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A MAN CONTROLLED BY HIS DESIRES . . .
Infamous for his wild, sensual needs, Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is searching for a savage killer in St. Giles, London's most notorious slum. Widowed Temperance Dews knows St. Giles like the back of her ...
A MAN CONTROLLED BY HIS DESIRES . . .
Infamous for his wild, sensual needs, Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is searching for a savage killer in St. Giles, London's most notorious slum. Widowed Temperance Dews knows St. Giles like the back of her hand-she's spent a lifetime caring for its inhabitants at the foundling home her family established. Now that home is at risk . . .
A WOMAN HAUNTED BY HER PAST . . .
Caire makes a simple offer-in return for Temperance's help navigating the perilous alleys of St. Giles, he will introduce her to London's high society so that she can find a benefactor for the home. But Temperance may not be the innocent she seems, and what begins as cold calculation soon falls prey to a passion that neither can control-one that may well destroy them both.
A BARGAIN NEITHER COULD REFUSE
"There's an enchantment to Hoyt's stories that makes you believe in the magic of love."—-Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine
"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
Once upon a time, in a land long forgotten now, there lived a mighty king, feared by all and loved by none. His name was King Lockedheart….
—from King Lockedheart
A woman abroad in St. Giles at midnight was either very foolish or very desperate. Or, as in her own case, Temperance Dews reflected wryly, a combination of both.
“’Tis said the Ghost of St. Giles haunts on nights like this,” Nell Jones, Temperance’s maidservant, said chattily as she skirted a noxious puddle in the narrow alley.
Temperance glanced dubiously at her. Nell had spent three years in a traveling company of actors and sometimes had a tendency toward melodrama.
“There’s no ghost haunting St. Giles,” Temperance replied firmly. The cold winter night was frightening enough without the addition of specters.
“Oh, indeed, there is.” Nell hoisted the sleeping babe in her arms higher. “He wears a black mask and a harlequin’s motley and carries a wicked sword.”
Temperance frowned. “A harlequin’s motley? That doesn’t sound very ghostlike.”
“It’s ghostlike if he’s the dead spirit of a harlequin player come back to haunt the living.”
“For bad reviews?”
Nell sniffed. “And he’s disfigured.”
“How would anyone know that if he’s masked?”
They were coming to a turn in the alley, and Temperance thought she saw light up ahead. She held her lantern high and gripped the ancient pistol in her other hand a little tighter. The weapon was heavy enough to make her arm ache. She could have brought a sack to carry it in, but that would’ve defeated its purpose as a deterrent. Though loaded, the pistol held but one shot, and to tell the truth, she was somewhat hazy on the actual operation of the weapon.
Still, the pistol looked dangerous, and Temperance was grateful for that. The night was black, the wind moaning eerily, bringing with it the smell of excrement and rotting offal. The sounds of St. Giles rose about them—voices raised in argument, moans and laughter, and now and again the odd, chilling scream. St. Giles was enough to send the most intrepid woman running for her life.
And that was without Nell’s conversation.
“Horribly disfigured,” Nell continued, ignoring Temperance’s logic. “’Tis said his lips and eyelids are clean burned off, as if he died in a fire long ago. He seems to grin at you with his great yellow teeth as he comes to pull the guts from your belly.”
Temperance wrinkled her nose. “Nell!”
“That’s what they say,” Nell said virtuously. “The ghost guts his victims and plays with their entrails before slipping away into the night.”
Temperance shivered. “Why would he do that?”
“Envy,” Nell said matter-of-factly. “He envies the living.”
“Well, I don’t believe in spirits in any case.” Temperance took a breath as they turned the corner into a small, wretched courtyard. Two figures stood at the opposite end, but they scuttled away at their approach. Temperance let out her breath. “Lord, I hate being abroad at night.”
Nell patted the infant’s back. “Only a half mile more. Then we can put this wee one to bed and send for the wet nurse in the morning.”
Temperance bit her lip as they ducked into another alley. “Do you think she’ll live until morning?”
But Nell, usually quite free with her opinions, was silent. Temperance peered ahead and hurried her step. The baby looked to be only weeks old and had not yet made a sound since they’d recovered her from the arms of her dead mother. Normally a thriving infant was quite loud. Terrible to think that she and Nell might’ve made this dangerous outing for naught.
But then what choice had there been, really? When she’d received word at the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children that a baby was in need of her help, it had still been light. She’d known from bitter experience that if they’d waited until morn to retrieve the child, it would either have expired in the night from lack of care or would’ve already been sold for a beggar’s prop. She shuddered. The children bought by beggars were often made more pitiful to elicit sympathy from passersby. An eye might be put out or a limb broken or twisted. No, she’d really had no choice. The baby couldn’t wait until morning.
Still, she’d be very happy when they made it back to the home.
They were in a narrow passage now, the tall houses on either side leaning inward ominously. Nell was forced to walk behind Temperance or risk brushing the sides of the buildings. A scrawny cat snaked by, and then there was a shout very near.
Temperance’s steps faltered.
“Someone’s up ahead,” Nell whispered hoarsely.
They could hear scuffling and then a sudden high scream.
Temperance swallowed. The alley had no side passages. They could either retreat or continue—and to retreat meant another twenty minutes added to their journey.
That decided her. The night was chilly, and the cold wasn’t good for the babe.
“Stay close to me,” she whispered to Nell.
“Like a flea on a dog,” Nell muttered.
Temperance squared her shoulders and held the pistol firmly in front of her. Winter, her youngest brother, had said that one need only point it and shoot. That couldn’t be too hard. The light from the lantern spilled before them as she entered another crooked courtyard. Here she stood still for just a second, her light illuminating the scene ahead like a pantomime on a stage.
A man lay on the ground, bleeding from the head. But that wasn’t what froze her—blood and even death were common enough in St. Giles. No, what arrested her was the second man. He crouched over the first, his black cloak spread to either side of him like the wings of a great bird of prey. He held a long black walking stick, the end tipped with silver, echoing his hair, which was silver as well. It fell straight and long, glinting in the lantern’s light. Though his face was mostly in darkness, his eyes glinted from under the brim of a black tricorne. Temperance could feel the weight of the stranger’s stare. It was as if he physically touched her.
“Lord save and preserve us from evil,” Nell murmured, for the first time sounding fearful. “Come away, ma’am. Swiftly!”
Thus urged, Temperance ran across the courtyard, her shoes clattering on the cobblestones. She darted into another passage and left the scene behind.
“Who was he, Nell?” she panted as they made their way through the stinking alley. “Do you know?”
The passage let out suddenly into a wider road, and Temperance relaxed a little, feeling safer without the walls pressing in.
Nell spat as if to clear a foul taste from her mouth.
Temperance looked at her curiously. “You sounded like you knew that man.”
“Knew him, no,” Nell replied. “But I’ve seen him about. That was Lord Caire. He’s best left to himself.”
Nell shook her head, pressing her lips firmly together. “I shouldn’t be speaking about the likes of him to you at all, ma’am.”
Temperance let that cryptic comment go. They were on a better street now—some of the shops had lanterns hanging by the doors, lit by the inhabitants within. Temperance turned one more corner onto Maiden Lane, and the foundling home came within sight. Like its neighbors, it was a tall brick building of cheap construction. The windows were few and very narrow, the doorway unmarked by any sign. In the fifteen precarious years of the foundling home’s existence, there had never been a need to advertise.
Abandoned and orphaned children were all too common in St. Giles.
“Home safely,” Temperance said as they reached the door. She set down the lantern on the worn stone step and took out the big iron key hanging by a cord at her waist. “I’m looking forward to a dish of hot tea.”
“I’ll put this wee one to bed,” Nell said as they entered the dingy little hall. It was spotlessly clean, but that didn’t hide the fallen plaster or the warped floorboards.
“Thank you.” Temperance removed her cloak and was just hanging it on a peg when a tall male form appeared at the far doorway.
She swallowed and turned. “Oh! Oh, Winter, I did not know you’d returned.”
“Obviously,” her younger brother said drily. He nodded to the maidservant. “A good eventide to you, Nell.”
“Sir.” Nell curtsied and looked nervously between brother and sister. “I’ll just see to the, ah, children, shall I?”
And she fled upstairs, leaving Temperance to face Winter’s disapproval alone.
Temperance squared her shoulders and moved past her brother. The foundling home was long and narrow, squeezed by the neighboring houses. There was one room off the small entryway. It was used for dining and, on occasion, receiving the home’s infrequent important visitors. At the back of the house were the kitchens, which Temperance entered now. The children had all had their dinner promptly at five o’clock, but neither she nor her brother had eaten.
“I was just about to make some tea,” she said as she went to stir the fire. Soot, the home’s black cat, got up from his place in front of the hearth and stretched before padding off in search of mice. “There’s a bit of beef left from yesterday and some new radishes I bought at market this morning.”
Behind her Winter sighed. “Temperance.”
She hurried to find the kettle. “The bread’s a bit stale, but I can toast it if you like.”
He was silent and she finally turned and faced the inevitable.
It was worse than she feared. Winter’s long, thin face merely looked sad, which always made her feel terrible. She hated to disappoint him.
“It was still light when we set out,” she said in a small voice.
He sighed again, taking off his round black hat and sitting at the kitchen table. “Could you not wait for my return, sister?”
Temperance looked at her brother. Winter was only five and twenty, but he bore himself with the air of a man twice his age. His countenance was lined with weariness, his wide shoulders slumped beneath his ill-fitting black coat, and his long limbs were much too thin. For the last five years, he had taught at the tiny daily school attached to the home.
