Maiden Lane, #10
Heat Factor: Val shows off his splendid physique
Character Chemistry: Even though there is a *serious* power imbalance between these two, it doesn’t *feel* like there is.
Plot: Val is the literal worst. Bridget is his housekeeper.
Overall: I finally understand the appeal of morality chain romances, because I loved every single minute of this book.
Elizabeth Hoyt dedicated Duke of Sin to everyone who fell in love with the villain. And, frankly, the best part about this book is that she let Valentine Napier, Duke of Montgomery, just be villainous. He is not secretly doing good. Nope. He values his personal pleasure over all else. He is selfish and vain and blackmails people for funsies. Well, and for power, because you can never have enough power, and power built from fear is absolutely necessary if you have no friends.
As Val says (right after he knifes someone in his bedroom):
“This is who I am, Séraphine. Naked, with blade and blood. I am vengeance. I am hate. I am sin personified. Never mistake me for the hero of this tale, for I am not and shall never be. I am the villain.”
And he laid his lips over hers and pushed his hot tongue into her mouth and kissed her until she couldn’t breathe and it was only later that she found the bloodstains on her dress.
But also: Val is a great conversationalist. Val will protect those he loves (even if he’s in denial about it). Val is absolutely fascinated by his housekeeper, Mrs. Crumb, because she refuses to cower before him. And, most importantly, Val is unrepentantly himself, which makes him an absolute blast to read about.
“You’ll thank me when none of your possessions go missing, Your Grace,” she replied.
“Will I, though?” He strode, nude, to his desk, and, bending over it, afforded her a quite scandalous view of his muscular bottom. He seemed to have a dark mark of some kind on the left cheek. Good God, it looked like a tattoo. What—? “I have the most lamentable taste sometimes. It probably would be better if a few of my things disappeared. Why, Mrs. Crumb,” he drawled, and she snapped her gaze belatedly up to find that he’d turned back to her—damn it! “Were you ogling my arse?”
Bridget, for her part, doesn’t welcome Val’s fascination. Bridget stands on her own feet, and takes pride in her work and the career she has. (While she is the bastard daughter of an aristocrat, there is no long-lost heir plot here.) She has a job to do, which includes managing a house, not having dinner with her boss. She loathes her boss. But she also knows she’s in a vulnerable position. She wouldn’t much care about getting fired, because she is damn good at her job and has other references, except for the fact that she’s working for Val to put the kibosh on some of his blackmail schemes.
The book opens with Val walking in on her searching his stuff, so he knows she’s up to something, and she knows he knows she’s up to something. And so the game of cat and mouse begins. Of course, as they spend time together, Bridget starts to like Val in spite of herself, and Val starts to see Bridget as a real person (even if he insists on calling her Séraphine). Eventually, the biggest hurdle to their relationship is Val’s emotional state because (of course) he doesn’t love because love brings pain. Is this tropey nonsense? Yes, of course, but it works here because Hoyt leans so far into it
Now, I must admit, the plot is ridiculous. The opening few chapters are all setting up Val’s plan to blackmail the King (!!!), so that he can return to society (he’s supposed to be in exile after doing some kidnapping). But then! Val is poisoned. His truly horrific childhood is revealed. There’s a kidnapping. There’s a secret society of hedonistic pedophiles. Bridget’s secret is exposed. There’s a duel. There’s another kidnapping.
While this seems like a lot of disparate pieces, each ridiculous plot device works to further the love story, as Val learns, first, that maybe he does care for Bridget in spite of himself, and second, that he doesn’t care if love hurts, because having her with him makes it worth it.
She’d said she loved him. Loved him. What a strange and wondrous thing. And how it hurt, this love! What pain it caused, like tiny knives in the veins. He didn’t think he liked it much, but he’d endure it, yes he would, if only she’d return and stab him again.
I just. I loved it so much.
Content Notes: This book includes references to the abuse of children and animals.
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