Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is infamous in London society for his very specific sexual predilections. When his long-time mistress Marie Hume is murdered, he feels compelled to seek out her killer. At every turn he faces apathy, suspicion and danger. He needs a trustworthy guide to help him navigate St.Giles so he can complete his investigations.
Temperance Dews has dedicated her life to carrying for abandoned children since the death of her husband Ben. She runs a foundling home in St.Giles with her brother Winter. The foundling home is floundering, unpaid bills stacking up, after the death of their patron. Mrs.Dews accepts Lord Caire proposal out of necessity. She will show him around St.Giles, introduce him to those who might have know Marie and he will help her find a wealthy patron for the home by escorting her to society balls and soirees.
Temperance and Lazarus are superficially an unlikely pair. Mrs. Dews is rigidly repressed while Caire is crude and shameless in his debauchery. Soon Caire seemingly comes to care more about tempting and inciting Temperance than in finding Marie's killer.
This book was both compelling and problematic for me.
There were a ton of intersecting storylines, most of whom were simply being set up, and are left dangling at the start of the book. Some are obvious throughlines, like "Who is the Ghost of St.Giles" and others smaller, "What will become of Silence?", What is going on with St.John?", "How did Winter get that cut?", "How does Asa make a living?"...etc. There are countless smaller ones I haven't even mentioned. This leads to a very crowded somewhat confusing book which built my frustration with the haphazard way the murder plot was handled. I appreciated the color and world building Hoyt is doing but the main story really suffered. I rather have had better development of Temperance's past, rather than having it basically info-dumped near the end.
While I really liked Lazarus and Temperance's individual struggles, I wasn't thrilled with the resolution to Caire's struggle with touch. It felt cheap and unlikely that a life-long affliction would be cured so simply. Lots of people are shaped by childhood trauma, and find lasting love without being cured of their pain.
I was also fascinated and troubled at points, by the way, kink, particularly Lazarus's use of bondage was presented. I am not done sorting through my feelings about it. It seemed like at point its was presented as an exciting way to spice up one's sex life and at others as a symptom of a damaged psyche. It made little sense to me that he was so skilled at bringing Temperance to sexual satisfaction, while at the same time having spent the majority of his life, caring absolutely nothing for his sexual partners and their satisfaction.
Mrs.Dews, character, her desire, and repression however, made a great deal of sense to me. I fully understood her tortured feelings toward her sexual desires, and her complicated feelings of guilt she carried. Her horror at having hurt Caire in the way she did during their dark moment was incredibly well done. I do wish we knew more about the specifics of her religious background. The Makepeace family clearly are from some unconventional/Quakerish background and that informs their charity and family life but it is little explored.
I listened to this book as an audiobook narrated by Ashford McNab. I wasn't fully satisfied with the narration. I did not like the voice used for Caire, which I found grating and whiny more than seductive and enticing, but I rather liked the female voices and for the secondary male characters.
Wicked Intentions was an ambitious but flawed book, But despite all these flaws and frustrations, I still rather liked the book. I liked the world of Maiden Lane (I've the two most recent novels) and I enjoyed the banter and compelling relationships, but I simply wasn't comfortable with the book as a whole.