Review: Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: November 2011
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Length: 370 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

I haven't read an Elizabeth Hoyt book in a long, long time. I'd forgotten how awesome she is. Her heroes, especially, are always a bit edgy, which I love.

This book is for all of those who are suffering under Regency England overload. Not only is this not set in a shiny ballroom, stuffed full of eligible aristocrats, the hero is a river pirate. That's right, a RIVER PIRATE. How awesome is that? And although there is a baron as a secondary character, most of the characters are of common stock.

At its core, Scandalous Desires is about the redemption of Charming Mickey O'Connor, the river pirate. It's about how a man who breathes violence and regrets none of his thousands of terrible deeds, is haunted by his dealings with one innocent woman. And how that woman, devastated by his actions, learns to forgive and love him.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere and grit in this book. The violence, the grime, the horror of life in the slums of London. Too often, the ugliness is glossed over in historical romance, and that's not the case here. Into this world, Hoyt brings characters who have real personalities, real wants and desires, and complex motivations we don't always understand. I also appreciated the crudeness. That Hoyt doesn't try to sanitize the salacious thoughts of a pirate by substituting less offensive words.

As much as I loved this book, there are some irritating issues that keep this from being an A read. Not the least of which is the heroine. I get that we're supposed to love the juxtaposition of saint and sinner. Of Madonna and the Devil. But I really did not like the hit-you-over-the-head glorification of motherhood. Babies are not sexy. And I say this as a mom of two. Having a young child around, no matter the nursemaids to take care of necessities, is a mood killer for me.

I also have some issues with the hero. Part of what sets this book apart from the crowd is its earthiness. It has moments of crudeness, of filth and squalor, of ugliness. This isn't a romance fantasy, but a tale of two people who live in a "real" world with all of its warts showing. And Mickey is a part of that ugliness, low born accent and all. To have him turn off the accent and get rid of his persona at will felt like it undercut some of what made this book different.

I haven't read any other books in the Maiden Lane series, so I can say with confidence that this book can be read as a stand-alone. There is some obvious backstory that would probably be enriched by reading in order, but it wasn't important enough to detract from understanding the book.

If you're looking for a historical romance that doesn't fit the usual mode, I recommend giving this one a try.

My Grade: B

The Blurb:

Can a pirate learn that the only true treasure lies in a woman's heart?
Widowed Silence Hollingbrook is impoverished, lovely, and kind—and nine months ago she made a horrible mistake. She went to a river pirate for help in saving her husband and in the process made a bargain that cost her her marriage. That night wounded her so terribly that she hides in the foundling home she helps run with her brother. Except now that same river pirate is back...and he's asking for her help.

"Charming" Mickey O'Connor is the most ruthless river pirate in London. Devastatingly handsome and fearsomely intelligent, he clawed his way up through London's criminal underworld. Mickey has no use for tender emotions like compassion and love, and he sees people as pawns to be manipulated. And yet he's never been able to forget the naive captain's wife who came to him for help and spent one memorable night in his bed...talking.

When his bastard baby girl was dumped in his lap—her mother having died—Mickey couldn't resist the Machiavellian urge to leave the baby on Silence's doorstep. The baby would be hidden from his enemies and he'd also bind Silence to him by her love for his daughter.

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