I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
"I want to learn all of you. I want you to know me in return. When I next kiss you, I want you to welcome my lips like a lover instead of a stranger."
A novella listed as #12.5 in the Maiden Lane series, you could still read this as a standalone. Mary grew up in the orphanage featured in the series and we've seen glimpses of her and a couple other characters before but the hero and their romance is a new introduction.
With some Cinderella inspiration, nursemaid Mary is identified in a bookstore by our hero Lord Henry Blackwell to be the missing Albright twin. Twin babies stolen by their nursemaid, while Johanna was recovered Cecilia was never found. Henry is taken aback by how much Mary looks like Johanna and immediately claims she is Cecilia. Now, this is a novella, so the tempo gets pushed up. Henry's immediate claim Mary is Cecilia and the family accepting it is a bit side-eyeing but the relationship Henry and Mary have, made up for it for me.
He looked at her, at her straight black brows and the big brown eyes regarding him so seriously, and yet with a spark of humor, and it was as if something turned over in his chest. She was playing with him, this woman.
I instantly felt a spark between the two, Hoyt's skill with sexual tension was evident but the friendship and sheer compatibility between the two won the show for me. Mary's guardedness but also strength paired with Henry's charm provided a delightful give and take between them.
"And you? Did you have a pet as a child?"
"Yes, several," he replied. "Dogs and cats. Now I've got two hounds---Mole and Timberline."
"His ears are very soft," he said a tad defensively.
I also thought this story was laced with skillful writing moments that a top author like Hoyt can provide; showing, instead of being told, little nuances of a character make the reading so much richer. You'll also get a pretty good feel for the times (1700s) as Hoyt focuses on the clothing through Mary being dressed as a lady for the first time.
As I mentioned, the Cinderella story, and all it’s in and outs, has some forced and awkward moments and the ending was a tad rushed but there is an epilogue that works to soothe that (you'll see a lot of past characters show up here). This is a novella and if you're looking for a quick hit of romance warmth, Once Upon a Maiden Lane would provide that and a friendly return to the Maiden Lane world.
It was like a fairy tale come true.
My review cross-posted from Wit and Sin
Once Upon a Maiden Lane is an utterly charming read! Mary Whitsun was introduced to readers in the first Maiden Lane book, Wicked Intentions, so I was delighted that – as the series comes to a close – the now-adult Mary gets a story of her own. Mary is witty, kind, and an overall endearing heroine. Even though she has grown up under the loving care of Temperance, now Lady Caire, Mary has never had a life all her own and there’s something a bit lonely about her at the beginning of the story. That’s why she’s wary, yet hopeful, when she learns that she might have a family that has been looking for her all her life.
Mary simply shines in this story and comes into her own, though not just because of her change in status. She’s a lovely woman and I wanted her to have the fairytale life and love she so deserves. What happens I will not spoil, but since this is a romance it’s safe to say that a happily ever after is guaranteed. I absolutely adored Mary and Henry’s love story. Henry may be an aristocrat, but he’s no snob. He’s a kind, loving man with charm and good looks to spare. He and Mary had instant chemistry and I cannot count the number of times they made me smile. The two of them fit like lock and key; they have friendship, passion, shared interests, and they just simply work as a couple. As this is a novella, the timeline of the romance is a bit swift, but I didn’t mind being swept away because I was so entranced by Elizabeth Hoyt’s writing.
Once Upon a Maiden Lane can be read as a standalone and is sure to delight anyone who likes a good fairytale-like historical romance. That being said, part of what made this story so satisfying to me was getting to see or hear mention of some of my favorite Maiden Lane heroes and heroines. Temperance, for example, plays a significant supporting role and warms my heart, and of course it takes no time at all for the irreverent Duke of Montgomery to steal the page. I cannot adequately express how much I enjoyed Once Upon a Maiden Lane. It’s a heartwarming story I know I will be reading again and again and again.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
After a case of mistaken identity, Lord Henry Blackwell identifies the orphaned Miss Mary Whitsun as Lady Cecilia Albright, the long-lost daughter of an earl, the very woman he is supposed to wed. She is welcomed by her birth mother and twin sister, and even finds friendship with, and an attraction to, her betrothed. However, after two near misses on her life, it appears not everyone is pleased with Henry’s discovery.
Once upon a Maiden Lane is a sweet, standalone novella that appears to wrap up the wonderful Maiden Lane series. As a recent newcomer to the series, I only recognized a handful of the characters mentioned in the story; however, longtime fans will probably enjoy this tale even more because of it. The romance of Henry and Mary is genuine and charming, and I love how the pair so quickly become friends, attracted to each another both physically and mentally. They spend time getting to know one another while getting in a few scandalous moments when left unchaperoned. Of course, Ms. Hoyt tosses in a twist or two, keeping readers on their toes.
While the events of the story would have been significantly altered if only the Countess Angrove had spoken up sooner (I did have to roll my eyes on this part), the lightness and jovial mood of the tale swept me away and made me smile. Once upon a Maiden Lane is a delightful novella for fans of the Cinderella trope.
My Rating: B, Liked It
Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About
Review copy provided by Netgalley/publisher
Duke of Desire jumps right into the thick of things, with Iris, the Lady Jordan, kidnapped four days ago as she departed from the Duke of Kyle’s wedding. She is currently bound on an alter in front of the masked Lords of Chaos who are arguing over Iris’s identity, confusing her with the new Duchess of Kyle.
Raphael, Duke of Dyemore, is working to infiltrate and eliminate the atrocious Lords of Chaos, the group his father once proudly ruled. Seeing the innocent Lady Jordan held captive on his own lands pushes him to take action. Demanding she be his to use, he hauls her away, in an effort to save her. However as circumstances become dangerous for Iris and Raphael, he insists marriage is the only way he can protect her.
As a late-comer to the wonderful Maiden Lane series, I was sad to learn that Duke of Desire is the last novel in this delightful world. While this book isn’t my favorite of the series, it puts some issues to rest and leaves readers with a happily-ever-after epilogue. I enjoyed the story, but I felt the plot revolving around the Lords of Chaos and Raphael’s revenge overshadows the romance.
Iris is a strong woman and wonderful character. She’s a different type of heroine from many that I normally read. Rather than push to get her way, she decides she shall convince and plot. Rather than stand up, she goes along, keeping faith and hope she’ll turn things around. She knows what she wants, and is willing to temporarily “settle” for less, with the hope she will get through Raphael’s defenses eventually. Not that she’ll wear him down, but rather that she’ll help him realize there is more to life than revenge. But her nature causes her to appear complacent at times, and I wanted to her to fight harder for herself and those she cares about. It’s a good thing I’m not Iris, or the author, or I’d have ended up pushing Raphael away permanently!
Raphael was left emotionally, physically, and mentally damaged by his father and a horrific childhood. Even though his aunt was able to help him escape the dangers at home, Raphael’s memories will never let him rest. His mind is warped; convinced he will end up a monster like his father. While Raphael’s behaviors and attitude are probably genuine and possibly even a bit tame for someone who suffered as he did, it seemed to overwhelm the story. I wouldn’t want an author to ever minimize abuse or its life-long impacts; but I wanted more dimension from Raphael, instead of a man so focused on the negative in his life. Again, it’s not the author’s fault, it’s just my preference.
In the end, Duke of Desire is another delightful tale set in Ms. Hoyt’s historic England. Filled with robust intrigue, a sweeping plot, and steamy encounters, the book brings to close an overarching plotline, while allowing Iris and Raphael time to get their HEA.
My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot
Review copy provided by publisher
Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About