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.
And here is Romantic Librarian's review:
Twelve years ago The Duke of Lamont was accused of killing his father’s young fiancée on the eve of their wedding, after he awoke with blood covering his bed and no Mara Lowe to vouch for him. The truth is that she ran to avoid marriage to a much older man who wanted her especially for her father’s money. Now, her brother is in deep financial trouble, and she needs the man now known as the Killer Duke.
Temple now boxes people who run up too big a tab in his club. If they beat him, they can clear their tab. No one has. When the brother of the woman he supposedly murdered is due for his ring, he knows he can’t fight him.
Mara goes to his house to strike a deal. She’ll go public and clear the Duke’s reputation in exchange for those funds back. She is hoping to establish an orphanage that is complete with fun children, a loyal and wry assistant, and even a pet pig.
Temple can’t believe his salvation has dropped into his lap, but he can’t help wondering about the woman he is still so attracted to. He believes they were lovers the night she disappeared, and Mara lets him think that.
Temple is ready to fight his way back into society. Mara is ready to fight for the kids in her orphanage. It turns out, she also has to fight Temple – literally, in his ring, to do it. They also fight quite a bit with their own passions in some smoldering scenes. As they learn more, they realize their lives are incomplete without each other.
While this feisty romance has plenty of MacLean’s trademark wry humor and strong heroine traits, this is not her strongest book. The scenario is unique and the second chance theme is appealing, but the hero and heroine meet up too soon to set up their deal, making the rest of the book have less impact. Temple has his friends to stick up for him, from the first two books in the Rule of Scoundrel series, but despite all that has been done to him, it takes a while for him to become a truly likeable character. But perhaps that is the point, that he has come to believe he is no good after years of being ostracized.
Readers will begin by disliking Mara for what she did to Temple, leaving him with the fallout of her disappearance and bloody bed. Mara admits later that she went too far with the pig’s blood and the set up, which makes her a bit untrustworthy for readers. It is funny that she drugs Temple again after they meet again after that fateful night, but it does not add to her appeal as a heroine.
The pig, Lavender, is a quirky addition along with the motley orphanage cast, but they don't quite hit the mark other than to give Mara a good cause and some positive traits. Having her fight Temple in the boxing ring was predictable (though with surprises in the actual ring), but really enjoyable reading in the same way Callie’s fencing in MacLean’s debut Nine Rules to Break… offered readers a surprise and a view of a Regency lady in a very different role.
So though it takes a while to grow on these two romantic leads, MacLean writes a good character arc, and their chemistry and interactions grow to a believable love story and happy ending. As usual she provides plenty of enjoyable, sensual, sexy stops on their way to declaring their love.
A darker line to the plot or more suspense other than her brother’s growing desperation may have added more to keep the plot going, but MacLean’s talent overcomes these lacks for a fun read.