Series: Maiden Lane #7
Published by Grand Central Publishing on October 14th 2014
Bold, Emotional Story
A man wrongly imprisoned, in hiding and keeping secrets to save his life. A woman, desperate to keep her ragtag family together and also keeping secrets. The ruins of a pleasure garden. DARLING BEAST is the story of a rebirth for all of them.
THE STORY: Apollo Greaves,Viscount Kilbourne has escaped from Bedlam where he was imprisoned for four years for the murder of three of his friends. Apollo is lucky that he was not hanged for his “crimes” but rather was committed as criminally insane because of the intervention of the Earl of Brightmore. Apollo suffered greatly during his captivity suffering starvation and beatings and inhumane conditions. He almost died in Bedlam due to a severe beating that robbed Apollo of his ability to speak. Having escaped with the help of his twin sister Artemis and her husband, the Duke of Wakefield, Apollo has been in hiding at the ruins of the pleasure garden known as Harte’s Folly. Before his imprisonment, Apollo had invested the little money he had in Harte’s Folly. Soon after his escape, Harte’s Folly burned to the ground and now Apollo works as a gardener (but few know that he is actually the landscape architect) to rebuild the garden.
Apollo meets Lily Stump who is also living in the ruins with her son, Indio, and a maid servant. Lily is a famed actress Robin Goodfellow and also a secret playwright. She is living in the gardens because the fire also destroyed the theater and she cannot get work until the theater and gardens are restored. When her son sees Apollo, he fears and is fascinated with the “monster” in the garden. The immediate reaction of Lily and Apollo to one another is simple — each wants the other gone from their sanctuary.
Of course, the two keep being pushed together but before they can have any peace, they must discover the secret of who framed Apollo, save him from Bedlam and also uncover the secret that Lily is harboring.
OPINION: Hoyt has an incredible ability to create deeply emotional stories with bold, unique characters. Usually her books contain a great amount of angst and pain so the romance in this book is almost sweet in comparison. The reason for that is that Lily is the light that bring Apollo out of the half-life he has been living since he was framed for murder. Lily is bright and talented and dedicated to her little family even though she has seen much pain and heartache in her life. That lightness of spirit attracts Apollo who, is clear, values family and meaning and a quiet peaceful life after the horrible years he spent chained.
Despite his past and his painful experiences, Apollo is not really a dark character. He is a gentle giant of a man who is filled with kindness and compassion rather than anger and hate. I loved his character and his deep desire for peace. Once he fixes his attention on Lily, Apollo doesn’t worry about the incongruence of a viscount and future earl marrying an actress. In fact, Apollo frets about his plain appearance in comparison to Lily’s gamine looks.
Lily is a strong, independent woman who takes care of herself and others. One of the great things about Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series is that she crosses all types of social classes. Her books about about dukes and pirates and orphanage managers and actresses and governesses and heiresses. Because of this, her books have a great sense of place and time.
I also appreciated that Lily’s son Indio is such an important character in the book. Readers get a real chance to see that Apollo will make a great adoptive father for Indio. Sometimes existing children are only infrequently seen. Here, readers get a chance to see the relationship develop between Indio and Apollo at the same time it develops between Lily and Apollo. By the end of the book, I was convinced that they will make a nice little family together.
The sex between these two was also really hot. Both are experienced and so there is no virginal trepidation to overcome. Both know who and what they want. At the same time, while the scenes are strong and bold and explicit, there isn’t anything gratuitous about the scenes – just really hot scenes between two grown experienced adults.
Finally, I really enjoyed seeing some of my favorite characters again including Wakefield and Artemis, Hero and Phoebe. We get to learn more about Captain Trevillion in preparation for his and Phoebe’s book DARLING ROGUE which is next up in the series. Readers also get a good look at the Duke of Montgomery who has a very mysterious past and present and is up to something. Readers should not be fooled by his foppish appearance because Hoyt has made such characters very dangerous (see THE SERPENT PRINCE). I’m looking forward to learning more about him and his motives.
WORTH MENTIONING: I loved that Apollo refers to Maximus, the Duke of Wakefield, as “His Grace the Ass” because while I loved Artemis and Maximus’s book, he is kind of an ass!
FINAL DECISION: I love this book. I would read it again (and I’ve already read it twice). I also look forward to the unveiling of the mysteries that this book sets up regarding the motives of the Duke of Montgomery.
CONNECTED BOOKS: DARLING BEAST is the seventh book in the Maiden Lane series. It can be read independently of the other books in the series, but I recommend that a reader at least read DUKE OF MIDNIGHT because it introduces Apollo and provides the setup for DARLING BEAST.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.