Thief of Shadows - Book Four in the Maiden Lane Series. Elizabeth Hoyt. Grand Central Publishing. June 2012. 384 pages. ISBN #: 9781455508327.
Lady Isabel Beckinhall is returning home from being a representative for a special home for unfortunate infants and foundlings when she has a startling experience in the seamier St. Giles part of London, England in 1738. Her carriage comes to a halt when the driver spies a dead man in the street, the notorious Ghost of St. Giles, who really is severely wounded but not dead at all! Against the advice of others and her own reason, she has him stuffed into the carriage and covered. After a frightening moment of being stopped by the police, she returns home and has the injured man carried inside. She sees he has a deep wound that needs sutures but never sees his face as he regains consciousness before she can remove the face covering which disguises his real person. What she sees in his eyes and he in hers is enough to kindle a light that at first appears to go nowhere!
He soon recovers and leaves and she is back to her society responsibilities. These concern being asked to teach high society manners to the manager of the home for orphans, a brusque cold fish of a character when in society but a warm, generous, big-hearted man for the children whose lives he manages. However, the foundling home's Board of society snobs don't know that and are threatening to replace him unless Isabel can re-educate him to rise to the level of those whose finances are necessary for the survival of the home. Let the games begin!
What follows are some funny moments as Winter Makepeace learns to act like a boring, stuffy member of the aristocracy by participating in Isabel's lessons. But something else is happening in this supposedly neutral relationship - both are cautiously but rapidly falling for each other. He must learn to dress in a more fashionable style and learn to speak general nonsense that means nothing and yet everything to the "right" people. What further will happen when the rising peace between Winter and Isabel gets fueled by their private and then public meetings?
Finally we learn who the real Ghost of St. Giles is, the background behind his name in story form and the incident that led him to discovery that children were being kidnapped for financial gain by the most unsavory characters. Who is the aristocrat behind these kidnappings still occurring? A strong sense of justice fills The Ghost's being and he vows to save as many children as possible. What will happen to such a group of honest businessmen who profit from the work of young, young children? Will the Ghost of St. Giles be able to fill a larger goal of helping those in distress?
Remarkable, passionate story, Ms. Hoyt - well-told and oh so romantic!