Review: Duke of Sin

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.

Review: Duke of SinDuke of Sin (Maiden Lane, #10) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane #10
Published by Grand Central Publishing on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 364

Decadent, Tempting and Oh, So Bad

“I am vengeance.  I am hate.  I am sin personified. Never mistake me for the hero of this tale, for I am not and shall never be. I am the villain.”

FINAL DECISION: Unique, compelling and gorgeously sensual, DUKE OF SIN is a book about the happy ending for a villain.  It asks a lot of readers who might be expecting his redemption in a traditional fashion, but the book allows Val to remain his wicked self while making him someone that readers can root for.

THE STORY: Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, is immoral, a rake, and some would say evil to the core.  He is also a blackmailer.  Bridget Crumb is Val’s housekeeper who is seeking the information that Val is using to blackmail illegitimate Bridget’s aristocratic mother.  Val and Bridget begin a game of feints and weaves as each works to outsmart the other.  While Val may never been heroic, Bridget cannot help but be attracted to the emotionally scarred, lonely man.

OPINION: As amazing and unique as Val himself, DUKE OF SIN does the almost impossible job of redeeming a villain without turning him into a nice guy.  Readers who come to this book expecting that we will find that the man who orchestrated the kidnapping and almost forced marriage of a heroine in a prior book will turn out to be misunderstood or pretending or acting under another pretense will be disappointed.  Val is an immoral man who commits murder, blackmail and kidnapping — after he meets and begins to fall for the heroine.

‘His Grace was urbane male sophistication personified — but anyone who therefore dismissed him as harmless was a rank fool. The Duke of Montgomery was as deadly as a coiled adder discovered suddenly at one’s feet.”

Val is fascinating in the same way that a snake is fascinating.  He is dangerous, sneaky and does only what pleases him without any concern for what is right or wrong.  Val’s reasons for developing his peculiar nature are fully revealed here (although readers of SWEETEST SCOUNDREL have been given some knowledge).  Hoyt does an admirable job of explaining Val’s development without excusing it.  Val is not a nice guy even though he does nice things some times.  He is mercurial and damaged.

“I find committing to one side leaves out a world of possibilities.”

Readers of the series know that Val has one person that he cares about — his half sister Eve.  She has sometimes been able to restrain Val’s worst instincts.  As this book opens, however, Eve has found happiness with Asa and that leaves Val somewhat adrift.  Val unrestrained from any moral compass is terrifying indeed.

At this precise moment, Val becomes captivated by his housekeeper who he knows is up to no good.

“She looked at him soberly, and despite her martyr’s eyes, she seemed to make no judgment of him, which, if nothing was refreshing.”

It might have been tempting to match the wicked Val with a sweet innocent, but Hoyt instead given Val a practical, crafty woman who has a strong sense of right and wrong and yet is not judgmental.  Deprived of her legacy because she is the product of her mother’s indiscretions, Bridget has made a good life for herself and is loyal.  Her willingness to place herself in harm for the woman who essentially abandoned her demonstrates her pure nature.  Bridget knows the way of the world and thus she is a good balance for Val rather than being overwhelmed by him.

“Blackmail was a nasty, vile crime and the duke was a nasty, vile man.”

“He couldn’t remember when last he’d had an opponent whose response he couldn’t predict.  It was rather refreshing.”

The relationship between Val and Bridget begins with Val testing and playing with Bridget the way a cat plays with a mouse.  He enjoys the interplay between them because she challenges them.  In fact, although Bridget is Val’s housekeeper, she quickly interacts with Val as an equal.  The two duel with one another and try to outwit the other.

“She’d outmaneuvered him.  And that? That hadn’t happened in a very, very long time.”

They end up engaged in a deeply sensual relationship with one another through their familiarity with one another. Emotionally engaged with one another, their sparring acts as intellectual foreplay for them.  Hoyt goes deep into the emotional lives of these characters as Bridget by inches slowly becomes more to Val then something to play with.  Through their relationship, Bridget becomes the moral compass that Val himself lacks.

“She’d said she loved him. Loved him.  What a strange and wondrous thing.  And how it hurt, this love! What pain it caused, like tiny knives in the veins. He didn’t think he liked it much, but he’d endure it, yes he would, if only she’d return and stab him again.”

Val and Bridget’s relationship is blunt and not sweet in the way that many romances are, but the sometimes violent imagery fits Val’s character.  He is not a man with tenderness and gentleness in him.  And yet, there is something sweet and innocent about his love for Bridget even if it is somewhat twisted as well.

The book is hot but it is always grounded in the emotional connection between the characters.  I am a big fan of the way that Hoyt explores her characters and the highly sensual and lyrical way she writes.  I am a huge fan of the Maiden Lane series.  This book is one of the most complex because of Val’s role in the series.  (Remember he IS the villain). This book kicks off what might be the final trilogy of the series and so several new characters are revealed here.

This book is so good and has so many layers that I read it twice before writing this review because I got sucked into the book the first time and couldn’t even begin to write my normal notes.  Definitely one of the best of a great series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Hoyt always does a great job integrating animals into her novels.  Pets play a pivotal role in this book and Pip is adorable.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DUKE OF SIN is the tenth book in the Maiden Lane series. The book can be read as a standalone although knowledge about Val is given in the books since DARLING BEAST and there are secrets revealed which impact on the series since the beginning.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


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