It's not often that romance writers will take a risk by writing about a time and place in history that is different than the usual suspects. Most historical romances on the shelves today fit into a couple of eras: Medieval, Regency or Victorian. Most Romance Authors stick with what works and what sells, the usual time periods.
How about a setting that is gritty, often cruel and unforgiving, like the slums of St. Giles, in London, circa 1737?
I have been amazed by author Elizabeth Hoyt for some years. I first discovered her in the spring of 2008, and was delighted to read The Raven Prince, which was getting a lot of praise from various romance review sites. I was enthralled from the first page of her story and went on to read the other two "Prince Trilogy" books and also "The Legend of the Four Soldiers" series.
Recently, I discovered a new series by this brave, talented and imaginative author. Hoyt's newest series, "Maiden Lane" is set in the back streets of St. Giles, a dangerous part of London that has been depicted in William Hogarth's famous prints of the early 18th Century.
|Gin Lane Print Engraving By William Hogarth, 18th Century|
What could be romantic about such a place as this (Above)? Well, nothing really. Except for the heroine, who runs an orphanage for cast off children, a masked swordsman known as the Harlequin, who goes about rescuing people from thugs in the dark of night, a river pirate named Charming Mickey, and a nobleman roaming the dark streets trying to find the man who murdered his mistress to settle the score?
All of these intriguing characters are introduced to us in the first book of the Maiden Lane Series, Wicked Intentions. It also gives us a very unusual hero, Lord Caire, the aforementioned nobleman. His physical appearance may seem a little strange for a romance hero, as he has very pale white-blonde hair. At the outset, this man is not a very gallant and honorable sort of hero. He's able to have sex with women, but he in order to do so he must restrain them first. Add to that the fact that Lord Caire cannot stand to be physically touched by another person. As iconic romance heroes go, this is a little unsettling, and sort of creepy. We're used to rakes, yes, but typically the kind who want to touch and be touched, who break hearts with a smile and who are lovingly reformed by their would-be heroines by the end of the book. But a hero who is emotionally turned off, selfish and uncaring (on the surface) and can only get it up if he can tie up his 'victim'? That, to me, was questionable. Because I love Hoyt's previous works and know she has an exceptional talent for spinning a deep and satisfying historical romance, I read the book, despite my reservations.
And the verdict?
I loved it. The heroine, Temperance, is a widow who runs an orphanage in St. Giles with her brother. They take in stray children, most of them being the unwanted offspring of the local whores and other less savory characters of this dark underbelly of London. Lord Caire meets Temperance in the slums while searching for his mistress's murderer. Through the course of the story, the pair encounter many dangers on the streets at night, and come to be strongly attracted to one another. On the surface, Temperance seems to be a saint, tirelessly selfless, the polar opposite of Lord Caire and his strange sexual appetites. In this story, she turns out to be his perfect match. She turns out to be not such a boring saint after all. She even allows Lord Caire to tie her up and have his way with her.
And damn, but if she actually sort of likes it.
Wow, talk about a one-two punch in romance writing history. Yes, I know, there have been many, many erotica tales with dark BSDM undertones. This is NOT one of those stories. It's not about the sex. It's about the lovers, their journey, which just happens to take them to the dark side of London, a setting that mirrors perfectly the exploration of their dark desires.
Lord Caire is not as nasty as he seems. He does care, he just hides it well. He is charmed by Temperance, and we, in turn, are charmed by him! Thank you, Ms. Hoyt for rising to the challenge to create a very unique hero and a very intriguing new series.
The time period and the setting are fresh, and in Ms. Hoyt's hands, we have a very well written historical romance that many readers will be pleased to discover. Add to that, the intriguing characters such as Charming Mickey the River Pirate and the masked vigilante introduced in book one, and we have the makings for a very fresh and intriguing new series set in Georgian England instead of the Regency.
I highly recommend The Maiden Lane Series. Ms. Hoyt is currently working on books four and five, which will be released July of 2012 in early 2013.
Here are the titles in the series:
Wicked Intentions, 2010
Notorious Pleasures, 2011
Scandalous Desires, 2011
Thief of Shadows, coming July 2012
Lord of Darkness, coming in early 2013
For more information check out Elizabeth Hoyt's Website