My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
For me, Lord of Darkness was a tad on the disappointing side. I know I have ridiculously high expectation when it comes to EH’s books, and this was no exception. The installments from Maiden Lane are the most anticipating releases for me each year. EH’s writing is as good as ever (and I freely admit to always being biased towards her :p), and it’s not that I was bored. I was just not satisfied the way Megs and Godric’s relationship was portrayed. I thought it lacked the intensity and connection that EH does so well in her stories.
I won’t be talking about the earlier installments unless I need to because my reviews are already long. Lol But, gotta mention these following things:
I recommend, as I do in every review of this series, that you start from book 1, Wicked Intentions and follow the serialization because it’s interconnected. The Ghost mystery is still going on, even if it’s not that big a mystery anymore. Even though, in Lord of Darkness, the spotlight has shifted quite a bit from the original Makepeace siblings, we still see some of them and it made me tremendously happy to learn about their post-HEA state. The only couple I really miss is Mickey and Silence since hasn’t been any update of their life since their own book.
3 of the first 4 installments are of Makepeace siblings: Temperance (book 1) with Lazarus, Lord Caire, Silence (book 3, Scandalous Desires) with Mickey and Winter, their brother (book 4,Thief of Shadows) with Lady Isabel. 2 of their siblings were already married when the story began and are not featured. The remaining, mysterious Asa hasn’t been seen since book 3. In the beginning, the siblings were in a dire financial strain. On top of that, they ran an orphanage in St. Giles that constantly needed monetary attentions. Things have changed A LOT since book 1. All of them have found love and are married to fabulously wealthy people, who help them in the running of the orphanage. There are now a host of patrons, Ladies Society, who work for the betterment of the children in it. Winter is still the manager and stays here with Isabel. Now, to introduce the characters of Lord of Shadows, I have to talk about book 2 as well, which is of Lady Hero, daughter and sister of the dukes of Wakefield. The hero, Griffin is also the brother of another duke, with whom Hero was originally engaged to. Godric is Lazarus’s very good friend, and Lady Margaret, or Megs, is the sister of Griffin. From the earlier installments, I had no idea who Godric would be paired with since he and Megs hadn’t had any kind of interactions to speak of.
I’ve been anticipating Godric’s book since book 1 when I read about him first. A scholarly man, Godric was madly in love with his dying wife. He looked sad, broody and Lazarus worried about him. I knew Godric needs his own book and a woman to love him back to <i>life</i>. In all the hullabaloo of the Ghost of St. Giles mystery, I couldn’t have even imagined that he also turn out to be a part of that <i>team</i> (so far we know of 3 living Ghosts, God knows how many more are there... you never know! :p). Winter was one, but he retired ever since he married cause he promised Isabel and due to the hazards of running in the alleys of St. Giles alone, Ghost or not. Godric had been trained by the same mentor who taught Winter, Sir Stephen, but none of the Ghosts are meant to acknowledge that fact or the name of their mentor. They know each-other, of course, through social interactions and other connections, but that is all.
This story picks up 2 years after book 4, where Megs was forced to marry Godric because she was in a bad way. Godric has already been a widower for a while, and Megs was with child of a man she secretly loved and was about to announce their engagement. The man was murdered in St. Giles, and the whole blame was put on the Ghost, naturally. Anything bad happens in St. Giles, it’s easier to blame the Ghost since the people are scared of this entity. Not that our Ghosts are bothered by it, and keep on doing their ‘duty’ to the poor people here.
For Godric, the Ghost’s activity is something that, even for a short while, gives a little adrenaline rush. A sense of living. He has been a living dead since his wife died and Godric knows he’d never love again, or marry. He’s a recluse, lives like a monk (celibate since his wife fell ill) with no social life to speak of and ignores his stepmother and step-sisters, who are always worried about him. He married Megs because he was blackmailed by Griffin in book 4 about his secret identity. Godric knew his wife will not demand anything husbandly of him. He doesn’t even think that he has anything to give her, except for the money and the support a husband can offer to her. So Megs has been living in his country estate with his stepmother and sisters. This has been his existence for the last few years, until one day, on one of his ‘ghostly’ outings in St. Giles, Godric is stunned to find that his wife has returned; a fact he was not informed of. She is now pointing a gun at him because she wants revenge for her dead lover!
