to make sure it was straight, Griffin entered the ballroom.
Lights blazed from crystal chandeliers high overhead, illuminating a veritable crush. This would be the event of the season, and no member of London society wanted to miss it. Griffin began to weave his way through the mass of colorfully dressed bodies, his progress made slower by the frequent need to greet old friends and curious acquaintances.
“How kind of you to attend, darling,” a dry voice said at his elbow.
Griffin turned from a duet of simpering young matrons blocking his way and leaned down to kiss his mother on the cheek. “Ma’am. It’s good to see you.”
The words were rote, but not the sudden emotion behind them. He hadn’t been to London in almost a year, and it had been over eight months since his mother had visited him at the family estate in Lancashire. He tilted his head, studying her. Her fine hair, knotted elegantly under a lace cap, might have a few more gray threads, but otherwise her dear face was unchanged. Her brown eyes, bracketed with crinkled laugh lines, were far too intelligent, the soft-bowed mouth pursed to hide a fond smile, and the straight eyebrows were faintly arched in a perpetual amusement that matched his own.
“You’re as brown as a nut,” she murmured, reaching up to touch one finger to his cheek. “I suppose you’ve been out riding the lands.”
“Perceptive as always, my dear mater,” he said, offering his arm.
She linked her elbow with his. “And how is the harvest?”
A point of pain throbbed in his temple, but Griffin answered cheerfully, “Well enough.”
He felt her worried look. “Truly?”
“It was a dry summer, so the harvest was smaller than anticipated.” A pretty gloss on what in fact had been an abysmal harvest. Their land was not particularly fertile to begin with—something his mother already knew—but there was no point in making her fret. “We’ll do well with the grain, never fear.”
He was deliberately vague about what exactly he’d be doing with the grain. That was his burden to bear for his mother and the rest of the family.
His answer seemed to reassure her. “Good. Lord Bollinger is showing interest in Margaret, and she’ll need new gowns this season. I don’t want to overstretch our funds.”
“That’s not a problem,” he replied, even as he swiftly calculated in his head. It would be a near thing as always, but he should be able to get the monies—providing he suffered no further losses. The pain in his temple intensified. “Buy Megs all the fripperies she wants. The family purse can stand it.”
The line of worry between her brows eased. “And, of course, there’s Thomas.”
He was braced for the subject of his brother, but somehow he wasn’t able to prevent the slight stiffening of his muscles.
Naturally Mater sensed it. “I’m so glad you came, Griffin. Now is the time to put that little contretemps behind you two.”
Griffin snorted. He hardly thought his brother considered the matter a “little contretemps.” Thomas acted with propriety in all things, and he’d not have argued with Griffin over anything trivial. To have done so would be to let emotion rule him, which for someone as proper as Thomas was anathema. For a moment, Lady Perfect’s wide gray eyes came to mind. She, no doubt, would’ve gotten on famously with his priggishly correct brother.
Griffin made an attempt to appear pleased at the prospect of seeing Thomas again. “Of course. It’ll be wonderful to talk to Thomas.”
Mater frowned. Obviously he needed to work on his pleased expression. “He misses you, you know.”
He shot her an incredulous look.
“Truly, he does,” she insisted, though he noticed two spots of color had flown into her cheeks—even Mater had doubts about Thomas’s reception of him. “This estrangement must end. It’s not good for the family, it’s not good for you both, and it’s not good for me. Why it ever dragged on this long, I’ll never know.”
Griffin caught a flash of moss green out of the corner of his eye, and he turned, his pulse picking up. But the lady wearing the dress had already disappeared into the crowd.
“Griffin, pay attention,” his mother hissed.
He smiled down at her. “Sorry, thought I saw someone I wanted to avoid.”
She huffed. “I’m sure there are any number of disreputable ladies you wish to avoid.”
“Actually, this one is rather too reputable,” he said easily. His hand had drifted to his coat pocket, and he fingered the little diamond earring. He ought to return it to her, he supposed.
“Really?” For a moment, he thought his mother might be diverted from her harangue. Then she shook her head. “Don’t try to change the subject. It’s been three years since you and Thomas began this wretched argument, and my nerves are terribly frayed. I don’t think I can take one more freezing letter between the two of you or dinner watching my every word for fear I’ll raise the wrong topic of conversation.”
