Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is the latest in my quest to find a romance novel that doesn't make me roll my eyes. While it had promise, the idea behind it is silly, and it was determined to take away everything I liked about it.
The premise of the book is that the Ghost of St. Giles runs around in a harlequin costume by night, protecting the weak and rescuing kidnapped urchins. By day, he's the mild-mannered Winter Makepeace, headmaster of a school for orphaned children.
And why does he go about in a costume and mask, risking his life? So he can meet Lady Isabel Beckinhall when she rescues him from an angry mob, brings him home, and strips him naked (except the mask, of course) to treat his wounds. Several more fortunate coincidences throw these two together, and the tension grows. She tells him how sad she is she can't have kids, and why there's a boy who isn't her kid running around her house. He tells her why he's a virgin, and plans on staying one. (Guess how long that one sticks. Go on. Guess.)
I could believe these two liked each other by the end of the book, though his quick study in the bedroom had me raising an eyebrow. I could believe he'd question his life as the Ghost in light of his relationship. What I couldn't believe was how easily she made the sacrifices she did for the relationship. It robbed her of a lot of the things that made her such a strong character. I'm all for compromise in a relationship, but must romance novels always end with the heroine losing herself in the hero?
I also feel that, if there's a beta hero in a story, the author should let him be a beta. Stop reminding us how virile he is. Stop making the heroine swoon under his power. There are plenty of alpha male stories that cover those tropes. Let the beta male show his strength in recognizing and respecting the heroine's.
If you like historical romance with a masked hero, and you read a broad range of romance with no quibbles with the tropes, this one will suit you fine. It's a story about a beta finding his inner alpha by putting on a mask, until the woman draws it out of him. Personally, I don't find the transformation an improvement.
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