I recently got to spend a day reading. I didn’t read the whole time, of course, but I did manage to finish three books, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done that. This was one of the three. I love Hoyt’s books, and since I’m currently waiting for the next Maiden Lane book to come out, I feel this may be my chance to catch up on her other series.
A widow takes a position as secretary to a scarred earl, only to find that her feelings for him leave her willing to do scandalous things when she finds out he frequents a brothel in London. For a fully synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.
Things of Ill Repute
I sometimes think my little one sentence explanations make the books sound deviant and not as good as they really are. Don’t worry. In this case, we don’t actually see the earl, Edward, do any brothel-like things, at least not without Anna. The story is actually very sweet and sensual. Anna is plain and comes with trust issues since her late husband cheated on her and blamed her when they couldn’t have children. In fact, she’s just accepted it as fact that she’s barren.
Edward wants a family, especially children, to carry on his lineage. He’s a widower whose late wife died in childbirth. But he also has trust issues since he found out that his wife had been forced to marry him and actually found him repulsive due to poxmark scars on his body and face. When he meets Anna, he’s already been courting a woman who can deal with those scars and seems fine with marrying him, if not over the moon since it’s a marriage of convenience.
You know who isn’t turned off or repulsed by those scars? Anna. In fact, Anna is so ready to jump Edward that when she finds out he’s going to a house of ill repute in London, she takes the opportunity to go as well. Wearing a mask so he doesn’t know it’s her, she gets what she thinks she wants (in the form of some pretty steamy sexy times) only to discover that she actually wants more…like actual feelings from him. And unfortunately, she knows she can’t have it, since Edward needs children and she can’t have any.
I Do What I Want
So much conflict, but it’s so good. Anna’s secret, as well as the side plot of blackmail from one of her peers. draws the conflict out in the best way possible. Edward is not an ass, as many scarred (re: Beauty and the Beast trope) heroes are, and Anna serves as the “Why can’t women enjoy hot sex, too?” heroine, which I’m always a fan of. She does have a bit of a meek streak. She’s scared to let Edward know she was the one behind the mask, and she seems to cower a bit when bullied by the aforementioned blackmailing peer. But she also turns her nose up at what society deems proper in order to help a prostitute she finds sick on the side of the road.
Good Moms-In-Law Do Exist
Even though Anna’s late husband was a cheater and not very likable, I kind of loved Anna’s mother-in-law. Anna lives with the older woman, but instead of being that overbearing mother who thinks her son did no wrong, the older Wren knows what her son was like and now wants Anna to be happy. In fact, when she realizes there’s some chemistry between Anna and Edward, she encourages the relationship.
It seemed like there hadn’t been a huge amount of interaction and development between the two before Anna was literally crying over the fact that he didn’t seem to want her. While I completely loved the emotion and romance behind it, I also thought it seemed a little too soon for tears.
The Romance Factor
Despite the quick shed of tears, I loved Anna’s acceptance of Edward, even though he had so many moments where he thought she was repulsed by him. I also loved Edward’s inner conflict as he tried to deal with his feelings for Anna, the fact that the masked woman in the brothel made him think of Anna which made him feel like he was cheating on Anna, and the fact that he couldn’t marry Anna because of the kid thing. Talk about a hot mess. 4/5
The Steam Factor
If anyone thinks that historicals don’t match contemporaries in eroticism, they need to read a Hoyt novel. Detailed, sensual, and paced well, the sexy times in her novels never get cold. 5/5
There’s one more book in this series I need to read. While these ones don’t rank as high as the Maiden Lane books on my faves list, I’m still enjoying them. I believe this year will be the year I make it through the whole catalog of books by this author.