“Darling Beast” is a terrible title, in my opinion. But I couldn’t pass it up. It’s the seventh book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s “Maiden Lane” series, a series that I just can’t stop reading and enjoying. The beast in this story is Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne, twin brother to Artemis Batten, Duchess of Wakefield, who was first introduced to readers in the second book of the series. His darling is Lily Stump, a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow, who’s a revered comedic actress and playwright in Ms. Hoyt’s fictional 18th century London. Apollo and Lily met while the former Bedlam inmate was hiding in plain sight as a gardener in the burned down Harte’s Folly, a pleasure garden (e.g., open-air theatre) where Lily and her little family were temporarily living. Lily’s seven-year-old son, Indio, was the first to discover Apollo, whom the boy originally referred to as a monster, since Apollo supposedly has the body of one (i.e., huge, muscly, brown/tan). Both hero and heroine fell gradually into love, took down their enemies, and lived happily ever after.
Of course, I must mention that Apollo and Lily’s sexy scenes were scorching hot. Those make the book trés more exciting. This is, after all, a Hoyt book. The author’s got a tried and true writing style and a winning story format; honestly, I think she should stick to them. Of all the “Maiden Lane” books I’ve read so far, none was as bad as the third one (with Silence Hollingbrook and Mickey the Pirate as the main characters). “Darling Beast” is as much about righting previous wrongs and finding justice as it is about a romantic get-together. The characters are not annoying (to me, at least), the heroine is an independent thinker with a heart of gold (no cloying maiden here), the plot is fast-moving, and gosh darn it, I just wanted Apollo to finally be happy.
In the end, was I swept off my feet and left feeling like it was the best book ever? No. Was it a book I’d read again? Yes. Was Ms. Hoyt successful in luring me back in for the next installment in her “Maiden Lane” series? Abso-bloody-lutely. All these reasons make “Darling Beast,” albeit the horrible title, a helluva gotta-have book.