Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: Not the Duke's Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt

Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Greycourt, Book 1
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781538763520
Release Date: December 18, 2018
Source: Publisher
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Elizabeth Hoyt Reading Order

Freya de Moray is many things: a member of the secret order of Wise Women, the daughter of disgraced nobility, and a chaperone living under an assumed name. What she is not is forgiving. So when the Duke of Harlowe, the man who destroyed her brother and led to the downfall of her family, appears at the country house party she's attending, she does what any Wise Woman would do: she starts planning her revenge.

Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe, is being blackmailed. Intent on keeping his secrets safe, he agrees to attend a house party where he will put an end to this coercion once and for all. Until he recognizes Freya, masquerading among the party revelers, and realizes his troubles have just begun. Freya knows all about his sins-sins he'd much rather forget. But she's also fiery, bold, and sensuous-a temptation he can't resist. When it becomes clear Freya is in grave danger, he'll risk everything to keep her safe. But first, he will have to earn Freya's trust...by whatever means necessary.

Murder, betrayal, revenge, trauma, blackmail, mysterious orders, politics, secrets, danger, and romance… Not the Duke’s Darling is a whole lotta story packed into one book. Elizabeth Hoyt dives headfirst into the intriguing world of the Greycourt family and the result is a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I liked many of the elements to this tale. On the other, there was so much going on that everything felt incomplete.

At the center of Not the Duke’s Darling are Freya and Christopher. Christopher was once the best friend of Freya’s brother, Ran de Moray, until the night Ran was accused of and beaten nearly to death for murdering Aurelia Greycourt. It’s been fifteen years since that night, and Christopher is still haunted by it. He’s also carrying invisible scars from the death of his wife and his time as a prisoner in India. Christopher had the potential to be an intriguing hero. All the elements are there – a young man who made the wrong choice and is still suffering for it, PTSD, an adorable emotional support dog, his yearning to feel alive again – but his character development felt stifled by the abundance of plot and I didn’t get as deep a sense of him as I would have liked. Freya suffered the same fate. She’s a Wise Woman and a spy and I wish I could have learned a lot more about that part of her life, 99% of which takes place pre-book. She’s brave, independent, and definitely (humanly) flawed, but she also has a warm heart that shows in moments when the plot lets her breathe.

The romance between Christopher and Freya is enjoyable, but could have been so much more if it had been given room to grow and time for passion to be explored. Instead we are shuffled from one plot point to the next. To start, there’s the Dunkelders – men who think the Wise Women are witches and want to murder them – and their mustache-twirling plot to introduce a new era of witch hunting. The ignorance and sexism that’s innate to the Dunkelders could have been more ominous if – at the risk of repeating myself – they had been given more page time. There’s also the matter of Christopher being blackmailed, Freya’s initial quest for revenge, and looming over everything, the question of who murdered Aurelia Greycourt all those years ago. Neither Freya nor Christopher are Greycourts, but the titular family of the series is featured heavily, mostly in the form of Messalina Greycourt. Messalina is the third point of view in Not the Duke’s Darling and she’s a wonderful character who had the characteristics of a classic Hoyt heroine.

I’m a longtime fan of Elizabeth Hoyt’s which makes this book a bit difficult to put a rating on. Had it been by another author or had I been new to Ms. Hoyt’s work, I might have liked this book better (though at the end of the day, I did enjoy it). But I know Ms. Hoyt’s writing – her passionate, unique, flawed characters and their liveliness on the page – and Freya and Christopher were just missing some of that ineffable zing. I was, however, completely fascinated by some of the secondary characters. From Messalina to the mysterious Gabriel Hawthorne to Freya’s lovelorn charge, Arabella Holland, there are plenty of characters who have me excited to read more Greycourt stories. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Ms. Hoyt has in store for readers, especially given the way things ended in this book. So while I may have finished Not the Duke’s Darling wanting a bit more from Freya and Christopher, I did enjoy it and I think there’s great promise to the Greycourt series.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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