On Papa’s death last year, Winter’s work had increased tremendously. Concord, their eldest brother, had taken over the family brewery. Asa, their next-eldest brother, had always been rather dismissive of the foundling home and had a mysterious business of his own. Both of their sisters, Verity, the eldest of the family, and Silence, the youngest, were married. That had left Winter to manage the foundling home. Even with her help—she’d worked at the home since the death of her husband nine years before—the task was overwhelming for one man. Temperance feared for her brother’s well-being, but both the foundling home and the tiny day school had been founded by Papa. Winter felt it was his filial duty to keep the two charities alive.
If his health did not give out first.
She filled the teakettle from the water jar by the back door. “Had we waited, it would have been full dark with no assurance that the babe would still be there.” She glanced at him as she placed the kettle over the fire. “Besides, have you not enough work to do?”
“If I lose my sister, think you that I’d be more free of work?”
Temperance looked away guiltily.
Her brother’s voice softened. “And that discounts the lifelong sorrow I would feel had anything happened to you this night.”
“Nell knew the mother of the baby—a girl of less than fifteen years.” Temperance took out the bread and carved it into thin slices. “Besides, I carried the pistol.”
“Hmm,” Winter said behind her. “And had you been accosted, would you have used it?”
“Yes, of course,” she said with flat certainty.
“And if the shot misfired?”
She wrinkled her nose. Their father had brought up all her brothers to debate a point finely, and that fact could be quite irritating at times.
She carried the bread slices to the fire to toast. “In any case, nothing did happen.”
“This night.” Winter sighed again. “Sister, you must promise me you’ll not act so foolishly again.”
“Mmm,” Temperance mumbled, concentrating on the toast. “How was your day at the school?”
For a moment, she thought Winter wouldn’t consent to her changing the subject. Then he said, “A good day, I think. The Samuels lad remembered his Latin lesson finally, and I did not have to punish any of the boys.”
Temperance glanced at him with sympathy. She knew Winter hated to take a switch to a palm, let alone cane a boy’s bottom. On the days that Winter had felt he must punish a boy, he came home in a black mood.
“I’m glad,” she said simply.
He stirred in his chair. “I returned for luncheon, but you were not here.”
Temperance took the toast from the fire and placed it on the table. “I must have been taking Mary Found to her new position. I think she’ll do quite well there. Her mistress seemed very kind, and the woman took only five pounds as payment to apprentice Mary as her maid.”
“God willing she’ll actually teach the child something so we won’t see Mary Found again.”
Temperance poured the hot water into their small teapot and brought it to the table. “You sound cynical, brother.”
Winter passed a hand over his brow. “Forgive me. Cynicism is a terrible vice. I shall try to correct my humor.”
Temperance sat and silently served her brother, waiting. Something more than her late-night adventure was bothering him.
At last he said, “Mr. Wedge visited whilst I ate my luncheon.”
Mr. Wedge was their landlord. Temperance paused, her hand on the teapot. “What did he say?”
“He’ll give us only another two weeks, and then he’ll have the foundling home forcibly vacated.”
Temperance stared at the little piece of beef on her plate. It was stringy and hard and from an obscure part of the cow, but she’d been looking forward to it. Now her appetite was suddenly gone. The foundling home’s rent was in arrears—they hadn’t been able to pay the full rent last month and nothing at all this month. Perhaps she shouldn’t have bought the radishes, Temperance reflected morosely. But the children hadn’t had anything but broth and bread for the last week.
“If only Sir Gilpin had remembered us in his will,” she murmured.
Sir Stanley Gilpin had been Papa’s good friend and the patron of the foundling home. A retired theater owner, he’d managed to make a fortune on the South Sea Company and had been wily enough to withdraw his funds before the notorious bubble burst. Sir Gilpin had been a generous patron while alive, but on his unexpected death six months before, the home had been left floundering. They’d limped along, using what money had been saved, but now they were in desperate straits.
“Sir Gilpin was an unusually generous man, it would seem,” Winter replied. “I have not been able to find another gentleman so willing to fund a home for the infant poor.”
Temperance poked at her beef. “What shall we do?”
“The Lord shall provide,” Winter said, pushing aside his half-eaten meal and rising. “And if he does not, well, then perhaps I can take on private students in the evenings.”
“You already work too many hours,” Temperance protested. “You hardly have time to sleep as it is.”
Winter shrugged. “How can I live with myself if the innocents we protect are thrown into the street?”
Temperance looked down at her plate. She had no answer to that.
“Come.” Her brother held out his hand and smiled.
Winter’s smiles were so rare, so precious. When he smiled, his entire face lit as if from a flame within, and a dimple appeared on one cheek, making him look boyish, more his true age.
One couldn’t help smiling back when Winter smiled, and Temperance did so as she laid her hand in his. “Where will we go?”
