Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Aren’t we all victims of fate?”
William, The Duke of Lamont, wakes one morning only to discover himself laying in an unknown bed, covered in blood. Unable to remember what has happened, he finds himself accused of killing his soon to be step mother, Mara Lowe.
Forced to leave his birthright, a new man rises from the ashes of his former life of privilege. Nicknamed the Killer Duke, William, now calling himself Temple, along with three other disgraced men, operate a gambling hall named the Fallen Angel. For twelve years, Temple has reigned over the darkest parts of London; bare knuckle boxing in penance for his supposed crime. Money, women, and fame drip from his fingertips. But the only thing he wants and can’t have is redemption.
Until she reappears.
Mara Lowe never planned on returning to London but when her brother gambles away her fortune at Temple’s gambling hall, she is forced back into the world she ran from. She never expected Temple to be accused of her murder when she set her original plan in motion. And though she knows her actions caused his downfall, she is unable to feel much regret. With her new life hanging in the balance, she needs her money desperately. She approaches Temple with a proposition. She will reveal herself, letting London and the world know that he did not kill her, effectively restoring Temple’s honor and his place in society if he will forgive her brother’s debt.
Temple agrees but with conditions. He has suffered for twelve years and now he has his revenge in hand to do with what he pleases. Temple wants to humiliate Mara for what she has done to him. He wants her to suffer as he has. As Temple and Mara dance around the lies, pain, and attraction, Temple realises that the circumstances that led to that night twelve years ago are far more complicated than he imagined. Now Temple must decide if vengeance is worth losing everything he never knew he wanted.
No Good Duke Goes Unpunished is a dark emotional historical romance that batters at the heart with harsh repeating blows. A story of betrayal and redemption that allows for a realistic journey from hatred to love. Heavily character driven, our protagonists are well defined with quicksilver personalities, passionate natures, and tragic shadowed pasts. MacLean digs deep into their psyches to show us what is really buried beneath the hard exterior they show the world. Two people who have survived the best way they know how.
Temple and Mara both were victims in this story. Born into luxury, you would think they had it all. But as their histories are revealed, you realize that the glitter often hides a rotten core. The wealthier you are, the less control you have over your destiny. Mara was a hard character to like. You can sympathize with her but the choices she made are hard to forgive when you see the impact they had on Temple. Part of the problem is she didn’t seem to show any real remorse for what her actions did to Temple. She knew what she did had been wrong and feels badly but what we see from her is an attitude that suggests that she cannot change the past so there is no need to dwell on it. Once she contacts Temple and offers her proposition, it seems, once again, that she is using him to her own benefit. Just as she did twelve years ago. As you get to know Mara, you realize that she did the only thing she knew to do and there were mitigating circumstances involved. Circumstances that pushed the situation further then it should have gone. Namely, Mara’s brother, Christopher.
Mara was only sixteen when she was essentially sold into marriage to Temple’s father. Sixteen and engaged to a man three times her age, whom we learn is as bad, if not worse, than her own father. Her actions to escape what she feels is a deal with the devil didn’t play out the way she had anticipated and Temple suffered for her decisions. She feels bad for everything that happened but she is honest to herself that she wouldn’t have changed what she did.
“She’d never meant for that charming young man-all muscle and grace and wide, smiling mouth-to become the unwitting victim in her escape. Not that she tried to save him. It was too late for apologies. She made her bed…now she must lie in it”
Mara did what she could as a young girl with absolutely no power or control over her life. She has grown much in her time away from London. She is not the scared little girl she once was. She has matured, gaining in strength and self assurance in her time on her own and that shines through as she now pays her own penance by running an orphanage for illegitimate boys.
Temple is an enigma. Looking like a hardened thug with his large muscular frame and inked skin, his heart is one of a gentleman. Regardless of what he has done over his lifetime, his honor has remained intact-no matter what he thinks. Your heart will break as you learn the extent of what he has gone through. Rejected by society, he was forced to survive on the streets of London, painstakingly climbing his way up from the gutter to the throne he now sits upon. All while having to listen to the whispers and feel the stares at his back…reminding him that the world sees him as a murderer.
“The whispers followed him through filth and sin, marking time. At first he had pretended not to hear the word, but as the years passed, he had embraced it-and the epithet turned honorific. Killer.”
Though he plans to ruin Mara as she ruined him, he finds himself balancing on a precipice as he gets to know her better. He sees her strength, compassion, and willingness to work hard for the sake of others. He cannot comfortably consign her to the role of villain. He wants her in his life but is unsure if he can trust her.
Undeniable chemistry singes the pages as these two engage in a battle of wills. Though no actual physical scenes till the end, the emotional dialogue sweeps you up and places you dead center into the turmoil that directs their lives. Anger, lust, vengeance, and redemption all serve as base to their burgeoning relationship. As their romance slowly develops, Mara shows Temple that she sees him for the man he has always been. She helps him reclaim his title and the life he had before and she also shows him that he hasn’t been as miserable as he professes. Temple, in turn, shows Mara that not all men are users and that he would give up everything to make sure she knows she is loved.
This was the greatest gift she could give him, even if it would take the greatest sacrifice she had ever made.
The one where she gave up everything.
Temple’s friends play a large part in the story. It’s a comfort to the reader that Temple had such strong friendships to lean on. They offer a deeper look into Temple’s life as they have been with him since the beginning and have seen the damage Mara caused. They believe Mara to be the enemy and treat her accordingly, especially as her brother keeps doing things to cast even further suspicion on Mara. It’s only when they see how Temple is beginning to feel for Mara that they start to hint to Temple that a lifetime of possible happiness is worth more than a single act of vengeance. They also provide some humor to help offset the bleakness the story holds. Mara’s boys are a delight and also offer insight into Mara’s emotional state and the reasons behind her actions.
The majority of the book focuses on Temple and Mara’s journey to forgiveness. It’s a dark story that highlights our protagonists internal demons and their subsequent ability to forgive themselves and one another. It’s not an easy story to read and Maclean doesn’t offer the reader any reassurances that either of them will make it out alive- emotionally or physically.
The ending is a series of climatic scenes that show us just how much Mara and Temple care for one another. Mara finally does what she should have done years ago but Temple realizes at the last moment that she is more important to him than his own life. If I had any qualms, it was Mara taking so long to tell Temple what really happened that night and her reasons for why she did it. We are made to understand why she held out for so long but it causes for some dragging in the story and also causes readers to hold on to their ire of Mara for longer. I was also never fully convinced that Mara would have ever made things right if she hadn’t needed her money back.
Regardless, I enjoyed Temple’s story and believe fans of Sarah Maclean and angst driven historical romances are sure to enjoy her latest offering. Temple may very well be her darkest and most romantic hero to date. Chase’s story is up next and I for one cannot wait.