I rated this book 2.5 stars with a heavy heart, due to my bias in favor of Ms. Milan's work. This book was such a disappointment, especially since coming off the previous (and the best of the series) book.
What I liked:
1. The setting - Bristol added an atmosphere that is often missing from historical romance novels. I loved the water and fog scenes; they added a little gothic flavor to the story.
2. The hero - Smite was a great brooding hero, neither beta nor alpha type. His hard childhood powered his present, and sometimes in positive ways. There was no whiny, woe-is-me paragraphs.
3. The legal system in early Victorian era - reading the author's note at the end of the book was fascinating; I loved how she incorporated historical accuracy into her novel.
What I didn't like:
1. The bloat - there were too many unnecessary characters in this story; in particular, Robbie and Old Blazer - both of these characters could have been edited out and the story would not have been altered at all. The same could be said of the characters Jasper and Jonas - so didn't need to see these characters in the epilogue, which is the only time they were physically present in the story. They were mentioned ad nausem so the author could describe how homosexuality was dealt with during the Victorian era...shoe-horned topic needs shoe-horned characters I guess. The storyline had nothing to do with homosexuality unless the series was planned to be longer, with Richard being the next hero (he was another useless character).
2. The heroine - at times I thought I was reading a Victorian New Adult book. Miranda was red-headed (with streaks of orange, like a sunset) and had green eyes....yep, you guessed it - clichéd heroines for $1,000 Alex! In addition to being "passionate" (didn't see any of the passion, just horny for the hero), she was also impulsive and with a temper. She also had a few TSTL moments. And her penchant for "dangerous men" made my eyes roll every. damn. time. she mentioned it - even though she "learned her lesson after the last time/guy".
Also, virgin mistress.
3. The villain - the early morning fog was way more menacing than this dying woman. Spare me.
4. The feud between Smite and Richard Darlymple - why now in this book does the feud seemed important? To bloat the story of course! Spare me x2.
5. The relationship between Smite and Ash (older brother/hero in book 1) - Ash was a great hero in his book and a good brother to Mark in the third book, but was an embarrassing cliché of the neglected and co-dependent relative. This went on...and on...in all the books but this story was near constant whining on Ash's part. Spare me x3.
6. Margaret being a bitch to Miranda because Miranda agreed to be Smite's mistress. Seriously, Margaret needed to grow up and realize her brothers-in-law will date/marry whomever they wish and she doesn't need to approve of their family line/line of work. Someone needs to be taken down a peg from her high pedestal.
7. The romance - didn't see/feel any chemistry between Miranda and Smite. I skipped the sex scenes altogether (there was one at the opera - to prove to Miranda that Smite could be "dangerous" - gag me). You could have replaced Miranda with a sexy lamp and the romance would have been the same.
Almost 700 pages that could easily been edited down to a nice 300-350 pages if GRR Martin took his editor pen to this mess of a story. 2.5 generous points.