Notorious Pleasures, the second book in Elizabeth Hoyt's "Maiden Lane" series, takes us back to the mean streets of St. Giles where both our hero and heroine do business, but of a very different kind.
Lady Hero Batten, sister of a duke, has a reputation for perfection. She is recently engaged to her perfect counterpart, the Marquess of Mandeville, and ready to settle down to a perfectly dull, but dutiful, marriage. At her engagement ball she meets her fiancé's bad boy brother, Griffin, who is about as far from perfect as you can get. Of course, Hero and Griffin rub each other the wrong way, though they increasingly have trouble ignoring the spark of desire between them. But more separates them than an engagement to the wrong person.
Hero is a benefactress of a home for foundling children in the slums of St. Giles. The Georgian-era Gin Craze is in full swing in London, responsible for the ruination of the poor. Many of the home's foundlings are there directly, or indirectly, because of gin. Hero's brother is working hard in Parliament to combat the problem; the home and the fight against gin is Hero's great passion.
Griffin's family was on the brink of disaster when his father died and he has made it his responsibility to save the family fortunes, for his elder brother has no head for finances. Griffin has accomplished his aim by founding one of the biggest gin distilleries in London. He makes no excuses for his actions, and doesn't get why Hero is so disgusted with him.
It's a great built-in conflict and their arguments over it are spirited and illuminating. Less illuminating, for me, was the way Hoyt handled Hero and Griffin's falling in love. They fall in lust very quickly and there are very few of their encounters which did not include some heavy petting at the very least. But, aside from arguing over gin, they did very little talking and getting to know each other on more than a physical basis, so their declarations of love never really rang true for me.
Notorious Pleasures is the second book in a series, and it reads like it. There are overarching themes, characters and storylines, and if I hadn't read the first one, I think I would have found some of it confusing. I will continue to read the series, for I find the world and the characters Hoyt created to be interesting, even if I had some problems with Hero and Griffin. I would not recommend starting the series with this book, however.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, February 23, 2011