The twelfth, and last, full length novel in the Maiden Lane series features a marriage of convenience, a physically and emotionally scarred hero and a strong, stubborn heroine.
The hero of Duke of Desire is Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore. He, and his heroine, were briefly introduced in the previous installment, Duke of Pleasure. Raphael’s entire life is focused on one goal… to end the Lords of Chaos. He will do whatever it takes, and that includes sacrificing himself. Infiltrating the evil group is easy, after all his father was once the leader, but once he realizes that the Lords have mistakenly kidnapped Lady Iris Jordan, he knows he must intervene and rescue her.
Iris Jordan has no idea what is going on. One minute she is attending a good friend’s wedding, the next she’s been kidnapped and forced into some kind of naked, torture, sex ritual. Then suddenly she is thrown over the shoulder of a nude man wearing a mask and forced into a carriage. In defense of her life she takes the gun she found conveniently under the seat and shoots her next would-be assailant…. only to learn that he is actually her savior. What he says next will change her entire life. Marriage? To a man she knows nothing about other than his name and what he looks like naked.
Focusing entirely on the Lords of Chaos and their downfall, Duke of Desire finishes off the Maiden Lane series with a brutal, terrible storyline. I mean yes, we all knew the Lords were into some disgusting, evil things, but damn. Seriously. Raphael is the very definition of a terrorized, scarred, broken hero. From the moment he rescues Iris and takes her back to his home, marrying her in order to save her from his enemies, you just KNOW that his father and the Lords damaged him in ways that he might never recover from. You aren’t quite sure what exactly happened, but from the peeks into the Lord’s leader Dionysius’s mind and what goes on in the revels, you already knows it is going to be horrific.
He and Iris’s marriage is built entirely upon his need to keep her safe. I said it was convenience up top, but that’s really not it. He wants her yes, but he tells her upfront that he will never consummate their marriage, because he doesn’t want to spread his evil DNA around. Iris isn’t about to be stuck in another loveless, affectionless marriage though. Raphael is reckless with his own safety, and once he divulges the truth of his childhood she can’t but feel anger and sadness on his behalf, but she also desires her husband and sees a goodness in him.
The pacing to their relationship felt a little weird to me. Too slow at times, too fast at others. I don’t even know how to describe it. Raphael had so much darkness and evil to deal with, that I almost think he and Iris could have used about 100 more pages to fully develop an intimate relationship. Maybe it was because this storyline seemed so much darker than others in this series, the hero so intractable and standoffish. I don’t know. I did like that Iris stood her ground and didn’t let Raphael push her away time and again. I felt the chemistry between this couple, so maybe the wanting them to slow down at the sex part was all in my head because I knew how much it would mess Raphael up mentally. In the end, I really did like this couple and especially enjoyed the glimpse into their HEA to see what it looked like.
I honestly can’t believe that we’ve reached the end of this series. Well, there is one more novella planned next month, but I’m pretty sure that will bring this series to a close. I’ve long been a fan of the Maiden Lane series and Ms. Hoyt and I’m a bit sad to have to say goodbye. There has been some ups and downs, books and characters I’ve loved more than others, but as a whole this series will be one I recommend time and again to historical romance readers. I am also super excited to see what Ms. Hoyt moves onto next. Final Grade- B-
He wanted her.
Past reason. Past honor and good taste. Past his own vows and the things me must see done in this life. Perhaps this was madness.