02 June 2016

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #10)

Summary from Goodreads:

Devastatingly handsome. Vain. Unscrupulous. Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, is the man London whispers about in boudoirs and back alleys. A notorious rake and blackmailer, Montgomery has returned from exile, intent on seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. But what he finds in his own bedroom may lay waste to all his plans.


Born a bastard, housekeeper Bridget Crumb is clever, bold, and fiercely loyal. When her aristocratic mother becomes the target of extortion, Bridget joins the Duke of Montgomery's household to search for the incriminating evidence-and uncovers something far more dangerous.


Astonished by the deceptively prim-and surprisingly witty-domestic spy in his chambers, Montgomery is intrigued. And try as she might, Bridget can't resist the slyly charming duke. Now as the two begin their treacherous game of cat and mouse, they soon realize that they both have secrets-and neither may be as nefarious-or as innocent-as they appear . . .

In previous Maiden Lane installments, the Duke of Montgomery has been largely an enigma.  A brilliant, bloodthirsty, and amoral enigma.  He shot the villain (for fun, more or less) in Darling Beast but then turned around and had the heroine of Dearest Rogue kidnapped to get back at her brother.  In his own book, Val is hiding out in his own house, a wanted man, until he works a rather dishonest scheme - blackmail.  He is a bored cat, playing with his prey before skewering it with his claws.

One of his prey being his new, mysterious - and extremely efficient - housekeeper, Bridget Crumb  (Hands up - who remembers Mrs. Crumb from Lord of Darkness?).  Bridget started working for the duke in the previous book Sweetest Scoundrel .... and also for several aristocratic ladies who are also victims of Val's bored schemes.  When Val catches Bridget snooping through his bedroom, the game of cat and mouse begins.  There are spies, and counterspies, and murder, and another kidnapping, and an actual cult.  This romance is one wild ride from London to York and back again.

I have been looking forward to Duke of Sin because I wanted to see what Hoyt would do with a character who has been a) enigmatic and b) the villainous antagonist in several previous books (redemption arcs are a thing that can work really well cf. The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas). Now, there is no way to make Val "nice" - he can't just fall in love and then decide to have a normal moral/psychological code, that wouldn't work because Val is sociopathic, occasionally murderous, and power-mad (riffing off the old "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" Byron trope). So Hoyt made Val emotionally damaged, really messed up, to the point that Bridget does the only thing that could possibly save him: love him for himself because he has dug himself a really deep trench of "basically, he should be in jail" (in my opinion, some of the previous heroes need to punch him harder and many more times).

There's also really nice textual handoffs for the upcoming novella Once Upon a Moonlit Night and the next full novel Duke of Pleasure (which is the Duke of Kyle's book and I want it now) that don't get in the way of this story.

So go out and get your hands on Duke of Sin and get ready to relish Val's exploits.  (And yes, I realize that certain plot points in this book might be super squicky for some readers. I think they work well in this specific instance.)

Dear FTC: I received a digital advance copy of this book from Netgalley.

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