Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt
Book Twelve of the Maiden Lane series
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
A LADY OF LIGHT
Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.
A DUKE IN DEEPEST DARKNESS
Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.
CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DANGER . . . AND DESIRE
Much to Raphael's irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he's drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael's past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael's own demons?
What I Liked:
This book. Was. Perfect. Friends, I wanted to weep after finishing it. It was so excellent for so many different reasons - I can't even begin to describe how wonderful this book was to me. I definitely won't do the story justice with this review. You all know how much I love this series? This is only the third of twelve books that I've rated five stars. It's definitely tied with the other two as my favorite. I will be thinking about this one for a long time.
We met Raphael and Iris in Duke of Pleasure, in which Iris and the Duke of Kyle (Hugh) are friends. Iris attends Hugh's wedding and they fool society into thinking that they (Iris and Hugh) got married, because they don't want anyone to know that Hugh married Alf... at least not yet. Little does Iris know that the Lords of Chaos have it out for Hugh, and they kidnap her, thinking that she is the new Duchess of Kyle. But she is rescued by a man whom she never would have expected - the Duke of Dyemore. Raphael de Chartres wants no part of the Lords of Chaos, but he does want to destroy them. Rescuing Iris from them isn't part of his revenge plan, and it only makes things harder, because he must defy the Dionysus (the leader of the Lords of Chaos). He does not kill her - instead, he marries her, to protect her. Iris slowly learns more about her new husband, and she finds out that his past is even darker than she might have imagined.
This book broke my heart and made me swoon at the same time, which is pretty difficult to do. The story is darker than any of the other Maiden Lane books, with the heart of it involving the horror of the Lords of Chaos. Raphael's father used to be the Dionysus, and Raphael was to be initiated into the Lords. The tone of this book is bleaker than any other book in this series, but this makes the book so much more compelling and intriguing. I enjoyed it so much, darkness and all. Much like Raphael.
I'd go as far as to say that this book is Raphael's (as opposed to it being Raphael's and Iris's). Yes, both have POVs in the story. But this story is one of growth and healing for Raphael. He went through a horrible, traumatic event during his childhood, and it affected him through adulthood. It broke my heart to see him react to certain things, because of this event. He doesn't like this or that, he doesn't want children, he never planned on getting married. Raphael thinks he is such a monster, and he shrouds himself in darkness, but really he is a good man. He is bent on revenge, trying to take down the Lords, but he is a selfless, good person.
Iris is hands-down one of my favorite heroines of the Maiden Lane series, just like Raphael. Both are in my top three for sure. Iris... she isn't a plucky, feisty, outspoken heroine. She isn't brash and loud, opinionated and demanding to be heard in any way. She is soft and quiet and caring, a light to Raphael's darkness. But she is so strong in her caring, loving nature. She isn't an alpha female and she doesn't need to be - her whole self is just as tough and assertive as an alpha female, except she is Iris Daniels, a loving, gentle soul. I adored her. I especially loved her for sticking with Raphael, for never running away or giving up on him. There is so little drama in this book because Iris had the strength to be patient with Raphael. Every time he told her to leave him, she never did.
There is a certain amount of angst in this book that I loved so much. I know, it's weird for me to be loving angst. But it was so perfect. Raphael and Iris are nearly strangers when they get married. Iris doesn't know anything about Raphael's past, the scar on his face, why he won't have sex with her like any husband would. Every time Iris would learn something new about Raphael, my heart would break a little. The angst in this book is so perfect. Raphael is so complicated, with layers and layers of hurt from many years of build-up, and it's beautiful and heartbreaking to see Iris slip through those layers one by one.
That being said, the execution of the "tough issues" of this story was excellent. The execution of the story in general was excellent. Hoyt's writing is superb as always, her world-building flawless, and her craftsmanship solid. This story is so much darker, because of the Lords of Chaos and because of Raphael's past, and Hoyt did an amazing job with bringing across the story without depressing readers. The tone of the story is darker, but it's also hopeful.
The romance is so sweet and slow-burn. I loved watching Raphael and Iris fall for each other - especially Iris falling for Raphael. How she learns more about him and is still drawn to him. How she grows to care about him more and more, with every secret she uncovers. Raphael can't help but fall for her, because she becomes a constant that he wants, needs, and loves.
This book is quite steamy, which I appreciated! I mentioned earlier in my review that Raphael refused to have sex with Iris (at first). He has his reasons. But that doesn't mean they couldn't do... other things. The sexy times get creative, before there is "actual" sex. I was all for it!
This book has an edge and an excitement to it that isn't as present in the other books. Likely because this book deals with a man who wants revenge and he is out for blood. Taking down the Lords of Chaos is everything to Raphael. There is a lot of blood and murder in this book. There are a lot of high stakes. But this book ends extremely well, so don't worry about the HEA. It's an awesome ending to a wonderful series. Yes, this is the end of the series!
What I Did Not Like:
I can't think of anything I didn't like!
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this book, and the entire series in general. The Maiden Lane series is quite possibly my favorite historical romances series ever. I've never stuck it out with a twelve-book series before, but there is no way I would have missed any of the books in this series. This final book is particularly good, a masterpiece that Hoyt has perfected for readers. It's worth all of the pain and hurt and angst, because this book is still a sweet novel, above all of that. If you don't want to read the entire series (you should though!), read Duke of Midnight, Duke of Sin, and Duke of Desire.
5 stars. Hoyt has outdone herself with this conclusion novel. I am so happy with this book, and the series, and I'm also so sad to see the series end. I am definitely excited about new projects that Hoyt might be working on though!
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