By Elizabeth Hoyt
Publisher: Grand Central
Release Date: November 24, 2015
Eve Dinwoody could never be described as beautiful. With her tall, bird-like physique and her less than dainty nose, the best description she could ever hope for is plain. She's okay with that. An unspeakable childhood trauma has left Eve with an intense fear of men and a revulsion of being touched. She's never known desire and doesn't want to. At twenty-six, the prim and proper spinster lives with her devoted bodyguard (who accompanies her everywhere), his wife (her cook), and a personal maid. But, despite her fears, Eve is not helpless. She has a sharp mind and a steel core when it comes to her duties as "man" of business for her half-brother, the Duke of Montgomery. It's that steel core that takes her to Mr. Harte's rooms to cut off his credit when he continually refuses to provide receipts for the money he's spending to rebuild Harte's Folly - money provided by Eve's brother. Their first meeting is less than auspicious. Eve has clearly interrupted a liaison with the beautiful, naked singer in Asa's bed, Asa mistakes Eve for an aspiring actress and insults her by suggesting that, with her looks, she'd be better suited to something back stage, and it deteriorates from there. Only after some major groveling does Eve finally agree to continue credit but with her overseeing the expenses. She moves into Asa's office at the theater and that's when things really start to get interesting.
For Asa, sexual pleasure is a natural part of life; essential, an activity to be celebrated and savored. Emotional attachment, however, is not for him. Too many lessons in life have taught him that sharing his body brings pleasure; sharing his heart brings pain. He never expects to share either with Eve but the longer they work together, the more he comes to know the heart of the woman who has known only fear and uncertainty around men, the more he wants her. Eve, on the other hand, has never known desire; never wanted to know it...until she meets this large, loud, blunt-speaking man who exudes sexuality but, strangely, incites no fear. She slowly comes to trust him, to desire him, and when her past returns, putting Harte's Folly and their lives in peril, she realizes exactly what Asa Makepeace has come to mean to her.
I loved this book so much! Eve and Asa have earned places among my all-time favorite heroines and heroes. Asa is a physical man, more apt to settle disagreements with his fists than with diplomacy yet he treats Eve with tenderness, care, and respect. He doesn't so much seduce her as awaken her to her own desires. He does it slowly and only with her permission at each stop along the journey. He helps her heal but never considers that she might heal him as well. And Eve. How I admire her. To watch her overcome her fear, become empowered, embrace her own sexuality, and take charge of her life was exhilarating. The banter between these two was so much fun, escalating as Eve found her footing, and keeping me grinning; at times, laughing out loud. And as is the norm with an Elizabeth Hoyt book, the sex scenes set the pages on fire but were filled with so much emotion and care that there were times when I was brought to tears.
Sweetest Scoundrel is the ninth book in Hoyt's Maiden Lane series. While several characters from previous books make appearances, this can be read as a stand-alone. However, it's closely connected to the seventh and eighth books in the series, Darling Beast and Dearest Rogue. For maximum understanding and reading pleasure, I would recommend reading those three books in order. I plan to re-read all three in preparation for the May 2016 release of Duke of Sin, the highly anticipated story of the vain, manipulative and very wicked Valentine Napier, Duke of Montgomery. I can not wait to see what Hoyt does with him! In the meantime, I suggest you lose yourself in the lush, sizzling, deeply emotional, and endearingly romantic Sweetest Scoundrel. It has my highest recommendation.
Elizabeth Hoyt Q&A
1. Do you have a favorite quote/scene from the book?
“I’d rather your acid tongue than any number of sweet lies from pretty lips.”
2. Some authors draft meticulous outlines before starting a novel while others just sit down and start at the beginning. What’s your writing style?
Lately I’ve been writing outlines, though not so much with the meticulous.
3. What has been your favorite experience as a writer?
The readers, of course. Readers who come up to me at conferences and tell me about scenes in books I wrote ten years ago (and which I can’t remember very well!) Readers who post on Facebook that they read all my books and no matter how the hero is described paste Chris Helmsworth’s face over him. Readers on Goodreads who post the funniest reviews with dozens of embedded gifs. And readers on Twitter who are so excited when I post that I’ve finished a first draft. Readers are the best.