“Pax, Mater.” Griffin chuckled and bent to kiss her outraged cheek. “Thomas and I shall shake hands and make up like good little boys, and you shall dine with the both of us while I’m in London.”
“On my honor.” He held his palm to his chest. “I’m going to be so pleasant and thoroughly nice that Thomas won’t be able to stop himself from falling on me with protestations of fraternal love.”
“Humph,” she said. “Well, I certainly hope so.”
“Nothing in the world,” he assured her blithely, “can possibly stop me.”
Hero turned at the deep male voice and saw her dear elder brother, Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield. For a moment, her mind blanked at the question. In the two months it had taken to arrange her engagement to the Marquess of Mandeville, Maximus had asked her several times if she was content with the match, but he had never asked her if she was happy.
“Hero?” Maximus’s straight dark brows drew together over his rather arrogant nose.
She’d often thought that Maximus’s looks suited his rank perfectly. If one closed one’s eyes and tried to paint the perfect duke in one’s mind, Maximus would appear. He was tall, his shoulders broad but not heavy, his face long and lean and just a tad too coldly commanding to be truly handsome. His hair was dark brown—though he cropped it close, as he habitually wore immaculate white wigs—and his eyes were brown as well. Brown eyes were often thought warm, but one impatient glance from Maximus was enough to disabuse anyone of that notion. Warmth was the last thing one would associate with the Duke of Wakefield. But despite all that, he was still her brother.
Hero smiled up at him. “Yes, I’m quite happy.”
Was that relief she saw in those stern eyes? For a moment, she felt a traitorous flash of irritation. Maximus had shown no sign before this moment that her happiness might be a factor in the match. The consolidation of lands and interests, the strengthening of his parliamentary alliance with Mandeville, those were the important considerations. Her feelings, as she well knew, played no part at all in the negotiations. And that was fine with her. She was the daughter of a duke, and she’d known from the cradle what her purpose and place in life was.
Maximus compressed his lips, surveying the crowded ballroom. “I wanted you to know that there is yet time for you to change your mind.”
“Is there?” She glanced about the ballroom. Mandeville House was exquisitely decorated. Blue and silver swags—the Batten family colors—intertwined with Reading scarlet and black. Vases of flowers stood on every table, and the marquess had hired and outfitted a veritable platoon of footmen. Hero looked back at her brother. “The contracts are settled and signed already.”
Maximus frowned in ducal displeasure. “If you truly wished to escape this engagement, I could break it.”
“That’s very generous of you.” Hero was touched by Maximus’s gruff words. “But I am quite pleased with my engagement.”
He nodded. “Then I think it time we joined your intended.”
“Of course.” Her voice was steady, but her fingers trembled just a bit as she laid them on her brother’s deep blue sleeve.
Fortunately, Maximus didn’t seem to notice. He led her toward one side of the ballroom, moving unhurriedly but with his usual determination. Sometimes Hero wondered if her brother even realized that his way was made smoother because people were quick to step out of his path.
A man stood by the dance floor, his back to them. He wore somber black, his wig a snowy white. He turned as they approached, and for a moment Hero’s heart stuttered in disbelief. Something in the set of his shoulders and the jut of his chin in profile reminded her of the rogue she’d argued with just minutes before. Then he faced her, and she curtsied gravely to the Marquess of Mandeville, chiding herself for her silly imagination. It was hard to think of anyone less like Lord Shameless than her betrothed.
Mandeville was tall and appropriately handsome. If Mandeville smiled more often, his looks would come perilously close to beautiful. But one felt somehow that beauty in a marquess would be gauche, and gauche was the last thing one could call the Marquess of Mandeville.
“Your Grace. Lady Hero.” Mandeville executed an elegant bow. “You are even more lovely tonight than usual, my lady.”
“Thank you, my lord.” Hero smiled up at him and was pleased to see a faint softening of his usually somber lips.
Then his gaze moved to the side of her head. “My dear, you’re wearing only one earring.”
“Am I?” Hero automatically felt both earlobes, her face heating as she remembered what had happened to the missing earring. “Goodness, I must have lost one.”
