Notorious Pleasures
by Elizabeth Hoyt, historical (2011)
Vision, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-446-55895-2


Do you want the good news first? Notorious Pleasures is better than the previous book in the Maiden Lane series, so I guess there is much rejoicing in the land. The bad news is, the story is boring and even generic.

The first time the proper and, of course, beautiful Lady Hero Batten meets Griffin Remmington is when he is boinking someone's wife and she ended up covering up for those two when the woman's husband arrives at the scene. The next time she meets him, she learns that he is the brother of her fiancé Thomas, the Marquess of Mandeville. Circumstances will keep bringing them together. Don't worry, those two cheating on poor Thomas isn't that bad, since he has his own personal Mrs Robinson darling to keep him occupied.

What is disappointing about this story is how the premise has plenty of opportunities to bring up interesting dramatic conflicts. Griffin is the biggest gin operator in St Giles, while Hero has seen how people addicted to gin tear apart their families and cause their loved ones to suffer, for example. She's engaged to his brother - there's another opportunity for plenty of emotional turmoil and what not. But Ms Hoyt sweeps every potential conflict that can arise under the rug, so to speak, by having Hero completely losing her mind and spreading 'em wide in Griffin's embrace.

That's my problem with the romance. Is it love? I don't think so. Hero runs around like a hormonally addled teenage girl. She is supposed to be virginal, proper, and sensible - or so this story reminds me so many times - but I see a lust-crazed woman who throws her principles out the window and... you know, that's the sad part. I wish I can say that Hero turns into a nymphomaniac and rides Griffin like a cowboy until he can't walk straight, but that would imply that Hero knows what she is doing or what she wants. In this story, Hero doesn't. Her brain just shuts down as the rest of her body puts out, with ear-splitting wails and tears to follow. It's hard to respect this kind of dingbat, I tell you.

I'm told constantly that Griffin is this amoral bad boy and he certainly spends a lot of time reminding me of that, but honestly, I don't see any amoral bad boy here. Like Hero, Griffin's actions rarely gel with the kind of person he is supposed to be. He's a generic hero who makes his money via a less-than-respectable enterprise, he sleeps with a few married women, and that's pretty much the repertoire of his supposedly amoral self. Perhaps you can argue that sleeping with his brother's fiancée is not a nice thing to do, but he's prepared to marry her, so again, this doesn't make Griffin the big bad boy he's supposed to be.

At the end of the day, the heroine spends more time acting like a lust-addled twit while claiming that she never meant to put out and the hero spends more time pushing her buttons when he's not enjoying unrestricted access to her pretty little self. They don't actually talk much, and there are plenty of unresolved issues that stand between them. I don't know how these two are going to have a long happy marriage because they don't connect in ways that matter. It's all sex and lust with plenty of judgmental accusations on her part thrown in to break the monotony.

The story also sets up the anticipation for the next book, but because I think the heroine of the next book has the intelligence of a pulverized eukaryote, I can't bring myself to care about what seems like a historical version of a Harlequin Presents tale.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment about Notorious Pleasures is how, once upon a time, the author created rich and nuanced stories with complex and refreshingly different characters. Now, the closest character to echo the author's better days is cast as the scandalous Mrs Robinson character in this book. How times has changed, and how sad, really.

Rating: 60


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