03 December 2016

Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #11)

Summary from Goodreads:

Bold. Brave. Brutally handsome. Hugh Fitzroy, the Duke of Kyle, is the king's secret weapon. Sent to defeat the notorious Lords of Chaos, he is ambushed in a London alley—and rescued by an unlikely ally: a masked stranger with the unmistakable curves of a woman.


Cocky. Clever. Courageously independent. Alf has survived on the perilous streets of St. Giles by disguising her sex. By day she is a boy, dealing in information and secrets. By night she's the notorious Ghost of St. Giles, a masked vigilante. But as she saves Hugh from assassins, she finds herself succumbing to temptation.


When Hugh hires Alf to investigate the Lords of Chaos, her worlds collide. Once Hugh realizes that the boy and the Ghost are the same, will Alf find the courage to become the woman she needs to be—before the Lords of Chaos destroy them both?

At the conclusion of Duke of Sin, the Duke of Montgomery leaves Hugh Fitzroy, the Duke of Kyle, a shortlist of names.  All men who are purported to be members of the Lords of Chaos, all probably likely to be the four men who kidnapped Bridget, Montgomery's wife.  As Duke of Pleasure opens, Hugh has been hunting these men - with little success - only to find himself the prey.  Trapped in an alley in London, he attempts to fight his way out.  He has two little boys at home, two little boys still traumatized by the death of their mother, and he doesn't want to leave them.  Hugh is saved by the intervention of the Ghost of St. Giles, who at the conclusion of the fight kisses him and then dashes off over the London rooftops.

This Ghost is a woman.

Alf, the streetwise waif introduced in Lord of Darkness, is now the Ghost of St. Giles.  Trained by Godric St. John (squee), she has taken over from the previous three Ghosts while also maintaining the fiction that she's a teenage boy.  Ghost by night, boy by day, and no time to be a woman of any kind in between.  The bits of backstory Alf allows us to see are heartbreaking.  She is the most at-risk character thus far introduced in her Maiden Lane series.  Life on the streets of St. Giles is deadly for girls and women who have no one to protect them. Alf has neither money, nor rank, nor family to protect her.  So she protects herself and those even less fortunate than she by disguising her true self.  Hugh presents a bit of a problem.  Being attracted to a duke who thinks he's employing a crafty male street urchin to help dig up dirt on the Lords of Chaos unearths a lot of confusing feelings Alf would prefer not to have.

Hugh, on the other hand, is a very odd duke.  Compared to Montgomery and Wakefield (from Duke of Midnight), who are so full of their own consequence and rank as to be impossible, Kyle is an egalitarian.  His father is the King (yep, the actual King of England) but his mother an actress and was created a duke when his father acknowledged him.  He's been emotionally shredded in his previous marriage, spent years as a soldier on the Continent, and doesn't know how to comfort his own children.  His quick mind is puzzled by the Ghost of St. Giles and his reaction.  He's been slowly planning to remarry - to Lady Jordan, an old friend of his wife's - and the introduction of a savvy women who can match swords and wits with him was definitely not in his plans.

Oh hai. This is excellent, which is all my soppy heart can put together right now. I CRIED over my lunch during one scene (not that one, the one where Kyle talks to his older son, the scene toward the end).  Alf is a fantastic character, and even if you think it's a stretch that a Duke, even a by-blow Duke, and a destitute commoner with no surname will have a Happily Ever After, you won't really care about that by the end. Although there might be a bit of reinforcement of gender norms (Alf ends up in a dress), it doesn't sound like she will be mewed up in the house serving tea or sewing or anything.  Given that all the previous Ghosts have retired on marriage - and all of those very big males - it doesn't seem out of line that Alf would retire as well (and I'm curious to see if Winter or Wakefield have been training anyone).  I also liked that the potential rival, Lady Jordan, was given the opportunity to stick up for what she wanted in a marriage, which also removed the risk of too much love triangle (dislike those intensely). In addition, we get a substantial Godric and Megs sighting (they're my favorite pair, still).

And now I really, REALLY need Duke of Desire since the teaser chapter is even more perplexing than any of Montgomery's sociopathic schemes in Duke of Sin.

Dear FTC: Of course I bought this on my nook. (Besides, no one would give me a DRC ahead of time.)

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