Lily Stump is London’s best actress, or her alter-ego, Robin Goodfellow, is. However, she recently signed a contract with a new theater causing her to be blacklisted for everyone else. Then said theater burns down and she is out of work and so broke that she has no other choice than to live in the ruins of the burned theater while it’s being renovated. When her son stumbles upon a beast of a man working in the gardens, she is scared at first. After all, the man is huge and could easily harm her and her family. But there is obviously more than meets the eye and she finds herself fascinated with him. She’s right on that account. Apollo’s life is beyond complicated. In fact, he is currently hiding in this garden and working as a simpleton because he is on the run from the law. He escaped Bedlam several months ago, after being sentenced for murders he did not commit. He knows he needs to stay far away from Lily, despite how alluring she is, because fraternizing with her can only lead to trouble. Can the two fight their desires or will they find a way to make it work?
Lily is a bit of an oddity for a historical romance novel heroine. Normally, we get the innocent debutante or spinster. Sometimes we even get the widower whose husband was a dismal lover that never managed to please her. Lily is none of those things. Lily is an actress. For those of you who read historical romances, you know that actresses exist outside of normal society limits and are much more promiscuous. Lily is not the shy virgin. Lily does not lack the knowledge a maiden would. That was very refreshing. From the moment she lays eyes on Appollo, she knows exactly what it is she is feeling and what it means she wants. Not fumbling or explanation necessary. I really enjoyed her character. I liked how down to Earth she seemed and her constant worry over Indio, her son. She’s strong and smart, with enough witty banter to write plays of her own (under an assumed name, naturally). She’s quite the perfect heroine for this tale.
Apollo was also a bit different. For starters, he’s mute for a good bit of the novel. Trauma in Bedlam cause him to lose his voice and it was interesting how much conversation you can get through with just facial expressions. Beyond his inability to speak, it was great watching an aristocrat who thoroughly enjoys manual labor. He works so hard on this garden and even though he’s on the run, he still manages to find a job that he loves. I’m fascinated by that. I can’t do plants. I have had a singular plant in my life and it died rather quickly. I over water or under water or don’t give it enough sun or too much sun or SOMETHING. I just don’t understand them. Beyond that, it’s just obvious that he is intelligent and innocent and I just wanted to see him get justice and his name cleared. I’m not usually a sucker for the strong silent type, I tend to lean towards the slim chatty boy next door, but somehow Apollo still stole my heart.
Plotwise is where I had my issue. It was very entertaining and well thought out and explained, but the tale end of it just felt a bit rushed. You find out all the twists and then the novel is over. You don’t get a grace period to really absorb the ending, it’s just done. Hope you enjoyed it! The thing is, I did enjoy it, and that means I want more. It means I want a bit more falling action. It means I want to see my character enjoy their happy ending just a bit before the curtains close.
What I loved about it was….well, everything else. I loved the characters and how down-to-earth they were. Even though Apollo is an aristocrat by birth, circumstances have taken the snooty attitude out of the equation. If you didn’t know better, you’d never assume he was more than a skilled gardener. I loved that Lily wasn’t just boxed into a standard HR heroine role. Hoyt gives us something a little more out there and a little more controversial than just that. And then there is Indio, who should come off as an annoying kid, but is totally endearing. That little boy stole my heart before Apollo even had the chance.
Beyond the little blip, though, this was pretty great. I’ve never read anything by Elizabeth Hoyt before, but I’m definitely planning on reading more by her in the future. Her writing is witty, the banter is hilarious, and she gives you just enough drama to keep you guessing. In a romance, it’s given that the main duo are going to end up together, but it’s nice to get a bit of that will-they-or-won’t-they thing going. It makes it even harder to put down….even when it’s really late at night and you’re eyes are literally falling down between paragraphs because you’re so tired. That’s what you get here, a compelling read that keeps you desperate for just one more chapter!
****Thank you to Piatkus for providing me with a physical copy in exchange for an honest review****