WICKED INTENTIONS (Maiden Lane #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Mass Market Paperback, 382 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Grand Central Publishing
Genre: historical romance novel
Rating: 5 stars
I just turned the last page of this historical romance novel wondering why it took me so long to pick up a book from the titles list of this gifted author : many thanks to Goodreads First Reads for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
My love affair with romantic fiction started with historical romance novels and what mostly drew me towards this genre is the way the characters’ quest for love unfolds on different moral grounds, facing different challenges and following different rituals. The beauty of some HRN is that their storylines center substantially around a love relationship , but provide at the same time a clever portrait of the historical backdrop against which the matters of the heart evolve. In Wicked Intentions, a Georgian Era HRN (1751), the colorful and detailed characterization of lead couple, support cast, and their environment, appealed to my taste for historical accuracy. It’s that age of elegance when men used to wear white wigs and tricorne hats, when good society women used to sport magnificent and elaborated gowns with audacious décolleté. It’s also the time when the darkest poverty cast long shadows on St. Giles, the most infamous London district, that underworld of souls doomed to move among slums, dreary orphanages, overcrowded and crumbling buildings, bawdy houses, dirty alleys, and squalid places where the unhealthy addiction to gin could be appeased.
Prim widow Temperance Dews runs an orphans house with her brother in St. Giles. When their lack of funds threatens to put an end to their charitable institution, she strikes a deal with rakish and ill-reputed Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire: he will introduce her to London good society , help her find a sponsor for her foundling home, and in return she will guide him through the squalid alleys of St. Giles in order to hunt down the murderer of his latest mistress. Drawn to each other by an unsuspected affinity, their initial bargain turns into a much deeper and complex bond, exposing them to mortal dangers and elusive enemies.
The most interesting aspect of this dark tale is that both Temperance and Lazarus are flawed characters. He is notorious for his unusual sexual proclivities and believes himself to be "emotionally numb". A traumatic childhood experience and a fundamental lack of warmth and affection within his own family triggered also an extreme revulsion for intimacy and physical touch, at least until he meets Temperance and falls for her. Clad in an armor of propriety and moral obligation to the cause of the orphans, she hides a sensual and passionate nature that led her to a sinful act in the past, a sin she is trying to atone for, denying herself any chance of emotional attachment either to a man or to her own charges at the foundling home. Caire’s blunt sensuality stirs Temperance’s curiosity and their mutual attraction will guide them on a path of exploration of their vulnerable and true natures. At the end of their journey Lazarus and Temperance will both find self-forgiveness and mutual healing, finding in each other their perfect match, like two halves of a whole.
In this highly gratifying tale the author blended the scorching romance with an intriguing murder mystery element, advancing the narration on multiple levels, the central theme of Lazarus and Temperance’s redemption, and three subplots that set the scene for the Maiden Lane sequels. The combination of that particular historical setting, flawed and complex characters, fluid narration, suspenseful plot and interesting subplots really worked out well for me. Two thumbs up!