Review: Daring and the Duke

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Daring and the DukeDaring and the Duke (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #3) by Sarah MacLean
Published by Avon on June 30, 2020
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384


FINAL DECISION: I’ve liked each book in this series less. Unfortunately, this series does not live up to previous ones by this author. The romance was weak, the hero was boring after being built up as the villain in prior books, and the heroine didn’t seem to actually love the hero. I’ve been a big fan of the author, but I was disappointed in this one.

THE STORY: Grace Condry is the Queen of Covent Gardens as the owner of a women’s brothel — where women go to get their pleasure. Her past confronts her in the form of the Ewan, the Duke of Marwick, a man who was once the boy who loved her and betrayed her in order to gain the dukedom. Now a threat to Grace and her brothers, Ewan must be defeated and Grace is the only one who can do that.

OPINION: There is something wrong with a romance that seems to hate the hero. Ewan is inscrutable in this book and he seems to be merely a foil for the heroine’s drama. I prefer books about two (or sometimes more) people changing and growing together which respects both characters. This book doesn’t care about Ewan. All of his growth and change happens off screen and is less believable for that. And, ultimately, his prior “villain” behavior is a trick. I loved redeemed characters, but here it is ultimately the heroine and her brothers who look bad.

This book has a big job — to redeem a villain. I think this book fails. Not because Ewan is not redeemed, but because the book doesn’t do the hard work of redemption. Instead, Ewan is misunderstood from the beginning. Unfortunately for MacLean, there is an amazing book about the redemption of a hero who seems nonredeemable — her own book DAY OF THE DUCHESS. Same general story arch, much better characters, plot, drama and the grovel there was amazing. This book feels like a retread that isn’t as good. In fact, skip this book and read DAY OF THE DUCHESS instead.

I really did love the relationship between Grace, Whit and Devil which was wonderfully loving and combative — just as I expect siblings to be. I also thought Whit and Devil’s insights into what drive Ewan was just about perfect. Two men deeply in love can recognize it in Ewan — even if they don’t want to.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are little Easter eggs for fans of MacLean’s other books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DARING AND THE DUKE is the third book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series. It is not necessary to read other books in the series to read this book although there is a slight overarching storyline.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC from Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.



Review: Brazen and the Beast

Review: Brazen and the BeastBrazen and the Beast (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #2) by Sarah MacLean
Series: The Bareknuckle Bastards #2
Published by Avon on July 30, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400

“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.



Review: Wicked and the Wallflower

Review: Wicked and the WallflowerWicked and the Wallflower (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #1) by Sarah MacLean
Series: The Bareknuckle Bastards #1
Published by Avon on June 19, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 396

“Felicity Faircloth,” he said, “in the few days I’ve known you, I’ve learned one, unimpeachable truth. You are no kind of ordinary.”

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable book with an emotional center, but suffers from introducing all the conflicts and thus loses a bit with the couple in this book. There is clearly an overarching storyline so this book misses a complete resolution.

THE STORY: Lady Felicity Faircloth keenly feels the loss of her social position. Impulsively, she claims to be engaged to the catch of the season — a reclusive duke. A mysterious and dangerous man, Devil, comes to Felicity and promises that he will make all her dreams come true — for a price. A bastard and the king of the dangerous streets of London, Devil intends to use Felicity for his own purposes to destroy his enemy, but Felicity might be Devil’s own downfall.

OPINION: MacLean has a deeply emotional and dramatic style of writing that I always enjoy. Her characters have complex emotional lives and the emotion is strong and deep in the relationship. I enjoyed this book, but because it feels like the first book in the series which is setting up relationships and because there is much unresolved at this book, it doesn’t feel complete.

On the positive side, I really connected with the world that MacLean has chosen to explore. The seedy side of London and the aristocratic world are combined in interesting ways. I believe the set up of the overarching story has definite possibilities. In fact, I think what is probably the big set up in the story is a drag on this story because I was more interested in the secrets yet to be revealed than the romance here.

Felicity is an interesting character. She is growing beyond the bounds of the aristocratic world while yearning to be part of it. When she meets the hero, she finds the place where she actually can be her truest self. But part of that growth is shedding the protective cocoon of what her entire life has been directed to prepare her for. One thing I especially liked was the realism of Felicity’s feelings towards her family. It felt good to have her examine the complexity of her feelings rather than being docile and accepting. One thing her character lacked, however, was that her willingness to toss away what she claimed to want felt too quick for me.

I really loved Devil, but the fact that secrets are still being kept about the past means that we still don’t know everything about his character. I never felt his conflict as well as I wanted to. We are being kept in the dark towards some future revelation and I don’t think that worked to the advantage of Devil’s story. The exploration of the BKB’s business gave the story some historical interest and I loved the relationship between the siblings.

This is a book that might improve once the series is done but I’ve been especially disappointed with some overarching stories lately so I’m reserving some judgment until I see how things play out.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces and sets up some of the conflicts with the bastard siblings which clearly will play out through the series. This book does not resolve those conflicts so there are unresolved issues as this book ends.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED AND THE WALLFLOWER is the first book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series. The heroine, however, appeared in THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS. It is not necessary to read that book to understand everything in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.