Today I’m reviewing Elizabeth Hoyt’s Darling Beast with Ana Coqui from Immersed in Books. This has become a regular series for us, though we’re not on any specific schedule. Thus far we have reviewed Living in Sin by Anastasia Vitsky and Entreat Me and Radiance by Grace Draven. We hope you enjoy reading our chatter at each other as much as we’ve been enjoying writing it! And in case you missed it, my monthly column with Alexis Hall is up at All About Romance. We reviewed Ginn Hale’s The Lord of White Hell and we were thrilled to be joined this month by Willaful.Elizabeth Hoyt’s 7th Maiden Lane book, Darling Beast, features the previous heroine’s brother, Apollo Greaves, who was sprung from Bedlam by the hero of the previous book, Maximus Batten, Duke of Wakefield, and is now on the run from the law while assisting his friend in rebuilding Harte’s Folly, the pleasure garden that burned at the end of the 6th book. Lily Stump was once a sought after comedic actress employed by Harte who finds herself squatting in the ruined theater on the grounds, when she is blackballed at other theaters. When Lily’s son stumbles upon Apollo working in the garden, Apollo is unable to speak, the legacy of an attack by a guard during his incarceration. Before these two can find their happy ending, they must clear Apollo’s name and ensure Lily’s son’s safety.
Trigger warning for rape and spousal abuse.
Elisabeth: Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series contains some really remarkable books in the early part of the series, but with Darling Beast, we seem to be starting a new story arc, so doesn’t seem like a bad place for newcomers to jump in.
Ana: I have read most of Hoyt’s Prince books but I had not kept up with the Maiden Lane series. I agree that this a great jump on point. While I missed some of the connections between the secondary characters, it was very easy to follow without having read the first 6 books.
Elisabeth: Well, you should remedy that! Thief of Shadows, the 4th book of the series is definitely one of my favorite historical romances of all time. Assuming you enjoyed this one, that is!
Ana: I did enjoy it. It wasn’t perfect, I had some issues with a couple things, but I’m definitely planning on going back and filling in the gaps. And since I had the ARC to Dearest Rogue, book 8, I read that as soon as I finished Darling Beast.
Elisabeth: Well, let’s start with issues then and move on to what we liked. What stood out for you as less than ideal?
Ana: My biggest struggle with the book is that one of the major conflicts Apollo and Lily have is over his identity. First she doesn’t know who he is and that keeps them apart for a bit, but then the biggest issue is once she realizes who he is, she just can’t see them building a lasting relationship. She has a lot of reasons and evidence for that, and I felt that it was essentially set aside and glossed over in the end. Having read Dearest Rogue and having looked over some of the synopsis for the other stories, I now know cross-class romance is a recurring theme in the Maiden Lane books, but I wanted a better answer to her objections.
Elisabeth: Yes, I can see that. I guess I excused it because they both had life-altering experiences that came full circle at the end of the book. The resolution of Apollo’s inheritance issues and Lily’s concerns about the continued safety of her child were things that had been hanging over both of them for so long. I think it made sense for them to find solace in each other after going through that together. That sounds pretty thin, but I honestly didn’t think about it at the time.
Ana: I know that I loved the Epilogue but I had been highlighting all passages where Lily worries that it surprised me when it was resolved by just saying…look my family accepts you. I had so many questions about Lily’s future and career. (Thankfully some of those were answered in Dearest Rogue).
Elisabeth: I didn’t highlight any of that stuff. I think I saw her objections as a rational reaction to trauma inflicted by a member of the aristocracy, but figured that once that trauma was resolved, her issues would be resolved. And Apollo is clearly nothing like that other aristocrat in any way.
Ana: You are totally right about that. That is a huge part of why it works. He is able to show her that he isn’t that man, and won’t behave that way. I did love how both of them were so good at their jobs, and struggled with how limiting aristocratic views on work are. I thought that was a fantastic connection for them to have.
Elisabeth: I’m actually kind of struggling with this discussion because Elizabeth Hoyt is one of those writers that I just don’t think about very much. I mean, I’ve read all her books and she does seem to gravitate toward certain themes (finding meaningful work is definitely one, non-traditional routes to parenting is another), but I just enjoy the world she creates and so…get kind of lost in that? I feel a little guilty about it honestly because I’m consuming this series in such a mindless way. But that I suppose is a gift in itself. It’s so rare that I take off my critical hat long enough to just enjoy a romance any more so I have to give Hoyt credit for being the first writer to do that for me in a LONG time.
Ana: I think when I was reading tons and tons of historicals I had a tendency to do that too. I read so few of them now, that I can’t help but look out for some those issues. I know that when I was consuming the Prince books, I didn’t think about the class imbalances in some of those.
So did you have any issues or did it just all work for you?
Elisabeth: I think it all worked for me. I wasn’t cognizant of any points that I objected to, though I was a bit taken aback by a fairly graphic description of spousal abuse near the end of the book. It’s definitely something that people with sensitivities in that area should be aware of because it’s hinted at throughout, but it does get fairly explicitly violent at one point in flashback.
Ana: Yes, you are right. Other potentially triggering moments were when Apollo talks about how he was assaulted and how others in Bedlam were treated.
