Elizabeth Hoyt is an author I keep coming back to again and again. She's like Lisa Kleypas's cooler, edgier older sister: her heroes are just as hot, but she's fonder of antiheroes and perilous situations - and I mean perilous beyond the last-minute murder attempts Lisa Kleypas casually throws into the last acts of her stories for tension.
Unfortunately, Hoyt, like Kleypas, can also be somewhat uneven with regards to the quality of the stories she puts out. I've read several Hoyt novels, and while two of them were five star reads (DUKE OF SIN, THE LEOPARD PRINCE), one of them was a one star read and one of them was a DNF that I'm still not sure I'm ever going to come back to (DUKE OF PLEASURE).
DUKE OF DESIRE starts promisingly enough with a ritualistic sacrifice being run by a depraved cult: The Lords of Chaos, creepy deviants who wear animal masks and have dolphin tattoos. Iris, the object of the sacrifice, was kidnapped for this purpose because everyone thought she was the Duke of Kyle's betrothed. She is shocked when instead of meeting her end then and there, is claimed by a man in a wolf mask who wants to use her for her own purposes.
When he absconds with her in his carriage, allegedly to take her and then kill her, she seizes his pistol and shoots him, nearly killing him. Iris is shocked - yet again - to find out that behind the wolf mask is the Duke of Dyemore, a beautiful but scarred man who appears to be made from ice itself.
As it turns out, the Duke, Raphael, is determined to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and take down their leader, the Dionysus, because of his own tragic history in the cult. He wants revenge. But now with Iris on his hands, he determines that the best course of action to save her from falling into their clutches is to marry her (okay?) and afford her his protection while continuing out his revenge.
It's clear from the beginning that Raphael has suffered terrible abuse, which makes it even more annoying when the heroine immediately and incessantly begins pestering him for sex. That sucked a lot of enjoyment out of this book for me, because it played into the stereotype that men are sex machines who can't say "no." She constantly worked to seduce him, to get him so riled up that he couldn't say "no," badgering him all the while for sex, even when he told her he didn't want to.
Flip the genders on that. Still okay?
Raphael was a wonderful, flawed, and tragic character, and the Lords of Chaos plotline was properly creepy and would have fit into a bodice ripper from the 1970s, it was so dark. But I just couldn't stand Iris, with her sexual bullying and how it was portrayed as "healing." It just felt gross to me. I was originally going to give this book three stars, but I decided to take one off, because I disliked the heroine so much that I didn't really buy their HEA - and what kind of romance is that?
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars