Read with: iBooks for iPad
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane, #6
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield
Heroine: Artemis Greaves
Date of Publication: October 15, 2013
Started On: June 27, 2016
Finished On: June 28, 2016
Duke of Midnight is the 6th book in the Maiden Lane series and by far my most favorite. Towards the end of Lord of Darkness, the 5th book, once again Elizabeth Hoyt makes a startling revelation, perhaps the most astonishing one at that since the series began. The identity of the 3rd Ghost of St. Giles, this time someone who is more driven by his own personal vengeance against those that had done him and his family wrong, a member of the nobility, not to mention a member of the Parliament itself; Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield.
Readers who have had their run ins with Maximus in previous books in the series would have been hard pressed not to be intrigued by all that he is. Projecting a cold and formidable front, the Duke of Wakefield is someone who seems to be as straitlaced as they come, his utter dislike or perhaps even hatred for gin and makers of gin something that is known all over the country. While Maximus works hard to push through relevant laws that could tackle with gin making, something which he believes most passionately is the core reason behind the decay of society, at night, Maximus dons the mask and costume of the Ghost and traipses through the worst of slums in London, in the hopes of finding clues that would lead him to the villain he has been pretty much searching for a major part of his adult life.
Artemis Greaves is a character that came into prominence through the introduction of her beautiful cousin Lady Penelope Chadwicke into series, for whom Artemis is companion to. Lady Penelope is someone who wants nothing but the best for herself. Thus, determined to have Maximus as her husband, Penelope embarks upon the quest with much fervor, which does earn her the attention of Maximus in his usual cool, aloof and calculated manner. There is no joy in a transaction which Maximus believes suites him rather well. There is no fire that burns in him to possess Lady Penelope, unlike Artemis her companion who makes him want to go into hiding with her by his side and forget the whole world.
Artemis gets under his skin without Maximus knowing of it, their interludes during the quiet hours of the morning on his estate grounds something that pricks and prods at him until his emotions are tangled up in need for none but Artemis. But Artemis is one with her own agenda to push forward. Someone who is ready to do anything for the freedom of the one man for whom she would lay down her whole life for, even if it means enlisting, bribing or even coercing the help of the powerful Duke himself to do so.
There are multiple reasons why Duke of Midnight ended up being my favorite of the series. For anyone who knows of my reading tastes, I am someone who is drawn to dark characters, a bit ruthless and driven by needs that they cannot control when it comes to the heroine in question, no matter how hard they may try. Maximus was that hero for me from the Maiden Lane series. Brought up to take his rightful role as the Duke, the responsibilities of being one are thrust upon him at a tender age when both his parents get killed. Maximus has to grow up overnight without having time to properly grow into the duties required of him. Thus makes Maximus a hard man, a man who is principled, a man who often times comes off as cold, aloof and removed from the rest of the world, an image that serves him well most times.
Maximus is also the only Ghost of St. Giles who actively continues his training for the role, having turned part of his home into a training facility where he subjects himself to grueling hours of training so that he is one lethal machine of brawn, intelligence and strong will, focused on getting to the truth behind the murders of his beloved parents and making those responsible pay.
That strong ironclad will of Maximus was something that I admired and bemoaned over in equal doses. There is something quite alluring about a man who knows his own mind, well, for that matter I love a woman who knows her own mind as well – but with Maximus, him being my favorite hero in the series, I am allowed to be a little biased. The fact that his attraction and want for Artemis clouds all his senses does not make him give up on what he has planned for his life, but rather, he wants Artemis on his terms, as hard headed and stubborn it makes him. But the beauty of it when it comes to heroes who are strong minded comes in their submission to the greater force of love for the heroine, which is an aspect I enjoyed in Duke of Midnight. The moments of jealousy which overtakes Maximus during the heady encounters with Artemis, the ones that makes him go all “mine” with sheer possessiveness – those were the moments I reveled in.
Artemis is a heroine who shone equally bright in the story. With a future that looked bleak, with nothing to her name but the goodwill of an uncle who took her in, Artemis’s determination to work against the odds nevertheless, to prove the innocence of her brother was something that resonated deep within me. Even her burgeoning feelings for the Duke is something Artemis is willing to sacrifice in order to see to it that her beloved brother is removed from Bedlam, where he is rotting away into an existence that would prove to be the death of him, sooner rather than later.
I believe that Artemis is the best fit for someone with such powerful emotions and desires as Maximus. She is able to get through to him in a way that no one else can, her ability to read him so effectively being a quality of utmost importance given how easily he can don on a mask that would show to to the rest of the world that nothing touches him, when in fact things deeply do. Artemis dares him to show to her that side of his that few would ever see – the one without the artifice that society dictates he wears whenever he goes out and about. That for me, was the beauty behind the union between Artemis and Maximus when all was said and done.
Loved it all, which is why I would recommend this book with the whole of my heart!
Final Verdict: Earthy & evocative, with just the right touch of erotic; scorches the pages & moves the heart.
