I spent the whole day reading this and do not regret one bit the stuff I left undone. This book was worth it.
Have a blurb:
A MAN OF SIN
Devastatingly handsome. Vain. Unscrupulous. Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, is the man London whispers about in boudoirs and back alleys. A notorious rake and blackmailer, Montgomery has returned from exile, intent on seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. But what he finds in his own bedroom may lay waste to all his plans.
A WOMAN OF HONOR
Born a bastard, housekeeper Bridget Crumb is clever, bold, and fiercely loyal. When her aristocratic mother becomes the target of extortion, Bridget joins the Duke of Montgomery's household to search for the incriminating evidence-and uncovers something far more dangerous.
A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY THEM BOTH
Astonished by the deceptively prim-and surprisingly witty-domestic spy in his chambers, Montgomery is intrigued. And try as she might, Bridget can't resist the slyly charming duke. Now as the two begin their treacherous game of cat and mouse, they soon realize that they both have secrets-and neither may be as nefarious-or as innocent-as they appear . . .
I enjoyed the heck out of this book.
The previous Maiden Lane books were sort of meh for me; I read most of them but they didn't really grab me and some of the plots were way over the top. Val has been in most if not all of them, to one extent or another. He's always been a dubious character, if not downright evil.
We began to see there might be more to Val in the previous book, Sweetest Scoundrel, his sister Eve's story.
He is a terribly flawed character and yet he is still a Romance hero in many ways, not the least of which is his sense of humor, his fighting ability and his intelligence. He just has a few hangups from his childhood (as most alpha heroes do), but these are integrated into the narrative seamlessly and for the kicker, he is not immediately cured by the magic hooha or wooha or whatever it's called (I forget) but still remains a bona fide eccentric at the end of the book.
His heroine, Bridget, is more than up to his weight. These two were made for each other. Val considers they are playing a chess game of life and she manages to checkmate him several times, which delights him except for the last one.
And if I say that Val reminds me of Mal Erickson from Play by Kylie Scott, does that give you some idea of his character? They both have that manic energy and can be so funny and yet so loving (even though Val doesn't believe he can love).
But if he were to divest himself of his glory for a few short minutes, become a plain, boring man - perhaps with the name Jack - what would she reply to him then?
He gazed at her a little moodily.
Or Val's always interesting thoughts:
She was strangely alluring in her confidence in her own abilities. Women of his rank didn't have jobs, didn't have competence in... well, anything, really, aside from the odd musical talent. Embroidery. Dancing. His sister painted miniatures,but Eve was an eccentric. He did know of several ladies quite skilled at fellatio, but could that be called a job? Well, yes, if one were a whore, but the ladies in question didn't actually sell their skills, not unless one counted obtaining ever more influential men as lovers, but that wasn't exactly a quid pro quo, therefore...
He blinked and realized Mrs. Crumb was watching him quizzically. "Yes?"
"Sometimes," she said, "I wonder what you think about."
And there's the difference between first and third POV. We get to hear Val's thoughts as well as Bridget's and his thoughts are some of the funniest moments in the book. And overall, the book has a lightness to it, despite the seriousness of the source of Val's problems and the climatic scene near the end of the book. I ended up liking both these people and the plot was not too outré. I'm not sure Ms Hoyt redeemed Val, but then I don't think she meant to. He is what he is and he's willing to let Bridget be his moral guide. More or less.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you like Mal in Play. Happy reading!