20 October 2014

Darling Beast (Maiden Lane #7) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Summary from Goodreads:

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 . . .


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.


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.

At the end of Duke of Midnight, we were introduced to the men running Harte's Folly, a London pleasure garden and theatre that is now a smoking ruin.  Also at the end of Duke, we find out that Apollo Greaves, falsely accused and imprisoned-in-Bedlam-but-now-escaped Viscount Kilbourne, has taken refuge there while hiding from his sister Artemis's husband (Maximus, Duke of Wakefield, was not entirely convinced that Apollo in insane, so he kept Apollo in his basement after breaking him out of Bedlam.  Go read Duke of Midnight - it makes far more sense if you do).

A few months later, when Darling Beast opens, the garden is under re-construction and has gained another set of inhabitants: Lily Stump, celebrated actress under contract to Harte's Folly, and her son Indio and their housekeeper/nurse/dresser/old friend Maude.  Their small savings have dwindled.  No theatre means no income to pay her and her contract burned a lot of bridges in the London theatre community.  When Indio and his little dog Daffodil (aka Daff) make the acquaintance of the enormous, mute gardener (Apollo) Lily finds herself dangerously attracted to him.  It seems the regenerating garden holds many secrets: Apollo's identity, his location (which involves Artemis as well), Lily's past, and the secret to her success.  Only two of these secrets might prove to be fatal.  An opportunity for Lily to earn extra money at a country house party brings everything out into the open.

Elizabeth Hoyt has delivered another excellent installment of the Maiden Lane series. It's a beautiful story for Apollo and Lily in another cross-class romance with a bit of shading for Trevillion and Phoebe, who will be featured in the next book, Dearest Rogue (due in May or June 2015, I think).  The inclusion of a curious little boy and his energetic dog (Hoyt says in her acknowledgements that Daffodil was inspired by someone else's Italian greyhound but I see a lot of her Miss Puppy Pie in Daff; I'm still rooting for a series of picture books inspired by Miss Puppy Pie's exploits) provide many opportunities for laughter as does Apollo's insistence on calling Maximus "His Grace the Ass" (Apollo has his reasons).

My new favorite addition to the cast of Maiden Lane is Valentine Napier, the 7th Duke of Montgomery, who is a sort of silent partner in Harte's Folly.  Dry, witty, nattily dressed, and canny as all hell, he's the Hoyt answer to Eloisa James's Leopold Dautry, Duke of Villiers, from the Desperate Duchesses series.  I wonder if the mysterious Miss Royle will end up with Montgomery (in my head he sounds EXACTLY like Tom Hollander in his Lord Admiral role from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies; if they ever adapt these - because who knows - he better be on the casting list).  Although before we get to Montgomery, we'll have a book for Asa Makepeace first, in Sweetest Scandal, I think, who is a completely different sort of personality from his younger brother, Winter (Thief of Shadows).

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