Hastily she removed the lone diamond earring and gave it to her brother to place in his pocket.
“That’s better,” Mandeville said, nodding approvingly. “Shall we?” he asked the question of her but glanced at Maximus.
Mandeville signaled to his butler, but already the room was growing quiet as the guests turned toward them. Hero pasted a serene smile on her face, standing straight and still as she’d been taught from the nursery. A lady of her rank never fidgeted. She disliked being the center of attention, but it rather went with being the daughter of a duke. She glanced at Mandeville. And a marchioness would draw even more stares.
Hero suppressed a small sigh and inhaled and exhaled slowly, softly, and imagined she was a statue. It was an old trick to get through events such as these. She was a hollow, perfect facade of a duke’s daughter. Really she—the woman within—didn’t have to be here at all.
“My friends,” Mandeville boomed. He was well known for his oratory in parliament, his voice rich and deep. Hero rather thought there was a touch of the theatrical about it as well, but of course she’d never say so to his face. “I welcome you all here tonight for a very important celebration: the engagement of myself to Lady Hero Batten.”
He turned and took her hand, bending and kissing her knuckles very prettily. Hero smiled and curtsied to him as their guests applauded. They straightened and were immediately surrounded as the guests surged forward to offer their congratulations.
Hero was thanking a rather deaf elderly countess when Mandeville called behind her. “Ah, Wakefield, Lady Hero, I’d like to introduce you to someone.”
She turned and met wickedly amused light green eyes. Hero could only stare, speechless, as Lord Shameless bowed and took her hand, brushing smooth, warm lips over her skin.
Distantly she heard Mandeville say beside her, “My dear, this is my bother, Lord Griffin Reading.”
Excerpted from Notorious Pleasures by Hoyt, Elizabeth Copyright © 2011 by Hoyt, Elizabeth. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 24, 2010
In 1737 caring kindhearted sister to a duke, Lady Hero Batten, believes her prim and proper fiancé Thomas, Marquis of Mandeville is her ideal mate. However, she is stunned when she meets the brother of her intended Lord Griffin Remmington in St. Giles.
Hero is not shocked to see financial genius Griffin in the worst part of London as she knows he conducts business there and that he is a man with Wicked Intentions; her reaction to seeing him is out of character for her. On the other hand Griffin is flummoxed by finding any Lady in St. Giles, especially his future sister-in-law. He escorts her to the orphanage she supports. On the way each enjoys their witty battle of words, but he believes she is too good for him or for that matter his family; and she is engaged to the right brother in temperament at least that is what her mind says, but her heart differs.
The latest Maiden Lane Georgian romance is an enjoyable historical because of the strong passionate lead couple. Thomas is jealous of his brother's high esteem in their mater's eyes and some rivals of Griffin add tension, but the bottom line is this exciting story is a tender gender war between Hero and Griffin.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 8, 2011
As a closeted romance novel reader i am not one to gush openly about them. This novel brought me soundly and unabashesdly out. The story line is well thought out, the characters have depth and are wonderfully developed. I liked that Griffen was lovable and attractive despite some pretty severe flaws. It was a pleasure to read Griffen and Hero's dialogue and more of a pleasure to read their romantic scenes. Gotta say they were fantastically erotic and messy in the way that physical intimacy is. Plus, Griffen is an unapologetic and a fantastically wonderful dirty talker. Cannot recommend this book enough!!
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 27, 2011
I'm finding myself enjoying historical romances more now than ever. The reason for this is because of authors like Elizabeth who transport me to another time and keep me entertained for hours. Notorious Pleasures is sexy story with a great plot. It's every romance lovers dream.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 16, 2013
~Reviewed by ANN & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog
From the very first page when Lady Hero happens to be in a room where Griffin is….fornicating with a married woman, I knew I would love this book! ~ Under the Covers
Lady Hero Batten is engaged to be married to Thomas, the Marquis of Mandeville. But Hero and Thomas have absolutely no chemistry. It’s a marriage of convenience, not one of love. Lady Hero believes that in time, she could possibly come to love Thomas, but when the Marquis’s brother, Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading enters the picture, she becomes unnaturally drawn to the rake. It seems that Lady Hero has a penchant for the wicked and the wanton because Griffin is really something!
