My first love when I first started reading romance many, many years ago was historials and while I don’t read as many as I used to I do have certain go-to authors whose upcoming releases I still anxiously await. Elizabeth Hoyt is one of those authors. Her Maiden Lane series is a favorite of mine. Darling Beast is the seventh book and tells the story of Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne (brother to Artemis Greaves from Duke of Midnight) and Lily Stump. Fans of this series who were getting a little burnt out on the Ghost of St. Giles story arc will be excited to see the same world, but with new characters and a mystery plot that had a beauty and the beast feel.
After spending the last several years in Bedlam, accused of murders he didn’t commit, Apollo Greaves has escaped and is now hiding out in the burned out shell of the famous pleasure garden, Harte’s Folly. In order to get out of London and away from the authorities looking for him, he has to get a return on his investment which means getting the gardens back to their former glory and up and running again. Until then he’ll spend his time working among the gardeners, in the guise of a simple, mute commoner.
Lily Stump, also known as Robin Goodfellow, is an actress who finds herself in a difficult position after signing an exclusive contract with Harte’s Folly. Now that the pleasure garden is in ruins and is undergoing repairs she finds herself having problems getting work and must make ends meet by dipping into her savings, taking acting work at house parties and living with her son and servant in the only part of the theater that remains even remotely livable. She is first introduced to the “monster” living in the garden by her son, Indio. She’s not sure what to think of the rough, common man who can’t speak and is doubly worried when her son seems to form an unlikely attachment to him.
Lily epitomizes my favorite type of romance heroine, which is one you don’t see near enough in regency or Georgian romance. She’s independent, talented in more ways than one and is not ashamed of her life experiences, sexual or otherwise. She’s not a virgin and is not afraid of her desire. She is a single mother, managing to take care of a gregarious and active little boy while at the same time keeping a roof over their heads and food in their mouths. She soft, but steely. Strong, but gentle and motherly.As you can tell I connected to Lily almost immediately and absolutely adored her son Indio. He brings these two unlikely lovers together when he discovers Apollo working and comes to his mother with tales of the monster living in the garden. There is a slow-build up and progression of the romance that had me riveted. Lily is drawn to Apollo despite his rough exterior and genuinely falls in love with him. She has no idea of his background, the crimes he’s accused of having committed, or even his rightful place in the ton. She just sees a kind man who she’s attracted to who seems to have a gentle and loving hand with her son.
I loved this quote, simply because it is the first time Lily sees Apollo as more than a simple gardener.
The setting sun broke through the cloud cover and bathed the pond in golden light, reflecting off the ripples left by his movement. He burst from the water. He was facing her now. The muscles bunched on his arms as he slicked his wet, shoulder-length hair back from his face, and the mist swirled amber over the surface of the water, adorning his gleaming skin as if he were the tributary god of this ruined garden. Her pity evaporated, burned away by the sudden realization that she had it all wrong.
Good Lord. He was magnificent.
Then we have Apollo, or Caliban as Indio christens him when he doesn’t know his real name. Apollo is between a rock and a hard place, hiding out from authorities, depending on his sister to bring him the basic necessities and afraid to form even the most basic of relationships for fear that he will be discovered. But Lily and her son burst into his life and he finds himself falling for the boy and his beautiful mother. Apollo is a complex character… he’s an aristocrat, but has a talent and passion for designing extensive gardens. He’s lived through hell in Bedlam, but still remains a wonderfully gentle and protective man. I think I enjoyed Apollo almost as much as Lily and that’s something I don’t often say in my reviews.
He does ultimately get discovered, but soon realizes he has a few surprising allies who want help him figure out the mystery of who really killed his friends and hopefully clear his name. Once the that happens this story gets steamy. Lily has a mad desire her man and is not afraid to talk dirty to him.
“What do you want, love?”
He licked the bared nape of her neck. “Tell me.”
“I want you,” she whispered. “I want your cock in me. I want you to fill me and stuff me full until I can’t talk or remember my own name.”
I love the sensuality of Ms. Hoyt’s romances and I thought she excelled at writing the love scenes for this couple. They might have a slow build up at the beginning of the story, but once they do finally come together they are extremely passionate. Apollo and Lily make an unlikely couple, but they came across as being perfect for each other.
There isn’t much I didn’t like about Darling Beast. The romance, the sex scenes, the mystery, they all kept me engaged from the first page to the last. There were even a few surprises at the end that made this story richer and the heroine and hero even more appealing. I do believe the next book is to be about Trevillion and Phoebe and I find myself very much looking forward to that release. Definitely recommend. Final Grade- B+
She groaned into his mouth, animal and wild, and felt the slip of his hard chest against her nipples.
Whatever his name.