Now, for that I’ve got an immediate answer. My favorite historical romance — Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt, one of the middle books in the Maiden Lane series. Loving the rich description and character inner reflection that’s missing in so many new books, I’ve read this story at least three times. The first time left me breathless. The second time was to glean all the little details I’d missed the first time through (and because I just didn’t want to leave that world just yet). And the third time through, the professor in me kicked in and I took margin notes (a very big sign of how much I love this book).
From the first page, I identified with Artemis. Her role as companion to the wealthy heiress whom Maximus has decided to marry only scratches the surface of how different she is from an average historical romance heroine. Her family’s tragic past, her love for her brother, her desperate attempt to rescue him, her courage to confront the duke into helping her—she’ll do anything for the people she loves. But like modern women everywhere, she can’t have it all, and in this world that means she can’t have the man she loves. In his own way, Maximus also wants it all, which he realizes at the black moment. He loves Artemis, but he also wants to protect his sisters, and in his mind that means marrying the heiress. When he tries to have it all, he desperately—and wrongly—offers to make her his mistress. Artemis has enough pride and strength to refuse, even as she’s standing naked in his bedroom and loving him with all of her heart. Tears streaming down her face, tears streaming down mine…so proud of her for standing up to herself, even though it means not having him in her life.
As with the best romances, at that point their HEA seems hopeless. Worse—Artemis’s entire world is crashing down around her in the last pages because the heiress has discovered that she’s been intimate with the duke and confronts her in a very public and humiliating scene at Vauxhall. She’s lost her position, her brother’s future is still in doubt, and she’s lost Maximus. And I cry every time! After all, she’s sacrificed everything for the people she loves—what we’ve all been led to believe is what good and true-hearted people do—only for fate to double-cross her. As a reader, it just rips my breath away.
When all feels lost, Maximus makes a heroic leap of faith—literally and figuratively—when he’s about to lose her forever and jumps into the Thames to save her. I somehow manage to cheer at the same time that I bite my nails to think that he might not be able to rescue her. But nearly losing her makes him realize how terrible his life would be without her, that he doesn’t need to have it all — they just need each other.
The best writers know that a great book journey requires a larger than life HEA. Elizabeth Hoyt knows this, and that’s evidence of her brilliance as a romance writer. And that’s why I love not only the HEA for Duke of Midnight but the entire journey, as well.