“Let us visit our charges,” he said as he took a candle and led her to the stairs. “Have you ever noticed that they look quite angelic when asleep?”
Temperance laughed as they climbed the narrow wooden staircase to the next floor. There was a small hall here with three doors leading off it. They peered in the first as Winter held his candle high. Six tiny cots lined the walls of the room. The youngest of the foundlings slept here, two or three to a cot. Nell lay in an adult-sized bed by the door, already asleep.
Winter walked to the cot nearest Nell. Two babes lay there. The first was a boy, red-haired and pink-cheeked, sucking on his fist as he slept. The second child was half the size of the first, her cheeks pale and her eyes hollowed, even in sleep. Tiny whorls of fine black hair decorated her crown.
“This is the baby you rescued tonight?” Winter asked softly.
Temperance nodded. The little girl looked even more frail next to the thriving baby boy.
But Winter merely touched the baby’s hand with a gentle finger. “How do you like the name Mary Hope?”
Temperance swallowed past the thickness in her throat. “’Tis very apt.”
Winter nodded and, with a last caress for the tiny babe, left the room. The next door led to the boys’ dormitory. Four beds held thirteen boys, all under the age of nine—the age when they were apprenticed out. The boys lay with limbs sprawled, faces flushed in sleep. Winter smiled and pulled a blanket over the three boys nearest the door, tucking in a leg that had escaped the bed.
Temperance sighed. “One would never think that they spent an hour at luncheon hunting for rats in the alley.”
“Mmm,” Winter answered as he closed the door softly behind them. “Small boys grow so swiftly to men.”
“They do indeed.” Temperance opened the last door—the one to the girls’ dormitory—and a small face immediately popped off a pillow.
“Did you get ’er, ma’am?” Mary Whitsun whispered hoarsely.
She was the eldest of the girls in the foundling home, named for the Whitsunday morning nine years before when she’d been brought to the home as a child of three. Young though Mary Whitsun was, Temperance had to sometimes leave her in charge of the other children—as she’d had to tonight.
“Yes, Mary,” Temperance whispered back. “Nell and I brought the babe home safely.”
“I’m glad.” Mary Whitsun yawned widely.
“You did well watching the children,” Temperance whispered. “Now sleep. A new day will be here soon.”
Mary Whitsun nodded sleepily and closed her eyes.
Winter picked up a candlestick from a little table by the door and led the way out of the girls’ dormitory. “I shall take your kind advice, sister, and bid you good night.”
He lit the candlestick from his own and gave it to Temperance.
“Sleep well,” she replied. “I think I’ll have one more cup of tea before retiring.”
“Don’t stay up too late,” Winter said. He touched her cheek with a finger—much as he had the babe—and turned to mount the stairs.
Temperance watched him go, frowning at how slowly he moved up the stairs. It was past midnight, and he would rise again before five of the clock to read, write letters to prospective patrons, and prepare his school lessons for the day. He would lead the morning prayers at breakfast, hurry to his job as schoolmaster, work all morning before taking one hour for a meager luncheon, and then work again until after dark. In the evening, he heard the girls’ lessons and read from the Bible to the older children. Yet, when she voiced her worries, Winter would merely raise an eyebrow and inquire who would do the work if not he?
Temperance shook her head. She should be to bed as well—her day started at six of the clock—but these moments by herself in the evening were precious. She’d sacrifice a half hour’s sleep to sit alone with a cup of tea.
So she took her candle back downstairs. Out of habit, she checked to see that the front door was locked and barred. The wind whistled and shook the shutters as she made her way to the kitchen, and the back door rattled. She checked it as well and was relieved to see the door still barred. Temperance shivered, glad she was no longer outside on a night like this. She rinsed out the teapot and filled it again. To make a pot of tea with fresh leaves and only for herself was a terrible luxury. Soon she’d have to give this up as well, but tonight she’d enjoy her cup.
Off the kitchen was a tiny room. Its original purpose was forgotten, but it had a small fireplace, and Temperance had made it her own private sitting room. Inside was a stuffed chair, much battered but refurbished with a quilted blanket thrown over the back. A small table and a footstool were there as well—all she needed to sit by herself next to a warm fire.
Humming, Temperance placed her teapot and cup, a small dish of sugar, and the candlestick on an old wooden tray. Milk would have been nice, but what was left from this morning would go toward the children’s breakfast on the morrow. As it was, the sugar was a shameful luxury. She looked at the small bowl, biting her lip. She really ought to put it back; she simply didn’t deserve it. After a moment, she took the sugar dish off the tray, but the sacrifice brought her no feeling of wholesome goodness. Instead she was only weary. Temperance picked up the tray, and because both her hands were full, she backed into the door leading to her little sitting room.
Which was why she didn’t notice until she turned that the sitting room was already occupied.
