Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Review: No Good Duke Goes Unpunished

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished
By Sarah MacLean
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: 
November 26, 2013

William Harrow, Marquess of Chapin and heir to the dukedom of Lamont, awoke one morning with no memory of how he had come to be in a room not his own nor any explanation of how he came to be covered in blood, the blood of the young woman who was about to become his father’s fourth bride, the youngest and the richest of them all. There is no trace of that young woman, Mara Lowe. There is no a formal trial, and there is no legal conviction. Nevertheless, the eighteen-year-old marquess is tried by a jury of his peers in the court of public opinion and found guilty of murder. His sentence is the loss of the world he has known and everything that defined him. He finds salvation of sorts when he joins forces with three other young aristocrats in similar circumstances and becomes a partner in the Fallen Angel, the gaming hell the four establish and other nefarious exploits. The genial, cheerful Marquess of Chapin becomes Temple, a man famed as the bare-fisted fighter who accepts all challengers and defeats them every one. The men who lose fortunes in the Fallen Angel can regain them if they can best temple. No one can.

For twelve years, Temple had fought, first in dark alleys, filled with darker characters for survival, and then in lower clubs, for money and power and influence.

            All the things he had been promised.

            All the things he’d been born to.

            All the things he had lost in one unremembered night.

Then one night a woman appears out of the darkness. Her name is Mara Lowe, and she has come to offer Temple absolution.

For twelve years Mara Lowe has been Margaret MacIntyre. As Margaret, she found a life with meaning and purpose and service. Thanks to her brother’s perfidy, the price of protecting others in that world is her own ruin. She has approached the man now known as Temple to offer him truth and a restored reputation in exchange for the money her brother has lost at the Fallen Angel—her money, money that she needs to support her two dozen plus dependents and a pig named Lavender. If the price she must pay is ruination, it is a price she is strong enough to pay.

But Mara had reckoned without knowing just how powerful Temple is, more powerful than he knows, most powerful when she senses his vulnerabilities. His hunger for vengeance is potent, but it pales in comparison to his hunger for truth, unvarnished and unreserved. And truth that complete may be the price Mara cannot pay.

From the time I finished One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, one of my top reads of the first half of this year, I was eager to read No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, the third book in MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series.  I wanted to see Temple’s innocence established, and so I expected to love the book in which this was accomplished. But nothing could have prepared me for how completely engaged I was by the story of Temple and Mara. From the beginning to the end, I couldn’t turn pages fast enough, and I may have bitten the heads off a few people (metaphorically, of course) who had the temerity to interrupt me while I was reading. I read several hundred romance novels a year and enjoy most of them. In fact, my critics would say I have a heart too soon made glad when it comes to romance fiction. But it is rare that I read a book that captures my head and my heart, my reader self and my writer self in equal measures. This one did.

I love Temple! I think losing reveals much more about a character than winning does, and some of my favorite stories center on heroes or heroines who lose everything and end up being very different people who are larger and braver and wiser than the person they used to be.  Temple, tortured as he is by the possibility that he really is the Killer Duke, nevertheless is already all of these things, and then he is faced with the a part of himself that wants not just to accept what happened, not just to forgive the woman who destroyed his life, but to love her and make her his. To describe the situation as fascinating is an understatement. As big as Temple is physically, his heart and soul are even bigger. It’s easy to love such a hero.

Mara is more difficult. Sometimes I don’t even like her. What she did to Temple seems unconscionable. And then I remember that she was barely sixteen and desperate in a world where women had little power at best, and Mara had less power and more pain than most. What she did required a wild, radical courage extraordinary in one so young. And her devotion to her boys and her pig is admirable—and amusing at times in a story so dark and intense that the reader is caught off guard by the humor. I may be among a minority, but I learned to like Mara.

If someone told me that I’d love a story in which the hero was a suspected murderer and the heroine the woman who framed him, I’d laugh in her/his face. Yet such is the wonder of MacLean’s craft in this book that I not only loved the story but rank No Good Duke Goes Unpunished among the very best romance fiction, not just of this year but of all-time. My recommendation is that if you enjoy historical romance with characters who captivate with every word they utter and every move they make, a story rich in countless shades of emotions, and prose that makes you want to linger over its glorious texture if only you were not compelled to keep turning pages, get this book in your hands by the quickest route possible.

And that embargoed epilogue! A brilliant if immensely frustrating (for the reviewer/reader) move. I pre-ordered a copy of NGDGU, and I have made plans to stay up and read the epilogue as soon after midnight as it downloads to my kindle. And oh, I long to read Chase’s book. No pub date has been announced yet other than 2014. I wonder how long we have to wait. In the meantime, I plan to reread the first three books and the previous series. For one think, I’m itching to trace the Miltonic allusions in the Rule of Scoundrels books.

 "Brilliant" is not a word I use lightly, but I would use it to describe this book. What's the last book you could honestly call brilliant?

Note: My apologies for being MIA last week. Life just overwhelmed me for a bit--family illness, bad news for friends, and deadline hell. I was not waving but drowning and just couldn't get to the blog. I'll do another marathon post week soon to make up for missing a week.


irisheyes said...

What a review! Okay, Janga, I haven't read any of the books in this series. Since I've got a week or so until this one comes out I'm going to read the other two in preparation.

For some reason I just haven't been able to get into historicals lately. Let's see if Sarah can't jump start my reading habits. Fortunately, my library has the e-books for the first 2 in the series and I just downloaded book 1. Thanks for the recommendation!

I hope things are going better on the home front. Sending good wishes your way.

Quantum said...

I listened to the audio version of 'A rogue by any other name' which I enjoyed a lot. 'No good Duke' will be available in audio soon but book 2 is missing from the audios! Does book 3 work as a stand alone?

Hope things are better now Janga. The thought of following you on a marathon makes my eyes water ... er legs quake. Will do my best to keep up! *smile*

Megan Frampton said...

Janga, I read this also, and thought the same as you (and then got the pb copy of the book, and IMMEDIATELY read the epilogue). She is just so good.

PJ Ausdenmore said...

I agree with every word of your review, Janga. Sarah MacLean's brilliance expands with every book she writes.

Janga said...

Irish, I think the series has gotten better with each book, and I liked the first one.

I'm sorry that you have been going through a historical romance slump. I've read some disappointing ones too, but I've also read some great ones. I hope you love NGDGU.

Janga said...

Thanks, Q. I think NGDGU can be read as a standalone, although there will be moments when you are aware that the some of the secondary characters have their own stories.

Janga said...

Megan, SM just keeps getting better too. I think this one is going to take her career to the next level. It's exciting to see that happen.

Janga said...

She is amazing, PJ. I can't wait to see if our theory proves true. ;)

Mary Chen said...

Brilliant indeed. I very much agree. :)

Janga said...

Mary, we seem to agree with great frequency. :)