There are many reasons that Sarah MacLean is on my autobuy list, but one of them is that she has enormous potential that is coming into full flower. No Good Duke Goes Unpunished has a twist at the end that not only guarantees I will be combing back through this and the other two books in her “Rules of Scoundrels” series, but I will purchase next book, Put Up Your Dukes*, the second it becomes available. These historical romances feature four displaced aristocrats who have joined together to run a wildly successful gambling hell called The Fallen Angel. Each book features one of the exiles, i.e. A Rogue by Any Other Name (Bourne), One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (Cross), No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (Temple), and Put Up Your Dukes** (Chase).
A Rogue by Any Other Name
Theoretically, I read A Rogue by Any Other Name last year, but it was during my frantic romance devouring phase and it didn’t really capture my attention. This is not the first time that has happened and it won’t be the last. I read the novel again properly this year after One Good Earl Deserves a Lover because I loved the latter so.
Michael, Marquess of Bourne, and Lady Penelope were childhood friends. He went away to school and she stayed home as was the curse of women in her era. They wrote letters, but Michael’s responses petered out and then stopped after he gambled away his inheritance and left Society behind. For ten years, he has been bent on reclaiming the property that he considers his birthright. There are a lot of people in romances who gamble away their fortunes, but they are rarely the hero. It’s a great touch. Bourne is cold, driven, and, as I said in reference to him in the One Good Earl review, suffers “from a prolonged case of Head Up Posterior”. When Bourne discovers that “his” land is now tied to Penelope’s dowry, it brings him back into the orbit of his childhood friend. Wallflower Penelope is surprised to see Michael again and not happy with the changes in him. They gradually come together as he both resolves and relinquishes his issues. Overall, I enjoyed A Rogue by Any Other Name, but it was not as good as either of the two that followed it.
No Good Duke Goes Unpunished
When she was young, terrified, and unthinking, Mara Lowe hatched a plan to escape an arranged marriage to a man three times her age. Caught in the aftermath of her not-so-cunning plan, William Harrow, Duke of Lamont was branded “The Killer Duke” and exiled from Society. Twelve years later, again desperate, but mercifully more perspicacious, Mara approaches the Duke to help provide his absolution in trade for help with her shiftless brother. Now living as “Temple”, the resident pugilist at the Fallen Angel, William has actually built a good life for himself out of Mara’s wreckage; however, he longs to confirm to himself and others that he is not a murderer. He and Mara enter into an arrangement to reveal that she is alive and shame/humiliate/disgrace her in the process. What with being a romance novel and all, their love story intervenes.
In old school romances, the hero was often, forgive me, a prick. Brooding, arrogant, and high-handed, the heroine would nevertheless be attracted to him and somehow redeem him. No Good Duke Goes Unpunished has an unsympathetic lead, but it is the heroine. Mara made decisions with horrible repercussions as a child, which is forgivable, but by continuing not to come forward for over a decade, she made adult choices that continued the fallout. She was hard to like even when MacLean surrounded her with a gaggle of plot moppets and a pet pig. (Oy vey.) But enough about Mara, what about the old school redemptive hero
ine Temple? Oh, he’s a big lug. A big, delicious, magnificent, FORGIVING lug. Temple experiences more negative backlash from Mara’s actions than even she does, but, it must be noted, he also gained a kind of freedom he would never have had in the role that was his so-called birthright. Against the advice of literally almost everyone else in the story, they find their way to each other.
Bring on Chase’s book, Put Up Your Dukes***!
*Not the real title.
**Still not the real title.
*** Even if it was the real title, it would have been better for Temple’s book.