books

Sarah MacLean

Books

Rules of Scoundrels: A Rogue by Any Other Name (2012), One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (2013), No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (2013), Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (2014)

Scandal & Scoundrel: The Rogue Not Taken (2015)

Love by Numbers: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (2010), Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (2010), Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart (2011)

 

Rules of Scoundrels

 

A Rogue by Any Other Name (2012)

A-Rogue-by-Any-Other-NameBorne is a rake and a rogue. Ruined by the loss of his estates, taken at the gaming tables by the man who had been his guardian, the father of the boy who had been his best friend. Now, part owner of one of the most exclusive gaming hells in London, Borne lives only to regain his estates and to take revenge upon the man who tried to hard to destroy him.

Lady Penelope Marbury has been on the shelf for years, and her mother despairs of her becoming a spinster. She wants Penelope married, and she wants a good marriage. One that will help her two youngest daughters make good matches. Especially since Penelope’s broken engagement years earlier put two of her other sisters in less than admirable matches.

It’s an amusing story. I did like the letters that started each chapter, that detailed Penelope’s life as she grew older, and what she felt as she wrote letters she would never sent. The letters helped understand a bit better the reactions Penelope had to Borne. Because I wasn’t buying it initially.

I enjoyed the banter–I always love good banter.

“Events of the evening are much more adventurous. Much more illicit.”
“What do you know about illicitness?”
“Not much. But I feel confident that I shall be a quick study.”

There were also a couple of passages that caused me to pause for a second.

Penelope realized that she did not think she’d ever heard the honest laughter of a woman to whom she was not related.

As someone who enjoys laughing–and tries to laugh as much as possible–the idea of living in a society where you couldn’t let your hair down and laugh is almost as bad as the rest of the restrictions women had placed upon them.

An interesting book, with quite a lot of boinking. Just so you know.

Set in 1831.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Avon

Re-Read: August 2017

Set in England in 1831.

This is the first book of the Rules of Scoundrels and possibly my least favorite of the lot.

Penelope Marbury is just about a spinster, and her father wants her provided for, since she has no brothers to care for her after he dies. So he adds an enticement to her dowry.

The former lands of the Marquess of Bourne. Bourne lost absolutely everything in a play of cards to his neighbor and former guardian. He walked away from the card table with his entailed estates and the clothes on his back. And absolutely nothing else.

I do like that it is made clear that Penelope has little choice but to marry–except in rare cases, women didn’t have much say in their futures.

She sighed. “I am not aiming for humor, Mother. I’m simply . . . not certain that I want to marry Thomas. Or anyone else who isn’t certain that he wants to marry me, honestly.”

“Penelope!” her mother barked. “Your wants are not paramount in this situation!”

Of course they weren’t. That wasn’t how marriage operated.

Another thing I particularly liked was that Tommy wasn’t a bad man–he was a true friend to Penelope throughout the book, and I have to admit that like Tommy, I didn’t get why Penelope would stay with Bourne.

He was too much of a jerk, even allowing for how badly he’d been hurt in the past.

That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate his redemption, because I very much did. I just felt that Penelope forgave him entirely too easily.
Rating: 6/10

Published by Avon

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (2013)

One-Good-Earl-Deserves-LoverThis one I really liked.

Lady Philippa Marbury is engaged to Lord Castleton, who is very kind, but according to all the ton, very stupid. Pippa’s sister and brother-in-law have both encouraged her to break the engagement, but Pippa made a promise, and she intends to keep it. After all, Castleton isn’t a bad man, he’s just going to bore Pippa out of her mind.

Because Pippa is smart and–she fully admits–odd. She doesn’t always get social niceties, and she loves books and science.

You see immediately why I like Pippa.

Cross is another member of the Fallen Angel gambling hell (Borne was married off in the previous book), with a reputation as a ladies’ man. He was also brought on board by Chance, because of his ability to count cards (and also to keep the books). He was a second son, and living up to all that implied (lots of money and little responsibility) when tragedy struck, all of which set him on is current path.

I really liked Pippa.

“Men are uncomplicated, generally,” Sally said, all too sage. “They’re beasts when they want to be.”

“Brute ones!”

“Ah, so you understand.”

Pippa tilted her head to one side. “I’ve read about them.”

Sally nodded. “Erotic texts?”

“The Book of Common Prayer. But perhaps you have an erotic text you could recommend?”