Megs lost her baby a few weeks after the marriage. It was a horrible time for her; she had no sense of her surroundings, the marriage mostly a vague memory to her. She was happy that her husband never demanded anything remotely husband-like from her. So far, she has recuperated in Godric’s beautiful estate, has come to love it and the people she lives with. Megs enjoys gardening, taking care of the estate. She is also very fond of Godric’s stepmother and sisters, especially Sarah, the eldest. All three of Godric’s step-sisters are quite younger than him because their father remarried when he was a teenager. He never took the marriage easily, least of all the fact that his father found love with his step-mother. And so, Godric has never warmed up to any of them. Yet his stepmother always looked upon him as her own, even after Godric’s tantrums as a young boy. She despairs of ever repairing their strained relationship, mainly for her daughters, who also miss their only brother’s affections. I didn’t judge Godric for it though; he is not cold at all, just reserved. It was all a big misunderstanding that never was resolved because no one took the initiative.
Megs have been communicating with her husband through letters. His replies are curt and short but don’t matter to her because she scarcely even remembers his face. She hadn’t seen him after their hasty marriage. Megs only knows that her husband was married once and is quite ‘elderly’. She has been craving a child of her own for a while now. Meg’s desperate to have one and by her husband. She wants to make this marriage <i>real</i>, in the hopes of conceiving, which is why she comes to London without informing Godric of her plans. Sarah and one of Megs’ spinster aunts, who has a pug called Her Grace (lol), accompany her. Megs also has another target. Now that she has recuperated somewhat of her loss of Roger, she wants to find his murderer; The Ghost of St. Giles.
Ok, I knew she will do some stupid stuff to get to this ‘revenge’ part, which she did, taking chances with her safety on the dark alleys of St. Giles. The first scene between Godric and Megs was one of those that set my eyes rolling. But these were also somewhat fun, the humorous dialogues and musings of both Megs and Godric (with sexy kisses etc. *wink*), as I know are the best aspect of EH’s writing.
The old St. John house has fallen into disrepair, not because Godric lacks the money, but that he never really cared to repair it. It looks like a shabby thing and Megs can’t this let go on. She’s here to stay, at least till she conceives and so she gets into the work of making it a <i>home</i>. The moment when Megs sees her ‘elderly’ husband for the first time, was a hilarious scene. Her thoughts were just so, I couldn’t help laughing. And then when she sees him again without his wig, oh dear, his ‘virile looks’ gave her the hope. Earlier she thought that her husband might not be up to the task of getting her with child. Geez!! Everyone despairs of Godric’s listless lifestyle, not knowing about his Ghostly activities of course. Sarah is very happy to see her big brother after this long. Godric’s thoughts tell us that he now feels guilty for avoiding them because it does feel good to hold his little sister in his arms. He didn’t even know that they grew up into such young women! He begins to take things in; there was no chance for escape because the ever vivacious Megs won’t let him ignore his surroundings anymore. She hires helping hands and a very efficient housekeeper, thanks to Lady Hero.
The attraction is palpable but both dance around it for quite a while. Then Megs does something desperate in hopes of getting inside of her distant husband’s mind and to consummate the marriage. It doesn’t work, to my utter frustration because I loved what Megs did. It’s not that Godric wasn’t moved, but he was a hard nut to crack. Megs is pretty in her own way, as Godric is very aware. He can’t deny her charms and being celibate doesn’t help when he learns why exactly she’s here. Godric denies to have sex at first because he’s totally bend on preserving the memory of his Clara. It’s not that Megs wanted love, just a child since she also, it seemed, doesn’t want to move on from Roger. So, in all the push and pull, they struck a bargain. Godric can’t think of Megs taking a lover and getting a child that way (lol), so he’ll have sex with her every night until she falls pregnant.
The first sex scene was pure WTFery for me! I mean I actually said WTF because it was devoid of any emotion at all. Worse, both were fighting these emotions to get involved. I was thinking what-da-hell are these two doing?? I didn’t like that how totally absorbed and stuck with their dead spouse/lover they were that they couldn’t really see what’s in front of them. They were fighting that explosive chemistry they felt for each-other. I was frustrated by it beyond words. This took away much of my enjoyment since it went on for most of the book.
Soon enough, one day, Megs is out again to search for the Ghost when she comes across him... and stabs him on the back! Then she realizes what she has done; that it’s her husband who is the Ghost! OMG!! But I thanked her for being smart enough not to cry for help and hand Godric over to the platoon that has been scouring St. Giles for the Ghost. Capt. Trevillion and his men were there that night, but Megs saves Godric. I loved the scene that followed... ooh lala! Just what Godric did to Megs so that the captain stops following them. At home, Godric tells Megs that he doesn’t need any doctor’s help, but Moulder, his butler come men of all work, will clean it for him. Moulder ...(let me laugh a little here because that’s what I did every time he came up :p) ... helps him without batting an eyelash. Megs learns of the truth, trusting in whatever Godric tells her, opening up about why he has become one of the Ghosts. She now believes that Godric or the other Ghosts can’t be the murderer. Godric confides in her about the lassie snatchers who are back (more in book 4) and catching little girls again.
