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Cecilia‘s review of Once Upon a Maiden Lane (Maiden Lane, Book 12.5) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical Romance published by Hachette 14 Nov 17

Before we get started, I have only two words for you: WINTER MAKEPEACE. And no, this book isn’t about him, but he does (swoon!) make a brief cameo near the end. Haven’t read Thief of Shadows? Get yourself to a bookstore, NOW! But…on to the tale of Mary, Henry, and multiple mistaken identities.

Elizabeth Hoyt is incredible. How incredible is she? I have the entire set of Maiden Lane books and this is only my second venture into the series. Hoyt’s writing is exactly the kind of thing you want to savor. She writes books you want to tuck away and pull out when you’re having a day that seems irreparably broken. You need to spend time in her words and get lost in the plot and the characters and the dialogue and the vivid world she’s created.

Of course, the more you read, the more you need to read. And after reading this novella, I definitely need to get into gear and read Wicked Intentionsthe first book in the series and the story of Lord and Lady Caire, whose servant Mary is featured in this brief but fulfilling novella. [Note: I read Thief of Shadows first, on the advice of friends who said that the second set of three books could be read as their own little miniseries. Naturally, any series is best read in order. I recognized a ton of names in this book but, of course, did not know the couples’ individual journeys toward love aside from WINTER MAKEPEACE, WHO, AS WE HAVE DISCUSSED, SHOULD ALREADY BE ON YOUR KINDLE RIGHT NOW.]

Novellas are tough to write. You can’t benefit from the developmental concessions that come with the brevity of a short story or the word count advantage of a full-length novel. You have to rely on your ability to quickly breathe life into your characters and concoct a plausible storyline that resolves itself within about half the time of a regular novel. Hoyt is an expert at her craft, and she infuses our hero and heroine with the kind of spirit and personality that makes us gravitate to them immediately. Our heroine Mary is a servant, having been abandoned at an orphanage as a child. Our hero, Henry, thinks he recognizes her in a bookstore, and hilarity (okay, not quite) ensues. Turns out he thinks Mary is the long-lost twin sister of Henry’s betrothed Joanna, who is in love with another man. Henry’s not too keen on marrying Joanna either; they’ve known each other since they were kiddos, so there’s a weird sibling-type relationship there that negates any possibility for romance.

But Mary…Mary is a different story. Henry instantly notices her wit, her disdain for the norms of the aristocracy, and her general dislike of handsome gentlemen who try their damndest to sweep innocent ladies off their feet with smooth words and (in Mary’s phrasing) ‘comely’ looks. She’s correct, though, because Henry is super attractive.

There’s another twist in the book that I won’t spoil for you, but let me just say this: I LOVE THE HEA. Don’t mess with it. Don’t tweak it. Don’t try to change the definition of it. The reason I rely on authors like Hoyt? I know she’s not going to let me down. When Mary and Henry are on the road to disaster, I know the woman behind the words is gonna make it right. You can’t count on that in any other genre. Believe me, I know. I read a lot of litfic and YA and happy endings are not guaranteed in those genres. It’s unsettling but not unexpected, but each time it happens I remind myself that this is why I love romance. It’s my security blanket in a world of uncertainty and general (ahem) fuckery.

So, thanks to Elizabeth Hoyt for penning another winner. If you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to Maiden Lane.

Grade: B+


Miss Mary Whitsun is far too intelligent to fall for the rakish charms of a handsome aristocrat. But when the gentleman in question approaches her in a bookshop, mistaking her for his fiancée, Lady Johanna Albright, the flirtatious encounter only raises more questions. Could Mary, a servant raised in a St Giles orphanage, actually be Lady Joanna’s long-lost twin sister? If so, Mary has been betrothed since birth—to the rakishly handsome artistocrat himself…

Henry Collins, Viscount Blackwell, is far too intrigued by Mary to let her go so easily. He’s drawn to her sharp mind, indomitable spirit, and the fiery way in which she dismisses him—ladies simply don’t dismiss Lord Blackwell. But as Mary makes her first hesitant steps into society, she can’t help but wonder if she truly has a place in Henry’s world—or in his heart.

Read an excerpt.

You can check out the rest of the books in the Maiden Lane series (there are eleventy billion of them) HERE.