4. If you weren’t a novelist what career would you like to try?
President of the United States. Although I have no political background, I have never cheated on my spouse or taken money from any special interest groups. Also, I am sane. At the moment I feel this makes me more qualified than 95% of the contenders.
5. For readers who have never read a Maiden Lane book, what would you tell them they can expect from your stories?
Emotion. Some humor. A bit of action. Some lovely sweaty sex.
Excerpt from Sweetest Scoundrel
“What do you see when you look at me?”
What did she see when she looked at him?
Eve inhaled, trying and failing to tear her gaze from his.
Mr. Harte sprawled across her dainty settee like a Viking marauder in a pillaged Christian church. His broad shoulders took up more than half the width, his arms lazily draped over the back. His scarlet coat was spread open, contrasting with the sedate gray-
blue of the cushions almost shockingly. One long leg was thrust straight before him, the other cocked open and resting on a booted heel. The pose made the apex of his thighs very . . . obvious . . . and even as she kept her eyes locked on his she could feel heat rising in her cheeks.
What did she see?
She saw violence and anger, kept under a control that was tenuous at best. She saw power and a strength that could hurt her—kill her—if he so chose. She saw the innate brutality that was, in larger or smaller part, in all men.
She saw her most terrible fears.
But—and this was the truly unprecedented part—she saw more in him. She saw temptation—her temptation—alluring and frightening at the same time, his virility so strong it was nearly a visible miasma in the space between them.
She wanted him. Wanted that brash gaze, those long, muscled thighs, that mocking, insulting mouth, and the shoulders that went on forever, big and brawny and so
very, very male.
This was madness—she knew that intellectually. She’d never wanted a man before—was in fact afraid of almost all men, let alone one so obviously, blatantly sexual.
She took a breath, hoping that he couldn’t read all this from her gaze—and knowing it was a lost cause already.
His heavy-lidded green eyes were far, far too perceptive.
“I see . . .” She paused to lick suddenly dry lips. “I see that your hairline is nearly a perfect arc across the expanse of your forehead. That your eyebrows tilt ever so slightly up at the ends and that the right has a scar through it. I see that when you are solemn, the outer edges of your lips reach just to the midpoint of your eyes, but when you smile, they go beyond the corners. I see that your chin and jaw are almost in classical proportion and that a small white scar forms a comma on your chin just to the right of center.” She finally glanced away from him, breathing heavily, certain that she’d not thrown him off the track with her artist’s eye’s impressions. She inhaled again and ended, “I see every line of your face, every line’s intersection and how they relate. That is what I see when I look at you.”
“And is that all you see? Lines?” His voice was deep and amused.
She chanced a peek.
He still watched her, his gaze utterly unperturbed by her observations about his countenance.
No, she’d not fooled him at all.
She licked her lips again, buying time. “I see,” she said carefully, cautiously, “a very self-possessed man.”
“Self-possessed,” he drawled. “I’m not sure what that means, frankly. It sounds, just a bit, like a coward’s answer.”
Her gaze flew to his, outraged.
But before she could take him down a peg, he chuckled softly. “Tell me, Miss Dinwoody, would you like to know what I see when I look at you?”
She shouldn’t. She really, really shouldn’t.
“Yes,” she blurted, and then winced because she knew well enough what men
thought when they looked at her: ordinary, if they were charitable. Plain if they were not.
She braced herself for mockery, but when she glanced again at him, his gaze was hot and hard. Certainly not gentle. Certainly not kind. But he wasn’t dismissing her, either.
He looked at her as if they were equals. As if he really saw her, a woman to his man.
“I see,” he said, his deep voice musing, “a woman afraid, but fighting her fears. A woman who carries herself like a queen. A woman who could rule us all, I suspect.”
She gazed at him, her breath caught in her throat, afraid to exhale and break the spell.
A corner of that wicked mouth tilted up. “And I see a woman who has a deep curiosity. Who wants to feel but is worried—of herself? Of others?” He shook his head. “I’m not sure.” He leaned forward slowly, destroying his pose, and she had to fight herself not to scoot her chair away from him. “But I think she has a fire banked within her. Maybe it’s only embers now, glowing in the dark, but if tinder were to be put to those embers . . .” He grinned slowly. Dangerously. “Oh, what a conflagration that would be.”