Series: The Bareknuckle Bastards #2
Published by Avon on July 30, 2019
“Is there a good time to find a man bound and unconscious in one’s carriage?”
FINAL DECISION: I loved Whit, the hero, and there were moments in this book that were amazing, but it was prevented from being an amazing overall read by the static nature of the heroine who never made a misstep, never grew, and never felt human but rather a was a collection of “ideal” modern women qualities.
THE STORY: On the eve of her twenty-ninth birthday, Lady Henrietta Sedley has declared that this next year will be the Year of Hattie where she will claim herself and her wishes for herself. First, she will begin by ridding herself of her virginity to make herself unsuitable for marriage so that she can convince her father to finally see her as the worthy successor to the family shipping business. But on the way to her “errand” Hattie finds a tied up man in her carriage. The man is known as Beast, one of the bareknuckle bastards the kings who run the criminal enterprises in Covent Gardens. Whit finds Hattie intriguing especially because she is a lead on the man who threatens those he cares for.
OPINION: I absolutely adored Whit and was neutral on Hattie. Unfortunately, she was a static character who didn’t seem to have any growth in the story. Written as too perfect — she might not consider herself perfect for society, but she certainly didn’t need to change at all during the story. In fact, the essence of her story is that she is just great and everyone else tries to keep her down. I honestly found her story boring. The star here was Whit who was simply adorable and spent the book doing everything for Hattie.
Whit, like his siblings, was subjected to an evil game of torture by their father, a duke, in a competition between the duke’s bastard children to become the heir. Whit, however, is the caretaker of the family. Raised by his mother, Whit suffers from having known love and caring and not being able to protect those he loves. At every turn in this book, it is Whit’s desire to care for Hattie. Now she doesn’t always allow him to and she also demands to be an equal and care for him as well, but even when he does things to subvert Hattie’s goals, it comes from a place of care. I just adored him.
There were things I really liked about Hattie. She is an older heroine at twenty-nine. She is plus-sized and rather plain in appearance. She is also a budding business magnet if she could be allowed to take over her family’s business. My complaint is that she is already at her apex before she even meets Whit and doesn’t need to do any personal growth in the book. I like characters with flaws who have to overcome them and Hattie was just too “perfect” already. She is already at peace with herself. I just wanted to see her flaws — not just her perceived flaws which are not flaws at all. And even her business acumen we only get to hear about and not really see her handling the business.
I did love the relationship between Whit and Hattie. They were funny and sexy together. I loved the arguments and how the two just fit together. I did love so many parts to this book, I just wanted more. MacLean has spoiled me, and this is not amongst her best books.
WORTH MENTIONING: I loved the references to characters from prior MacLean books. Not enough to distract from the story for those who haven’t read other series, but certainly Easter eggs for fans of MacLean’s other books.
CONNECTED BOOKS: BRAZEN AND THE BEAST is the second book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series. While the romance here is self-contained and thus can be read as a standalone, there is an overarching story that is better read as part of the series.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.