THIEF OF SHADOWS – Elizabeth Hoyt
Maiden Lane Series, Book 4
Grand Central Publishing
Charming Mickey O'Connor hangs today; the river pirate king of London's story is told…only someone rewrites the ending. Mickey is snatched from the very noose around his neck by another local legend, the Ghost of St. Giles.
The Ghost of St. Giles haunts the slums of London , not to do evil, but good. He actually keeps as many helpless souls—especially children—as possible from harm. But in doing so, he makes enemies of the powerful. So far few if any know his real identity; he wears the costume and mask of a harlequin. When not haunting the mean streets of St. Giles, he's Mr. Winter Makepeace, schoolmaster and manager of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children established by his late father, a brewer. Now, while some of the residents are glad for Mickey's escape, others are maddened over being cheated of out of a hanging and chase after the Ghost to punish him.
Lady Isabel Beckinhall, a baron's widow, travels home after being stood up by Mr. Makepeace. As a member of the Ladies' Syndicate for the Benefit of the Home for the Unfortunate Infants, etc., she was to be given a tour of the new home. As her carriage makes its way amidst the mob, they chance upon a wounded man on the street. Isabel orders the man be taken up and takes him home to her house to see to his wounds. She recognizes him as the Ghost of St. Giles, but she accedes to his wish to leave his mask on. He's gone the next morning.
The loftiest member of the Ladies' Syndicate wants to replace Makepeace as manager of the home with someone more “respectful” of her station, someone who will defer to her. The rest of the ladies are satisfied with Makepeace, so a compromise is reached with the decision for Lady Isabel to tutor Makepeace in etiquette. Hmm! A match to tinder, is it? For Lady Isabel is a warm-hearted sophisticated lady with no ties, while Winter is a controlled, inexperienced-with-women man devoted to the home and society's helpless. He's sworn his life to them.
THIEF OF SHADOWS is a fascinating complex novel in which many kinds of wars are fought: interior conflicts within and between our hero and heroine, and exterior ones between the Ghost and those who exploit children for profit. And amusing ones involving that lofty bully, Lady Penelope.
Numerous other characters fill the pages as well, some from the three earlier books (WICKED INTENTIONS, NOTORIOUS PLEASURES, and SCANDALOUS DESIRES) in the Maiden Lane series. All four are passionate, entertaining, and emotionally appealing novels that I would recommend reading in order if possible. If you can't, you'll still find any of them rewarding reads.