26 November 2013

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (The Rules of Scoundrels #3)

Summary from Goodreads:

A rogue ruined . . .

He is the Killer Duke, accused of murdering Mara Lowe on the eve of her wedding. With no memory of that fateful night, Temple has reigned over the darkest of London’s corners for twelve years, wealthy and powerful, but beyond redemption. Until one night, Mara resurfaces, offering the one thing he’s dreamed of . . . absolution.

A lady returned . . .

Mara planned never to return to the world from which she’d run, but when her brother falls deep into debt at Temple’s exclusive casino, she has no choice but to offer Temple a trade that ends in her returning to society and proving to the world what only she knows . . . that he is no killer.

A scandal revealed . . .

It’s a fine trade, until Temple realizes that the lady—and her past—are more than they seem. It will take every bit of his strength to resist the pull of this mysterious, maddening woman who seems willing to risk everything for honor . . . and to keep from putting himself on the line for love.

There are few things a male of the peerage can do to be permanently ostracized from Good Society - being accused of murdering your father's teenaged bride is one of them. Even though Mara Lowe's body was never found William Harrow, heir to the Duke of Lamont, is assumed to have killed her. After all, he woke up covered in blood and claimed he had no memory of what happened. Thus began his downfall in the ton's eyes. He joined up with Bourne and then became the third partner in The Fallen Angel gaming hell. Temple is the muscle. Any man who can beat Temple in the boxing ring - and none of that proper gentleman's fighting, this is bare-knuckles - will have his debt wiped from the books of The Fallen Angel. Temple has never lost.

One evening, or morning, given the Angel's working hours, Temple meets a woman outside his home. A woman he knows. From his past.

Mara Lowe.

She tries to explain. To ask Temple to help her. Her idiot brother Christopher Lowe, who knew she was alive, has gambled away not only the remains of the family fortune but the money Mara entrusted to him. Money meant to help the boys in her orphanage. He has lost it all to tables at The Fallen Angel. In exchange for Temple's help Mara will tell him what happened that night twelve years ago.

Temple is, rightfully, pissed. He is dangerously angry and beyond wanting an explanation. He wants retribution. He wants all twelve of those years back. He forces Mara into an impossible bargain: he will help her regain her lost finances only if she agrees to reveal herself to the ton and prove that Temple is no murderer. That Mara masterminded the entire plot and ruined his life. And in doing so, she will permanently ruin her own. Retribution.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished is a different type of installment in Sarah MacLean's Rules of Scoundrels series. Temple and Bourne, though both characters that have been betrayed, each have a different tone to their anger. Bourne's is cold and calculating, with a hint of guilt at his own folly in assisting his downfall. Temple's anger is black, personal, and lethal. He wants to hurt Mara, to make her feel as alone and rejected as he has for years. As such, this book pulls no punches. The little boys Mara is protecting are not just orphans - they are the ton's unwanted by-blows, an unwelcome reminder that a ton male can do (almost) no wrong. When Temple is seriously injured, Chase has Mara imprisoned in The Fallen Angel while Temple's life hangs in the balance. The ton feels almost like a slavering wolf, licking its chops and savoring the taste of a broken reputation. And Mara's past comes to light. Her reason for taking such a drastic step in faking her own death. It is another reminder that women throughout history have little to no power over the disposition of their own bodies. A woman passed from her father's control to her husband's. In Mara's case, from an abusive father to an aristocratic husband who had notoriously chewed his way through wives, obtaining younger and younger spouses in the manner of Bluebeard. By saving herself, Mara accidentally condemned Temple.

In among this darkness, MacLean lets in a little bit of light. Temple gives the little boys at the orphanage lessons in being well-bred gentlemen (standing when a lady enters the room, etc). We meet Violet (not telling who that is). Pippa and Penny both appear. And there is the wonderful heat MacLean kindles between her damaged hero and heroine. Mara isn't an easy character to like. She isn't supposed to be. But the reader has to admire a character with that much backbone and fortitude, to swallow her pride and reveal herself to the person whom she wronged most in the world. Temple and Mara were attracted to each other twelve years ago and the attraction is still there. It's a bit deeper, though, for having been banged up and marred. And, oh, so hot.

Now, there is a little surprise at the very end of the book. Don't spoil it and look, no matter the temptation, no matter how much you've heard that it is amazing. Because it is. And you'll be mad at yourself if you peek. So don't peek. Paperclip the last 10 pages or so to the back cover and read No Good Duke Goes Unpunished from front to back. Then you can read the surprise.

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