Thief of Shadows, the new Maiden Lane historical romance from Elizabeth Hoyt, brings together a worldly widow and a virtuous schoolmaster as they attempt to save a foundling house for orphans in one of London’s most notorious slums. But, as sparks fly between this unlikely pair, all is not as it seems. The proper teacher, Winter, hides a dark secret — he moonlights as the Ghost of St. Giles, a legendary crime fighter who is intent on putting an end to the evil that is preying on young girls in his neighborhood. But with his work at the charity, and his mission at night, is there any time left for falling in love?
Morgan: Welcome everyone to Elizabeth Hoyt’s Thief of Shadows where we meet at the Ladies’ Syndicate for the Benefit of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children.
Whitney: Let’s just pause for a moment, that is quite a mouthful! But the HFUIFAC —
Whitney: Hush, what I was trying to say is that the home is more than just a charity, it is Mr. Winter Makepeace’s entire life. He inherited it from his father, works there with his siblings (two of whom married and left in the previous two books) and has done everything in his power to make sure that the home is a sanctuary for any at-risk children in St. Giles.
Morgan: And because this is the roughest neighborhood in London, it's home to all sorts of unsavory folks: from gangs, gin-pushers, thieves and more. This is not a safe area for a child on their own, yet it’s where many end up.
Whitney: But not the ones Winter can save! And with the help of the Syndicate for the Benefit of the Home With a Really Long Name, Winter is able to take in more abandoned children than ever before.
Morgan: However, Winter doesn’t just run the foundling house and act as the head teacher, he also has a pretty interesting side gig.
Whitney: Right, when darkness falls, the peaceful Winter becomes the myth-turned-man, the Ghost of St. Giles. (Think a Victorian superhero dressed in harlequin’s motley.)
Morgan: He’s one-part feared, one-part revered but does a lot for helping balance the scales for the good people of St. Giles … and he’s currently tracking a group that is kidnapping little girls before the Home can get to them.
Whitney: Honestly, every time I heard more about St. Giles, I wanted to join the Ladies Syndicate for the Betterment Of Yada Yada Yada.
Morgan: Would they let you in? I’m not sure if you qualify as a lady! Plus, the women who volunteer are a collection of bored widows, spinsters and society darlings trying to while the time away between balls and dress shopping.
Whitney: There are a few who are more serious about the cause than others.
Morgan: You are right, and our story’s heroine, widow Isabel Beckinhall, Baroness Beckinhall is one of them. Not that she realizes that she really cares until she starts spending time at the foundling house.
Whitney: Indeed, despite her fabulous wealth and insistence that she is not concerned with anything but society’s frivolity, Isabel is a caring, sensitive woman — she just needs to be shaken out of the ton-induced stupor that she’s been living in.
Morgan: It’s all about being taught to think differently, and Isabel has never really had a good example. But, fortunately for her, Winter is just the right person to lead her to a new understanding of the world.
Whitney: Although, actually, they kind of do that for each other. These two are thrown together time and time again because, according to the ladies of the Syndicate, it is Winter that needs tutoring.
Morgan: Right. He has to learn how to navigate high society because, without a bit of refinement, he won’t be bringing in money from the donors (aka the members of the ton) — and then the funds for the charity will dry up, and he will be removed from his position as head of the House.
Whitney: So Isabel and Winter embark on a game of “How To Behave Like A Gentleman,” which includes such funtime activities as dress up, playacting and dancing lessons.
Morgan: Not to mention a whole bunch of flirting!
Whitney: I have to say one of my favorite moments in the whole book is when, long after it happens, Winter accuses Isabel of grabbing his butt while they were dancing — and she thinks that there was only a little bit of butt-grabbing.
Morgan: Which is hilarious because this whole arrangement was set up so that Isabel could help give Winter the veneer of civility.
Whitney: I dunno Morgan, a civilization where you can’t appreciate a handsome tush? I’m pretty sure that’s not civilization at all!
