Grand Central Publishing, October 24, 2011, $7.99
Widowed Silence Hollingbrook is impoverished, lovely, and kind—and nine months ago she made a horrible mistake. She went to a river pirate for help in saving her husband and in the process made a bargain that cost her her marriage. That night wounded her so terribly that she hides in the foundling home she helps run with her brother. Except now that same river pirate is back...and he’s asking for her help.
“Charming” Mickey O’Connor is the most ruthless river pirate in London. Devastatingly handsome and fearsomely intelligent, he clawed his way up through London’s criminal underworld. Mickey has no use for tender emotions like compassion and love, and he sees people as pawns to be manipulated. And yet he’s never been able to forget the naive captain’s wife who came to him for help and spent one memorable night in his bed...talking.
When his bastard baby girl was dumped in his lap—her mother having died—Mickey couldn’t resist the Machiavellian urge to leave the baby on Silence’s doorstep. The baby would be hidden from his enemies and he’d also bind Silence to him by her love for his daughter.
In Georgian London, Silence Hollingbrook helps run an orphanage in the slums of St. Giles. The most powerful man in St. Giles is an Irishman called “Charming” Mickey O’Connor, a pirate who takes a “tithe” from every ship that docks in London. A year ago, Mick and Silence had an encounter that changed both their lives and things are about to change again. He left his illegitimate daughter in her care and now he has received word that a dangerous enemy is seeking to destroy Mick, using Silence and his daughter. Mick takes them into his St. Giles “palace” for safekeeping—and also to explore his fascination with Silence.
Scandalous Desires is, among other things, a great “Beauty and the Beast” story. In fact, there was a particular scene that reminded me so strongly of the Disney animated musical that it made me laugh. Here is the original:
BEAST: Well, where is she?
COGSWORTH: Who? Oh! The girl. Yes, the, ah, girl. Well, actually, she’s in the process of, ah, um, circumstances being what they are, ah... she’s not coming.
COGSWORTH: Your grace! Your eminence! Let’s not be hasty!
BEAST: I thought I told you to come down to dinner!
BELLE: I’m not hungry.
BEAST: You’ll come out or I’ll...I’ll break down the door!
LUMIERE: Master, I could be wrong, but that may not be the best way to win the girl’s affections.
COGSWORTH: Please! Attempt to be a gentleman.
BEAST: But she is being so...difficult!
MRS. POTTS: Gently, gently.
BEAST: Will you come down to dinner?
COGSWORTH: Suave. Genteel.
BEAST: It would give me great pleasure if you would join me for dinner.
COGSWORTH: Ahem, ahem, we say ’please.’
BELLE: No, thank you.
BEAST: You can’t stay in there forever!
BELLE: Yes I can!
BEAST: Fine! Then go ahead and STARVE!!!!
If she doesn’t eat with me, then she doesn’t eat at all!
MRS. POTTS: That didn’t go very well at all, did it.
And here is the scene in Scandalous Desires:
“That woman isn’t goin’ anywhere until she bends to me will.”
“Then she won’t be joinin’ us for supper this evenin’?” Harry asked, hope dying hard in his hangdog eyes.
“Not unless she has a sudden change o’ heart,” Mick said sourly. “In fact both she and that hellion babe will be stayin’ in her rooms with only food for the babe until she makes up her stubborn mind to come sup at me table.”
Harry tilted his head back to study the ceiling.
“What?” Mick demanded.
“Well, it’s jus’ that I’ve noticed in dealin’ wi’ the fair sex that it sometimes does a man well to show a little kindness.”
“Have I not given her a bed and a room fit for a queen?” Mick asked softly, dangerously.
“And have I not been most accomodatin’ o’ her?”
“Well—” Harry looked doubtful.
Mick sliced his hand through the air. “All I ask is that she sup wi’ me. No other wench has disobeyed me thus to me own face.”
“Aye, but most wenches ye be dealin’ wi’ are doxies or servant girls,” Harry pointed out in a reasonable tone. He took a step backward nonetheless. “Mrs. ’Ollingrook is neither.”
For a moment Mick merely stared at his henchman. Jay-sus, when had his life become so complicated that he took to pleading his case with Harry? He had Silence in his house. He had her where he wanted her. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She wasn’t supposed to turn his life upside down.
“Why can’t she live in me palace and be happy?” Mick muttered.
Harry shrugged massive shoulders. “Mayhap because she’s a woman. They do ’ave minds o’ their own, I find.”
“Me orders stand,” Mick declares. “She may not be a whore or a servant, but she’ll bloody well learn to obey me.”
Harry and Lad stared at him with strangely similar bloodshot brown eyes, sad reproach in both their gazes.
Mick flung out a hand irritably. “Get on with ye!”
Dog and man turned toward the bedroom door.
“And keep that dog out o’ me house!” Mick roared after them.
And, as in “Beauty and the Beast,” the servants conspire to see our heroine fed.
Scandalous Desires has many delights in store for the reader. It is filled with strong characters, passionate love, lots of drama, and surprisingly funny and tender moments. It is the best book in Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series to date.
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.