I mentioned last week that I have three go-to favorite writers whose work I always enjoy thoroughly. Elizabeth Boyle, whose It Take A Hero I reviewed last week is one of them. Another is Elizabeth Hoyt. Her second book, The Leopard Prince, is my favorite historical romance novel ever written and I have recommended it to friends and stranger so many times that Elizabeth might want to consider buying me a Big Mac. I love that book! I love that whole Prince series.
So it was with great expectations that I finally picked up Wicked Intentions after months of anticipation. I began reading and cold fingers of dread began to sneak into my gut. This book was dark. Darker than her other works. Really dark. So dark that I squirmed a little bit as I read through the first few chapters. I generally don’t like dark romance so I was deeply afraid that after reading and loving seven of Elizabeth’s novels I had finally found one I – gasp – didn’t like. (cue horror music)
But then something happened. Or rather something didn’t not happen. I didn’t stop reading. I didn’t toss the book aside with a sneer or a sigh like I have done with so many other romance novels that were a dime a dozen. In fact, as uncomfortable as the mood of the story made me, I couldn’t put it down. Because actually, it’s really, really good.
One of the reasons Elizabeth Hoyt sits comfortably in my top three favorite romance writers is because the characters she creates are vivid and captivating. They pulse and breathe and have life. And they are not perfect. Far from it. Lazarus, Lord Caire, the hero of Wicked Intentions, is, quite frankly, a douche when the book starts. He views the heroine, Temperance, as his prey and his plaything. But the unique set of troubles he buries under a mountain of douchiness, issues that come out during the course of the plot into the burning, healing light of day, make him more than just another cruel, wounded soul. Temperance is also far from flat. As I mentioned last week, I’m much more judgmental of heroines than I am of heroes because heroines are too often boring Mary Janes in bad writing. Temperance has an inner demon that contradicts the face she puts forward to the world. I love this contradiction. I was a bit uncomfortable with it at first, but as her character arc unfolded I realized that not only was it fitting for the time period in which Elizabeth is writing, if something like that had happened to me I would probably react the same way.
Time period is another thing I love about Elizabeth’s books, this one especially. It is set in Georgian England, much earlier than most typical romance novels. 1732 to be exact, I believe. I love it when writers branch out and stick their feet into unusual waters like this. Elizabeth captures this time period, old enough to be a foreign world, close enough to be recognizable, with deft skill. And she doesn’t write exclusively about the aristocracy. (A very well-known author once told me that studies show that if the word “Duke” is in the title of a romance it will sell better – to which I roll my eyes and hope for more stories about the common man) This is a world that has teeth, that has sights, scents, and sounds. All of them were captured brilliantly.
Perhaps the best part of Wicked Intentions is that it’s just the beginning of a series. Elizabeth Hoyt knows how to work a series. I read The Leopard Prince first when it is actually the second of a three book series. It stood alone but also connected to the whole. It didn’t matter that I read those books out of order. I am glad I started reading this series in order because while I have faith in Elizabeth’s skill of being able to make each of her novels stand alone, the secondary characters introduced in Wicked Intentions are obviously going to get their own stories told. I look forward to reading the next one, Notorious Pleasures, which I already have, and each of the rest as they come out.
So thank you, Elizabeth, for sucking me in to a dark world and not letting me wriggle free until the story plays itself out. And for any writers out there who want to learn the subtle art of creating meaty characters in a non-traditional setting, Elizabeth Hoyt is a brilliant example of delicate craft expertly executed.