A shrill whistle rent the air. Percy, who had been trotting along beside them, lifted his head alertly before racing to Wakefield’s side. Bon Bon scrambled on short little legs to keep up with his new friend.
Artemis watched the dogs go and found herself staring at the duke. He was looking in her direction, and even at this distance he was commanding, almost as if he were demanding something of her.
She felt light-headed.
Then Penelope tapped him on the arm and he turned to the other woman to smile and make some comment.
Artemis shivered despite the bright sunshine.
Something quickened in him, rising, hardening, reaching eagerly for the challenge. She was no soft society lady. She might disguise herself thus, but he knew better: she was a goddess, wild and free and dangerous.
And a most suitable opponent.
He picked up Lady Penelope’s gloves and, unsmiling, saluted Miss Greaves with them. She bowed to him, equally grave.
Maximus turned to the house, thinking. He had no idea how he would do it yet, but he meant to best her. He’d show her that he was the master, and when she’d admitted his victory… well, then he’d have her. And he’d hold her, by God. His huntress.
Ridiculously, he thought he could feel his heart beat faster. Despite their antagonism, despite her threats to his equilibrium, he wanted to see her, and right now he wouldn’t examine why.
In another few steps he made the clearing with the pond and looked about. He could see the dogs milling a quarter way around the pond—even Bon Bon was there—but he couldn’t yet see her on the path.
And then he did see her and arousal went straight to his cock.
Artemis Greaves was in the pond, as graceful as a naiad, her skirts bound up at her waist, standing thigh deep in the sparkling water.
How dare she.
Maximus glanced away so she couldn’t examine too closely the expression on his face. “Who was he?”
“Thomas Stone. The son of the town’s doctor.”
He sneered. “Beneath you.”
Her gaze hardened. “As you so kindly pointed out, my father was notorious for his flights of fancy. Too, I had no dowry to speak of. I couldn’t very well be choosy. Besides”—her tone softened—“Thomas was quite sweet. He used to bring me daisies and violets.”
He stared, incredulous. What sort of imbecile brought such common flowers to a goddess? Were it him, he’d shower her with hothouse lilies, peonies overflowing with perfumed bloom, roses in every shade.
“What”—he turned and seized both her arms—“has gotten into you?”
“He’s dying,” she whispered furiously, trembling within his grasp. “I didn’t receive the letter until almost noon—because Penelope didn’t think it important enough to give it to me earlier. Apollo is lying in that hellhole dying.”
His jaw set as he searched her face. “I can have a carriage readied for you to return to London within the hour. If the roads are—”
She slapped him, quick and hard.
His head turned slightly with the blow, but other than that his only reaction was the narrowing of his eyes.
Her chest was heaving as if she were running. “No! You must go to London. You must get him out. You must save my brother because if you don’t, I swear upon everything I hold holy that I’ll ruin both you and your illustrious name. I’ll—”
“Little bitch,” he breathed, his face turned fiery red, and he slammed his mouth against hers.
“You come to a bachelor’s rooms—bedroom—well after dark all by yourself to give him a trinket you could just as easily hand him in the morning.” His voice was mocking. He wanted to break her suddenly. To make her feel the rage he did at the situation they had been placed in. Were it not for her history—and his—he might’ve courted this woman. Might’ve made her his wife. “Have you no care for your reputation?”
She stepped toward him until she was so close he fancied he breathed the same air as she and when she tilted her face up to look at him he saw that she wasn’t nearly as calm as he’d imagined.
“No,” she murmured, her voice a siren’s song, “none at all.”
“Then I’ll be damned if I will,” he muttered and kissed her.
He pulled back, his chest heaving, and looked at her angrily. “Don’t start something you mean to stop.”
She met his gaze squarely. “I don’t mean to stop.”
His eyes narrowed. “I cannot give you marriage.”
She’d known. She’d never thought he could—she would’ve sworn so had she been asked a minute earlier—but his blunt words were an arrow of pain piercing her heart nonetheless. She bared her teeth in a smile. “Have I asked you to?”
“And I never shall,” she vowed.
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten when your fichu slipped from your dress,” he murmured. “Strange, for I’ve seen more immodest décolletages at every ball I’ve ever attended, yet I’ve been entirely unable to remove the thought of your breasts from my mind.” His gaze flicked up to hers, dark and enigmatic. “Your breasts and other parts of you. Perhaps it’s the very fact that you usually cover yourself so modestly in public that makes the unveiling that more anticipated. Or perhaps”—he bent and whispered in her ear—“it’s you. Merely you.”
He slid his thumb between her folds and found that nub at the top, pressing down as he watched her face. She arched involuntarily, the sensation singing through her limbs.
A muscle ticked on his jaw, his face stern and ruthless, as he pressed again, his finger finding her entrance and slipping in.
She bit her lip, staring back at him, refusing to break their gaze, wanting him to continue.
“God,” he whispered. His nostrils flared suddenly, and seemingly against his will, he kissed her.
She held her breath.
His eyes flicked open to look at her. “Be brave.”
She raised an eyebrow, waiting.
