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indexThis review is dedicated to Elizabeth Hoyt’s new title, Duke of Midnight, the sixth and – in my opinion – best of the ‘Maiden Lane’ books. It features protagonists, Maximus, Duke of Wakefield by day, Ghost of St Giles at night, and Artemis Greaves, a lady’s companion, struggling to survive, while endeavouring to free her twin brother, Apollo, from Bedlam.

I first came across Elizabeth Hoyt’s novels a few years ago, when I was lucky enough to pick up, more by accident than design, the first of the ‘Legend of the Four Soldiers’’ books. From then on I was hooked and quickly moved through that series, the ‘Princes’ Trilogy’ and finally onto the more recent ‘Maiden Lane’ novels with great speed and increasing delight.

What makes Hoyt’s books so successful are that the extremely detailed plots, with their complex protagonists, usually seeking some form of redemption, are rich with informed historical detail. They are bound together with an interesting array of peripheral characters, the most interesting of whom often, if we’re lucky, go on to have books dedicated to their own particular stories – as in the case of Maximus and Artemis, who both make their appearance in earlier ‘Maiden Lane’ titles. There’s also the added charm of a lovely legend, or parallel story, which sits at the beginning of each chapter.

I think that Hoyt’s success as a novelist lies in her ability to create credible and interesting protagonists, often battling against some horrific personal demons or injustices – in this case hero Maximus witnesses and blames himself for the murder of his parents in St Giles, and heroine Artemis fights to free her brother from unlawful incarceration in a mental asylum. The heroine, in most cases, also challenges convention in some way, fighting against the constraints of a society in which women, even those with fortunes, are largely disenfranchised. I know this is a common strand in many modern historical romances, but where Hoyt’s books particularly work is that the reader gets a sense of the larger historical context of the time, whether it be the reality of war, the corruption of wealth, the abuse of children, illegal gin mills or the extreme poverty in areas like St Giles in the ‘Maiden Lane’ series. The protagonists are also honourable people, often forced to act in ways in which society would disapprove, in order to attain their own personal goals. They also both have very distinct public and private personas, often at war with each other. In Maximus’s case, to the outside world he is the cold, autocratic Duke of Wakefield, known for his very proper behaviour, but he also masquerades as the anti-hero Ghost of St Giles, donning a ‘Harlequin motley’ to literally fight against society’s injustices, while pursuing his own personal mission to discover the identity of the man who murdered his parents. In Artemis’s case, she must suppress her true personality, making herself invisible to be the perfect companion to her rich, beautiful but peabrain cousin, while secretly doing everything possible to free her beloved twin. And Hoyt is extremely successful in making both protagonists believable and representing their often conflicting and complicated behaviour.

Quite simply Duke of Midnight, like the rest of Hoyt’s books, doesn’t disappoint and I write this having read quite a few new books from favourite authors of mine that haven’t been up to par, something that makes me wonder if this is to do with quality control and the increasing penchant of successful authors to publish digital firsts (books that haven’t originated in print) in between publishing their lead titles, but this isn’t the time to go into that. I’ll leave that for another time.

In sum though, Duke of Midnight is an extremely good read and the best of the ‘Maiden Lane’ series to date. I look forward to the next Hoyt… Where is it?

Duke of Midnight, published 15 October 2013 in the UK. Darling Beast, Book 7, will be published in autumn 2014.

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