(That's a pretty pixilated image, sorry about that one.)
Look! This was covered during the Headless Couple phase! It works because of the extreme war injuries the hero carries. Showing him in profile might seem like a cheat unless they showed the side with his eye sewn shut like a zebra rug. (Can't see that being a big seller outside the fetish market.) Since this is a 2009 release I'm going to go with some spoilers here. Be aware.
Everyone (and I do mean everyone) I talk to about romance loves Elizabeth Hoyt. I do love a Beauty and the Beast tale, so I picked up To Beguile A Beast on it's release then promptly forgot about it. We're starting to rustle the bottom of the bag this month (since I can't lift anything heaver than a paperback) so I was reminded I had it. I'm hoping this isn't one of her most beloved works, because holy hockey sticks with a side of lemon wedges up the business!
On the plus side, her children are spot on. Kids are one of the harder things to include in a romance. Too much time on the page and you've got a straight up novel. Too little time on the page and they seem like accessories instead of family members. I give Hoyt extreme credit for having the kids just right on all levels. They don't seem that aware of their status as bastard children, but I suppose Mommy Earns Money By Having Sex isn't covered until you're older, at least if Mommy is good at it. So, Mommy and the Duke haven't had sex in a long time and Mommy isn't happy being kept in a cage, plus the Duke might be inclined to take the kids away, so Mommy's taking off for Scotland.
Here is a missed opportunity. What if the Duke DID love his children? What if he's not a one dimensional monster? There's an interesting dilemma, but no, the Duke is icky and never sees the kids and only wants to use them as pawns on his chessboard. You've heard it all a thousand times in family court, but here it's actually true. So. Single mom, run down servant-less castle in Scotland, there's got to be a hero in the tower licking his wounds, right? Pretty soon she's licking them with him. It's a nice progression, the relationship is playing out well, the back story is unfolding, I'm getting the whole Hoyt Hype and then... Full stop.
Daddy comes home. And he takes the kids to London. Everything falls apart. She's distraught, he's not sure he wants to get involved in their parenting drama. So far, so good. But when she explains that the Duke doesn't want the kids, Hero Boy is back in. Taking her word for it and all, they hasten to London where the Duke tells her that she can have the kids if she comes back to him. While this proves his tool status, it doesn't make much sense. How did he go from "Wow, she's going to pay for leaving me!" to this dude? Wouldn't she suffer more if she came back just in hopes of the kids? Or hey, no kids for you ever? He's not a big thinker, our Big Bad Duke.
While we recover from that screeching halt to the Duke having a plan, there's another twist coming. Turns out all they have to do to get the kids back, the kids that the Duke has gone out of his way to obtain, is get the Duke to lie about their parentage. That's it. Once the Duke fails to claim them in front of the King, all the danger is past. Now I don't know about you but if I had an angry ex stalking me with all the fury of the deranged, I don't think he'd be put off so easily. King or not. What does the King care about this ex-mistress, even if she is hooked up with one of his favorite authors? What's the King going to do to the Duke if he kills the chick on the side? How about if he abducts the kids a few months later? I'm just not feeling this resolution. "You will never be free of me, I will hunt you down forever and make you pay, oh wait. My bad. We're good. Have a nice life."
I dunno. I see the bones for the Hoyt Fever here, but I'm not on board. I think I'll try a bit of Maiden Lane anyway. Can a bajillion readers be wrong? Or just wrong for me? We'll find out.