This book is the 4th book in the Maiden Lane series of books that is set predominantly in the very unfashionable part of London - St Giles. This is the area of town where young women would definitely not be expected to wander alone, and where even men of the ton would not risk entering unless they absolutely have to.
For Winter Makepeace though, the orphanage that he manages is located in St Giles and is home, and so, therefore, are the laneways and streets. In the earlier books in the series, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that Winter was nothing but a dour schoolmaster type, always serious and always right.
You would be wrong though.
The book opens when Lady Isabel Beckinhall is driving through the St Giles area of London and notices that there is an unconscious man in her path. Acting somewhat impetuously, Lady Beckinhall gets her men to throw him into the carriage and whisks him away, thus saving him from his pursuers. The man wears a costume and a mask - he is the notorious Ghost of St Giles. With a badly injured leg, The Ghost is in danger of being caught by the authorities, but rather than turn him in, Lady Isabel takes him home and cares for him, but he is very careful not to reveal his true identity.
Isabel and Winter are familiar to each other, and they tend to rub each other the wrong way. Winter sees Lady Isabel as being too frivolous and she sees him as too boring and responsible. She is, however, definitely fascinated by the dashing and dangerous Ghost who does his best to keep the vulnerable in St Giles safe and gain justice for those who are being exploited.
With more and more society ladies becoming involved in the home, some of the ladies of the charity feel that Winter is not a truly acceptable face of the home, and so they lobby to replace him with someone more suitable. Isabel is however determined to give Winter every chance to keep his post, and so she offers to teach him some social graces. The more they are thrown together the more they begin to appreciate each other. Isabel sees how truly devoted Winter is to the children and to the home, and he sees that Isabel has more depth than just being a society madam. Of course, the chemistry between the two of them is also scorching, something that is a hallmark of the romances that Elizabeth Hoyt writes!
Part of the reason that the chemistry between these two works so well is that Hoyt takes many of the normal romance tropes and turns them on their head. Isabel is the experienced one of the pair. She has been married before and has had several lovers since her husband's death. Winter is that rare thing in romance, and historical romance in particular, a virgin hero. The scenes where Isabel introduces Winter to the pleasures of sex are very hot!
Another hallmark of Hoyt's books are the fairy tales that is told in sections at the beginning of each chapter, and again the fairytale reflects the underlying themes being explored in the main romance between Isabel and Winter. It will be interesting to see if Hoyt continues to use this particular fairytale idea throughout her next series of books (and yes, I am looking forward to the next series (multiple) despite the fact that this series isn't even finished yet) or if this gimmick will eventually be one which she leaves behind.
I was a little surprised by the epilogue because it seemed to me that some of the 'rules' were changed in relation to the existence of the Ghost, and I also wasn't sure about the couple but despite those reservations, I will still be looking forward to the next book and will be reading it as soon as I possibly can.
A MASKED MAN . . .
Winter Makepeace lives a double life. By day he's the stoic headmaster of a home for foundling children. But the night brings out a darker side of Winter. As the moon rises, so does the Ghost of St. Giles-protector, judge, fugitive. When the Ghost, beaten and wounded, is rescued by a beautiful aristocrat, Winter has no idea that his two worlds are about to collide.
A DANGEROUS WOMAN . . .
Lady Isabel Beckinhall enjoys nothing more than a challenge. Yet when she's asked to tutor the Home's dour manager in the ways of society-flirtation, double-entendres, and scandalous liaisons-Isabel can't help wondering why his eyes seem so familiar-and his lips so tempting.
A PASSION NEITHER COULD DENY
During the day Isabel and Winter engage in a battle of wills. At night their passions are revealed . . . But when little girls start disappearing from St. Giles, Winter must avenge them. For that he might have to sacrifice everything-the Home, Isabel . . . and his life.