Lady Isabel Beckinhall enjoys nothing more than a challenge. Yet when she's asked to tutor the Home's dour manager in the ways of society-flirtation, double-entendres, and scandalous liaisons-Isabel can't help wondering why his eyes seem so familiar-and his lips so tempting.
During the day Isabel and Winter engage in a battle of wills. At night their passions are revealed . . . But when little girls start disappearing from St. Giles, Winter must avenge them. For that he might have to sacrifice everything-the Home, Isabel . . . and his life.
Comment: This is the fourth installment in the Maiden Lane series by author Elizabeth Hoyt.
I'm on the mission to read this series in the following months and this time I grabbed the 4th story, hoping a lot based on who the main character would be.
In this book we have Winter Makepeace as the main character. Winter is known as the brother of Temperance and Silence, protagonists of previous books, and as the manager of the house his father founded for orphans in St Giles, the area of London no one cares about, much less the less fortunate children.
Winter has gladly received the help of patronesses, especially after his sister's wedding to an aristocrat, but that didn't come without its rules, namely he should be the best host of the house and he should be able to deal with people even outside of his social sphere. In order to make him more polished among aristocrats, lady Isabel Beckinhall - another patroness - is charged with helping him at a key moment, the ball given by a duchess where important will be. Isabel is chosen because she is the only patroness who is not a maiden at the time of the ball but her widowed state only makes her more conscious of Winter as a man. He is quite reserved though. Will Isabel succeed in bringing out of his shell?
As it happened with the previous installments, I was quite happy to have read this story as well. I think the author has created a successful cast of characters, she has thought about most of them in a way that, with little glimpses from book to book, we can expect great things from their personal stories.
We have been given clues about the possible relationship between Winter and Isabel, nothing specific but it was understood they would be a couple. I'm glad to say that for me they did seem like a good pair.
Winter is a fascinating character. He is stoic in his dealings with everyone because he clearly feels if he gives in to his feelings, to his obvious caring of others, if he fails he won't be able to help those in need and he will suffer as well. His stress relief is his fight against the wrongs in St Giles under the guise of the Ghost of Sta Giles, a person masked as an harlequin who helps those in need, since no one else helps the poor. This shows an obvious complexity in his character, in his way of thinking. At some point in the story he tells Isabel he feels he should help because no one else does and it's his life task. She asks why him and his reply is obvious of who he is as a human being. But this also reveals some personal issues I'm sure it would be a lot harder to solve rather than just by falling in love as he does with Isabel...
She, on the other hand, is very practical but the best feature, for me, about her, is her care about others too, and her fear she will suffer if she lets it be known she has disappointments in life. She is afraid of suffering is she cares about the illegitimate child of her deceased husband. I liked how her personality was presented, I liked how we are given little details at a time that allow us to start having an idea about who she is as person but not so much it would become too obvious and boring. In this regard, the author was quite clever.
The romance is both sweet and adventurous with all the hidden stuff they try to conceal from one another although Isabel does realize very quickly Winter's secret identity. Their conversations aren't just flirtation, I liked how they got to be closer and to known one another better every time they were together even if it wasn't that obvious. The intimate scenes were also special. I sort of disliked the fact she is older than him, if I counted well, six years. It's not that much, I can't say it bothered me that much really, but...ehh, I'd change this for certain.
There's a goal the Ghost wants to achieve in this book: most of the time Winter/Ghost is looking for to discover the hidden place of a group of girls, who have been kidnapped to be work slaves and his steps take him to an aristocrat but apparently that isn't the real culprit. It seemed to me that this part of the plot was well intertwined with the romance and personal scenes of the main characters and did allow the story to move forward. The resolution isn't complicated and did provide interesting sequel possibilities. I just think it was a nice way to justify some situations and how we got to know some character's actions better.
All in all, a great installment. My favorite so far remain the 2nd but the following ones seem promising. It's always so nice to have series where characters have connections beyond the necessary for that specific plot and I love that in books.
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