[Ahoy! Spoilers ahead!]
Here is what is so weird to me about Elizabeth Hoyt’s Scandalous Desires. When I saw Milena’s C- review at Smart Bitches/Trashy Books, even without reading it, I thought, “I see that” and I guessed some of her problems with the book.
But still, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.
That is kinda weird.
So, let’s talk about what I liked and what I didn’t.
LIKE: The story is not one of high-born English gentry. Instead, Charming Mickey O’Connor is a river pirate from St. Giles. Mrs. Silence Hollingbrook is a from a family that didn’t suffer from poverty but also was not part of the Ton, except sometimes on the farthest fringes of it. These two people’s paths had crossed before (in an earlier book of Hoyt’s from this series, Wicked Intentions, a book I felt “meh” about).
When Silence went to beg O’Connor to replace stolen cargo that the authorities thought her husband had stolen, O’Connor was a big jerk to her. In fact, he sent her home in such a state that it implied they had slept together (or, even, that he had raped her). Her husband turned away from her, left on another ocean voyage, and died while at sea.
Then Charming Mick had a child with a prostitute, arranged to have the child dropped off at the House for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children, which Silence ran with her brother, Winter. Silence ends up raising Mary Darling for months as her own. Then Mickey steals the child back and tells Silence that if she wants to stay with the child, she will have to live in Mickey’s house. And she does. Needless to say, at the beginning of Scandalous Desires, Silence rightly hates herself some Mickey O’Connor.
DISLIKE: Wow. That is a story of how they end up under the same roof, huh? I felt frustrated by the contrivance of that story. Hoyt tries to explain it away by saying that Mickey “had spent the last year slyly planning to get Silence Hollingbrook exactly where she was – under his power and under his roof” and that is that. It feels contrived because Mickey contrived it? Ok. How exactly?
I appreciated Winter’s frustration with Silence for playing into this entire plot. He points out that she is risking the entire reputation of the House of Unfortunate Infants and “we cannot afford speculation about your virtue right now, sister. Think of the home if you will not think of yourself.” Silence basically shrugs, says she is sorry, and returns to Mickey’s lair. Plot point done, never again to see light of day.
LIKE: In the end, though, this is a book about these two people falling in love and I believe the chemistry between Mickey and Silence. I praise Hoyt for the organic way in which she writes the shift from Silence’s hatred of O’Connor to her love of him. I did not question it.
DISLIKE: On the flip side, I do think Hoyt gets away with a lot of telling on the part of Mickey, though (well, maybe not “gets away with” but “tries to get away with”). We don’t actually see why he is so drawn to Silence, more that Hoyt just keeps assuring us that he is.
LIKE: Mickey is a bad boy. This is the ultimate in regency romance rakes turned gentle, caring lovers. Mickey thieves, he kills, he makes ridiculous demands, he indulges in the sin of Onan, he sleeps with multiple women at once, etc. But then he listens to Silence, buys her creme cakes, tells her she is beautiful, spills his secrets of his hard life and difficult past to her, and always believes her. And, of course, once Silence is under his roof, he can no longer imagine ever being with another woman and so instantly becomes a one-woman man.
DISLIKE: His past. Hoyt goes to an obvious, pathological reading of O’Connor’s past to explain why he is a bad boy with a heart of gold. She boils it down to his poor mother not loving him enough and failing to stand against O’Connor’s dementedly terrible father. *yawn*
DISLIKE: The constant allusions (or, straight-up comparisons) of Mickey to the Devil/Satan/sin and Silence to an angel. Also, the dichotomy of O’Connor the “pirate” and O’Connor the “man” was tiring.
LIKE: Silence saves Mickey, both emotionally and in actual life. There is a tangible meeting in the middle between these characters that works because they come from such opposite poles.
DISLIKE: Romance authors, I implore you, please stop using a climatic moment of possible bodily harm/death for one character in order to precipitate the other one to finally admit out loud their love. Climatic moment at end? Makes sense. Climatic moment as reason character overcomes psychological troubles of childhood and can commit their heart fully for the first time to another person? Everyone has already done that.
LIKE: So, after all of this, let me be truly honest about something. I liked these characters together. So, in many ways, the fact that Hoyt wrote a HOT book that has HOT sex scenes made most of the faults redeemable for me. We all have our price, right? This is mine when it comes to romance novels. So, the fact that Hoyt uses sex as a way to push forward Mickey and Silence’s relationship was a plus for me, not a flaw.
So, after all that waffling, I’d say, go read it.
I give Scandalous Desires 3.5 out of 5 stars.