Elisabeth: Oh, here’s a question. It seemed like perhaps at one point Hoyt was implying that Apollo had been raped? Or did you not pick up that? It’s not explicitly stated, I don’t think?
Ana: Oh, I picked up on that. I think I highlighted it because it is so rare to see that come up in a book. He really struggles thinking about or describing how he was treated. But he does describe one of the guards dropping the falls of his pants while he was being held down.
Elisabeth: Yes, I wasn’t sure, but you’re right. I think we are led to understand that that he has experienced sexual abuse in addition to being beaten. I do see rape backstories more often in m/m romance and with heroines, but yeah, more rare when it’s a hero in m/f romance, especially an adult hero.
So what worked for you about Darling Beast?
Ana: The parallel story in the epigraphs. Hoyt starts off each chapter with piece from “The Minotaur”. I usually tend to ignore those pieces of poetry and such at the start of chapters because I just want to rush back into the main story, but as the book went on I found myself slowing down and taking the time to read the snippets.
Elisabeth: Um. I skipped them. All of them. I’m a terrible reader! Why were these more interesting than usual?
Ana: I think I was annoyed at them at the beginning, I even posted on twitter asking if anyone bothered to read them. But I think I read one by mistake and it started alerting me that while there is a Beauty and the Beast element to the story, it was really going to focus a lot more on the question of identity, inheritance and violence.
Elisabeth: It sounds like I should go back and read them. Maybe I will be less annoyed by them if I read them all at once.
Ana: Some of them were really long! So what else worked for you?
Elisabeth: I don’t have a lot of historical romance series that I follow. I never got sucked into the Cynsters or Spindle Cove, for example. So my pleasure in this was seeing some familiar faces like the Duke of Wakefield, who is a fascinating character, and then being introduced to a few new faces that I’m DEEPLY curious about and will, I’m assuming, get their own book at some point.
Ana: Are you talking about Montgomery?
Elisabeth: *bounces up and down* YES YES YES! Gosh he’s odd. Just the kind of hero I like. His actions in this book are almost inexplicable. I can’t wait to find out what drives him.
Ana: I had the same reaction to him in this book. I was really attracted to his near malevolence and manipulative dandyness. He reminded me a lot of the Duke of Darling in Anna Cowan’s Untamed. Dangerous and easy to underestimate. You will see a lot more of him in the next book. But I was surprised to discover that the book after that is not his book, but it is someone connected to him.
Elisabeth: I’ve found this series to be like that a bit. I guess until I discussed this with you, I wasn’t as attuned to how up and down it has been. The 5th book was a little more of a throwaway for me too: kind of a bridge between Thief of Shadows and Duke of Midnight. None of them have been bad, I don’t think. It’s just that some of the characters are total stand-outs and other have been less so. I think this one may be one of those “less so” ones for me.
Ana: The romance in the next book worked a lot more for me.
Elisabeth: And I have been eagerly awaiting Trevillion’s book so I’m very much looking forward to starting that one. He’s a huge character in the previous three books and he has changed a lot.
Ana: Has Harte been in a lot of the previous books? Because he is the hero of book after Trevillion’s.
Elisabeth: Oh, yeah. He was a big character in the 6th book especially when the Folly burns down so that makes sense really. Still, I’m impatient for Montgomery now!
Ana: You will have to buzz me when you read the next book. Because I have thoughts.
Elisabeth: Definitely! So any final thoughts about Darling Beast?
Ana: I think it was charming and a very enjoyable read despite the hard topics it dealt with. I am glad to have read it and reconnected with Hoyt through it. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed her books.
Elisabeth: Yes, dealing with hard topics in a way that still allows the story to work is something that I think Hoyt excels at. And I love that it happens within a story that still works as a romance. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Lily and Apollo, but I enjoyed their love story.
A lifelong genre reader, Ana grew up reading fantasy, sci-fi &
mystery novels in Puerto Rico. Ana discovered comics in college before
finally wandering into the Romance section a few years ago after bawling
through yet another YA dystopian series. A recovering English and
History double major, Ana is now a school librarian, mother of two geeky
girls and a pastor’s wife in Rochester, NY. When she is not reading or
writing reviews, she is knitting or planning her next trip. She writes
about books at her blog: Immersed in Books and on Twitter as @anacoqui.
June 15, 2015 at 6:43 pm
"Gosh he's odd." Dang it, Elisabeth. You know exactly how to sell me on a book. I'm not even kidding! And then to have Ana compare him to Untamed? Now I have to read this book so I can get to know the secondary character who I already want to have his own story. 😉 Not that this is a hardship. I quite enjoy Elizabeth Hoyt's books and would have glommed this series sooner or later. I think I already have two or three on my shelves!
June 15, 2015 at 10:50 pm
=) I hope you enjoy it. And I hope Hoyt shares our fascination with him and actually gives him a story at some point.
June 16, 2015 at 12:28 pm
I was just thinking that Elizabeth Hoyt is quite a bit Wonkier than your average uber-popular historical romance author. In this series we've had a virgin hero, an ugly hero (this one–we didn't really mention that, but he's apparently not an attractive guy) and a blind heroine and a hero with a limp (the next book). Her previous series have been like that too. Goes a ways toward explaining why I like her so much.