Oh my God, you guys. I think I’ve read my first crack book. The one that has some crazy going on and some plot elements I normally hate, but still I couldn’t put it down. The whole time I was reading Wicked Intentions my rational mind would have thoughts like “that’s a lot of subplots” or “the hero is really being an ass clown,” and then the emotional side of me would say “Shut up and turn the pages!”
This book was crazysauce all around, and somehow Elizabeth Hoyt pulls it off delightfully.
Temperance Dews is a widow who runs the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children with her brother, Winter. The home is just outside of the slum of St. Giles, where gin, prostitution and petty crime abound. Most of the unfortunate infants and foundling children come from St. Giles, so Temperance has a fairly good reputation among the quarter’s less savory elements—still it’s not a place to go out alone in after dark. When the book opens, Temperance has just brought a new infant to the home and is worried about the sick baby’s chances of survival. Because her day wasn’t bad enough, her brother tells her that they’re fast running out of money and will be evicted from the home soon if they can’t scrape together rent.
Temperance is feeling pretty awful about things and is up late, making herself some comforting tea, when she discovers an intruder in the house. Sitting in her arm chair in front of the fire is Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire.
There, sprawled in her chair like a conjured demon, sat Lord Caire. His silver hair spilled over the shoulders of his black cape, a cocked hat lay on one knee, and his right hand caressed the end of his long ebony walking stick. This close she realized his hair gave no lie to his age. The lines about his startlingly blue eyes were few, his mouth and jaw firm. He couldn’t be much older than five and thirty.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Because I’m thinking:
BAM. Lucius Malfoy. Throughout the book Lord Caire is routinely described as having long silver hair, a forbidding arrogant manner, and carrying a silver-tipped sword cane. I’m mean…c’mon! It’s Lucius Malfoy right?
Anyway, Lord Caire has a reputation for being debauched, for having dark, sexual appetites. It’s a bit of a surprise to find him in her sitting room, not at the brothel down the street. It turns out he needs a favor from Temperance. His mistress, a prostitute who lived in St. Giles, was brutally murdered. Lazarus is determined to solve the mystery of her death, but he needs someone trustworthy to guide him through the underbelly of St. Giles. In return, Lazarus will give the orphanage the money it needs to scrape by, and will introduce Temperance into his social circle so she can secure a patron for the house.
Just in case you’re still stuck on Lucius Malfoy + Dark Sexual Appetites, let me fill you in. Lazarus can’t stand to be touched. Due to all sorts of childhood trauma (no sexual abuse, FYI), having another person touch him causes him pain. He still likes the sexytimes though, so he engages prostitutes who are willing to be tied up and blindfolded or hooded during sex. Apparently, in 1737 this is like the naughtiest thing anyone could possibly do. Secondary characters in this book refer to Lazarus in hushed tones, tittering at his “unnatural appetites.” At first I was a little worried that I’d stumbled upon the first Historical Furry book ever or something, but no, it’s got some light bondage in it and that’s about it.
Despite the fact that Lazarus is generally a douche nozzle in the first two thirds of the book, Temperance finds herself very, very attracted to him. He makes her squirm in her buckle shoes. Temperance has some issues with sex—namely she wants it, and her late husband made her feel shitty about it. Because ladies shouldn’t want sex, that’s just craziness there. Ladies wanting oral sex or, you know, sex in broad daylight? Madness!
So Lazarus pushes all her buttons, good and bad, and generally torments her with his snarky, superior “I don’t care about the feelings/lives of others” attitude. He says unkind things about her dead husband. He pursues her sexually even though he knows she’s embarrassed by her lust. He is generally disparaging about the orphanage and the life she’s devoted to charity. Like I said, douche nozzle.
I couldn’t hate Lazarus though. While not exactly sympathetic, he was intriguing. I think it’s how much he owns being the anti-hero. He is tormented by his past, but it’s not in a broody, self-pitying way. He’s found a way to connect with others (sexually anyway), and rather than be ashamed of it when society starts whispering, he flaunts it. He is the big bad wolf.
Also he has a sword-cane, and that’s just bad ass.
As Lazarus and Temperance hunt for the killer in St. Giles, the sexual tension ramps up, and then another woman is found dead in the same manner, pointing to the work of a serial killer (although no one calls it that). Strangely, the whole Jack the Ripper-esque serial killer thing was pushed pretty far into the background, taking a back seat to the blooming sexual awakening of Temperance and emotional defrosting of Lazarus.
Lazarus and Temperance are attacked in St. Giles—he’s even stabbed—and they have good reason to believe the killer is hunting them, but we take a break from that for a couple of balls and some subplot action. It could be that I’m so used to reading romantic suspense that I expected the danger element to be front and center, but it surprised me when it wasn’t.
Aside from Temperance trying to withstand Lazarus’s seductions, and Lazarus trying not having a single fucking human emotion, there’s a lot going on in this book. So. Many. Subplots.
There is the aforementioned dying baby, Mary Hope.
There is Temperance’s sister, Silence. Silence is married to a captain whose cargo was stolen by a notorious and sexy river pirate, ruining him financially. Silence has to barter her virtue to the pirate to save her husband from being falsely accused of stealing the cargo himself and going to prison.
There is a vigilante known as the Ghost of St. Giles, roaming the slum at night, defending the defenseless, wearing a black mask and a harlequin’s motley.
There is Lazarus’s friend, St. John, who is suffering miserably as disease takes his wife.
And then there is Winter, who is clearly not a mild-mannered school teacher, as he comes home one night with a stab wound (like you do).
To be fair, this is set up for the other books in the Maiden Lane series. I’m trying something new here—reading a series in the actual order it was written—and while normally I’d be overwhelmed by all the river-pirate-clown-batman-schoolmaster-fight-club nonsense, I actually found it to be an okay break from the intensity of Lazarus and Temperance’s budding relationship.
Because intense it is. Both the hero and heroine are really conflicted in this book. Temperance thinks she a bad, bad person. Lazarus knows he’s a bad, bad person, and he’s scared that Temperance makes him want to be a better one. And they both want to have lots and lots of sex with each other. This was easily the most sexually explicit historical I’ve read. At one point Lazarus takes Temperance to a brothel (they were following a clue, really!) and they spy on the patrons through secret peep holes (ostensibly to find the killer, really!) while Lazarus talks dirty to her and she has a little meltdown about her wanton urges. Hoyt doesn’t dress her sex scenes up in flowery descriptors either. She calls a penis a penis, and the omits terms like “bud” and “pearl” for clitoris. I personally prefer that to euphemisms and purple prose.
All of the sexytimes serve a purpose though, it isn’t gratuitous. Temperance realizes she’s not a monster or a whore for wanting sex. Lazarus discovers intercourse and intimacy are not synonymous. It’s a whole lotta sexual healing, my friends.
Also serial killer. And Ghost of St. Giles vigilante. And river pirate. And bondage.
If any or all of those things appeal to you, I’d really recommend this book. If you’re looking for a spicy historical, or one not focused around the glittering aristocracy, Wicked Intentions fits the bill. Aside from a few ball scenes, this book takes place among the working class of London.
Overall, Wicked Intentions really worked for me. It was different, a little bit crazy, quite sexy, and I will be stalking the UPS man for the next few days while I wait for the sequel to arrive in the mail.