From the very first page when Lady Hero happens to be in a room where Griffin is….fornicating with a married woman, I knew I would love this book! The touch of humor and outrageousness really set the tone in the first scene and it held throughout the entire book! The chemistry is potent and much of the dialogue is key to discovering this chemistry.
Lady Hero and Lord Reading are extremely well-matched. Though they are polar opposites – Hero, sweet and innocent and Reading, debauched yet charming, you’ve got a couple that don’t seem like they would work at first glance, but as you read, you get their teasing and their easy banter.
I found that Lord Reading was an interesting character. He’s portrayed to be a shameless rake, bedding woman for the simple pleasure of someone warming his bed. However, there’s much more too him. You see him as he does his illicit work, you see a more familial side to him as he manages the money and takes care of his family. You also see a gradual change in him when with Hero. Hoyt does a spectacular job of creating a blooming romance that feels authentic and true between Hero and Reading.
Another thing that sets this book apart is Hoyt’s writing. Free-flowing and engaging, there was never a dull moment in this book. I simply devoured it and am hoping to return for a reread soon!
Hoyt spends considerable time setting up the next book in the series. And though I’ve already read SCANDALOUS DESIRES, I believe that Hoyt is a master at writing series. Readers get so emotionally attached to each character even before their books arrive and I think that’s due to the talent of a writer.
Maximus, Hero’s brother is going to be the hero of the sixth book in the Maiden Lane series, DUKE OF MIDNIGHT! Hence the reason I’m reading Hero’s book now!
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 24, 2011
I am an avid romance reader but I could not get into this book. I can usually read a book in a couple hours. This one however I have started, put down, picked up another book, read it and then started this one again... I finally gave up and just archived it on my nook. Not one of my favorites at all.
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 14, 2011
Elizabeth Hoyt is the reason I read historical romances. Wicked Intentions was the first romance novel I read and loved it so much I bought everything she wrote prior. I loved every one of her books. She is a very good writer, romance or other genre included. However, this book is the weakest. The characters didn't have as much depth and the plot was so so. Her love scenes are usually very steamy but these were blah. It felt forced and generic. I gave four stars instead of three just because I'm a fan. I still look forward to her future works though.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 28, 2014
Posted December 18, 2013
Over all the book is good. However, the names of most characters were very odd and distracting. Made it difficult to follow in the beginning.
Hero, Mater, Reading, Winter, Silence...
Really one or two obnoxious names per book!
Posted July 8, 2013
Posted June 10, 2013
Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt
Book Two of the Maiden Lane series
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 1, 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Publisher - won a giveaway
***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***
Summary (from Goodreads):
Their lives were perfect . . .
Lady Hero Batten, the beautiful sister of the Duke of Wakefield, has everything a woman could want, including the perfect fiancé. True, the Marquis of Mandeville is a trifle dull and has no sense of humor, but that doesn't bother Hero. Until she meets his notorious brother . . .
Until they met each other.
Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading, is far from perfect - and he likes it that way. How he spends his days is a mystery, but all of London knows he engages in the worst sorts of drunken revelry at night. Hero takes an instant dislike to him, and Griffin thinks that Hero, with her charities and faultless manners, is much too impeccable for society, let alone his brother. Yet their near-constant battle of wits soon sparks desire - desire that causes their carefully constructed worlds to come tumbling down. As Hero's wedding nears, and Griffin's enemies lay plans to end their dreams forever, can two imperfect people find perfect true love?
What I Liked:
You all know I read Book Five (Lord of Darkness) before I read the other four, right? So, I read Book One (Wicked Intentions), and decided that this entire series could quite possibly be my all-time favorite historical romance series. While I didn't enjoy this book (Notorious Pleasures) as much as I enjoyed Book Five and Book One, I still think it is an excellent companion to a truly wonderful series.
Hero and Griffin are firecrackers to the fireworks. I loved every single interaction they had with each other, even if at times, I wanted more from them. Yet again, Hoyt does an excellent job creating chemistry between the characters, but drawing out the love scenes and intimacy until late into the book. And the actual "love" part - in which the character truly love each other - feels extremely real. Most adult books make the relationship between the male and female protagonists a really chemistry-filled, lusty relationship, and the development of love really doesn't happen. Hoyt has no problem, in any of the books that I have read, with creating lust and love between the two protagonists.