Meanwhile Godric’s step mother and two other step-sisters, Charlotte and Jane, come to visit him. He kept his distance as usual, until, because of Megs, Godric realized he’s beginning to feel things... different things. Maybe his heart is not dead after all! I loved the scene when he reconciles with his step-mother, understanding what he’d missed. Godric finally accepts the fact that his father found love and peace with this nondescript woman so she must be something special. He accepts her affection too, which only made his step-mother, sisters but most of all, Megs happy.
Then they struck another stupid deal. Godric will look for Roger’s killers for Megs, so that she doesn’t get herself in danger. Oh well, I just wanted to headdesk... why oh why couldn’t they just look into each-other and tried finding something worthwhile? TRY for f*cks sake!!!!!!! Then even when they started falling for each-other, they were misapprehension that the other probably doesn’t feel the same way. So much so that when they said ILU finally, it felt unreal and had me thinking when had their feelings grown that deep? Personally, I couldn’t connect with this expressing of their emotions and thought it needed more exploration.
Alongside Roger’s murderer, Godric was also trying to hunt down the lassie snatchers. The main criminal, Seymour died in book 4. But someone has restarted the activity now that the whole thing has quieted down. One of the two suspects was Viscount D’Arque. The other is Lord Kershaw, a seemingly harmless, jovial man. D’Arque is handsome and a prolific rake, but I think there’s much more that this to his façade. He was Roger’s good friend. Godric can’t stand him (and he’s sexy as hell when he’s jealous lol), mainly because he was flirting with Megs in a ball. There were some funny scenes involving him, D’Arque and Lazarus. More investigations later Godric finds out who might be behind this murder. A boy named Alf, who turned out to be a girl later, helps him in his quest. Capt. Trevillion was also being an utter nuisance, keeping track of him. But he surprises Godric (and me too!) when he let him escape in a skirmish in one scene. I’m only more intrigued by the captain’s actions.
Godric and Megs too were bonding each day. Both opened up about that deceased lover/spouse etc. Megs was so very moved by Godric’s love for Clara that she begins to wish if she’d ever experience that kind of love with him. But she didn’t know that he was falling too. Megs had sexy impulses, especially when she was mad. One was a scene when she got mad at Godric for putting himself in danger... and she umm, does something to him that had me panting. Lol It was SO good!! There was no way they could deny each-other after such explosive chemistry. If only they would work on it too.
At last, one day, Godric requests Megs to look at <i>him</i> when he makes love to her and not try to deny what’s between them. That love scene was very hot, and I wished I had seen more of it. But there were more misunderstanding that led Godric to believe that Megs would never replace Roger in her heart. He gave her his words, and he’d keep it, even if it means his own death. It was time for the last showdown because he already had some clue to what might’ve happened to Roger. Godric is injured badly in the final showdown. They save some of the girls and Alf takes him to the orphanage which she already knew from her earlier visit. Winter summons Megs immediately and she runs there, thinking something horrible might’ve happened. She knew she can’t stand losing another love in her life. She’s mad and all, but Godric has stronger constitution. He just lets the women of his house to pamper him (how ironic!) and gives into the feeling of being cared for... by his wife. By now he knows that Megs is pregnant, and can’t wait to hold his child in his arms! Megs has made <i>life</i> possible for him once again.
There was this imagery throughout the story with a supposedly dead tree in Godric’s garden. Megs always said that it’s not dead. The tree came back to life, as they both did, something that went with the story beautifully. I also loved the fairytale titled “The Legend of the Hellequin”.
4.25 stars because I thought this could’ve been better.
PS: If you’ve read the other stories, you’ll know about flighty yet rich and beautiful Lady Penelope and her plain and poor companion, Artemis. I’ve always liked Artemis and rather hoped that she’d be paired with Winter. Anyway, we see some of Artemis’s dark and sad past, about her mentally unstable brother Apollo. I felt sad for her plight. But I think Maximux, Hero’s a$$hat of a brother needs Artemis’s tongue lashing because he is the one who shatters her heart by calling her something akin to a shadow, whom no one can see etc. I wanted to slap him, really hard! Artemis also meets the illusive Ghost on one of Penlope’s ‘ninny-adventures’. I read the word ‘batman’ somewhere and SO agree. *wink* Do I even have to mention that I’m totally impatient here for Duke of Midnight? Guess not.