Welcome to the blog tour for Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt! If you aren't familiar with the Maiden Lane series, FIX THAT! This is book nine. I've loved each and every book of the series, and you will too! Find out more about Sweetest Scoundrel, and enter the giveaway!
Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt
Book Nine of the Maiden Lane series
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***
Summary (from Goodreads):
SHE'S TAKING CHARGE
Prim, proper, and thrifty, Eve Dinwoody is all business when it comes to protecting her brother's investment. But when she agrees to control the purse strings of London's premier pleasure garden, Harte's Folly, she finds herself butting heads with an infuriating scoundrel who can't be controlled.
HE'S RUNNING THE SHOW
Bawdy and bold, Asa Makepeace doesn't have time for a penny-pinching prude like Eve. As the garden's larger-than-life owner, he's already dealing with self-centered sopranos and temperamental tenors. He's not about to let an aristocratic woman boss him around . . . no matter how enticing she is.
BUT LOVE CONQUERS ALL
In spite of her lack of theatrical experience—and her fiery clashes with Asa—Eve is determined to turn Harte's Folly into a smashing success. But the harder she tries to manage the stubborn rake, the harder it is to ignore his seductive charm and raw magnetism. There's no denying the smoldering fire between them—and trying to put it out would be the greatest folly of all.
What I Liked:
I swear, I have yet to read a bad Hoyt book. How does she do it? I've read the Maiden Lane series (books 1-9) and her Julia Harper book Once and Always, and I've liked each of the ten books. Some more than others, but all ten are really unique and wonderful, with mesmerizing stories and lovely characters. Hoyt's characters are so well-written!
Asa Makepeace will do anything for Harte's Folly. He vows to have it open in about a month, after the recent mishap at the garden and theater. His financial backer, the Duke of Montgomery, is the one funding everything. Eve Dinwoody is the Duke's sister and the one in charge of handling the funds for Harte's Folly. Eve thinks Asa is spending too much, and pays Asa a visit. Soon, Eve is wrapped up in Harte's Folly as well, and she's determined to help Asa with the success of the garden and theater. And there's also the matter of the attraction between Asa and Eve...
Let's start with Asa! Ahhh, Asa. I'd always been curious about him - he's one of six Makepeaces, and in the series, he's the one that shows up seldom. Verity and Concord (the two oldest Makepeace children) didn't get their own books (they were introduced to this series already married to their respective spouses, as well as with children), but they have been present in the series. We find out why Asa is not close to his family, and doesn't see them often.
We learn a great deal about Asa. He's a large man, wild and earthy and honest and prone to grumpiness. He's also mischievous in a way, and flirtatious. He's like your ideal image of a primitive man who symbolizes pleasure. If that makes sense. But Asa is very devoted to the garden, the theater, to all of Harte's Folly. He will stop at nothing to see it open again in a month's time - even if it means groveling to the Duke's sister to keep the funds coming.
Eve is a strange character from the start. She manages Val's funds for Harte's Folly, which seems odd for a woman of this time period to be doing, but Eve is very clever and sharp. She also has demons of the past, memories and nightmares that make her afraid of the touch of a man, as well as dogs. Eve knows she'll grow old and never marry. But she meets Asa, a large man who punches another man during Eve and Asa's first meeting. That should make her especially afraid of him, right?
I love how Eve slowly begins to trust Asa. It's not an easy thing - she's been hurt in her past - but she realizes quickly that she has nothing to fear from him. He's surprisingly gentle with her, reigning in his temper and his shouting, protecting her instinctively, without knowing about her emotional trauma. This is a rare historical romance novel in which the two characters seem to fall emotionally first, physically second. Asa is definitely a sexy man beast, but Eve is described as very plain.
So, I loved the romance. This book isn't oozing with sexual tension, and yet, there is chemistry between the two characters. It's a slow build because Asa literally cannot touch Eve (no one can), but I love how Hoyt builds the chemistry as well as the romance around this.
The story is not just about Eve and Asa - Harte's Folly is set to open shortly, but there have been many setbacks. It seems like someone is sabotaging Harte's Folly! That is a fun (and slightly scary) mystery. There are so many great secondary characters that are introduced (the dancers, singers, even a couple of pets!) along the way.
One more thing - we are fully introduced to our heroine of the next book, Duke of Sin! Bridget Crumb is the housekeeper of Hermes House, which is where the Duke of Montgomery (VAL!) lives. I cannot wait to read Duke of Sin!
What I Did Not Like:
Obviously there is good reason why there are significantly less steamy scenes - but that doesn't stop me from wanting more. Hoyt has really great steamy scenes, and the one or two in this book ARE pretty steamy, but more is always good in romance novels!
Would I Recommend It:
I recommend this book. I recommend this whole series. But you definitely want Asa's book. Asa is not a lord, not a rich arrogant nobleman, and that makes him all the more appealing. If you haven't read any of the books in this series, fix this! Start anywhere (though I highly recommend book six especially)!