Just as with Book Five (Lord of Darkness) and Book One (Wicked Intentions), the two protagonists, Hero and Griffin, have a lot of depth to them to begin the novel. Griffin has the reputation of being quite the rake (modern-day PLAYER), but he has a sad and yet selfless background. Hero does not have as interesting a background as Griffin, which is quite possibly why I did not connect with her as much as I did with the other heroines of Book Five and Book One. Nevertheless, both characters had significant character development throughout the book, and we do reach a nice, happy ending.
And that is one of the biggest reasons why I love these books so much. The development of love throughout the book, the background of the characters, and the character development of each book is present and strong in each book. That is a key difference between Hoyt's Maiden Lane series, and many other historical romance books out there.
What I Did Not Like:
I've already said that this one wasn't as good as Book Five or Book One. I can't place my finger on why that is, but I know for a fact that I did not connect with Hero as much as I did with Margaret (Book Five) or Temperance (Book One). I don't know why, but I didn't particularly like her very much, and I found her, by herself, very boring. I just didn't care enough about her as a person. Her with Griffin - different story.
Would I Recommend It:
YES! But read this one with the entire series. This book alone is great, but with the entire Maiden Lane series, is fantastic.
3.5 stars -> rounded to 4 stars. I really liked this book! I wanted more, but I am satisfied by what I got.
Posted June 2, 2013
Posted March 26, 2013
Posted January 2, 2013
Posted December 28, 2012
Posted December 20, 2012
Enjoyed this one from beginning to end. The main characters were engaging. Loved their battle of wills in each scene! Lots of action, drama and romance. Highly recommend.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 6, 2012
Posted March 6, 2012
Never a dull moment here. Ms. Hoyt's superb writing, delightful characters, and at-odds storyline kept me turning pages.
I didn't think I would like Hero, but she proves to be fallible while wanting to do what is expected of her - for the Family. Griffin knows what he wants and goes after it. He's tenacious. Hero and Griffin couldn't be more opposite, yet their mutual attraction is like moths to a fire.
"I dare," he muttered, "because I'm selfish and blackhearted and vain. I dare because you are what you are and I am what I am. I dare because I cannot otherwise. I've lived too long without bread or wine, crawling desperate in a lonely, barren desert, and you, my darling Lady Perfect, are manna sent directly from heaven above."
We get another glimpse of the Ghost of St. Giles. I think I know who he is! Additional insight about Silence reveals she may be much stronger than we first believed. While Mary Darling, the baby abandoned on her doorstep, has been Silence's salvation, she receives devastating news that rocks her fragile foundation.
Posted September 13, 2011
Posted July 27, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I had the good fortune to read the first in this series, Wicked Intentions, and I was frantic to get the second. I was not disappointed. Looking forwaed to the next one.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 9, 2011
Notorious Pleasures is the second book in Elizabeth Hoyt's Maiden Lane series. Lady Hero , right before her betrothal to the duke of Wakefield is to be announced, finds her finace's brother having relations with a married woman. Hero finds everything about the Duke's brother off putting. So why then does she find herself attracted to the blasted man? Even when Hero is off helping the orphanage she is a major patroness of; she finds Griffin meddling in her affairs.
I actually wasn't going to read this book. I was just going to skip on over to Silence's story when it came out. But I was talking to Ms. Hoyt at RT and she was telling me that Silence's story continues in Notorious Pleasures and of course since I like Silence so much I caved in and read this one. I know. I act like it was such a hardship :)
I think if most readers can get past the first chapter where the heroine finds the hero with another woman, then they are in for good read. I really enjoy Ms. Hoyt's writing style. She does a fantastic job of balancing action, dialogue and internal insight to the characters with pizzazz and flair. Notorious Pleasures is no exception. There is a lot of really wonderful dialogue between Hero and Griffin. There is a lot of heat and sexual tension between these two.
There is mystery that has continued on from the first book Wicked Intentions that will continue along through the other books in the series. I think it would be best to read this series in order, although, each book does stand alone. I can't wait for Silence's book. Really, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more of Silence in this book, but there was just enough of a teaser to get me really hungry for the next book.