“I am not entirely certain that I support the profession.”

“No?” Thank God. He would not put it past Pippa to simply pronounce a newfound desire to explore all aspects of the world’s oldest profession.

“No.” She shook her head. “I am concerned that the ladies are ill-treated.”

I also like that Lord Castleton was a good and kind man. It made it all the more difficult to want to see Pippa break the engagement, because there was no reason to and because she’d be hurting him for no reason.

It’s another fun story. Despite all the boinking.

Set in 1831
Rating: 8/10

Published by Avon

Re-Read: August 2017

Set in England in 1831.

Cross is the fourth partner in The Fallen Angel, the one who keeps the books and all but lives in the gaming hell. He also has a past from which he attempted to escape but has been unable to forgive himself.

Philippa Marbury loves botany and horticulture and anatomy. She loves to learn and as such is seen as odd by most of the ton. Given that, she accepted the proposal from Lord Castleton, because he is a kind man, despite being–not so bright.

I really love Castleton.

You’re brilliant and have a passion for animals and strange flowers, and you were always more interested in the crops that rotated on my estate than in the trappings of my town house. I’d never met a woman like you. But, even as I knew you were smarter than I, even as I knew that you knew that you were smarter than I . . . you never showed it. You’ve never given me any reason to believe you thought me simple. You always went out of your way to remind me of the things we had in common.

I’m glad he isn’t abandoned at the end of the book, although I think his finding love was a little bit too … neat. He deserved his HEA–but I wish it hadn’t been quite so tidy.

Cross is a much better hero than Bourne. He is a gentleman, and despite his reputation as a terrible rake, is a good man. He isn’t seeking revenge, and doesn’t want to hurt anyone–especially Philippa Marbury.

Phillipa is a fabulous heroine–she’s a geek, and doesn’t really care what anyone else thinks about it, although she appreciates what Penelope has tried to do (and done) for her.

Marriage is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly.”

He blinked.

“That is from the ceremony,” she explained.

It was, without a doubt, the only time someone had quoted the Book of Common Prayer in his office. Possibly, in the entire building. Ever.

I really really love the scene between Phillipa and Sally.

“Men are uncomplicated, generally,” Sally said, all too sage.

“They’re beasts when they want to be.”

“Brute ones!”

“Ah, so you understand.”

Pippa tilted her head to one side. “I’ve read about them.”

Sally nodded. “Erotic texts?”

“The Book of Common Prayer. But perhaps you have an erotic text you could recommend?”

But mostly I adore Phillipa.

“Hmm.” She did not seem to believe him. “You do not frequent prostitutes?”

“I do not.”

“I am not entirely certain that I support the profession.”

“No?” Thank God. He would not put it past Pippa to simply pronounce a newfound desire to explore all aspects of the world’s oldest profession.

“No.” She shook her head. “I am concerned that the ladies are ill-treated.”

There isn’t quite as much science as I’d wish, but that’s because there’s a lot of boinking. But it’s still marvelous.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Avon

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (2013)

No-Good-Duke-Goes-UnpunishedThis is the third Rule of Scoundrels book, and tells the story of how Temple ended up fighting in the basement of the Fallen Angel, despite being a Duke.

Can’t say this was my favorite. The characters were fin, but nothing amazing, and although we eventually saw why Temple should forgive her, I still have a very hard time seeing why he truly would. It’s not that she didn’t seem repentant, and it’s not like she didn’t have a good reason for running away, I can’t say that she made particularly good decisions.

And after the geek girl in the previous book, Mara was a letdown.

Not that she didn’t have her moments.

She closed her eyes and willed him to lose the power of speech. Immediately and irreversibly. “Obviously, I didn’t mean—”

“Well. Thank you.”

In the entire history of time, had willing ever worked?

She straightened. Soldiered on. “I would not take it as a compliment. The Greek gods were a strange bunch. Always turning into animals and abducting virgins.”

Dear God. Could she not keep her mouth shut?

But mostly, I felt meh about the whole thing.
Rating: 6/10

Published by Avon

Re-Read: August 2017

Set in England in 1831

Temple is called the killer duke, accused of murdering his father fiancee. Disparaged by society he became one of the four partners of The Fallen Angel.

The Angel’s founders had created a single path of redemption for these men. There was a way those who lost their fortune to the casino could regain it.

Fight Temple.

