Daring and the Duke: The Bareknuckle Bastards, Book 3 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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New York Times best-selling author Sarah MacLean returns with the much-anticipated final book in her Bareknuckle Bastards series, featuring a scoundrel duke and the powerful woman who brings him to his knees.
Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best...until the man she once loved returns.
Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back...and make her his duchess.
Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether - something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she's built, the life she's claimed...and the heart she swore he'd never steal again.
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|Listening Length||10 hours and 59 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||June 30, 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #39,729 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#258 in Regency Romance
#1,613 in Women's Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#3,385 in Regency Romances
Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2020
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Thirty-five years ago the Duke of Marwick set a plan in motion, when a baby girl was born to the Duchess of Marwick, but not of his blood, he christen her Robert Matthew Carrick, Earl Sumner and heir to the Duke of Marwick. Years later, he then gathered up his bastard sons – all born on the same day as the girl and hid them all away at his estate – trying to set them against each other, to decide which will be his heir. The girl was nothing, her mother died and she lived at the Duke’s mercy, but to his sons, she was everything, Whit and Devon aka Devil, loved her like a sister, but to Ewan, she was the other half of his soul, she was his Grace. Love blossomed and plans were made, they would outwit the Duke and be happy – but one night of betrayal changed everything, Ewan became the heir and Grace, Whit and Devil fled to London. They became the Bareknuckle Bastards and over the next twenty years, they fought their way to the top and ruled the “Garden”, but they were never free of Marwick and when Ewan inherited and was told Grace was dead, he made it his mission to destroy the men he entrusted her to…
After an explosion on the docks, Ewan wakes and instantly knows that Whit and Devil lied to him, his Grace is not dead, she is now the queen of the Garden and known to one and all as Dahlia – the owner of the club and pleasure house at 72 Shelton Street. But his joy at learning she is alive is cut short when she fights him and tells him to leave and never come for her again. A wish he seems to grant, but a year later his name is on everyone’s lips, Mad Marwick is back and he is no longer mad, he has changed and is looking for a wife. Grace shouldn’t care, she should be happy that he has honored her wishes and stopped chasing her, but she can’t, she justifies seeing him as a chance to remind him of vows he made about not marrying and letting the line die with him – but his kisses are intoxicating and she tells herself it will just be this one time… Ewan is playing a deep game, for him there is only one woman who will be his wife – Grace and she has commanded him to stay away from her, so he will need to be get her to come to him and succeeds – but when she walks away, he just can’t let her go and is willing to do whatever it takes to gain her forgiveness and win her love.
What an amazing story, I never wanted it to end and even now that it is done, I want more! More Ewan and Grace, more Devil and Felicity and more Whit and Hattie!! This was a well written, incredibly emotional story that answered all my questions, blew my mind and made me fall in love with Ewan – a feat I would have deemed impossible at the end of the last book. This book has it all, betrayal, a bit of humor (thanks to Devil and Whit), heartbreak, steamy love scenes, surprising revelations, a love that is inspiring, some of the most romantic declarations I have ever read (seriously – they gave me goosebumps and made me teary!) and finally a very hard won HEA and a sweet epilogue. This was definitely my favorite in the series and while you could read this as a stand-alone, I would highly recommend reading this series in order for the best understanding and most reader enjoyment.
Review: I’ve been waiting for this third book for what feels like forever. I liked the first one quite a bit (Wicked & The Wallflower) and LOVED the second one (Brazen & The Beast).
Grace was born a Duke, named as a male heir that never was. The daughter of the Duchess and her lover. Born on the same day as 3 sons (Devon, Whit, and Ewan) the Duke had with his mistresses. None of them legitimate. As they grew, the Duke plotted to teach them all the ways of the aristocracy and had them compete with each other for his title. Grace and Ewan fell in love as young teenagers but then disaster struck, Ewan became a monster, tried to kill Grace and everyone else in order to win. Or so we think. He did become Duke. His brothers told him Grace was dead and he’s been trying to kill and destroy the others since. But Grace isn’t dead, only trying to stay hidden from him.
Grace is the owner of a brothel for women. Ladies can spend the night seeking their pleasure in all different ways and she, as Dahlia, and her staff cater to them. “Dahlia” also has the best network of spies in London and rules Covent Garden as it’s Queen – along with her brothers, now known as the Bareknuckled Bastards.
After Ewan blew up the pier, Hattie, and the shipments the BB had (in the second book)– Grace took him back to her club. She personally nursed him back to health, and I loved these scenes of her caressing him and not understanding why. Her brothers aren’t so happy with her, especially Whit who nearly lost Hattie because of Ewan. But Ewan comes to and realizes that Grace has cared for him and now nothing will stop him – except Grace. She challenges him to fight, but he won’t so she ends up beating him up quite a bit. Him taking his punishment trying to redeem himself in her eyes – but it’s not enough. She finally convinces him that the girl he knew is dead and Dahlia is who she is now and she hates him. Eventually, he leaves, understanding.
