Book Review

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean


Title: No Good Duke Goes Unpunished
Author: Sarah MacLean
Publication Info: Avon November 2013
ISBN: 978-0062068545
Genre: Regency

Book No Good Duke Goes UNpunished I had lots of things to do this weekend: I had Christmas cookies to bake, presents to wrap, pictures of Matt Bomer to Google. Instead I spent almost the entire weekend on the couch reading the Rules of Scoundrels series by Sarah MacLean.

I started this series after listening to Sarah's interview with MacLean on the podcast. I was intrigued by the idea of a story set in a gaming hell (casino) since I've reached my Regency/ballroom saturation point. This series did not disappoint. It was everything I love in a historical romance without the overused tropes flooding the market.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished was my favorite of the three books due primarily to the awesomeness of the hero and heroine. All three books center around a gaming hell called the Fallen Angel. Temple, known as the Killer Duke, is a bare-knuckles boxing champion. If any member of the club loses their entire fortune, they can win it all back by beating Temple in the ring; so far no one has accomplished this. Temple is big and imposing and has tattoos. He's quite scary in a delicious sort of way. Like the other four founders of the Fallen Angel, he's also scarred.

Book A Rogue by Any Other NameTemple believes he may have killed his father's fiance. His dad, the late duke, was on his sixth (and much younger wife) when Temple got black-out drunk at the pre-wedding festivities. He went to bed with a beautiful woman and woke up alone and covered in blood. Turns out that woman was his future stepmother. Shamed, disowned and reeling he descended into London's underground where he fought to stay alive (literally and figuratively). Chase, the founder of the Fallen Angel, rescued him.

If you're wondering why Temple was never tried for murder, being the son of a duke has its perks, I guess. Also there was never a body, and if I've learned anything from Law and Order it's that it's really hard to win a murder case without a body.

Fast forward to the present day. Temple is now the Duke of Lamont (or would be if he opted to join society) and is still believed to be guilty of murder. Christopher Lowe, the brother of the woman he murdered, has lost his entire fortune to the Fallen Angel. He wants to fight Temple, but Temple refuses due to their sordid history. Then Temple is approached my a mysterious woman. It's Mara Lowe, the woman he thought he killed. Obviously she's very much alive, and she's been in hiding for the past twelve years.

Mara offers to reveal herself to society, clearing Temple's name, but only if he forgives her brother's debts. Needless to say, Temple is pretty pissed off. Along with being cast aside by society and enduring whispered accusations for the past decade, he's also questioned his own innocence. Temple agrees to Mara's plan, but only on his conditions. He insists that she pose as his mistress, appearing in public while wearing a mask. When he feels she's been sufficiently scandalized, they'll do the big reveal thereby ruining in her in the eyes of the ton.

If the plot sounds kind of convoluted, it is. It's the typical I-will-get-my-revenge-by-pretending-to-sleep-with-you plot that appears a lot in Harlequin Presents. It never entirely made sense to me. The thing that MacLean does differently, though, is make her characters victims of their own machinations. Temple gets tangled in his own quest for revenge, and Mara is trapped in the lies she created twelve years before.

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover So what has Mara been doing all this time? Why running a house for orphaned boys, of course. She also has a pig named Lavender. There are some ovary-exploding scenes where Temple bonds with the young orphans and teaches them to be gentlemen.

Neither Temple nor Mara fit into Society anymore, and neither of them particularly want to. They've also been living on the fringes for the past decade (Mara out of necessity and Temple out of choice). This, combined with lots of unresolved sexual tension, starts to draw them closer together.

There's a morass of emotional issues to work though in this book, mostly on Temple's part since he's doing the “I've been wronged and am now hardened and will never have feels again” routine. Mara needs to account for her behavior. When Mara's reasons for faking her death are revealed they make sense and serve to make her a more sympathetic character.

I loved this book because Mara and Temple were complicated, interesting characters without falling into stereotypes. Temple is an alpha-male, but he displays his soft side in heart melting scenes. Mara is the feisty, independent heroine without any foot-stamping or TSTL moments. No Good Duke Goes Unpunished also features the hottest sex scene I've ever read in a Regency. It's scorching, but not explicit the way erotica is.

The only thing I didn't like about this book was the ending felt off. I thought there was emotional resolution, then a couple of chapters of the hero and heroine being stupid before they got together. It seemed unnecessarily drawn out.

If you're looking for a different Regency then this book, and this entire series, is the way to go. The setting of the Fallen Angel provides a dark, delicious counterpoint to all the ballrooms and house-parties I've been reading lately. I'm super excited for the fourth, forthcoming book in the series. The big reveal about the Angel's founder, Chase, is indeed big. I feel a case of New Book Tuesday Flu coming on… 

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    PointyEars42 says:

    On the other end of the scale, I felt that Mara was one of the least sympathetic, most deeply unlikable, most annoying heroines I have found in a historical romance in years. Temple is a lovely hero and I felt so sorry for him for getting stuck with her.

