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A LADY OF LIGHT
Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and-nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him…only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.
A DUKE IN DEEPEST DARKNESS
Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.
CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DANGER… AND DESIRE
Much to Raphael’s irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involes herself in his life—and bed. Soon he’s drawn to both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael’s past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael’s own demons?
Publisher and Release Date: Forever, October 2017
Time and Setting: England, 1742
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Em
Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series has had an impressive run, managing to captivate and entertain readers over a dozen uniformly good novels. More recently, she’s seamlessly merged the long-running Ghost of St. Giles storyline into a new mystery surrounding the secretive and depraved Lords of Chaos. This group has plagued Maiden Lane heroes and heroines over the last three books, but in the excellent Duke of Desire, the Lords finally get their comeuppance. Although I’m sad that Duke of Desire represents an end to the series, I’m happy to tell you this last novel is romantic and profoundly moving, and concludes the series on a high note. A note of caution before I continue: The Lords of Chaos are a depraved and sadistic lot who regularly host revels in which their masked members rape and abuse men, women and children. The hero of Duke of Desire is the son of their former leader, and the victimization of children and rape of women drive the narrative in this book.
The story opens in the midst of a revelry hosted by the Lords of Chaos. They’ve kidnapped and held captive the Duchess of Kyle, and on this evening she’s to be violated and sacrificed as a form of revenge on the group’s hunter and nemesis, Hugh Fitzroy, the Duke of Kyle. Unfortunately, they’ve kidnapped the wrong woman.
Lady Iris Jordan was returning home from Kyle’s wedding when she was forcibly taken from her carriage. Bound, dirty and hungry, she’s terrified of the naked men in masks arrayed around her in the firelight, diverted only after their leader, Dionysus, introduces her as the Duchess of Kyle. She’s quick to correct him, and then listens as a man wearing a wolf mask approaches Dionysus and claims her for himself. Her original kidnapper attempts to intervene and keep her for the group, but Dionysus allows the wolf to take her away after promising to kill her when he’s done. Iris is marched to a carriage and angrily tossed in – but she hasn’t given up on hopes of escape. She frantically searches under the carriage seats for a weapon and when the wolf returns and reveals himself, she shoots him.
Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has finally infiltrated the Lords and plans to destroy them for good. But he had to abruptly change strategy when he recognized the woman bound before him. Since meeting her at a ball a few short months ago, he hasn’t been able to put Lady Iris Jordan out of his mind. Claiming her for himself is the only way to save her.
Bleeding and hurt from the bullet wound to his shoulder, Raphael explains to Iris that he was only trying to rescue her, and that when the Lords discover she’s alive, she’ll be in even more danger. Desperate to protect her and destroy their common enemy, Raphael, in a desperate solution to buy them more time, proposes they marry. As his wife, he (and his loyal group of bodyguards) can offer Iris protection as he pursues his revenge on the Lords of Chaos. After arriving home, a clergyman is summoned and before Iris quite knows what’s happening, she’s married.
The revelry, escape and marriage happen in the opening chapters of Duke of Desire, and Ms. Hoyt somehow managed to convince this reader that it all made sense. It’s a bit insane and frantic, but much like her heroine, Iris, I decided to go with it and you should too. The marriage provides the means for Ms. Hoyt to unite two souls who belong together. Raphael is tortured by memories of his father (a former Dionysus), and a childhood trauma that scarred him for life. He’s powerful, cold and consumed with plans for revenge on the Lords of Chaos, but he’s also deeply attracted to and affected by Iris and he’s determined to keep her close and safe. Iris was married to an indifferent, older husband and then after his death, she’s lived a quiet life in her older brother’s household. She’s alarmed by her attraction to her husband – a virtual stranger – but something about him calls to her. She’s determined to demand more from this second marriage despite its less than auspicious beginning, and she’s unwilling to meekly follow Raphael’s directions.