Next year we see him back in town, holding a masquerade ball looking for a wife. Grace can’t resist and asks a mutual friend for an invite. Loved this scene where both of them “pretend” to not know each other and get to flirt and have a very passionate rendezvous at the gazebo. He’s built the wooded area inside the Ducal home, the area where he first kissed Grace. It’s intoxicating. They can’t keep their hands off each other. But she leaves him. Then he comes to the Garden for penance and the brothers put him to work on the docks, knowing the crowds will come for him. He's a duke and the citizens there don't take kindly to that. The crowd picks a fight and he penitently lets them. The brothers enjoy watching all this from the rooftops, but Whit knew Grace wouldn't stand for it. She puts a stop for it and there's another lovely "dance" between Grace and Ewan as he tries to follow her to her lair, interacting with washerwomen and eventually stealing a kiss.
There’s more cat and mouse, some twisty revelations, and eventually we all find out the gamble Ewan took that lead everyone to believe he tried to kill them for the title and it’s satisfying for those who have been reading the series. Glad to see these two crazy kids finally make peace and have their HEA.
Series: Bareknuckle Bastards #3
Type: Early Victorian
Tropes: Second Chance Romance, Redemption/Revenge, Masquerade, Strong Heroine
Premise: Can Grace punish Ewan for the horrors he’s perpetrated on her and their family for years, without falling for him again?
The Good: It's great to finallly know what was driving Ewan all this time.
The Bad: I still cringe at scenes where any heroine kicks the snot out of the hero. Revenge, I get. Physical fist fights, eh.
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Not sure if enough time will ever pass. This series has simply become an instant classic and favourite and I might re-read them forever.
Sarah MacLean does something very difficult here with a control of the craft that is some next level flex.
She has built a villain for 2 books only to destroy him and pull him apart in the third, but not only using the well know device of showing the other point of view, but by him actually working towards listening, changing and for once doing what it's being asked of him.
It's a very difficult thing to pull off, because if we don't believe he's earn forgiveness we won't find the ending satisfying and a satisfying ending is a cardinal rule of romance.
Instead MacLean pulls all the stops and subverses most of the cliches of the genre, by also not making the book about Ewan, or his journey, but undeniably about Grace, what she wants, what she needs, what she deserves. And finally, when that proves to be Ewan, as a reader you are so on board.
Somebody said that we believe that Moriarty is genius because Sherlock tells us so, and through the eyes of Ewan the only thing left to do is to fall madly in love with the goddess that is Grace. Which I did, wholeheartedly. Grace is the force behind the entire series, the power in the shadows, the Queen of Covent Garden, a magnificent character so nuanced, so complex, strength and sweetness all carefully woven together. Of course Ewan loves her, who could avoid it?
So instead of wallowing in him not deserving her (a trope I find truly exhausting) he goes away and becomes somebody who does. And then lays himself at her feet. What else could you possibly want out of a romance book?
As a cherry on top, in case we needed even more, this finalises and arc in which all 4 Bareknuckle Bastards find love and reunite family. Their reunion can only come at the very end, when both Devil and Whit have had their own reckonings with what they would do for love.
Now, I want a Christmas novella special about all 4 of them and their partners and their kids because I NEED IT.
The first two books in the trilogy followed Ewan attempts to thwart his half-brothers, nicknamed Devil and Beast, who he believes have let Grace die. In this book he learns she is alive and sets out to woo her. In the earlier books Ewan is shown as determined, ruthless and slightly mad but with a hint of sadness and a glimmer of humanity which would barely surface before it quickly disappeared. This book turns him from the almost cardboard villain of those books, into a fully formed human being, and I almost wish we'd seen a bit more of him like this in the earlier books.
Grace was a likeable heroine who has packed a lot into her 33 years. She is brave, loyal, strong and thankfully does have a flaw, even if it is her belief in her ability to pass unnoticed (even in the 21st century let alone the early 19th century, a nearly 6' women would stand out in London).
As a conclusion to the trilogy it made sense within the worldview of the characters. Quite whether it would work as a stand-alone, I'm not sure. The story goes along at a rollicking pace, and I read it in a single (long) sitting. My only quibble with the whole thing is the frequent use of the form "it was he/it was she" which grated with me, but this might just be me.
And it just didn't hit the spot. Why not? There was adventure, redemption, funny dialogue (but only a bit), resolutions and a strong plotline. But it all felt so slick, so formulaic and the seduction scene in 72 Shelton and the endless references to Apollo.....I am all in favour of some bawdy bedroom talk, but honestly, I thought he was going to set an exam. After waiting for 22 years, just get on with it!!!
I enjoyed the social history and the research that goes into the background of Ms Maclean's stories is creditable.
I just felt like all the boxes had been ticked and I never got passed a simmering interest.