    The more the plot and her childish rationalisations and ridiculous behaviour unfolded, the more I was hoping Temple would realise she’s actually the evil temptress and that McClean would elevate some secondary character to be his true love interest. All of her past actions can be excused as the follies of youth, but the way she continues to selfishly use and abuse him as an adult came as a total shock. Using orphan Plot Moppets just made it worse as it felt like a desperate bid for sympathy and not something a woman who behaves as we see her behave would ever come to naturally.

    If their genders were reversed we’d be dnf-ing this book in droves because a true hero(ine) shouldn’t cheerfully drug and manipulate and lie to the hero(ine) like Mara does when they already have a HUGE mistake to make up for.

  2. 2
    kkw says:

    I love McClean’s books as a rule, but I also thought Mara was awful. It didn’t ruin the book for me, because it’s still a good story, but it didn’t work as a romance novel. I can’t imagine any situation justifying the heroine’s behavior. And it turns out, apparently, neither can McClean. For fuck’s sake, Mara could have just left if she didn’t want to stay at home or get married. It would have ruined her reputation just as thoroughly as faking losing her virginity, and clearly she wasn’t watched all that closely. Or she could have actually lost her virginity. Or she could have accepted the consequences of her so-called ‘plan’ when it didn’t work out, as it clearly did not. Or even come forward when all risk to her personally had disappeared – even a coward might be decent at that point, but no. Selfish, cruel, cowardly, thoughtless…it’s a tough sell as a heroine. She was young and stupid and ignorant, fine, but then she’s older and just as stupid and ignorant, and still self-centered and self-pitying and all the rest. A houseful of plot moppets (that she’s doing a piss poor job of looking after, educating, and protecting) are insufficient counterbalance.
    It seemed more like a cautionary tale to me – like this is why you shouldn’t talk to strangers. My mom told me I’d wind up dead, raped, and lying in the gutter (which always struck me as an odd sequence of events, and then in high school I discovered it was called hysteron proteron but at the time she was in no mood to be congratulated on poetic language). Does McClean have kids? Is she subconsciously working out all the terrible, and terribly unlikely things that might happen to them if they pick up strangers? They could be framed for murder. Drugged. Tangled up with folks that are No Good. You think it’s just revenge, or lust, or you’re not even thinking at all, and the next thing you know you’ve fallen for a heartless beauty with an orphanage, a pig, and no redeeming qualities.

  3. 3
    kkw says:

    I mean MacLean, of course. Sigh. So bad with names. And worse with faces, if you can believe it.

  4. 4
    LenoreJ says:

    I adored Temple, but decided he had to have a massive masochistic side to put up with Mara. It’s one thing to be flawed and human, it’s another to endanger a man’s life with your chemical shenanigans. Can’t wait for Chase’s story, though!

  5. 5
    Denise says:

    I loved it. I’ve read all of Sarah’s books and cannot wait for the next. I have ideas who Chase could be!

  6. 6
    rayvyn2k says:

    Would it be possible to post a spoiler warning for the comments? Thanks.

  7. 7
    Shannon says:

    Spoiler warning:

    The other MacLean’s are far more satisfying.  At least I now know why I didn’t like the story as well.  It’s Mara.  If not for Lavender, I don’t think she’d seemed human.  The orphans were just a device to develop her character.  Of course she “fretted” about them, but in the end, she was perfectly willing to abandon them to her assistant.  And this story felt more about falling into lust than love.  That all said, it’s a better story than some others but does merit some demerits.

  8. 8
    jamie beck says:

    I only DNF a book about once a year, and this was it for me.  I usually really like this author.  She has an engaging voice, writes interesting characters, and her books have a lot of tension.  But I just could NOT get interested in Mara at all.  She seemed woefully UNremorseful for how she ruined Temple’s life for 12 years, as if the fact he had money and a few friends somehow made up for the fact that most people cut him off and thought him a murderer, including HIMSELF.  I really couldn’t get over the way she kept shrugging off any niggling sense of guilt, which is why I quit reading it about 40% of the way in.  You mention that her reasons for running give her some credibility, but I couldn’t get that far.

    That said, I really loved Temple…and thought he deserved someone better than Mara.  Maybe that’s the other reason I couldn’t finish this.  I didn’t want HER to be his happy ending.  I wanted someone braver, someone more honest, etc.  The fact she ran an orphanage doesn’t give her a free-pass for her atrocious lie and its consequences to an innocent man IMO.

    But I’ll happily read more Sarah M. books.  She’s usually a fun read!

  9. 9
    Lilian says:

    I thought I was the only one to dislike Mara so much, I’m glad I’m not alone. I hated her thru the entire book, I mean I understood her reasoning for doing what she did. But seriously, I spend the entire book thinking she is selfish and she feels absolutely no remorse in anything that she does, instead she feels justified when she clearly is not. I could not like her at all, I never felt that Temple deserve her, even in the end I felt that MacLean try as she might could not redeem Mara in my eyes. I love the book but I hated Mara so much.

