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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: Purchased
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: October 14, 2014


Falsely accused of murder and mute from a near-fatal beating, Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne has escaped from Bedlam. With the Crown's soldiers at his heels, he finds refuge in the ruins of a pleasure garden, toiling as a simple gardener. But when a vivacious young woman moves in, he's quickly driven to distraction . . .


London's premier actress, Lily Stump, is down on her luck when she's forced to move into a scorched theatre with her maid and small son. But she and her tiny family aren't the only inhabitants-a silent, hulking beast of a man also calls the charred ruins home. Yet when she catches him reading her plays, Lily realizes there's more to this man than meets the eye.


Though scorching passion draws them together, Apollo knows that Lily is keeping secrets. When his past catches up with him, he's forced to make a choice: his love for Lily . . . or the explosive truth that will set him free.

No one can wow an audience quite like Elizabeth Hoyt can.

Since the beginning of her Maiden Lane/Ghost of St. Giles series I’ve been a devoted fan, eagerly awaiting the next book in a series that would send me back in time to Georgian England to meet fascinating heroines and intimidating heroes. Each book has delighted me as a reader and Darling Beast was no exception.

Accused of murder, sent to Bedlam, mute from a near fatal beating and now on the run after escaping Bedlam, Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne has taken refuge in what was once an immense and beautiful pleasure garden. Posing as a simple gardener, Apollo works to restore the burnt pleasure garden to its former glory all while hiding from those who would see him dragged back to Bedlam. Content with his life, Apollo doesn’t want the complications that the newest resident, actress Lily Stump brings yet he’s fascinated by her and her tiny family.

Hoping to regain some of the luck she had before, Lily moves into the ruins of a charred theater in order to stretch her dwindling savings. Along with her young son and her maid, Lily hopes to write a play that will solve all their problems. However, when her son stumbles upon a “beast” in the gardens, Lily realizes that she just may have gotten more than she bargained for.

They mystery of the murders that Apollo was accused of has plagued me ever since he and his twin Artemis were introduced to readers. I couldn’t believe such an intelligent man with such a kind and caring sister would have done what he was accused of. To be honest, the author had me thinking at one point that Apollo wouldn’t survive to see the outside world again. His circumstances were so dire that I couldn’t see a way out for him, so when he did escape I was thrilled and excited that I was finally going to find out his side of the gruesome story. His transformation throughout Darling Beast was quite incredible. For years he was in Bedlam, being stripped of his manners, his education, his very humanity, and so when he was finally freed, he was like a wild dog that had to learn to be domestic all over again. I expected a rude, crude, jaded and bitter man but what I got was a quietly determined, gentle giant. Yes he was capable of murder but the bigger question was not could he commit murder but would he commit murder?

While the identity of the murderer wasn’t that big of a mystery, nor was it a surprise, the journey that Apollo went on to prove his innocence was what I was truly interested in. The physical description of Apollo is at odds with what is the “norm” in romance but it is classic Elizabeth Hoyt. By “normal” standards, Apollo isn’t a handsome man, something he readily acknowledges and accepts, yet as the story progressed, I started to see him through Lily’s eyes and the way she viewed Apollo had me falling a little in love with him myself.

Lily was surprising, for being an actress and a ruined woman she lacked the hard nosed bitterness that one would think she had. She was at times naive and quite innocent which was the opposite of Apollo and made them work so well as a couple. Lily was a kind woman and a devoted mother. I loved her determination to provide a better life for her unconventional family. Maude, her maid is unflinchingly loyal to Lily and at times acted more as a mother to her than a servant. Together, Lily, her son and Maude made a sweet little family and I enjoyed their interactions and the clear affection between them.

Darling Beast has a bevy of secondary characters to keep things from getting redundant as well. There's Captain James Trevillion, former dragoon, now employed by the Duke of Wakefield, Lady Phoebe Batten the blind sister of the Duke and the reason for Captain Trevillion's employment, Asa Makepeace and Valentine Napier the Duke of Valentine who is more than he seems. Of course, as a big fan of the series I was overjoyed to be reunited with previous characters like Lady Hero and Apollo's sister Artemis, now the Duchess of Wakefield.

What truly shocked me though was how much I enjoyed Lily's son Indio's presence in Darling Beast. Normally I'm not a fan of children in romance novels, they usually get on my nerves in one way or another but Indio was something special. A great mix of childish antics, innocence and at times an old soul view of the world, Indio grew on me like no child character has ever done before. I even loved his name!

Whether it’s showing readers Apollo’s vision for the gardens or making readers blush with his and Lily’s heated love scenes, Elizabeth Hoyt keeps readers fully engaged and invested in the characters and the story. It never fails, when it comes to Ms. Hoyt, I don’t sleep until I reach the very last page.

Final Verdict: Hoyt’s uncommon characters, witty dialogue and solid plot lines make her one of the best romance authors hands down and now, with Darling Beast, her beloved Maiden Lane series has gained another set of memorable characters. While each book in the series can be read as a standalone, each book does expand on a specific set of characters and their loved ones so to get the best experience; I would suggest reading them in order. You won’t be disappointed.

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