28 February 2013

Lord of Darkness (Maiden Lane #5)

Summary from Goodreads:

When Strangers In The Night

He lives in the shadows. As the mysterious masked avenger known as the Ghost of St. Giles, Godric St. John's only goal is to protect the innocent of London. Until the night he confronts a fearless young lady pointing a pistol at his head—and realizes she is his wife.

Become Lovers...

Lady Margaret Reading has vowed to kill the Ghost of St. Giles—the man who murdered her one true love. Returning to London, and to the man she hasn't seen since their wedding day, Margaret does not recognize the man behind the mask. Fierce, commanding, and dangerous, the notorious Ghost of St. Giles is everything she feared he would be—and so much more.

Desire Is The Ultimate Danger

When passion flares, these two intimate strangers can't keep from revealing more of themselves than they had ever planned. But when Margaret learns the truth—that the Ghost is her husband—the game is up and the players must surrender...to the temptation that could destroy them both.

At the end of Thief of Shadows (though largely off the page) Godric St. John, another Ghost of St. Giles, is given an attractive proposition: marry Lady Margaret Reading, an unmarried lady who found herself “in the family way” by a man now deceased. Godric has no intention of marrying again. His beloved Clara died of a lengthy illness between Wicked Intentions and Notorious Pleasures; the marriage bed holds no allure for him. But Lord Griffin Reading, Lady Margaret’s brother and hero of Notorious Pleasures, makes the offer irresistible. He knows Godric is the Ghost – Godric will marry Lady Margaret or face unmasking. He marries.

It is now two years later and Godric-as-Ghost comes to the rescue of a well-appointed carriage improbably, stupidly parked in the middle of St. Giles and under attack by footpads. A lady steps from the carriage, pulls out a pistol – and fires it at him, not the footpad. Godric dispatches all the footpads but Lady Margaret isn’t terribly grateful. It was reported that the Ghost of St. Giles killed Roger Fraser-Burnsby, her secret fiancee and father of her lost child. She wants revenge. She also wants a baby from her husband. She has returned to London to kill the Ghost of St. Giles and seduce her husband, Godric St. John.

Which is going to be difficult because she doesn't know the Ghost is Godric. He became the Ghost as a way to escape the painful reality of watching his love die slowly, painfully over nearly a decade. Now that Clara is gone he has been living a sort of half-life, using his exploits as the Ghost to feel alive. He does not have room in that life for a wife, no matter how sweet and lovely, no matter how much Megs wants a child. He does not have room to feel. But as Megs slowly insinuates herself, her great-aunt, and his family into his life, he begins to live again. In the same vein, when Godric opens up to Megs she also must let go the ghost of the past she never had.

And that is the crux of this installment in the Maiden Lane series – the coming together of two very wounded people. Hoyt uses a lot of nature imagery in this romance, pairing the flowering between Godric and Megs with that of the overgrown, dormant garden at Saint House, trimming back the dead growth while breathing life into its very heart and soul. Some of those scenes are almost painful: Godric being forced to acknowledge that he has bricked himself into a prison with his grief, Megs must finish grieving for Roger if she hopes to have a future with Godric. They come together slowly, tentatively and it’s very satisfying to read. Even the scene where Megs realizes the Ghost staring at her is her husband ends quite a bit differently than it might have had only fifty pages before. The Hellequin fairy tale told at the beginning of each chapter – a device Hoyt uses in nearly all her books – adds pathos to the story.

In the backround, the Ghost continues his activities. The lassie snatchers from Thief of Shadows are back again, still stealing children and making black-market clocked lace stockings. Although the subplot feels a tiny bit rehashed, I had always thought that there was more to the story than simply Winter Makepeace doing away with the dastardly Seymour. Thankfully, Hoyt weaves that plot together very nicely with Godric’s and Megs’s love story. Almost every other character previously introduced in the series makes a return in this book (barring Silence and Charming Mickey, who I admit would have been hard to shoe-horn in there given the way Scandalous Desires ended). Lazarus, Temperance, Griffin, Hero, Winter, and Isabel all make small contributions to the plot. Hoyt even sets up the sixth book in the series, Duke of Midnight, with a delicious sneek peek at the end of the book, although the mystery of the hero is given away solely by the title if you’ve been paying attention. [Aside: I recently went back and re-read Wicked Intentions and Hoyt drops tiny little hints as to the Ghosts' identities that are almost undetectable on first read. Bravo.]

Lord of Darkness is out now from Grand Central Publishing.

I reviewed all four previous Maiden Lane books on this blog.

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