  10. 10
    Blue says:

    I just don’t get how people can love this book. Not with such an awful heroine. And believe me, I wanted to love it, because I thought Temple was a terrific character, and the setup was awesome. But Mara was horrid. And I couldn’t get past it. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it annoys me. She ruined a life, made a man live in hell for years, and only came out of the woodwork for her own needs. Sure, you can though the old “won’t someone think of the orphans!” out there, but that doesn’t excuse her reactions to Temple throughout the entire book.

    It’d be one thing if Mara didn’t realize what her actions had wrought, or if she’d even UNDERSTOOD Temple’s anger, but no.

    So I can only blink in bafflement at the continued good reviews No Good Duke keeps getting. O.o

    I’d also have to disagree about the no TSTL moments. SPOILER:

    Throwing a pint of blood all over a man because you’ve heard there’s blood involved in losing one’s virginity is pretty stupid. Even for back then.

    Thinking Temple would be cruel to orphans just because he said he’d never forgive her, even after she gets to know the kind of man he is, is pretty freaking stupid.

    Ah! I’m annoyed all over again!

  11. 11
    Cordy says:

    This is a book where I genuinely do not understand why people like it. The backstory plot

    (kind of spoilery)

    Where Mara was going to escape her arranged marriage by faking her own deflowering, except she used pints of blood – ??? and then everyone assumes that even though there’s no body and no other evidence, that Temple murdered her and disposed of the body and then crept back into his bloody bed-????

    I found this so incomprehensible as a backstory that maybe it tainted my ability to enjoy the Mara/Temple romance. In general I am not at all a fan of the Big Misunderstanding school of romances, where the only thing really keeping the characters apart was that they refused to have a single honest conversation. But in this book, I felt that it went beyond that. Mara’s behavior in the past, and her refusal to acknowledge that it had been very damaging in the present was so horrid that I didn’t really feel that the author sold Temple ever being able to forgive her.

    I really, really, really disliked this book. The plot did not work for me, and the way the author strung it out in bits and pieces (every. single. time. Mara refused to answer Temple’s entirely reasonable requests for information, I wanted to yell at her) made me feel like there was a ton of stalling for time happening. I didn’t finish it, which is not totally rare for me, but I couldn’t get to a place of understanding why other people rate it 4/5 stars, which is.

  12. 12
    Stacey says:

    I must be in the minority because I really liked this book.  I found the whole storyline and characters oddly compelling and could not put the book down until I finished it in two days.  I have not had an all day/night readathon like that in a long time.  Thank you, Sarah McLean!

    Spoilers ahead-

    Did I love Mara as a character?  Maybe not, but I really felt sympathy for her.  She was sixteen years old when she was being forced into marriage to a man her father’s age.  I am not sure many motherless sixteen year olds would know how much blood is involved in a deflowering, so getting a pint might seem perfectly reasonable.  Yes, she drugs Temple two times, but I felt the first time was totally justified especially when she explained her reasons behind it.  Although maybe she should have just been deflowered by her fiancé‘s son and that would have been much easier (and more fun!) but that would not have made much of a story.  The second time she drugged him felt a little forced in the plot, but I was willing to go with it.

    Although I got that she ran away and hid, I think if she had been living in another city with her house of orphans that it would have been a little more believable that she had no idea how her actions messed up Temple’s life.  But, once again, as she did not go about in society herself, odds were she did not really know how bad it was.  And I know the orphans were a tad too Plot Moppetty, I still liked the addition of them in the story.  They gave her a more compelling motivation for revealing her identity than saving her useless wastrel for a brother, who was quite a sad sack.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the story even if it were a tad on the wtf side (like could Temple not have received his severe injury to his upper arm and not the chest.  Because he sure did do some super-healing once the initial injury was taken care of.) Still, I really enjoyed this book and honestly could not put it down without going “oh, I’ll just read one more page to see if…what, no way…one more page…5 am, must go to bed….one more page…” Loved it!

  13. 13
    Diana says:

    Reaction to the spoilers—

    HAHAHAHA, she threw a pint of blood on the hero for her deflowering scene?  That is so…ludicrous, I don’t even know where to begin.  I think even a “motherless” 16 year old might be able to work out that you don’t need that much blood for symbolizing lost virginity.  It’s just a common sense thing.  Did she think that women hemorrhaged to death while having sex?

    I’m also pretty sick to death of the quirky, impossibly anachronistic, Disney-ish heroines.  Oh, great, she ran an orphanage (eye roll).  And had a pig named Lavender!  Did she also have songbirds come braid her hair every morning?  She sounds just awful, in my opinion.

  14. 14
    Shannon says:

    Read all three this week because of this post. Such great stories! I LOVED the twist at the end of the third one, cannot wait for Chase’s story!!!

  15. 15
    Kim says:

    I finally got around to reading this book and agree with all the criticism. While I liked Temple, Mara was such a selfish heroine. Even by the end of the book, she thinks her solution was the only way out. What kind of heroine allows a man to be accused of murder for one decade and never sets the record straight.

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