There, sprawled in her chair like a conjured demon, sat Lord Caire. His silver hair spilled over the shoulders of his black cape, a cocked hat lay on one knee, and his right hand caressed the end of his long ebony walking stick. This close, she realized that his hair gave lie to his age. The lines about his startlingly blue eyes were few, his mouth and jaw firm. He couldn’t be much older than five and thirty.
He inclined his head at her entrance and spoke, his voice deep and smooth and softly dangerous.
“Good evening, Mrs. Dews.”
SHE STOOD WITH quiet confidence, this respectable woman who lived in the sewer that was St. Giles. Her eyes had widened at the sight of him, but she made no move to flee. Indeed, finding a strange man in her pathetic sitting room seemed not to frighten her at all.
“I am Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire,” he said.
“I know. What are you doing here?”
He tilted his head, studying her. She knew him, yet did not recoil in horror? Yes, she’d do quite well. “I’ve come to make a proposition to you, Mrs. Dews.”
Still no sign of fear, though she eyed the doorway. “You’ve chosen the wrong lady, my lord. The night is late. Please leave my house.”
No fear and no deference to his rank. An interesting woman indeed.
“My proposition is not, er, illicit in nature,” he drawled. “In fact, it’s quite respectable. Or nearly so.”
She sighed and looked down at her tray, and then back up at him. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
He almost smiled. Tea? When had he last been offered something so very prosaic by a woman? He couldn’t remember.
But he replied gravely enough. “Thank you, no.”
She nodded. “Then if you don’t mind?”
He waved a hand to indicate permission.
She set the tea tray on the wretched little table and sat on the padded footstool to pour herself a cup. He watched her. She was a monochromatic study. Her dress, bodice, hose, and shoes were all flat black. A fichu tucked in at her severe neckline, an apron, and a cap—no lace or ruffles—were all white. No color marred her aspect, making the lush red of her full lips all the more startling. She wore the clothes of a nun, yet had the mouth of a sybarite.
The contrast was fascinating—and arousing.
“You’re a Puritan?” he asked.
Her beautiful mouth compressed. “No.”
“Ah.” He noted she did not say she was Church of England either. She probably belonged to one of the many obscure nonconformist sects, but then he was interested in her religious beliefs only as they impacted his own mission.
She took a sip of tea. “How do you know my name?”
He shrugged. “Mrs. Dews and her brother are well-known for their good deeds.”
“Really?” Her tone was dry. “I was not aware we were so famous beyond the boundaries of St. Giles.”
She might look demure, but there were teeth behind the prim expression. And she was quite right—he would never have heard of her had he not spent the last month stalking the shadows of St. Giles. Stalking fruitlessly, which was why he’d followed her home and sat before this miserable fire now.
“How did you get in?” she asked.
“I believe the back door was unlocked.”
“No, it wasn’t.” Her brown eyes met his over her teacup. They were an odd light color, almost golden. “Why are you here, Lord Caire?”
“I wish to hire you, Mrs. Dews,” he said softly.
She stiffened and set her teacup down on the tray. “No.”
“You haven’t heard the task for which I wish to hire you.”
“It’s past midnight, my lord, and I’m not inclined to games even during the day. Please leave or I shall be forced to call my brother.”
He didn’t move. “Not a husband?”
“I’m widowed, as I’m sure you already know.” She turned to look into the fire, presenting a dismissive profile to him.
He stretched his legs in what room there was, his boots nearly in the fire. “You’re quite correct—I do know. I also know that you and your brother have not paid the rent on this property in nearly two months.”
She said nothing, merely sipping her tea.
“I’ll pay handsomely for your time,” he murmured.
She looked at him finally, and he saw a golden flame in those pale brown eyes. “You think all women can be bought?”
He rubbed his thumb across his chin, considering the question. “Yes, I do, though perhaps not strictly by money. And I do not limit it to women—all men can be bought in one form or another as well. The only trouble is in finding the applicable currency.”
She simply stared at him with those odd eyes.
He dropped his hand, resting it on his knee. “You, for instance, Mrs. Dews. I would’ve thought your currency would be money for your foundling home, but perhaps I’m mistaken. Perhaps I’ve been fooled by your plain exterior, your reputation as a prim widow. Perhaps you would be better persuaded by influence or knowledge or even the pleasures of the flesh.”
“You still haven’t said what you want me for.”
Though she hadn’t moved, hadn’t changed expression at all, her voice had a rough edge. He caught it only because he had years of experience at the chase. His nostrils flared involuntarily, as if the hunter within was trying to scent her. Which of his list had interested her?
“A guide.” His eyelids drooped as he pretended to examine his fingernails. “Merely that.” He watched her from under his brows and saw when that lush mouth pursed.
“A guide to what?”
“Why do you need a guide?”
