Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Review #83 & #84: A Rogue by Any Other Name and No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

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 Lamont 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 heroine 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***!

This review and The (Shameful) Tally 2013 can also be found on my tiny little blog.

*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.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #142: No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

4.5 stars

This is the third book in a series, and while romance novels are normally fine to read out of sequence, some of the really awesome developments in this book lose a lot if you haven’t read the rest of the series. These books are top notch romance, so just do yourself a favour and start at the beginning with A Rogue by Any Other Name. And yes, I know the titles are spectacularly cheesy. I recently discovered in a podcast that these are MacLean’s own puns, not anything imposed on her by the publishers. I don’t know whether to be impressed or slightly worried about her.

The great hulking brute known as Temple also goes The Killer Duke. He is one of four disgraced members of the aristocracy who own luxury gambling club The Fallen Angel. When the rich and foolish have lost too much, and have no other recourse, they can fight Temple in the Angel’s boxing ring. Should they win, all their losses will be restored. Not that anyone ever has, but it never stops them from trying. William Harrow, the Duke of Lamont, shunned by most of polite society because he is suspected of having killed his father’s fiancee, is more than happy to take every beating coming, because he’s honestly not entirely sure he doesn’t deserve his moniker.

Twelve years earlier, he awoke with only the haziest memories of the night before, to discover that the bewitching beauty who’d invited him up to her room was Miss Mara Lowe, his father’s sixteen-year-old child bride and soon to be the Duke’s third wife. There was no sign of the bride, only him, naked in sheets soaked in blood. Never convicted as there wasn’t a body, Temple was nonetheless driven from polite society, and survived in the less prosperous parts of town because of his boxing prowess. Now, walking home one evening, he is approached by a woman revealing herself to be Mara Lowe, who, desperate to escape her wedding, did an incredibly foolish thing twelve years ago, and has been in hiding ever since. More on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #11: One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah Maclean

4.5 stars

Yes, I know. The title is ridiculous. There seems to be a trend in current historical romance, in particular the ones published by Avon, to have silly, punny titles. I mentioned it to my husband, who coined an absolute gem of a “so bad it’s good” title, and I’m hereby claiming it as my own, as it appears no one has yet to write a novel entitled Earls Just Want to Have Fun. That one’s mine, bitches. When I finally tire of teaching and decide to become the first Norwegian famous for Regency romance novels, that shall be my debut novel.

Lady Philippa “Pippa” Marbury is decidedly odd by society’s standards, and has known it her entire life. She’s more interested in horticulture, anatomy, physics and mathematics than gossip, fashion, balls and fancy dresses. She wears spectacles. In two weeks, she’s about to marry in a lavish double ceremony with her vibrant younger sister, to a man who’s perfectly nice, and more importantly, is the only one who ever thought to propose to her. As Pippa has always believed in doing thorough research and that this is the way to prepare for everything, she is in need of a research partner who can help her figure out the more puzzling aspect of married life.

Read more on my blog.