I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Kidnapped and brought as an offering to the Lords of Chaos, Iris improbably finds herself rescued by the towering Wolf.
Now a man and ready to take on the insidious Lords of Chaos, Raphael, finds himself saving a woman he can't forget a shared waltz with.
Raphael's scars run deeper than just the surface but Iris is determined to show him he's worthy of love.
With the Lords of Chaos looming over them, Raphael and Iris will show that love is the greater strength.
The twelfth installment in the Maiden Lane series brings us to a resurgence of the Lords of Chaos. Previously thought snuffed out in the last book, a new Dionysius leader has emerged and stronger than ever. You actually wouldn't need to read any other books in the series, maybe just the previous one as you get an introduction to the Lords of Chaos. As this is placed in the Maiden Lane series, I was a little disappointed that we didn't get any previous characters to check up on; the Duke of Kyle from the previous book makes an appearance but that is all.
"You need to marry me."
If you read the previous book, you'll remember the Duke of Dyemore, Raphael, introduced as a hulking scarred beast who waltzes with Iris. Here he rescues her and in order to keep her safe from the Lords of Chaos, he marries her. Iris was a bit dull as heroine but with the focus so heavily on Raphael's past with the Lords of Chaos, she didn't get a fully rounded out story. We know she didn't have a loving marriage and she cares for Raphael, but I didn't feel why she cared for him so soon. Iris ended up being a ghost on the pages to me.
Raphael's childhood trauma dominated the story and was extremely heavy. Frankly, that's all it felt like his character was, I didn't learn anything else about him. His attraction to Iris seemed to be based on one waltz and because she seemed like a golden light to him. A lot of their relationship was Raphael wanting to keep Iris on some sort of pedestal, away from his defiling hands, but this also creates a blank spot of him never really knowing and connecting with her.
After a darkly adventurous start, the story took a bit of a slow turn. The first half was basically Iris wandering around Raphael's gloomy Abbey, trying to learn his servants’ names, and disregarding Raphael's warnings of danger. Iris' lack of understanding or listening to Raphael about the danger ended up making her feel pretty vacuous at times, too.
With the focus so much on childhood pain (childhood sexual abuse is discussed prominently here), it made it extremely hard to switch gears and follow along to a sex scene, no matter how it was handled. In fact, the whole heavier tone of this one had a very uneven feeling with the usual Hoyt naughty sexual scenes.
The romance was lacking for me here with Iris not showing up completely and Raphael dealing with extremely traumatizing pain. Their lack of romantic connection kept me from feeling them and the Lords of Chaos brought such a heavy disturbing emotional toll, this ended up not being a very fun read. Hoyt's atmospheric writing can't be denied but after following along with the Maiden Lane series for so long, I guess I was personally looking for a more uplifting, sigh, and smile ending.