Thief of Shadows
Maiden Lane Book #4
By Elizabeth Hoyt
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Winter Makepeace is a man with a purpose. An puritanical, dour man whose spirit often seems as dark and devoid of pleasant ornamentation as the clothes he wears, he is focused on good works, specifically the responsibilities of a schoolmaster and the management of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children, located in London's most notorious slum, which was founded by his late father. Only a select few know that Winter Makepeace has another identity. Under cover of night, he wears a mask and the patchwork costume of a harlequin and wanders London’s most dangerous streets as the Ghost of St. Giles, armed to protect the poorest and most vulnerable from the evil that stalks them.
Lady Isabel Beckinhall most unexpectedly finds herself involved with both the Ghost and the manager of the Home. After Winter misses his appointment to tour the new orphanage with her as a representative of the Lady’s Syndicate for the Benefit of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children, Isabel leaves the orphanage and happens upon the Ghost wounded and unconscious in the road with rioters and officials in pursuit of the man who cut Charming Mickey O’Connor down from the gallows. She rescues him, hides him from those who would harm him, and takes him to her home where she takes care of his injuries. Fascinated by the mysterious and disturbingly masculine Ghost, she is both relieved and disappointed when he is gone the next morning. When some members of the Lady’s Syndicate decide that Winter lacks the necessary polish to associate with the genteel company he will be required to associate with at the teas, balls, and musicales the Home’s new benefactresses will sponsor and that his gaucherie will reflect poorly on the benefactresses, Isabel somehow is charged with seeing that Winter acquires the necessary polish to maintain his position as manager of the Home.
Thrown together by these circumstances, Isabel and Winter are unprepared for the desire that leaves them all too conscious of one another. On the surface, the two have nothing in common. She is an aristocrat to her fingertips. He is the son of a brewer. She lives a life of wealth and privilege. He lives among the refuse of society. She is frivolous and flirtatious. He is serious and sober. She is experienced, He is virginal. Yet neither can deny the delight they find in their witty exchanges or the sensual connection that intensifies with each meeting.
But both Winter and Isabel are more than they seem. He is a creature divided, not just by his dual identities but also by the dark animal he senses within him that must be controlled with great care and released only to fight the battles that consume the Ghost. Isabel hides wounds she barely acknowledges even to herself, and she is more intelligent and compassionate that is willing to admit. I loved this passage:
It hardly mattered. She was tired of waiting for him to acknowledge who he was. Tired of donning a false mask of gaiety when she was so much more—felt so much more—beneath. No one had ever noticed her mask. No one but him. If he couldn’t or wouldn’t make the first move, then damn it, she would.
Hoyt once again weaves together the glittering world of Georgian aristocracy with the darkness of its hidden sins of omission and commission and gives the reader another unforgettable story of multifaceted characters shaped by their complex world but possessing hearts and souls that make them unique beings. She balances the grimness of a world where children are prey with a world where love can redeem and transform. I know of no other writer who possesses Hoyt’s gift for combining love scenes so hot they seem to scorch the pages—or melt the screen, as the case may be—with a rigorous morality of human responsibility. All this and she still manages moments that make me laugh.
I’ve been reading Hoyt since The Raven Prince, and I think each successive series has gained in complexity and power. Thief of Shadows is the best of an excellent series. I highly recommend it. And Lord of Darkness in which the Ghost of St. Giles still roams is scheduled for release on February 26, 2012. Make a note of it. I know you don’t want to miss Godric St. John’s story. It's already on my book calendar.
Regency historicals remain the most popular, but Georgians have many devoted fans. I've enjoyed them since I first read Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades decades ago. Do you like Georgian romances? What is your favorite Georgian series?