Win.

And all was forgiven.

Mara Lowe was believed dead–murdered by Michael Harrow on the eve before her wedding. So it is much to Temple’s surprise when she appears on his doorstep, offering him a trade–forgive her brother’s debts and she’ll give him his place back on society.

On the face of it, that seems a ridiculous trade–he was accused of murder, so why wouldn’t she just come forward and tell everyone what happened? Bartering with the duke for his reputation seems–like one more horrible thing to do to him.

Until you discover what she’s been doing all these years.

“And who is able to tell me what happened to Napoleon after Waterloo?”

A sea of hands shot up inside the small, well-appointed schoolroom of the MacIntyre Home for Boys. Daniel did not wait to be called upon. “He died!”

Mara chose to ignore the positive glee oozing from the young man as he pronounced the emperor dead. “He did, indeed, die. But I’m looking for the bit before that.”

Daniel thought for a moment and then offered, “He ran weeping and wailing from Wellington . . . and died!”

Mara shook her head. “Not quite. Matthew?”

“He rode his horse into a French ditch . . . and died!”

Her lips twitched. “Unfortunately, not.” She chose one of the hands straining for the ceiling. “Charles?”

Charles considered the options, then chose, “He shot himself in the foot, it turned green and fell off, and then he died?”

There is another bit that is both hilarious and horrifying.

“I never meant for it to look so . . . dire.” She’d meant to bloody her sheets. To make it look like she’d been ruined. Like she’d run off with a man. He was to have escaped before anyone saw what had happened. But there’d been too much laudanum. And too much blood.

It says so much about society that a young woman would have no idea how much blood would be involved in a deflowering.

But one of the things I like best is the ending. Where not only do they get their HEA, but how they get it. I love that her heroines rescue themselves.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Avon

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (2014)

Never-Judge-a-Lady-by-Her-CoverThe final book in the Rules of Scoundrels finally sees us learning the identity of Chase, the owner of the Fallen Angel and the most notorious in the group. Everyone wants to know Chase’s identity, but few have seen him.

Or rather, as the end of the last book revealed, her.

This was fun, but at times I felt let down my Chase, and I questioned some of her decisions.

First, the most obvious solution to her problems would be to go to the continent. Or India. Or any of the other places where no one would know who she was and where she could remake herself. It’s not like there was social media or anything that would make her easily recognizable (never mind the fact that few have seen her for years).

She’s got plenty of money. She could easily travel and start over somewhere else.

Second, she trusted her identity as Chase to her partners and their wives. And a number of her employees. Why on earth she couldn’t tell Duncan West as well? She trusted him with one of her secret identities, why not the other?

Not that the story wasn’t fun at many points, and I quite liked Caroline.

What did we discuss relating to Society events?”

“This is not exactly an event,” Caroline argued.

“It’s close enough. What did we say?”

Caroline’s brow furrowed. “Not to bring up skull drinking?”

And I quite liked the idea of the club helping women (from all walks of life) escape if need be. I don’t think it would have been quite as presented, and I don’t think the wealthy and titled would have often accepted, but it was still nice, and a good reminder of who is truly to blame in abusive relationships (which existed since time immemorial through today).

So, fun, but not sure the series would be worth a re-read.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Avon

Re-Read: August 2017

Set in England in 1824

Fathers’ sins never seemed to stick. It was the mother who bore the heavy weight of ruin in these situations. The mother who passed it on to the child, as though there were not two involved in the act.

The final book in the Rules of Scoundrels series is harder for me to judge for some reason. First we have the mysterious Chase, founder of the Fallen Angel.

Second we have Duncan West, publisher of a variety of newspapers–the first of which was a scandal sheet that started everything for him.

Both have secrets they are desperate to hide, for the sake of the girls in their lives. Chase her daughter, Duncan his younger sister.

“When you are invited to Society events . . . you cannot discuss physical manifestations of anything.” She paused. “And it’s best to avoid discussion of drinking of blood from skulls.”

“It was wine.”

“Let’s settle on no skull drinking of any kind.”

Caroline signed. “Society events sound terribly boring.”

That bit cracks me up–especially when it comes up again later in the book.

Things are slightly less dire for Duncan.

“Shouldn’t you allow me to be seen? Are you not concerned about my marriage prospects? I’m twenty-three, for heaven’s sake. On the shelf!”