There was a pinch, a growing pressure. She tensed. It hurt. He was so big and she felt suddenly small and fragile. Was this truly meant to be?
He leaned down and brushed his lips against her nose. “Sweet Diana.”
Then he shoved hard.
She inhaled. It burned, but that didn’t matter. She was called Artemis, and a huntress could withstand pain.
“Diana,” he whispered. “My Diana.”
She touched the corner of his lips, and he opened, taking her thumb into his mouth, biting tenderly on her flesh.
She felt his belly rubbing against hers, the wet slide of his hard flesh in hers, the brush of his chest against her nipples, and she liked it. There was no pain now, only a feeling of closeness. Of animal intimacy. Perhaps she’d been wrong: perhaps this was the moment a woman was nearest to the wild animal: when she was without constraints or thought, no society telling her what she must do and what she must not. Free from civilization.
They were bound together in this primitive act.
She opened her eyes to find him watching her like a predator. Calculating, waiting.
He held her gaze, and she saw a faint smirk curl one corner of his mouth. The rug was suddenly gone from her lap, and then she felt the slide of her skirts up her legs.
“Do you remember that morning?” he asked, his voice impossibly deep. “You emerged from the pond like a goddess triumphant. You’d flaunted your ankles the day before”—he brushed warm fingers over her left ankle, making her shiver—“but that morning I saw the tender curve of your inner thigh, the sweet bend of your knee, the shy sweep of your calf. You revealed them as coyly as a siren singing a man to his ecstatic death—and you didn’t even know it, did you? By the time you reached the shore I was hard as iron.”
His thumbs rubbed slow circles on her hipbones as if to gentle her or maybe to keep her relaxed. Although if that were his purpose, it wasn’t working. She still held his gaze in defiance, but her breath was quickening as if she were climbing a staircase.
Abruptly he looked down.
He stilled, simply staring at her. He made no movement, but there was a wild possessiveness in his eyes that made something inside her stretch and purr in response. He wanted her. Wanted this part of her. She was suddenly jealous of any other woman he’d ever looked at like this. He hadn’t the right—they hadn’t the right. This look, his expression, this moment was only between them and no one else.
They were a universe of two.
His movements were sharp and abrupt as he drove himself into her again and again. He was nothing like the sophisticated aristocrat he was in front of others. One corner of his mouth twisted in a sneer, his eyes a glaring furnace. He used her body for his own pleasure, for his own need, working her up and down on his cock. He was little more than an animal now.
And she gloried in it. She—she—had driven him to this. Had made a man who captured kings and foreign diplomats with the surety of his eloquence quite simply lose his mind.
He pushed up with all his might, shoved to the hilt within her, and froze, head thrown back in an agony of pleasure.
She leaned forward and delicately licked the salt sweat from his lips as his seed flooded her.
He lay on top of her, his upper body braced on his arms but his hips and legs weighing her down. Trapping and holding her.
“You’re mine,” he said, laying his cheek against hers. “Mine and no one else’s.”
“Maximus,” she warned.
“Yield, Diana,” he whispered, parting her legs. She could feel the thick heat of his cock pressed hard on her bottom. “Yield, warrior maiden.”
“I’m not a maiden. You took that.”
“And I would again,” he growled. “I’d steal you away and keep you in a castle far from here. Far from any other man. I’d guard you jealously and every night come to your bed and put my cock into your cunny and fuck you until dawn.”
“Do you want that, Diana?” he muttered into her ear, his breath humid on her skin. “Do you want to be mine and only mine, away from this cursed world, in a place inhabited by just we two?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, her voice fierce.
He levered himself up. “I’d go a-hunting in the day and kill a fine stag. I’d bring it back to our hidden castle and dress it and cook it over a fire and then I’d sit you on my lap and feed you, morsel by morsel. All your sustenance would be by my hand and mine alone.”
She laughed then, for she knew he didn’t truly want such a biddable doll. She squirmed and turned in a sudden movement so that she lay facing him.
“No, I’d hunt with you by your side,” she said as she reached up to pull his face down to hers. “I am your equal, my lord. Your equal and mate.”
“So you are,” he breathed, and bit her lip.
“Diana,” he murmured in her ear, licking. “Diana, you are everything I’ve ever wanted and shall never have.”
Tears pricked at her eyes and she opened her mouth to sob.
“That’s it,” he said. “Weep for me. Bear my pain. Take my come. For I can give you nothing else.”
And he thrust into her in hard, sharp punches, each movement striking against that place within her. She gritted her teeth and bowed her head into the pillow. It was too much. Too little. A continual assault against her senses.
He opened his eyes. “Never leave me.”
She shook her head, breaking free from his rein and rising like the huntress she was. She let his poor cock slip to the very mouth of her before slamming herself back down. She rode him. Her thighs were strong and lithe, her brows drawn down in resolute purpose, and her lips were parted wide in something very like wonder.
It was the last that made him move. Dear God, if he couldn’t have anything “else, if she was determined to hollow him out and leave him a husk, then he would remember this:
Artemis riding him like the goddess of the hunt.