Ah, this was where it got tricky. “I’m searching for… a certain person in St. Giles. I would like to interview some of the inhabitants, but I find my search confounded by my ignorance of the area and the people and by their reluctance to talk to me. Hence, a guide.”
Her eyes had narrowed as she listened, her fingers tapping against the teacup. “Whom do you search for?”
He shook his head slowly. “Not unless you agree to be my guide.”
“And that is all you want? A guide? Nothing else?”
He nodded, watching her.
She turned to look into the fire as if consulting it. For a moment, the only sound in the room was the snap of a piece of coal falling. He waited patiently, caressing the silver head of his cane.
Then she faced him fully. “You’re right. Your money does not tempt me. It’s a stopgap measure that would only delay our eventual eviction.”
He cocked his head, watching as she carefully licked those lush lips, preparing her argument, no doubt. He felt the beat of the pulse beneath his skin, his body’s response to her feminine vitality. “What do you want, then, Mrs. Dews?”
She met his gaze levelly, almost in challenge. “I want you to introduce me to the wealthy and titled people of London. I want you to help me find a new patron for our foundling home.”
Lazarus kept his mouth firmly straight, but he felt a surge of triumph as the prim widow ran headlong into his talons.
Excerpted from Wicked Intentions by Hoyt, Elizabeth Copyright © 2010 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 August 18, 2010
I hated putting this story down. Recently uncovered this author and find that I truly enjoy her period romances, which is bizarre because I am not usually a romance reader. After reading the Four Soldiers novels, I saw this one and picked it up.
I wasn't disappointed at all.
Wicked Intentions gives you romance with and edge. Characters that are flawed, but realistic, human. Women you don't want to throttle and shake some sense into. A plot that isn't overly predictable. Descriptions of the settings that allow you to picture everything without painting completely for you. In a field of usually mediocre novels, Elizabeth Hoyt stands out and delivers a feather light hurricane. The quality of her stories are second to none and Wicked Intentions is a delightful adventure I would recommend to anyone in the market for an enjoyable read.
I look forward to the next in the series.
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Posted July 13, 2010
In 1737 someone is murdering people in London's dark alleys. The homicides are so gruesome rumors spread that the Ghost of St. Giles is the culprit.
When his mistress becomes a victim, Lord Lazarus Huntington vows to find the killer. To make his investigation succeed, Lazarus needs help so hr asks Widow Temperance, whom he just meets over a baby rescue. Lord Lazarus Huntington needs Temperance's St. Giles' insider knowledge due to her owning the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children to assist him. She agrees on the condition he find her a patron to fund her home. They investigate in seemingly every nook and cranny of St. Giles but the psychopath seems several steps ahead of them leaving behind grisly corpses for the pair to "admire" the work. As the amateur sleuths fall in love while chasing a predator, they find the Ghost of St. Giles seems to be there when they most need it.
This is a terrific Georgian amateur sleuth romantic suspense starring a refreshing heroine and an avenging hedonist. The story line is a fast-paced cat and mouse thriller with the romantic subplot enhancing the overall tension as Temperance becomes the cheese. Historical romantic suspense fans will relish this action-packed tale as a serial killer stalks London while also being the matchmaking catalyst between the lead couple pursuing after this deadly predator.
7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Very good book. I loved the characters. The cover. finished it very quickly
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 September 23, 2012
I just found this author through Eloisa James, and I love her!! Her books are very easy to understand and I just love some steamy romance =) A MUST READ!! =)
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 March 8, 2013
I loved all the characters and it was a good lead in to a great series! I have enjoyed all the Maiden Lane books. The only problem I had with this story was the fact that the main hero was planning to coerce the widow into an affair and use her. Of course he fell in love with her so that made up for it.
2 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 December 28, 2012
Posted August 5, 2012
EROTIC AND SUSPENSEFUL
Review available on Mina's Bookshelf blog.
I just turned the last page of this historical romance novel wondering why it took me so long to pick up a book from the titles list of this gifted author .
My love affair with romantic fiction started with historical romance novels and what mostly drew me towards this genre is the way the characters’ quest for love unfolds on different moral grounds, facing different challenges and following different rituals. The beauty of some HRN is that their storylines center substantially around a love relationship , but provide at the same time a clever portrait of the historical backdrop against which the matters of the heart evolve. In Wicked Intentions, a Georgian Era HRN (1751), the colorful and detailed characterization of lead couple, support cast, and their environment, appealed to my taste for historical accuracy. It’s that age of elegance when men used to wear white wigs and tricorne hats, when good society women used to sport magnificent and elaborated gowns with audacious décolleté. It’s also the time when the darkest poverty cast long shadows on St. Giles, the most infamous London district, that underworld of souls doomed to move among slums, dreary orphanages, overcrowded and crumbling buildings, bawdy houses, dirty alleys, and squalid places where the unhealthy addiction to gin could be appeased.
