This is the latest in the Maiden Lane series; a series that deals with both aristocrats and lower classes. The hero of this book belongs to the latter. Asa Makepeace is the owner of Harte’s Folly, a theatre/pleasure garden that burnt to ground at the end of one of the other books. He is determined to bring it back to life, with the financial backing of Valentine Napier, Duke of Montgomery. However, he hasn’t exactly been the best at keeping track of expenditures, and ignored requests to account for the money he is spending. Asa is the opposite of the duke; he’s big and bold, bawdy and earthy, prone to swearing profusely, and extremely passionate about getting the theatre back to its former glory. He doesn’t have time for minor details like paperwork!
This brings Miss Eve Dinwoody into the picture. She is the illegitimate half-sister of the duke, a very prim and proper young lady who is adept at dealing with facts and figures. Montgomery is out of the country, so he sends her to try and sort out what’s going on. It should be noted that Montgomery has been a character in a few books now, and he’s been portrayed as devious, clever and obnoxious. He actually kidnapped Phoebe, the heroine of the last book, to get back at her brother. Still, he and Jean-Marie (Eve’s footman/bodyguard), are the only men in Eve’s life that she can tolerate. She is plagued by terrible nightmares of an event in her past that has left her emotionally scarred and terrified of men and dogs.
So you can imagine, when she and Asa are thrown together, sparks don’t exactly fly at first sight. It would seem there is no hope for romance to blossom…and yet Asa is slowly intrigued by Eve’s intelligence, convinced there is something more to her under the surface. As Eve spends more time with Asa, she too is intrigued that there is more to him than just the raw virility he exudes. Despite her fears, she realizes that she wants more out of life, she doesn’t want to be scared any longer.
The two of them grow closer over time, and unlike some other stories, the sexual tension is drawn out between them. Asa knows that he can’t rush her into anything, but he’s enjoying the slow burn and the way she responds to him. She brings out the protective nature in him, as they become more and more intimate. In turn, she spurs him to spend time with his family that he’s been estranged from for many years, and it was lovely to read about many of the Makepeace family members from previous books. By the time he makes love to her, and it truly is that, he takes each step slow, asking for her permission along the way. Maybe it’s a wee bit unbelievable that she overcame her inhibitions that well, but Asa is certainly the man to help her do so.
“He watched her under half-closed eyes, his chest heaving. “You’re killing me, luv. Slaying me cut by beautiful cut. I’ll bleed away and die happy under you, Eve, my darling.”
There is also a threat of someone trying to sabotage the theatre rebuild, and the full reveal of Eve’s demons (which are truly terrible, something that Ms Hoyt doesn’t sugarcoat). The secondary characters are included nicely, and Henry the dog is a real sweetie too! All in all, it was well told and I thoroughly enjoyed it The series has come away from the original St Giles neighborhood, but is no way running out of steam.
There is a set up for the next book that weaves throughout this one, based on the Duke of Montgomery as hero. I’m anticipating that one to see how he is redeemed from a fairly unlikeable character!