I'm writing this about two hours after finishing the final full-length Maiden Lane novel and well, I have some thoughts. (Obviously.) This is a twelve novel series with two novellas, the last of which drops on Tuesday, December 5th. It's holiday themed and you can bet I have that thing on pre-order.
For those who haven't yet read one of Elizabeth Hoyt's Maiden Lane novels, they're set in historical London, a dirty and desperate place full of danger. The first few novels feature a family of siblings who run a home for foundling children... and the Ghost of St. Giles, a masked vigilante who is maybe good, maybe bad, maybe more than one man. It's a soapy, tropey series that's really hard to describe. In Elizabeth Hoyt's words:
My Maiden Lane series takes place in 1730s and 1740s London, a world teeming with the sounds of church bells and hoof beats, violins and castrati opera singers, the shouts of street hawkers and the murmur of political intrigue. Coffee shops were bustling centers of gossip and news, at night you could find entertainment at the theater, opera, or pleasure gardens, and everywhere the streets were crammed with people, carriages, horses, sedan chairs, and the odd flock of sheep going to slaughter. The poor lived cheek by jowl in dirty, crammed tenement buildings in the East End and St. Giles, scratching out a living by begging, prostitution, or thievery. At the same time the very rich strolled their gilded homes in silks, velvets, and fabulously embroidered brocades, intent upon flirtation and intrigue.
From guttersnipes to dukes, gin-shop sellers to the daughters of earls, Dragoon captains to Thames river pirates, the Maiden Lane series embraces everything about this fabulous time in London’s history.
Hoyt's books might be considered historical romantic suspense, given the aforementioned pirates and captains and vigilantes. They're full of roof-top chases, swashbuckling heroes (and heroines) and dastardly villains. I came upon Maiden Lane sometime around book nine and proceeded to binge the entirety of the series up to that point. It was delightful.
Then things took a turn. With the introduction of Val as a hero in DUKE OF SIN, the series took a darker turn and I couldn't love the books quite the way I had before. The final three books, particularly this last, DUKE OF DESIRE, have plotlines that feature the worst of humanity. (Books 11 and 12 are about taking down the Lords of Chaos, a group of men who get together to rape and kill women and children.) Sometimes, a book comes into your life at the wrong time, and this may be what happened here. Or it may be another phenomenon... the curse of the long-running series.
Maiden Lane is certainly not the only series that, by continuing to raise the stakes with each book to avoid repetition or boredom, heads into unsavory territory. Does anyone remember how much fun the first few Anita Blake books were? Before they became something I can't force myself to read? Yeah. This isn't quite the same, as our Maiden Lane protagonists (with the exception of Val, maybe) aren't awful people, but the stakes had been raised so high that I found myself putting the book down for stretches of time to read something fluffier and cleanse my palate.
With the current news cycle full of stories of sexual assault and pedophiles running for senate, is it any surprise that it would be hard to read about a secret society like the Lords of Chaos? This could just be unlucky timing, but... is there ever really a great time to read about such people? Is it the curse of a long-running series that, by the end, the plots are so over-the-top that people who enjoyed the early books will want to tune out?
But Suzanne... you said you have the last novella pre-ordered?!
Yes, yes I do. That's partly because I'm a completionist, and partly because I really do love Hoyt's books. Indeed, there have been parts of each of these last three books that I adored, such as Alf, the roof-running slip of a girl dressed as a boy who finds her happily-ever-after with a brooding duke. I just didn't care for the whole constant-danger-of-assault bit.
I look forward to wrapping up the series, leaving the Lords of Chaos behind, and reading whatever Elizabeth Hoyt writes for us next.