When the baby girl Silence Hollingbrook has been raising as her own suddenly disappears, she knows exactly where to look. She has long suspected that little Mary's father is none other than the notorious river pirate, Mickey O'Connor, the man who ruined her reputation a year earlier. Silence storms into Mickey's palace, demanding that he return the baby to her immediately. Mickey refuses, saying that the little girl is in danger from his enemies, and the only way to keep her safe is to keep her under lock and key in his home. Silence is the only parent Mary has known, and she cannot leave her. When Mickey offers to allow Silence to stay with the child, she feels she has no other choice but to accept even though she doesn't trust him.
Ever since Silence came to him a year ago, asking him to return her husband's stolen cargo, Mickey hasn't been able to get her out of his mind. She reminds him of everything good and pure in life and makes him want things he shouldn't. Having Silence under the same roof is almost too tantalizing to bear. Just when he thought he could no longer feel anything akin to love, she quietly steals into his heart and soul with her kind, compassionate nature. Before he knows it, Mickey is so desperately in love with Silence, he cannot live without her, but his enemy still lurks in the shadows just waiting to steal his newfound happiness.
After reading the first two books in Elizabeth Hoyt's Maiden Lane series, I was eagerly awaiting Silence and Mickey's story. Even though I had only seen glimpses of them in those two novels, I had become enthralled by their characters and thought that their own story would have to be good. Now that I've finally read it, I can say without a doubt that it wasn't just good it was absolutely amazing. Scandalous Desires exceeded my wildest expectations and was quite possibly the best romance I've read all year. It had everything I could have hoped for and more. The writing was superb. The plotting was ingenious. The romance was swoon-worthy. The love scenes were decadently sensuous and utterly beautiful with this couple holding back nothing from one another. The emotions were heartfelt. There were tidbits of humor scattered throughout that had me smiling. The characterizations were extraordinary, with even the secondary players being quite memorable. There was a death-defying climax that had me on the edge of my seat, nearly unable to put it down, and the ending left me positively dying for the next book in the series. What more could a girl possibly ask for in a romance novel?
Mickey has definitely earned a spot on my all-time favorite heroes list. Ms. Hoyt did an amazing job of redeeming this bad boy pirate. Mickey is a man who thinks he no longer has a heart. He believes his soul to be black and irredeemable, but nothing could be further from the truth. He is rather baffled by his attraction to Silence, but he can no more let her go than he can cease to breathe. Mickey hasn't experienced much softness in his life except what little his mum provided when he was young, and Silence reminds of everything that is good and pure and gentle. They are things that he hadn't even realized he'd been missing until he met her, and deep down, he somehow wants to recapture that. He's intrigued by Silence, because she's not like the other people around him. His gruff, grumpy attitude at the beginning was rather funny, but it was definitely a case of his bark being worse than his bite. Underneath it all, Mickey is a big marshmallow when it come to "his lasses." He's just afraid to allow himself to truly care for Silence and Baby Mary, because of things that happened in the past and the threat they now face from his enemy. Mickey has been deprived of love and kindness for so long, he just soaks it up when Silence comes into his life even though he doesn't feel worthy of her care and affection. It's so sweet how he warms up to little Mary and she to him, and how his big, ugly dog follows him around everywhere. I find that babies and dogs can sometimes the best judges of character.:-) Mickey had not one, but two, amazing libraries (swoon), and in fact, he had a weakness for some very surprising things. He was a multi-faceted man who astounded me at every turn. Best of all, I thought it was lovely when Mickey told Silence that if he had been her husband, he would have believed her and listened to her, and he went about showing her that and more throughout the entire story in ways both big and small. I love how he just wants to know all about her and listens to the stories of her life so intently. Mickey was a man who may have taken a while to express his love in words and who didn't wear his heart on his sleeve (at least not at first), but his every action proved how much he cared.
Silence was a wonderful heroine, also an all-time favorite, and perhaps the best romance heroine I've read this year. I was drawn to her in the previous books, in part, because of her vulnerability and lack of self-confidence. At first, I was a little bothered that she seemed to have already lost a large part of those qualities when the story opens, until I realized that she actually began loosing them after her very first encounter with Mickey. I think he unwittingly taught her that she could stand up for herself and those she cared about. Since she'd done it with him before, she wasn't as afraid to do it again. It was quite funny how she initially kept defying Mickey as every turn, but ultimately, it was her spunk that earned his respect. Then she earned his love with her kind, compassionate heart. At first, Silence didn't want to think of Mickey as a human being, but she rightly intuited that there was much more to him than what he allowed most people to see on the surface. As she slowly got to know him better, I loved how she never wavered in her belief that there was still a good man lurking inside of him. Silence was brave, stubborn (in a good way), and persistent, always gently pushing Mickey to really examine his life and challenging him to become the man she knew he could be. That, in my book, is the mark of a perfect romantic heroine.
The secondary characters were so much fun to read about too. I loved Harry and Bert, the two burly men who Mickey tasked with guarding Silence. It was hilarious how she managed to wrap them around her little finger without even trying, and had them and her maid bringing her food when Mickey mulishly refused to feed her if she wouldn't grace his dinner table with her presence. Mary Darling was, well... a little darling. For such a tiny tyke, she had quite the big personality, yet she very suitably behaved like the one-year-old she was. I chuckled every time she called Mickey, "bad," but when she warmed up to him, the two of them together were absolutely adorable. Lad, the dog, was funny too. It warmed my heart to know that big, gruff Harry had rescued him from a bull-baiter who was going to drown the poor thing. It was even cuter though that even though Harry saved his life, he'd taken a shine to Mickey and thought he was his dog even though Mickey frequently grumbled at him. Charlie Grady, the Vicar of Whitechapel, a gin dealer and all-around crook, was a crazy and dastardly villain. The identity of the Ghost of St. Giles is finally revealed, and I can't say that I was entirely surprised who he is. Most of Silence's family put in appearances including her sister, Temperance, and brother-in-law, Lord Caire (Wicked Intentions), as well as her brothers, Concord, Winter, and we are finally introduced to the elusive Asa. We also get a couple of brief visits with the Ladies Syndicate who are providing charitable assistance to the foundling home, including a glimpse of Hero (Notorious Pleasures) and an introduction to Isabel Beckinhall, a new addition to the group. She is a widow who seems to have a bit of a mischievous streak and enjoys subtly teasing Winter. These two pair up to become the hero and heroine of the next book Thief of Shadows, and after the cliffhanger ending of Scandalous Desires, I just might explode while waiting for it to be released.;-)
Overall, Scandalous Desires was sheer perfection. It was every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be and more. I loved it so much I could barely put it down, but at the same time I didn't want it to end either. I'm thoroughly enjoying the Maiden Lane series as I've done with all of Elizabeth Hoyt's books I've read to date, and I'll be waiting with bated breath for the next 6-9 months wondering what happens to Winter. I have a feeling I just might enjoy his and Isabel's book equally as much as this one.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Hatchette Book Group, in exchange for an honest review.
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