As the novel unfolds, Raphael continues his attempts to infiltrate and destroy the Lords of Chaos, but Ms. Hoyt wisely focuses her attention on developing Iris and Raphael as individuals, and then as a romantic couple once it’s clear they’ve fallen for each other. Duke of Desire deals with some heavy subject matter and Raphael’s secrets aren’t your typical romance novel fare – his past is marked by a deeply troubling climatic event, and even after Iris convinces him to reveal his past, he struggles to overcome it. Though Iris hasn’t ‘suffered’ at quite the same level her husband has, she’s still damaged by her past as the wife of an indifferent husband. I found the relationship between these two profoundly moving, and the way they inch towards each other – physically and emotionally – satisfying on every level. Their physical relationship is particularly well done – they have a passionate attraction to each other – and I loved Iris’s willingness to seduce her husband and satisfy her own curiosities about lovemaking. Raphael is overwhelmed by his attraction to Iris, and his futile attempts to resist her bold attempts to seduce him are priceless. He can’t resist her, and when he allows himself to give in… it’s sexy and naughty and wonderful. They’re a terrific match-up and perhaps one of my favorite Maiden Lane pairings.
I won’t spoil who Dionysus is, or reveal how Raphael’s investigation into the Lords of Chaos eventually concludes, except to say the resolution is a bit convoluted, and the final revelation of Dionysus is anticlimactic. After a three novel build-up, and chapters detailing Dionysus’ machinations against Raphael, I wish Ms. Hoyt had spent a bit more time developing the leader and his backstory. We know a bit about his awful history – enough to feel some sympathy for what he’s become – but the ending to this MAJOR storyline is rushed and unsatisfying.
While Duke of Desire is ostensibly about Raphael’s efforts to destroy the Lords of Chaos, it’s the redemptive love affair – passionate, tender and perfect – forged in a desperate attempt to thwart the depraved Lords of Chaos, that, quite rightly, takes centre stage. It shouldn’t work – but it does. He’s damaged, she’s determined, and though the premise of their marriage seems ludicrous, Ms. Hoyt capably navigates their tricky road to happily ever after.
Desperately she flung herself at the opposite seat and tugged it up. Thrust her hand in.
She cocked it, desperately praying that it was loaded.
She turned and aimed it at the door to the carriage just as the door swung open.
The Wolf loomed in the doorway—still nude—a lantern in one hand. She saw the eyes behind the mask flick to the pistol she held between her bound hands. He turned his head and said something in an incomprehensible language to someone outside.
Iris felt her breath sawing in and out of her chest.
He climbed into the carriage and closed the door, completely ignoring her and the pistol pointed at him. The Wolf hung the lantern on a hook and sat on the seat across from her.
Finally he glanced at her. “Put that down.”
His voice was calm. Quiet.
With just a hint of menace.
She backed into the opposite corner, as far away from him as possible, holding the pistol up. Level with his chest. Her heart was pounding so hard it nearly deafened her. “No.”
The carriage jolted into motion, making her stumble before she caught herself.
“T-tell them to stop the carriage,” she said, stuttering with terror despite her resolve. “Let me go now.”
“So that they can rape you to death out there?” He tilted his head to indicate the Lords. “No.”
“At the next village, then.”
“I think not.”
He reached for her and she knew she had no choice.
She shot him.
The blast blew him into the seat and threw her hands up and back, the pistol narrowly missing her nose.
Iris scrambled to her feet. The bullet was gone, but she could still use the pistol as a bludgeon.
The Wolf was sprawled across the seat, blood streaming from a gaping hole in his right shoulder. His mask had been knocked askew on his face.
She reached forward and snatched it off.
And then gasped.
The face that was revealed had once been as beautiful as an angel’s but was now horribly mutilated. A livid red scar ran from just below his hairline on the right side of his face, bisecting the eyebrow, somehow missing the eye itself but gouging a furrow into the lean cheek and catching the edge of his upper lip, making it twist. The scar ended in a missing divot of flesh in the line of the man’s severe jaw. He had inky black hair and, though they were closed now, Iris knew he had emotionless crystal-gray eyes.
She knew because she recognized him.
He was Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, and when she’d danced with him—once—three months ago at a ball, she’d thought he’d looked like Hades.
God of the underworld.
God of the dead.
She had no reason to change her opinion now.
Then he gasped, those frozen crystal eyes opened, and he glared at her. “You idiot woman. I’m trying to save you.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Hoyt is the New York Times bestselling author of over seventeen lush historical romances including the Maiden Lane series. Publishers Weekly has called her writing “mesmerizing.” She also pens deliciously fun contemporary romances under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with three untrained dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the long-suffering Mr. Hoyt.
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