Thursday, April 4, 2019

Elizabeth Hoyt - Duke of Desire

Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.
Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.
Much to Raphael's irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he's drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael's past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael's own demons?

Comment: This is the 12th installment of the Maiden Lane series by author Elizabeth Hoyt and it's also the last full length story. There will be two novellas to complete the series and part of me is sad to see it end, even if in the fans' hands it's always possible to revisit and re-read them.
This last full length story was quite interesting in terms of content but I have to say I'm glad there are two more novellas which I hope showcase how the beloved characters of series are doing for this one barely connected to them at all.

In this story we are able to know what happened after the end of the last book, when Raphael de Chartres, the duke of Dyemore saw the guests of the duke of Kyle's wedding leave the location and how he assumed Iris Jordan, the woman he got fascinated with at a ball, seemed to be the bride.
When this book starts, we find Iris at the hands of the lords of Chaos, having been kidnapped because of her association with the duke of Kyle, who has been a thorn of the lords' plans.
However, Iris is not the new duchess and Raphael, infiltrated among the lords, hoping to discover who is their new leader, can't help but save Iris and he concocts a plan that only by marrying her, can she be protected. What follows is a slow sharing of their hopes and secrets and love does seem to come least until Raphael tells Iris about his reasons to be distant and a terrible price is asked for these two to finally find peace...

Throughout the novels, there has always been some sort of issue, of secret or unlikely situation that often made it impossible for the protagonists to be together without overcoming that in order to find happiness. Most of the time, the direst of problems could be solved by love, by friendship and bravery in putting conventions aside or even managing the problems behind the scenes.
Of course the outcome was a HEA, believable or not, following the cultural/social demands of time or not but the thing is, for readers this is a romance so several fails would be overlooked for that goal.

Regarding this 12th story and considering what I just wrote, I have to say this was a book way out of sync in relation to the others because I felt the issues on the path for the HEA were too heavy and serious to have been solved by a simple HEA. I was not convinced and part of me feels the dark tone of this story was too much for the expectations created. What I mean to say is that I don't mind the fact this was a darker story but after the way all the other stories have been done, I was not expecting this one to amp up the drama so much to the point I couldn't believe love alone could have been the answer for the couple's serious issues, namely the hero's.

Don't think otherwise: I still liked this story and its overall development. However, the hero is clearly still dealing with a serious trauma and I couldn't easily believe he could choose love that easily as the epilogue claims. I can understand why, this is a romance after all, but it didn't seem to suit the usual tone of the series, which isn't a comedy but not too dark at the same time.
Besides, there are some situations during the story, of ambushes and chases and even enemies managing to have the upper hand here and there before the final revelations (I would say the big villain isn't that surprising) that caused some problems and I think some were avoidable, even for plot purposes.

As for this being part of the Maiden Lane series, the only character we see being an active part of this book that has any sort of connection to everything that happened before is the duke of Kyle, hero of the previous book. No one else. I felt this story was a little "abandoned" or not included enough in the big scheme of things. I suppose it can also be a contributing factor for this to not feel as easy to go through, as if the support system of the beloved characters is missing.

However, the biggest issue for me is definitely the hero's vulnerabilities and trauma. I mean... I do feel for him and in a contemporary story I don't think he would ever be ready to be in a relationship or to accept certain situations so easily. The end is a happy one, don't be worried, but to me it wasn't believable. Therefore, how can the romance be? Yes, the couple suits but the hero's psyche is too uncontrollable, in my POV, for it to be a good one.
This said, I do hope the last two novellas can be more alike the other books and that the series does end on a (believable) happy note.
Grade: 7/10

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