“By all means, find a husband. I’ve scores of eligible bachelors working here. Choose one of them. Any one you please. Choose Baker. He’s a good worker.”

She pressed a hand to her breast. “A good worker. My heart. I can hardly bear its pounding.”

“He’s all his teeth, and a brain in his head.”

“High praise, indeed.”

And I do enjoy how much her partner’s and their wives care for Chase. Beyond business.

“Pippa would like you to come to dinner next week.” He paused. “You and Caroline.”

She raised a brow. Cross’s wife was the least likely person in London to invite someone to dinner.

He smiled, seeming to understand her surprise, the love he had for his wife lightening his face, setting something off deep in Georgiana. “It’s not a dinner party. It’s dinner. And will likely end in all of us covered in dirt.”

I do like that for that he is clever, Duncan never sees the truth of Chase until the very end. Because no one would ever expect a woman to do the things she did.

Published by Avon

 

Scandal & Scoundrel

 

The Rogue Not Taken (2015)

Set in England in 1833.

Sophie Talbot is tired of being the youngest Soiled S, never truly accepted.

The Talbot family was the scandal of the aristocracy. Sophie’s father was a newly minted earl, having received his title a decade earlier from the then King. Though her father had never confirmed the gossip, it was generally accepted that Jack Talbot’s fortune— made in coal— had purchased his title. Some said it was won in a round of faro; some said it was payment for the earl assuming a particularly embarrassing debt belonging to the King.

However, her eldest sister trapped a Duke, and since then the sisters have been invited everywhere. But Sophie hates it.

The Marquess of Eversley is a notorious rake, and has a history of ruining the engagements of beautiful young ladies. When he finds the youngest Talbot sister trying to flee a party, he assumes that she is out to snare a Duke herself, and wants nothing to do with her.

One of the things I liked about Sophie was seeing how her father loved her.

Her father wasn’t a reader— he’d never learned how, despite having an uncanny head for numbers— so the crate of books he brought home with him was always eclectic: texts on animal husbandry, economic dissertations, travelogues, hunting manuals, four separate versions of the Book of Common Prayer. Once, he’d come home with an obscure collection of etchings from India that her governess had promptly snatched away and never returned.

I love the idea of his randomly picking out books for his daughter to try and please her.

As far as the characters, I liked the secondary characters–the doctor and Bess and the children from the mail coach–better than King. Yes, he had grounds for behaving and believing as he did, but he was mostly a jerk throughout the entire thing.

But, it was a cute romp and a distraction.
Rating: 6.5/10

Published by Avon

 

Love by Numbers

 

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (2010)

Nine-Rules-to-Break-When-Romancing-a-RakeSet in London in 1823

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell (Callie to her family) is a spinster. It’s been 10 years since her coming out, and so she has come to accept that she is never going to get married (and she is quite lucky that her family didn’t force a marriage upon her). However, the engagement of her younger sister has made her realize how much life she has missed, sitting on the shelf maintaining her reputation.

I’m in for an adventure, don’t you think? Do you imagine there will be a ruddy-cheeked barkeep with a missing tooth or two? Or a tired, winsome barmaid, working to keep her children fed and clothed? Or a group of young workmen eager for a pint of ale to chase away their tiring day?”

Anne spoke dryly. “The only thing I imagine there will be in that tavern is an overly romantic lady doomed to be disappointed by reality.”

Gabriel St. John, marquess of Ralston is rake. He has no interest in marriage and even less interest in love. But when he and his twin brother discover they have a younger sister, he knows he’ll have to reform (or at least act reformed) for her to be accepted into society.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this story. Callie is delightful, deciding that she is tired of being a wall-flower and creating a list of things she wants to do. I initially wasn’t quite sure why she’d been in love with Ralston for so long, but the more we learned about him, the more complex and interesting he. Because he may well be a rake, but he generally respects women, which is a concept that was not contradictory at that time.

And she’s marvelous.

“You aren’t really here to see the art, are you?”

Callie’s confusion showed. “Certainly. I very much enjoy the fine arts. You do not?”

“I like a pretty painting as much as the next chap,” Oxford said. “But no one really comes to the private viewing to see the art, Lady Calpurnia. It’s about proving you are able to secure a ticket.”

Callie dipped her head to keep the baron from seeing her roll her eyes.