Prim widow Temperance Dews runs an orphans house with her brother in St. Giles. When their lack of funds threatens to put an end to their charitable institution, she strikes a deal with rakish and ill-reputed Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire: he will introduce her to London good society , help her find a sponsor for her foundling home, and in return she will guide him through the squalid alleys of St. Giles in order to hunt down the murder of his latest mistress. Drawn to each other by an unsuspected affinity, their initial bargain turns into a much deeper and complex bond, exposing them to mortal dangers and elusive enemies.
The most interesting aspect of this dark tale is that both Temperance and Lazarus are flawed characters. He is notorious for his unusual sexual proclivities and believes himself to be "emotionally numb". A traumatic childhood experience and a fundamental lack of warmth and affection within his own family triggered also an extreme revulsion for intimacy and physical touch, at least until he meets Temperance and falls for her. Clad in an armor of propriety and moral obligation to the cause of the orphans, she hides a sensual and passionate nature that led her to a sinful act in the past, a sin she is trying to atone for, denying herself any chance of emotional attachment either to a man or to her own charges at the foundling home. Caire’s blunt sensuality stirs Temperance’s curiosity and their mutual attraction will guide them on a path of exploration of their vulnerable and true natures. At the end of their journey Lazarus and Temperance will both find self-forgiveness and mutual healing, finding in each other their perfect match, like two halves of a whole.
In this highly gratifying tale the author blended the scorching romance with an intriguing murder mystery element, advancing the narration on multiple levels, the central theme of Lazarus and Temperance’s redemption, and three subplots that set the scene for the Maiden Lane sequels. The combination of that particular historical setting, flawed and complex characters, fluid narration, suspenseful plot and interesting subplots really worked out well for me. Two thumbs up!
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Posted August 10, 2010
What a great story. There was so much going on I didn't want to put it down.
There's the story of Lord Caire and Temperance. There's the story going on with the foundling house and all the orphans. There's the story of the murder. There's the story of the ghost of St. Giles. There's the story behind Temperance's family. So much going on, and yet it all flowed together so seamlessly that I didn't really realize how much was going on until I finished the book.
I really liked Temperance. She was willing to do what it took to keep the foundling house and her brother, from falling into ruins. Which is where Lore Caire comes into the story. Both Temperance and Lord Caire have so much "baggage" that their relationship seems is destined to never happen. Temperance's secret has haunted her for the last 9 years, and watching her unwrap that past, through Lord Caire's urging and help, was so engrossing.
This was beautifully written. Like I said there is so much going on. It would seem that with all the different stories going on within the main story that it would get confusing, but it was all weaved together so well that I didn't really notice it. The story is also fast-paced, there were very few lulls in the story. So not only didn't I want to put it down, but it moves so fast that I didn't really get a chance to put it down. I was able to finish the entire book in only three sittings.
There were a few things that weren't fully "tied up" in the end, but given that this is the first in the Maiden Lane Series I'm sure that was done on purpose. The loose ends really built up so much anticipation that I can't wait to get the next in the series.
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Posted April 12, 2013
Posted March 29, 2013
I am so glad I have discovered this author. I will definitely be reading more! I loved this story and all the characters. The sex was hot but didn't overwhelm the story. I can't wait to read book two in this series!
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Posted November 7, 2014
Posted November 1, 2014
Well th the...er..physical romance in this book was very satisfying.
In other words, they were HOT. Sometimes you read some sex scenes and you wonder if the writer trolled a dictionary looking for every flowery description they could find and threw it all on the page. And you wonder if you are reading a sex scene, or a gardening handbook. Just too much...and too...what's the word...TAME. I like my sex scenes realistic, and gritty. If you are trying to tell me these two people have an uncontrollable animal passion for each others...I better well feel it. I say this book delivered on that score.
But anyway...enough about that...
The plot. And there was one. The story starts of right in the middle of the drama. Temperance runs a home with her brother that houses and looks after destitute children. And one night coming back from picking up a new baby for the home, they come across Lord Caire leaning over a dead body. They haul tail away from the scene. But unknown to Temperance, he follows her home and to her surprise enlists her to help him find the killer of his prostitute mistress in exchange for helping her find a new Patron for their home for children. Thus begins their relationship that from the beginning sets sparks flying all around them...and their loins afire apparently. The mystery around who was killing these prostitutes I thought was kept interesting. It was a nice tasty snack to the underlying romance storyline, it added some extra, action and drama, and was ended not too predictably once the killer was revealed.
But what I liked the most were the glimpses we got of the other characters in the world of Maiden Lane. Winter the older, long suffering brother; Silence the youngest sister and Asa the mysterious. And of course, The Ghost of St Giles, who was like some vigilante running about saving people in St Giles in a harlequin mask and costume. I have my suspicions about who it is of course. All of these characters were very interesting and I got the distinct impression that their stories will be fleshed out in future books. I like that the threads from this first book will be continued through the next, it adds a richness to the world created, almost adds a realness to it.
