Loved This One: Sexy, Sensual with One of the Best Non-Sex Sex Scenes Ever
“This had been a mistake. A terrible mistake. The garden was in shambles, the opera didn’t look like it would ever be staged, and Mr. Harte was a brutal animal.”
FINAL DECISION: The plot of the rebuilding a pleasure garden mirrors the rebuilding of Eve’s own life and ability to find joy and happiness and pleasure after a horrible incident in her childhood. Sensual and emotional with a good dash of mystery and action, this is a great addition to a wonderful series.
THE STORY: Asa Makepeace aka Mr. Harte is the owner of Harte’s Folly — a theater and pleasure garden. Rebuilding after a fire that destroyed his life’s work, Asa entered into a deal with the devil when he took an investment from the Duke of Montgomery. Now Asa has the Duke’s half sister Eve Dinwoody looking over his shoulder. The prim and proper Eve has agreed to oversee her brother’s investment. The sensual and physical Asa frightens Eve even as she challenges him. An incident in her childhood has left her with a deep fear of men — especially angry, violent ones. At the same time, Eve finds herself intrigued by the loud and brash Asa.
OPINION: Hoyt once again creates unique characters that dazzle in many ways — and in this case, she gives us regular looking people for the main characters — not models in historical garb.
“His face wasn’t pretty. The exact opposite, in fact. It was strong, lined, and fierce, and everything that was masculine. Everything that Eve most dreaded.”
Asa is bawdy, bold, emotional, earthy, and physical — thus being reflective of the theater world he lives in. Impulsive and a bit wild, Asa is the black sheep and the last unmarried Makepeace sibling (the siblings make appearances here for fans of the Maiden Lane series). His relationship with Eve allows Asa to have quieter, more protective moments — although he also protects her violently. Asa is sexy and earthy and definitely different from the outward appearances of the Makepeace family. Readers of the series know that underneath the reserve of the siblings there is definite heat. For Asa all the passion is on the surface and the quiet and reserve is hidden. Asa is determined, he never gives up. That quality is important here where he has to be patient with Eve, but refreshingly he doesn’t treat her as fragile and unable to deal with life. Indeed, he believes she has been protected too much.
“Eve liked her quiet life.”
Eve is reserved and plain with a long beak-like nose (that Asa rudely insults). She wants a quiet controlled life. For over ten years, Eve has been placed in a bubble and protected from the things that frighten her. A horrible incident as a child has made Eve afraid of being touched by men or even being around angry, violent men. Although Eve sees herself as broken, Asa recognizes her as strong (he calls her a harpy). Eve fights in a quiet and polite fashion but she is strong and determined.
“She should be afraid of this man. Perhaps she was. Perhaps the hammering of her heart, the quickening of her breath were fear.”
What a romance that begins which Asa insulting Eve’s nose! Asa and Eve have a contentious relationship from the beginning. The two fight but when Asa witnesses Eve’s pain, his protective instincts toward her begin to turn the two from adversaries to friends and then to lovers. Asa not only calms Eve’s fears by giving her control and opportunity to rebuild her own sexual identity.
Wow this book is hot. Asa recognizes in Eve a passionate woman hidden away from the world. Because she is afraid of the touch of a man, Asa and Eve have some interesting sexual encounters before they finally engage in intercourse. There is one scene (no I won’t give away spoilers) that is incredibly sexy and hot and the two never touch one another. Sexy and sensual and earthy but steeped in relationship and emotion so these are not gratuitous sex scenes but ones that are vital to the storyline.
The plot involves the suspense of who is trying to stop the reopening of Harte’s Folly and that threatens the lives of Asa and Eve. Closely connected with the couple, this plot is important to the romance itself.
The book has one of Hoyt’s trademark fairy tales to begin each chapter. Because there are often subtle and clever connections between the fairy tale and main story, puzzling out those connections is part of the enjoyment of the novel for me and I often (as I did here) re-read the fairy tale only at the end to appreciate the full story.
WORTH MENTIONING: The line that made me anxious to read the next book: “Bridget Crumb kept the house of the wickedest man in England.”
CONNECTED BOOKS: SWEETEST SCOUNDREL is the ninth book in the Maiden Lane series. It can be read as a standalone but it closely connected with DARLING BEAST and DEAREST ROGUE (which form a mini trilogy in the series) and I recommend reading those first.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.