There was a good deal of boinking and pre-boinking activity in this book, but the relationship between Callie and her family, and Callie and Ralston’s family were complex and interesting. And although Callie and Ralston has misunderstandings and miscommunications (some of which I saw coming from quite a while away) they generally talk to each other and resolve those misunderstandings. (People having misunderstandings and NOT talking to each other is something that irks me in books.)

So, despite all the boinking, I quite enjoyed it.
Rating: 7.5/10

Published by HarperCollins

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (2010)

Ten-Ways-to-Be-Adored-When-Landing-a-LordSet in England and Yorkshire in June 1823.

This book follows Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, and sees the other twin, Nicholas St. John, become a highly sought-after prize on the marriage mart. So when he’s asked to search for a friend’s missing sister, he gladly leaves London.

Lady Isabel Townsend is impoverished, holding the family lands together by her wits and hard work, while her father squanders everything that isn’t entailed. Unfortunately for her, because her brother is a minor and she only a female, her father’s death doesn’t make things any easier for her.

Especially since she is hiding a whole lot of secrets.

There is much to enjoy about this book. For instance, Isabel’s brother:

A young boy with a face covered in what looked suspiciously like strawberry jam. Nick was not entirely certain how to proceed under such circumstances, but, before he could say anything at all, the child took matters into his own hands.

The door slammed shut as quickly as it had opened.

“THERE’S A MAN AT THE DOOR!”

And Nicholas’ friend Rock (who I very much liked, and am sorry he got such short shrift in this story).

“What would one need with a houseful of women? ”

Rock set his book aside, leaning back against his chair and looking up at the ceiling. “There isn’t a single reasonable answer to that question.”

There were things that bothered me about this story–not big things, just niggling little irritations that didn’t throw me out of the story, but nagged at me nevertheless, but the fact that Nick is so kind and generous allowed me to easily sweep them aside.

(S)he redirected her attention to her brother.

Only to discover that he was wearing an equally unlikely dinner ensemble: short pants, a dirty linen shirt, and an elaborately tied— if hopelessly wrinkled— cravat.

It’s a cute story, and I liked the characters and how they held so strongly to what they believed. It wasn’t the strongest story, but it was a pleasant escape.

Please note: this is a boinking book.
Rating: 7/10

Published by HarperCollins

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart (2011)

Eleven-Scandals-to-Start-to-Win-a-Dukes-HeartJuliana Fiori is the daughter of scandal–her mother abandoned her first husband and twin sons and ran off to Italy to marry a merchant, and then abandoned that husband as well. After her father’s death, she discovers she has two brothers who will both help her and present her to society. Unfortunately, society is uninterested in a young woman of dubious birth.

Juliana was suddenly, embarrassingly aware of the fact that she was in a man’s home. Unescorted. With the exception of a dog. Who had already been revealed to be a poor judge of character.

Simon Pearson, the Duke of Leighton, wants nothing to do with scandal, partially because of how he was raised, and partially because of events in the previous book. His is friends with the younger Ralston, St John, but can’t stand the older brother Gabriel, who as a notorious rake until marriage (see, the first book) settled him down, and with his own impending scandal, wants absolutely nothing to do with Juliana.

Unfortunately, trouble seems to follow Juliana, and leads her to the Duke of Leighton.

“Handled him how?”

She paused, cradling her bruised wrist in her hand in a way that made him wonder if she might have sprained it. “I hit him.”

“Where?” Ralston blurted.

“In the gardens.”

The marquess looked to the ceiling, and Simon took pity on him. “I believe your brother was asking where on his person did you strike your attacker?”

I really like Juliana. I loved her inability to get idiom and her turns of phrase.

“He called me a pie!” she announced, defensively. There was a pause. “Wait. That’s not right.”

Simon, on the other hand, was very hard to like. I understand that he was raised by a horrible mother, and has tried very hard to live up to his reputation as a Duke, but… he he is just not very nice.

(H)e took her elbow and turned her toward her brother’s home. “Walk.”

“Why?”

“Because we cannot remain standing here. It is not done.”

She shook her head. “Leave it to the English to outlaw standing.”

I want Juliana to be happy, and I of course want Simon to stop being a jerk, but I have a difficult time believing he’d truly overcome how he was raised, and would make Juliana happy in the long run.

So, it was an interesting story, I just didn’t like the hero, and am not certain they really had a HEA.
Rating: 6.5/10

Published by HarperCollins ebooks