4 stars. Another fabulous addition to the Maiden Lane series! My favorite book of the series is Duke of Midnight, but that will probably change with the next book, Duke of Sin. Val is so wicked. I am ridiculously excited to learn more about this man!
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About the Author:
Elizabeth Hoyt is the New York Times bestselling author of over seventeen lush historical romances including the Maiden Lane series. Publishers Weekly has called her writing "mesmerizing." She also pens deliciously fun contemporary romances under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with three untrained dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the long-suffering Mr. Hoyt.
The winters in Minnesota have been known to be long and cold and Elizabeth is always thrilled to receive reader mail. You can write to her at: P.O. Box 19495, Minneapolis, MN 55419 or email her at: Elizabeth@ElizabethHoyt.com.
“What do you see when you look at me?”
What did she see when she looked at him?
Eve inhaled, trying and failing to tear her gaze from his.
Mr. Harte sprawled across her dainty settee like a Viking marauder in a pillaged Christian church. His broad shoulders took up more than half the width, his arms lazily draped over the back. His scarlet coat was spread open, contrasting with the sedate gray-blue of the cushions almost shockingly. One long leg was thrust straight before him, the other cocked open and resting on a booted heel. The pose made the apex of his thighs very . . . obvious . . . and even as she kept her eyes locked on his she could feel heat rising in her cheeks.
What did she see?
She saw violence and anger, kept under a control that was tenuous at best. She saw power and a strength that could hurt her—kill her—if he so chose. She saw the innate brutality that was, in larger or smaller part, in all men.
She saw her most terrible fears.
But—and this was the truly unprecedented part—she saw more in him. She saw temptation—her temptation—alluring and frightening at the same time, his virility so strong it was nearly a visible miasma in the space between them.
She wanted him. Wanted that brash gaze, those long, muscled thighs, that mocking, insulting mouth, and the shoulders that went on forever, big and brawny and so very, very male.
This was madness—she knew that intellectually. She’d never wanted a man before—was in fact afraid of almost all men, let alone one so obviously, blatantly sexual.
She took a breath, hoping that he couldn’t read all this from her gaze—and knowing it was a lost cause already.
His heavy-lidded green eyes were far, far too perceptive.
“I see . . .” She paused to lick suddenly dry lips. “I see that your hairline is nearly a perfect arc across the expanse of your forehead. That your eyebrows tilt ever so slightly up at the ends and that the right has a scar through it. I see that when you are solemn, the outer edges of your lips reach just to the midpoint of your eyes, but when you smile, they go beyond the corners. I see that your chin and jaw are almost in classical proportion and that a small white scar forms a comma on your chin just to the right of center.” She finally glanced away from him, breathing heavily, certain that she’d not thrown him off the track with her artist’s eye’s impressions. She inhaled again and ended, “I see every line of your face, every line’s intersection and how they relate. That is what I see when I look at you.”
“And is that all you see? Lines?” His voice was deep and amused.
She chanced a peek.
He still watched her, his gaze utterly unperturbed by her observations about his countenance.
No, she’d not fooled him at all.
She licked her lips again, buying time. “I see,” she said carefully, cautiously, “a very self-possessed man.”
“Self-possessed,” he drawled. “I’m not sure what that means, frankly. It sounds, just a bit, like a coward’s answer.”
Her gaze flew to his, outraged.
But before she could take him down a peg, he chuckled softly. “Tell me, Miss Dinwoody, would you like to know what I see when I look at you?”
She shouldn’t. She really, really shouldn’t.
“Yes,” she blurted, and then winced because she knew well enough what men thought when they looked at her: ordinary, if they were charitable. Plain if they were not.
She braced herself for mockery, but when she glanced again at him, his gaze was hot and hard. Certainly not gentle. Certainly not kind. But he wasn’t dismissing her, either.
He looked at her as if they were equals. As if he really saw her, a woman to his man.
“I see,” he said, his deep voice musing, “a woman afraid, but fighting her fears. A woman who carries herself like a queen. A woman who could rule us all, I suspect.”
She gazed at him, her breath caught in her throat, afraid to exhale and break the spell.
A corner of that wicked mouth tilted up. “And I see a woman who has a deep curiosity. Who wants to feel but is worried—of herself? Of others?” He shook his head. “I’m not sure.” He leaned forward slowly, destroying his pose, and she had to fight herself not to scoot her chair away from him. “But I think she has a fire banked within her. Maybe it’s only embers now, glowing in the dark, but if tinder were to be put to those embers . . .” He grinned slowly. Dangerously. “Oh, what a conflagration that would be.”
ame up a few notches. He slowly drew her upright, and even more slowly relinquished her mouth. She stared up at him, dazed, her lips plumped from their kiss.
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