A MAN CONDEMNED . . .
Falsely accused of murder and mute from a near-fatal beating, Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne has escaped from Bedlam. With the Crown’s soldiers at his heels, he finds refuge in the ruins of a pleasure garden, toiling as a simple gardener. But when a vivacious young woman moves in, he’s quickly driven to distraction . . .
A DESPERATE WOMAN . . .
London’s premier actress, Lily Stump, is down on her luck when she’s forced to move into a scorched theatre with her maid and small son. But she and her tiny family aren’t the only inhabitants—a silent, hulking beast of a man also calls the charred ruins home. Yet when she catches him reading her plays, Lily realizes there’s more to this man than meets the eye.
OUT OF ASH, DESIRE FLARES
Though scorching passion draws them together, Apollo knows that Lily is keeping secrets. When his past catches up with him, he’s forced to make a choice: his love for Lily . . . or the explosive truth that will set him free.
Publisher and Release Date: Grand Central Publishing, October 2014
Time and Setting: 1741, London, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars
Review by Lady Wesley
You might think that an author would begin to run out of ideas when she reaches the seventh volume in a series. In Elizabeth’s Hoyt’s case, however, you would be wrong. In Darling Beast she takes the Maiden Lane series into a new neighborhood with new characters while at the same time tying the story in with the earlier books.
In Duke of Midnight, Apollo Greaves escaped from his wrongful incarceration in Bedlam, with the help of his sister Artemis and his new brother-in-law, the Duke of Wakefield. Now he is living in a shed on the grounds of Harte’s Folly, a pleasure garden and theater that was nearly destroyed by fire. Mr. Harte is helping Apollo hide while Apollo is designing and building a new garden.
Lily Stump moves into the few habitable rooms left in the theater with her seven-year-old son, Indio, and nursemaid, Maude. Lily is a well-known actress but since she is under contract to Harte and since he has no theater in which she can perform, she is short on funds. When Indio, tells her that there is a monster living in the gardens, she laughs it off – until one day she sees the monster for herself as he emerges unclothed from a pool.
Lily is immediately suspicious of her son’s new friend. Apollo is unable to speak because of injuries he suffered in Bedlam. When Lily tries to question him, he can’t reply, and she thinks that he is simple-minded. Because he is hiding from the law and doesn’t know if he can trust Lily, he allows her to assume that he is just another one of the laborers hired to work for Harte.
Despite his mother’s warnings, however, Indio and his naughty dog, Daffodil, can’t stay away from the pond, and when Apollo rescues Daff after she fell into the water, Lily begins to realize that there is more to Apollo than she first thought.
Through much of the book, Apollo cannot speak, but he begins to communicate with Lily by writing. She has no idea that he is a fugitive nor that he is the heir to an earldom. Indio and Daff bring the couple together, in a way that is utterly charming. Cute children and animals are not something that every author can do well, but Hoyt excels here.
Another appealing element of this book is that nearly half of the story takes place in the garden, and even though it is ruined there is something rather enchanting about the place. Apollo is a true landscape gardener, and he sees what no one else can, as in this scene (after Apollo begins to regain his voice):
“Where are we?”
“The heart,” he said, his voice low and rasping. “The very . . . heart of my future garden . . . the center of the maze.”
She shivered at his words. This place didn’t look any different from anywhere else in the garden, but garden hearts, she supposed, like human hearts, could be disguised.
“I can’t see it,” she said.
He took a step toward her and turned her to face the same way as he, her back against his chest. “Here,” he said, wrapping his arms over her shoulders to hold her hands. “There’ll be a folly . . . of some sort right here . . . beneath our feet. A fountain or . . . waterfall or statue. Benches for lovers to sit and . . . kiss. The entrance will be over here” — he pointed to a space to the right — “and the maze . . . will wind all around us . . . like an embrace.”
Slowly he turned with her, tracing with his outstretched hand his imaginary maze.
“You have so much faith,” she whispered.
She felt him shrug behind her. “It’s there already . . . just waiting for the right person . . . to find it and bring it alive,” he said softly in her ear. “A maze . . . is eternal, you know, once discovered.”
It wouldn’t be Maiden Lane, though, if we didn’t have some danger and darkness. Apollo is desperate to find the person who actually committed the murders for which he was accused. The soldiers are on his trail. And Captain Trevillion, even though he has been invalided out of the army, is grimly determined to see Apollo back in Bedlam, while the real murderer has plans to pin one last crime on him. And Indio’s mysterious parentage actually may place him in danger.
In addition to Trevillion, other Maiden Lane characters are part of this story – Maximus and Artemis, of course, Hero and Phoebe, and even the absent Makepeace sibling, Asa. An intriguing and rather outrageous new character, the Duke of Montgomery, is introduced, and it isn’t clear whether he is friend or foe.
I think that Darling Beast is the most romantic book in this series, and I recommend it unreservedly. If you’ve read the previous Maiden Lane books, you definitely will not want to miss this one. And even if you haven’t read them, this touchingly tender story works just fine as a stand-alone.