Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt
Review by Issa S. (Issa-345)
Book 4 of the Maiden Lane series begins close to where Book 3 ended. An injured Ghost of St. Giles, is running from an angry mob and is saved by Lady Isabel Beckinhall.
The Ghost of course is Winter Makepeace. He and Isabel have met before. He is the schoolmaster and manager of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children. Lady Isabel is a member of The Ladies’ Syndicate for the Benefit of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children. They have clashed in the past but Isabel believes Winter is the best choice for schoolmaster of the Home. When a Lady of the Syndicate sets out to remove Winter from his position, Isabel volunteers to help Winter learn some polish so he may sell himself better to the aristocracy that funds the Home. Winter for his part has no interest in this nonsense in light of the fact he is managing a school and is looking for lost children as the Ghost at night. However, he gives in and thus begins his unbreakable fascination with Lady Isabel.
For me, Winter carried the book, and that is no insult to Isabel. He has made choices in his life, carefully and with resolve, and shares the reasoning behind all his choices. He is steadfast and bears no shame or regret for the path he has chosen. He is very self aware and practical. People are people regardless of status. The fact that Lady Isabel is much wealthier and of higher social status is something that makes her what she is, but it does not affect how he views her or how he sees her in his life. One of my favorite quotes that reflects this is:
“She was a strong-willed woman, older and of a rank far above his. If he let her, she would ride roughshod over him. This, then, was where he needed to make a stand, cast a template for how they would get along in the future.”
For Lady Isabel, she is fascinated by the Ghost and later surprises herself by her interest in Winter. She has secrets of her own and despite being tough and carefree on the outside, she is just as lonely as Winter, her mask just isn’t as obvious. She doesn’t understand why he does what he does and she tries to push him away. What strength one of them is missing, the other one has. So like magnets they are continually pulled toward each other despite their intention to stay away.
The love scenes in this novel are very hot and a bit beyond what you normally see in a historical. But there are also honest and real for two people such as themselves. There are so many wonderful quotes from them but they would spoil too much.
The only niggle I would give this book was an interlaced side story involving two other characters. By the end of the book, and by the excerpt from the next one you know where it will go, but it felt out of place and added very little to the main story.
This, I think, was my favorite of the series.