Grand Central Publishing, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-446-55893-8
Historical Romance, 2011
Elizabeth Hoyt had been hard at work sowing the seeds of anticipation for Scandalous Desires in her previous two Maiden Lane books, and it’s exactly what it is meant to be. Chances are, many readers who are already half in love with the idea of Silence Hollingbrook and Mickey O’Connor having the sex of the century will love this one, because it certainly works very hard to justify Mickey’s previous treatment of Silence. I’m far less enamored of this particular couple, so I have the privilege to be extra picky when it comes to dissecting this book.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t read this book without having read the previous books. You can, as this one certainly has enough back story to help you catch up, but you may still feel that you are missing some parts of the big picture.
So, to briefly recap: once upon a time, Silence was married to Will. When a mishap on the job threatened to cost her husband her job, Silence ran to bargain with “Charming” Mickey O’Connor, a river pirate, for his aid. On a whim, he wanted her to pretend to spend the night with him. Of course Silence agreed, when even her husband had his doubts about her plan. When she was ruined the day after, her husband dumped her, nobody believed her when she insisted that she never slept with Mickey, and that was it. Then, Silence found a kid on the doorstep of the orphanage run by her and her sister, and she found that mothering that kid helped her get out of her depression. And now, when this story opens, she realizes that the kid is Mickey’s bastard, and that he has taken the kid back. She of course wants the kid back, and he makes her stay with him if she wants to keep mothering Mary Darling.
So, yes, this is basically the story of Mickey toying with Silence because he finds it fun to do so and Silence finding all kinds of reasons to believe that Mickey is a good man long before he reaches his epiphany. He reaches his epiphany at the very late stage of the story, so it’s rather bizarre to see how early Silence has begun justifying her attraction to this man.
Silence stared up at Mickey O’Connor, pirate, thief, admitted murderer. He’d confessed to a ghastly crime, one that led naturally to retribution.
And yet she refused to believe the worst of him – even if he believed it himself. She knew him better now. All she saw was this moment, late at night in a dark room, was the sorrow in his eyes.
It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? Elizabeth Hoyt once wrote complicated romances featuring characters with real emotions, and now, she is reduced to writing about heroines who look into the pretty eyes of the hero and are immediately convinced that he is the most sparkly man in the universe. In a way, Ms Hoyt is doing something right as she is sitting cozy on the bestseller lists, but the selfish reader in me wants to weep at how increasingly dumbed down the author’s books are becoming.
Anyway, Silence is a charming and very generic heroine of the genre – she only wants to mother, first Mary, and now Mickey, without exhibiting any desire, hope, longing, or ambition of her own. She is not a real character – she’s written to be the eternally understanding mother and lover of Mickey, convinced of his goodness even if he confesses to murdering old women for pennies, because she’d looked into his eyes and they are so pretty. Sure, she puts up some resistance early in the story, but once she hears Mickey’s sad childhood, she is all over him. She reminds me of those women who write desperate love letters to convicted serial killers, because they have seen the hurt in those men’s eyes and surely, they are the only ones who can see the glowing goodness in these men’s hearts!
And really, all that cheap psychology and heavy-handed “He can’t help being what he is – he was conditioned by his sad childhood, boo-hoo-hoo!” nonsense can’t magically erase how, in a hypocritical moment when this man, who will wail that he is a really bad man to anyone who will listen, ruined Silence’s life just to “test” her previous husband’s love for her. Who is he to judge? Mickey isn’t even a capable crime boss. I mean, his kid was actually safer with Silence than with him in his fortress, because in this story, it is his actions that actually led the bad guy to be aware of the existence of Silence and the kid. And yes, despite how well-guarded his HQ supposedly is, the bad guy has no problems getting to Silence when the plot requires it. There are many things that Mickey does here that actually place Silence and Mary in jeopardy, so for a river pirate who is supposedly one of the most ruthless people in St Giles, Mickey does come off as a dunderhead at times.
Then again, Mickey is just so overblown as a bad boy. He spends so much time wailing and insisting that he is so bad, he comes off like a little kid who is desperate to be taken seriously. I actually laugh when I read about him sulking in his throne room, surrounded by gold and stuff. Mickey is such a cartoon character in this story, I have a hard time taking him seriously. His ability to plot, which is on par with Wile E Coyote’s, makes him even more ridiculous. It also doesn’t help that Ms Hoyt tries to have her cake and eat it too by making Mickey inexplicably educated and providing that guy with an implausible way out of his current vocation so that readers can close this book convinced that Mickey and Silence will have a happily ever after that doesn’t involve Mickey having to actually, you know, be a pirate.
So, in a nutshell, Scandalous Desires is about an overgrown crybaby child, who spends the whole book insisting that he is a very bad boy when he’s not making questionable decisions that end up killing a few of his own people, who finally finds happiness with a woman who exists only to blindly believe the best in him. Ms Hoyt has a beautiful way with prose, but all that beauty and elegance is wasted on stories as insipid as this one.