RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt


Title: Duke of Midnight
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Publication Info: Grand Central Publishing October 2013
ISBN: 978-1455508341
Genre: Historical: European

Book Duke of Midnight This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Aorist. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Historical Romance category.

The summary:


Twenty years ago Maximus Batten witnessed the brutal murders of his parents. Now the autocratic Duke of Wakefield, he spends his days ruling Parliament. But by night, disguised as the Ghost of St. Giles, he prowls the grim alleys of St. Giles, ever on the hunt for the murderer. One night he finds a fiery woman who meets him toe-to-toe—and won't back down . . .


Artemis Greaves toils as a lady's companion, but hiding beneath the plain brown serge of her dress is the heart of a huntress. When the Ghost of St. Giles rescues her from footpads, she recognizes a kindred spirit-and is intrigued. She's even more intrigued when she realizes who exactly the notorious Ghost is by day . . .


Artemis makes a bold move: she demands that Maximus use his influence to free her imprisoned brother-or she will expose him as the Ghost. But blackmailing a powerful duke isn't without risks. Now that she has the tiger by the tail, can she withstand his ire-or the temptation of his embrace?

And here is Aorist's review:

This book is a difficult case because the book and the characters go up and down—from prickly to sympathetic to stupid—and so does the rest of this review with some highlights and some lowlights. It’s all the more frustrating because Duke of Midnight is so well written.

I loved that it borrowed from lots of sources:  a reverse Cinderella story where she gets his ring, the Artemis/Diana myth of moon goddess where the virginal goddess wins her hero, and the play on other names of the secondary characters (Phoebe, Hero, Apollo).  It had layer on layer of plots, as well of lots of well developed characters. Some story lines come to resolution, but Hoyt leaves a couple hanging, one obviously as a tease for the sequel. While I liked the dramatic resolution of the love story and the revenge story, I didn’t like the fuzzy resolution of the ninny Penelope’s fate after staging a huge scene. 

Hoyt to her credit develops Maximus as a duke with considerable power and money instead of just an ordinary guy with a title.  His pain over the murder of his parents feels real, and it is possible to suspend disbelief that a duke would spend his nights hunting his parents’ killer.  Later on in the story, he struggles with wanting his place in society and the unlikelihood that he will be loved for the man he is, rather than his title and wealth.

But there were a couple of scenes in the love story of Maximus, Duke of Wakefield, and Artemis that left me cold.  I found the first kiss, usually a tingly moment, to be too forceful.  I want my hero to kiss the heroine because he’s attracted, he’s in lust, or he’s in love.  A kiss born of rage makes me uneasy.  Of course, he redeems himself a little by rescuing Artemis’ brother, Apollo but my sympathy decreased with how Maximus subsequently treats him.  Wakefield and Artemis’ encounters move from lust and to love; Hoyt spins this transition slowly and satisfyingly.  But then, I find I am ambivalent that during the lust stage, he talks dirty to her.  Is she a lover or a fling?  Much later when he admits he loves her, he is still angry, although the anger was at her taking a huge chance with her life. Is she his object or a lover?

Artemis starts out the story as a lady’s companion to her cousin, Penelope. (Penelope is a self-centered ninny who wants the richest, most attentive duke. Yes, there is another one besides Wakefield.)  Artemis does decide to take control of her life, beginning with blackmailing Wakefield to rescue her brother in Bedlam.  After that succeeds, she muses on her future.

“She could either spend the rest of her life being manipulated and quietly mourning what she’d lost, or she could create a new life.  A new reality.”

“Atremis touched Apollo’s cheek and then turned to make her way up the stairs. Up out of stagnation and despair.”

To sum up, Artemis makes the choice to explore the attraction she feels for Wakefield. The despair is transmuted into an intense series of sexual encounters, where she becomes more and more emotionally entangled.  But despair comes back when she realizes that the most she can be is Wakefield’s mistress.  At the almost darkest point of the book, she decides to become a companion to an old woman, walking away from her beloved Maximus.  I’m glad she makes choices, but I’ve read the story of deciding to lose one’s virginity, contemplate being a man’s mistress, and then struggling with the fact that means she’ll have to share him with another woman at lot of times.  Hoyt tells it well, but the story feels a little too familiar.

More on the ups and downs–the secondary story. The magical story that unfolds at the beginning of each chapter is fairly engaging until the end.  I didn’t like the forced happy ending of the fable. It just felt weird given the cursed king begins the story celebrating his marriage.

When the Kindle said the book was complete, I felt like I’d read a deep, well-written story with well-developed characters.  But I kept wishing that the story swept me away. It mostly did, but it also dropped me out from time to time with the number of disconcerting moments. So it gets a solid B.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Vasha says:

    I’m happy to find a reviewer who’s as uneasy with overbearing angry alpha behavior in a supposedly midern hero as I am (actually, I’m not uneasy so much as fed up). The other RITA reviewer said that Maximus is “not given to over-the-top alphholiness”. Well the level of it may remain below the top, but any is too much.

  2. 2
    Phyllis Laatsch says:

    Reading the blurb I thought: “I’m…. Batduke.”

  3. 3
    Kerry says:

    I’m only on book four of this series, so I have a ways to go before I get to this one, but I appreciate the review. As a fan of old school, cracktastic romance, I’m used to jerky heroes. But, I like my current romance heroes a bit less alpha (even in historicals). Glad to know this still rates as a solid B, even with your misgivings about Batduke (good call @Phyllis).

  4. 4
    phyllis laatsch says:

    Oh, I don’t have reservations about Batduke. I love Batduke!

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