This book only lost points because I thought it kind of dropped the ball with Lord Caire's back story. Why was he the way he was, so emotionally stunted? What happened to him in his past that made touch painful to him? And are we to believe love cured him of this problem. This are not that neat. After finishing the book, I realized we never really learned what drove him, other than the need to find this killer. Something was hinted at that happened when he was young, but it was dropped. I would like to know this story. What about his father? Why does he refuse to speak of him? My hope is that, like in this book, how we got glimpse of other people’s point of view and stories...that maybe more of his is coming.
Overall. Book was worth the read and the characters and world grabbed me enough that I was almost tempted to get the next book right away.
Posted June 5, 2014
This is a great beginning to the Maiden Lane series. I had actually read most of the other books in the series before getting around to this one. It is fun to see the little hints about what the characters will become further into the series, but the author is very crafty and gives nothing away!
Lord Caire is searching the dangerous neighborhood of St. Giles for the murderer of his mistress. When he spots Temperance Dews in a dark alley on one of her trips to rescue a sick orphaned baby, he follows her to the foundling home and proposes a bargain. He wants to hire her to be his guide in St. Giles. Temperance is tempted by the handsome, wealthy man in more ways than one, but instead of just accepting money for her services, she wants Lord Caire to introduce her to members of society so she can find a benefactor for the home.
There is instant attraction between the two, but Temperance is trying to suppress her desires, which she sees as a sin. And Lord Caire has never loved anyone. He feels he doesn't deserve the love of a decent woman like Temperance. Their struggle to be accepting of their own faults and realize that they can love and be loved is very satisfying.
Of course, the mystery surrounding the Ghost of St. Giles is also intriguing and adds some swashbuckling action to the tale.
Posted April 11, 2014
Posted April 11, 2014
Posted January 25, 2014
Posted January 3, 2014
Historical Romance is my favorite genre (Jane Austen forever!) and don’t know what took me so long to find Elizabeth Hoyt and her Maiden Lane series because they have all been a delight to read. I enjoyed the WICKED INTENTIONS so much I immediately bumped the rest of the series to the top of my TBR list.
I really liked how she developed the romance between Lord Caire and Temperance, a true case of opposites attracting. Per the synopsis description, Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire is infamous for his wild, sensual needs, whereas Widowed Temperance Dews, who knows St. Giles like the back of her hand, has spent a lifetime caring for its inhabitants at the foundling home her family established. A degenerate and a do-gooder, yet they were a perfect match and I enjoyed their time together in the book very much. Their story begins as Lord Caire rescues Temperance from the dangerous situation she gets herself into when she is out at night in St. Giles trying to save an infant. Lord Caire was there looking for the killer of his mistress and decides he has an opportunity to use Temperance’s status in the St. Giles community, so he blackmails her into helping him. He believes her to be well-liked and trusted so he hopes the St. Giles residents would open up to her where they had shut him down. At first he wanted her not so much as a guide, although that was the term continually used, but as a liaison, and then I think after their first outing it was indeed just an excuse to indulge his fascination with her. And indulge he did, her seduction and his enchantment kept me eagerly turning the pages for more.
Lord Caire’s character was especially delicious and cleverly written; I looked forward to each scene with him in it. This is probably a good place to point out that EH’s writing style is definitely more erotic than most historical novels I've read. He really was an unrepentant bad boy who owned his reputation and his behavior. Frankly, I loved his dirty talk and was right there with Temperance in how she reacted to it. I really loved their romance. I felt they saw right through each other right away which enabled them to be comfortable with each other in an odd way. I suppose I felt sorry for both of them being shut off emotionally and repressed in each their own way and felt that common ground unconsciously fed their intense attraction.
There was also a side story about Temperance’s sister Silence and her husband, William, which I really liked. As a matter of fact, Silence was one of my favorite characters. I was glad to see she gets her own story in a later book in the Maiden Lane series. And of course, the mystery of the murderer and the Ghost of St. Giles were great plot devices, but for me it was all about the romance and redemption between Lord Caire and Temperance.
My one and only minor complaint being there were several points and characters brought into play that were either not fully developed or not fully explained. I found that frustrating and this vagueness took a little away from my overall opinion, but then I am known to be a bit impatient and am hoping this was deliberate to promote the series continuity and to contain the mystery portion of each book. Even with this I would rate this book 4.5 stars.
Posted November 1, 2013
Posted October 24, 2013
Posted August 14, 2013
The first volume in Hoyt's new Maiden Lane series is a quick, entertaining read. There is plenty of passion, a bit of mystery, and some intriguing characters. I liked the chemistry between Temperance and Lazarus. My only complaint is that the murder mystery which brought the two of them together wasn't really much of a mystery.
Recommended to fans of Elizabeth Thornton and Amanda Quick.