Rules of Scoundrels Series, Book 3
By Sarah MacLean
Release Date: November 26, 2013
I first heard about Sarah MacLean when I was at Lady Jane’s Salon the spring of 2010, when she read from her romance debut, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. Just from the title alone, how can you not love it?! I loved the premise of the book, and the humor, and by the time she finished reading, I was sold. I grabbed and bought a copy of Nine Rules right on the spot. I’ve been a Sarah MacLean fan ever since. I loved her Love By Numbers series, and her Rules of Scoundrels series is just as good. But her latest, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, may be my favorite book by her to date and arguably, Sarah’s best book to date.
The Rules of Scoundrels focuses on the four owners of The Fallen Angel, a Regency gaming hell/casino, and each book opens with an owner’s fall from grace. In the prologue to No Good Duke, we find out how William Harrow (aka Temple), the Duke of Lamont, came to have the moniker of “The Killer Duke”. Accused of killing Mara Lowe, his father’s bride, on her wedding day, Temple is shocked, angry, and bewildered when Mara shows up in the flesh, very much alive. Needless to say, Temple demands answers, and isn’t in a forgiving or generous frame of mind when Mara asks him for help. Temple is determined to clear his name, restore his reputation, and she’s going to help him do it, come hell or high water. But throughout the course of the book, his desire for revenge and vengeance against Mara begins to change and he comes to like, respect, admire, and love the woman who’d turned his life inside out and upside down.
I absolutely loved Temple. Despite his harsh physical exterior, Sarah expertly paints a picture of what a toll Mara’s supposed murder took on him. It caused him to doubt himself, and that doubt has eaten away at him for years. Temple turned to bare-knuckle fighting because he was big and strong, and it gave him a way to channel his emotions and tame the demons inside, even if temporarily. Temple understandably harbors a lot of anger and resentment over what Mara’s deception cost him, but he gradually makes peace with the past and starts looking forward to the future. For so long, Temple has suffered under the weight of being seen only as the “Killer Duke” –a novelty whose brute strength and body is a mere object of lust, fear, and fascination for London society. At long last, in Mara, he has someone who loves, trusts, and believes in him and sees him as he truly is. Through Mara, Temple regains his life because he reclaimed his humanity and decency for himself. We come to see that he is a caring, loyal, honorable, kind, and charming man who is protective of those he cares about. The scenes with Temple, the boys, and Lavender perfectly exemplify what I mean, and they warmed my heart, as well as made me laugh.
Desperate circumstances have forced Mara Lowe to come out of hiding and come face to face with the man accused of her murder. At first glance, it’s easy to make Mara unlikeable. After all, one could consider what she did cowardly and unforgiveable. But Sarah shows us that Mara had her reasons, she feels true remorse and guilt for what happened to Temple, and indeed, she didn’t escape the past twelve years unscathed. I liked that Mara held her own with Temple and the other owners of the Angel, and wanted to make things right. I admired her resilient spirit and determination. Sarah has said that she deliberately made the heroines of this series the ones to come to the hero’s rescue, not the other way around and I loved the scene when Mara rises to the challenge, and steps up to protect and rescue Temple.
The relationship between Temple and Mara was great. Sarah paced the story very well so that their emotional journey felt realistic. Given the darker and more angsty tone of the book and series, Temple and Mara had a lot of scars and demons to overcome and Sarah deals with it all deftly. The romance was wonderful too-the chemistry between them was intense and combustible with the constant push and pull Temple and Mara engage in. Sarah did a great job of building the sexual tension and attraction between Mara and Temple layer by layer where they both fight and give in to their feelings every step of the way. But my favorite part was how Sarah used their growing feelings for each other as a way for Temple and Mara to lower their guard and be open and vulnerable with each other. Their path towards the truth mirrored their path to true love, and I enjoyed the parallels.
I can’t recommend No Good Duke highly enough. It is a wonderful story of love, redemption, forgiveness, trust, and starting new. I absolutely can’t wait for the last book in the series and to find out what Sarah has in store for Chase.