I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Duke of Desire (Maiden Lane, #12) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane #12
Published by Grand Central Publishing on October 17th 2017
“Considering how extremely dull her life had been up until this point, Iris Daniels, Lady Jordan had discovered a quite colorful way to die.”
FINAL DECISION: Haunting, filled with angst and drama and, of course, intense, deeply emotional passion and love, DUKE OF DESIRE is a worthy final novel in a superlative series.
THE STORY: Lady Iris Jordan wants nothing more than a happy marriage and children after enduring a polite but unhappy marriage. Instead, she has found herself captured by the Lords of Chaos (a group of men who engage in sexual assaults on women and children). When one of the masked participants carries her away in his carriage, Iris shoots him only to discover that the man is the Duke of Dyemore, Raphael de Chartres, who claims to be rescuing her. Raphael says that he is attempting to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos in order to destroy them. In order to protect Iris, Raphael insists they must marry. The challenge is that Iris insists on taking their marriage seriously no matter how it starts. But the possibility of happiness is challenged not only by the Lords of Chaos but also by Raphael’s own dark past.
OPINION: Is there anything better or worse than the final book in a beloved series? I’d like to begin by admitting that the Maiden Lane series has been one of my all time favorite series. I have been immensely impressed with how consistently fantastic the books have been. For me, there hasn’t been one book in the series that I would skip in a re-read, and I’ve re-read all of the books numerous times. But there is always the possibility of the last book failing to live up to expectations.
I’m happy to report that this book exceeded my expectations in every category except one. Intense and dark, the book managed to leave me with an overwhelming feeling of joy and hope by its end. There is a real sense that the darkness may not have been completely defeated, but that love is triumphant and will always manage to beat down the tendrils of darkness that might pop up.
DUKE OF DESIRE is the final novel in the series and the final book in the “trilogy” concerning the Lords of Chaos. (Although book number nine, SWEETEST SCOUNDREL, also has a connection to the group). The Lords of Chaos have wrecked destruction and pain upon many of the heroes and heroines of the Maiden Lane series and this book brings that story to a final conclusion.
Iris Jordan is a widow who readers were introduced to in DUKE OF PLEASURE. What I liked best about Iris is that she is a strong, grounded woman. After enduring a marriage that failed her as a person, Iris realized in DUKE OF PLEASURE that she deserves something more. And if things don’t present themselves like a fairytale love story (like being forced into marriage to save herself from the Lords of Chaos), Iris is determined to make her voice heard and demand a life she wants.
Raphael has been attracted to Iris from the moment he saw her and when circumstances force their marriage, he thinks he will be able to control Iris and control his feelings for her. But Iris will not be placed in a protective box by Raphael. Instead she challenges him at every turn, breaks down his walls and barriers. Iris will not allow herself to be controlled, but it is clear that her pushing of Raphael comes from a place of caring and a desire for relationship.
Raphael is a survivor and a man who, like Val (DUKE OF SIN) and Eve (SWEETEST SCOUNDREL), has been formed by the actions of a hideous father (readers of the series will recognize that Raphael’s father was for a time the leader of the Lords of Chaos). All three of these characters have to deal not only with the abuse they suffered, but also from the pain of betrayal of the paternal relationship.
This book is the story of the end of the Lords of Chaos, but also the story of how Raphael is brought from the darkness of his past by the determined and steadfast love of Iris.
The book also has a touch of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST which is to be expected in a series that borrows so beautifully from fairy tales both explicitly and implicitly.
This book is, at times, difficult to read as the pain and dangerous situations of the characters involve deep emotional pain caused by abuse. (Although it is difficult to top the animal abuse depicted in DUKE OF SIN). Yet, there is an innocence and a beauty that is depicted in the relationship between Iris and Raphael that balanced the deep darkness that readers have to travel along with the characters. Like the sun rising after a terrible storm during the night, the ending of the story was so refreshingly normal and hopeful that it managed to banish so much of the darkness that came before.
I did have one disappointment with the story. If this novel was truly the end of the Maiden Lane series, I would have been intensely missing so many of the characters that have made the series memorable. DUKE OF DESIRE is intensely focused on Iris and Raphael and even when I thought other characters from the series might make an appearance, they didn’t. But thankfully, although this is the final novel of the series, there is still more Maiden Lane on the way. There are two novellas ONCE UPON A MAIDEN LANE and ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS EVE to come in this series which will tackle the romances of some of the secondary characters from earlier in the series. I have great hopes that these two novellas will give fans of the series one last glimpse of the world and the beloved characters which inhabit it.
WORTH MENTIONING: This book deals with sexual abuse and rape of children and women. While not graphically depicted, it is a central issue to the plot.
CONNECTED BOOKS: DUKE OF DESIRE is the twelfth and final novel in the Maiden Lane series. This book could be read as a standalone, but I think that reading the prior book which introduces the hero and heroine will make this book more enjoyable.
STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from the author in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.