Morgan: Manners or no, the truth is that Winter and Isabel are incredibly attracted to each other. And just because Winter isn’t uber rich or titled doesn’t mean that he’s not incredibly intelligent and charming.
Whitney: That man does have a way with words!
Morgan: I just loved the scene where he starts to pay Isabel compliments. They start out rather silly.
“I am in admiration of the way in which you can order tea so very...er...efficiently, my lady.”
Whitney: But, then, his joking falls away and he starts to tell her what is really in his heart.
“Every gentleman you meet must voice his admiration, his wish to make love to you. And those are only the ones who may voice such thoughts. All about you are men who cannot speak their admiration, who must remain mute from lack of social standing or fear of offending you. Only their thoughts light the air about you, following you like a trail of perfume, heady but invisible.”
Morgan: In this moment, Isabel (and I — and probably all readers everywhere) fall firmly under Winter’s spell. But does this hero stop here? No, he continues with these heart-melting lines:
“You blaze like a torch, lighting the darkest corners, brightening even those who thought they were already well lit. You bring joy and mirth and leave behind a glow that gives hope to those you’ve left.”
Whitney: It’s a sentiment that makes Isabel want to live up to his praise.
Morgan: Heck, it makes me want to live up to his praise.
Whitney: But it is all not fun and games. Remember, Winter has to take his grooming to heart if he is going to stay in charge at the foundling house.
Morgan: And other than a sharp mind, a kind heart and some serious patience, Winter has no basis for becoming a gentleman. He’s spent his whole life working with the orphans ...
[Isabel] looked at him now, the role of hostess firmly in place. “Have you seen the new opera at the Royal Playhouse?”
“No.” He took a sip of tea, watching her. “I’ve never attended an opera.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly in, if he weren’t mistaken, irritation. “A play, then?”
He silently shook his head.
“A musicale? The fair?”
He merely looked at her and waited.
She hadn’t much patience, his Lady Beckinhall. “I declare you’re the most boring man I’ve ever met, Mr. Makepeace. You must do something besides constantly toil at the home.”
He felt the corner of his mouth curve.
“Sometimes I read.”
Whitney: Honestly, I love that he’s got such a p-p-p-poker face.
Morgan: Right? In reality, he does a heck of a lot more than reading — he’s running, jumping, confronting bad guys and keeping the peace of St. Giles when he’s not at the House overseeing tons of orphans.
Whitney: This all could make Winter seem holier than thou, like someone you wouldn’t want to spend time with, but, in fact, Hoyt has crafted him so skillfully that I found the opposite is true. I want more Winter, all the Winter!
Morgan: He’s not sanctimonious, but instead is righteous in a way that might just inspire readers to be more virtuous.
Whitney: I did really want to give money to an orphanage or go volunteer at a soup kitchen. (And if the by-product of my doing good is snagging the attention of a modern-day Winter? Well, I wouldn’t complain.)
Morgan: What makes him so interesting to me (and his heroine) is that he’s so incredibly focused on whatever problem he’s working on.
Whitney: Because she would like to … lets say divert all of that attention to her.
Morgan: Unfortunately when Winter took up the mantle of the Ghost, he put such things behind him.
Whitney: Yes, while Isabel has had lovers — gasp — Winter never has — double gasp!
Morgan: And I know you tend to be anti-virgin hero, so what did you think about Winter?
Whitney: Honestly Morgan, V card-holder or not, that man is capital H-O-T.
Morgan: True, the scenes he and Isabel share are absolutely jam-packed with sexual tension. And I, for one, was completely enthralled. Pages were turned while dinner went cold. Such is the sacrifice paid to a great book.
Whitney: And make no mistake, this is a great book.
Want to find out what happens to Isabel, Winter, and the kidnappers The Ghost of St. Giles is hunting? Pick up your own copy of Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt, in stores now. And check back next week when RT’s Elisa and Regina Dish about Karina Cooper’s Tarnished!