Release Date: Jun 30, 2020
Series: Bareknuckle Bastards
Heat Level: Hot
Imprint: Avon Books
Daring and the Duke is the third and final book in Sarah MacLean’s Bareknuckle Bastards series. Full disclosure, I have been waiting on bated breath for this book to come out since the previous book, Brazen and the Beast, was released. For two books, our hero Ewan was the main antagonist for the Bareknuckle Bastards. In those books he had attempted to ruin a woman, left someone to freeze to death, caused the death of at least five dock workers, and set off two explosions that nearly killed several more people. My anticipation for how MacLean would make this character a sympathetic and engaging romantic hero, grew to a near fever pitch. When the ARC landed in my Kindle, I abandoned all other projects and began reading.
The characters of Grace and Ewan have been developing since the start of the series, Wicked and the Wallflower, and in the final novel we finally are privy to their internal motivations. Grace has made a life for herself living in Covent Garden, running her club, and answering to no one. She satisfied with her life if not a bit lonely now that the other bastards have married. Ewan has assumed the title of Duke of Marwick under false pretenses, he’s been told Grace is dead and is nearly feral in his grief for his lost love. He’s taken extreme measures to get revenge on those he sees as culpable in her death, at the beginning of this book he is a broken man both mentally and physically.
MacLean is always a master at her craft. Whether it’s a well-conceived plot, dynamic characters, or witty banter I am always entertained by her work. But in Daring and the Duke I think she is even more masterful at building the sexual tension between Ewan and Grace. Ewan has nearly killed both Grace and her loved ones on several occasions, so doesn’t want to want him. But she does, and that tension is some of the most delicious chemistry I’ve read in years. Below is a sample from Grace’s first interaction with Ewan in twenty years.
“Like what you see?”
She narrowed her gaze. “No.”
The single word sent a hot flush through her. Twenty years earlier, the flush might have been pleasure or embarrassment. A keen understanding that he’d seen right to the heart of her. But now, it was anger. Frustration. And a refusal to believe that he might still see through her. That she might still be the same girl she’d been all those years ago.
I’ve read a lot of romance in my 35 years, and I’ve recently begun reading even more in my role as a reviewer for Smitten by Books. So, I feel I can say with some amount of expertise that this novel is a prime example of how to write an engaging story with passion, emotion, and action. I highly recommend this entire series and most especially this final book. Overall this gets a rare 5 stars from me, I can’t wait to see what comes next from this author.