Like some of the readers of the Maiden Lane series, I’ve been fascinated with Valentine since his first appearance at the end of Duke of Midnight. Smart characters who interacted with Val quickly learned not to underestimate his foppish ways and for several books he’s been scheming in the background embroiled in his Machiavellian plots. But for what purpose? What is his motivation?
We know he loves his sister, Eve (Sweetest Scoundrel, Book#9), and based on her story we learn their childhood wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. In fact, Eve and Val’s father, is written as pure evil doing everything in his power to destroy Eve and break Val. But I think Val didn’t break, he bent. Ok, he bent waaaay over, but does this make him a villain? If you were raised to believe that power ruled and anyone less could be tortured and killed, wouldn’t you seek out to be the most powerful? And that’s where readers find him at the start of the book, threatening to blackmail the King.
And while all the King’s men are scrambling to protect a royal secret, Val’s housekeeper, Bridget Crumb, is using her power to uncover Val’s schemes. Even though Val catches her with a piece of blackmail evidence, he’s intrigued by her ingenuity and cleverness. I wonder why he doesn’t feel threatened by Bridget since she’s trying to steal some of his power. Val certainly responded strongly when the Duke of Kyle broke into Hermes House, but why not Bridget?
Then Val sees the Duke of Dyemore at a party and the hunt for more power catches Val’s interest. “And what power it would be-to hold dozens of England’s aristocrats in thrall…” Here’s Val’s *new* goal: to become the leader of the Lords of Chaos – his internal conflict, is he willing to break hold on his last link to humanity for that last gasp of power?
For some reason, Bridget forms a special relationship with Val. Her moral compass points due North and she’s capable of steering him toward calm. I don’t know of any other woman capable of getting under Val’s shields and seeing beneath his coldness to the last spark of warm in his heart. She shows him the downside of absolute power – that when there are more people who’d like to see you dead, than love you…you may have a problem. Bridget witnesses dozens of crimes by Val, yet starts to defend and protect him. Because of her housekeeper position, she’s probably the only person to see Val for who he truly is and accepts him. She has to be a strong woman.
The climax of the story involves Val choosing between power and Bridget and all the old lessons from his father return: “You have to kill the thing you love.”
Ms. Hoyt dedicated the book to everyone who fell hopelessly in love with the villain. And Valentine, the fourth Duke of Montgomery, did not disappoint.