Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt
Maiden Lane #8
My first foray into the Maiden Lane series was pretty unsuccessful. Although I like the premise and the novel has its strengths, the characters and the general handling of the plot were disappointing, alongside with some other minor complaints.
Let me explain further.
I’ll proceed in order, so premise first. Lady Phoebe, the blind sister of a duke, needs protection from “kidnapping for ransom, forced marriage, or mere robbery” (9), and therefore her brother has hired the ex-dragoon James Trevillion as her bodyguard. Despite his leg injury, Trevillion is physically capable, and my favourite type of hero – desperately in love with a woman he thinks he can’t have but is determined to protect her despite ensuing pining.
From this promising setting, I’m afraid it’s largely downhill for me. Hoyt wastes no time in the beginning – the hero and heroine are already well-acquainted and the arrangement has clearly been standing for a good while already – and this is not something I’m opposed to. My problem is more that right from the beginning I don’t like the main characters. Trevillion is possessive and domineering, and Phoebe’s independence seems very superficial and she dependence on Trevillion rubs me the wrong way, especially towards the end. He seems to want to be a lover-mentor figure for her, and although it probably works for some readers, in me it mostly evokes growls.
Another two things I did not like don’t merit paragraphs of their own, as I will only mention them briefly. One, the gnomic utterances at the beginning of the chapters. They make a VERY vague sort of sense towards the end, and it is possible I just don’t know the significance of them because I’m jumping into the series at this late a stage, but they come across as useless and I didn’t think they added anything whatsoever to the story. Another thing is the language especially Trevillion sometimes uses – I am all for historical accuracy, but in historical romance a certain degree of anachronism is acceptable, I think, because some expressions simply sound too old-timey to be taken seriously. The third time someone was meeting “three of the clock” I groaned rather impressively.
But like I said, the novel has its strengths, too. An extra special delight was the diversity of cast: Hoyt involves different ethnicities, abilities, gender presentations and, to an extent, sexualities, and this gives a much truer picture of Regency London than so many other novels do. This is something I would like to see done more often, and it shows that Hoyt has definitely done her homework.
Although Dearest Rogue is not a novel for me, I would give it three stars – it’s pretty mediocre, with some strengths and some failings, most of the latter of which are likely subjective. I may in time try another Maiden Lane novel, as this series is among the best-known in the genre, but it will not happen immediately. It’s fun if a bit melodramatic and will keep you entertained, but it failed to produce much emotion or immersion in me.