Bareknuckle Bastards Series, Book #2
Heat Factor: I love the way MacLean writes sex. A+
Character Chemistry: The bickering-because-I’m-into-you is great
Overall: I wouldn’t mind being Hattie
I so hope I can adequately describe this book. It has all the hallmarks of a MacLean novel, which is to say, it’s delightful. It’s dramatic and emotional and lively and a little bit outrageous.
So. What might one pretty much always find in a MacLean novel?
- A heroine who thinks there’s something wrong with herself that makes her unloveable
- An alpha-ish hero with 1000% too much testosterone and a serious case of emotional constipation
- Something threatens the heroine that seems to require brute strength but actually requires unlocking an emotional vault
- Characters from other books are mentioned or crop up throughout the story
I can’t get enough. It’s the perfect combination of everything I like in a historical romance and just enough over-the-top everything else to be riveting and, as I had previously stated, delightful. Brazen and the Beast is no exception. It has been some time since I read book one (Wicked and the Wallflower) of this new series, the Bareknuckle Bastards (which, come on–it’s hard to take seriously…and then it’s impossible not to), but I would say that Brazen and the Beast is stronger. It also doesn’t start with the somewhat cryptic and overly dramatic prologue that began Wicked and the Wallflower and seemed like it’d be plugged into the beginning of every book in this series, so that’s already a good start.
The story centers on Hattie, who is turning 29 and has decided that her 29th year will be the Year of Hattie. She will seize her life, take control of her future! Nine years ago she might have thought she was going to get married and have a family but now… It’s time to get real. No one is going to marry Hattie, and she is really good at running her father’s business. Unfortunately, her father thinks she needs to fill that womanly role and is not on board with handing over the family business to her. Therefore, phase one of the Year of Hattie is: lose virginity. Then marriage is out of the question. Checkmate, Daddy!
Unfortunately, as she is about to embark on phase one, she finds a man in her carriage. A big, unconscious man, who is the handsomest man she’s ever seen. That man is Beast (not for his looks, obvi), and he is a Bareknuckle Bastard. A King of Covent Garden. A powerful man in the darkness of the streets. I’m gonna be honest–it’s a little ridiculous…and it’s also compelling. Dukes don’t have all the power. Sometimes men who run criminal enterprises and have hearts of gold also have power. Also Beast’s real name is Saviour Whittington. A++ to MacLean for a name like that.
So Beast, a.k.a. Whit, wakes up in Hattie’s carriage as she’s on her way to be debauched, and the rest is history. They’re adversaries, they’re allies, he falls in love with her, his crazy third brother the-evil-Duke-who-is-illegitimate-and-will-be-a-hero-we-love-in-the-next-book threatens her, they become adversaries again because he can’t risk her safety even if it means he never sees her again (I mean, really, can you BE any more stubbornly romance-heroey?), he tries to protect her, he FAILS HARD…. There are BOMBS and underground SURGERIES and SEX ON BOATS.
I wasn’t at first sold on the Bareknuckle Bastards because I do love an alpha aristocrat hero, but MacLean has created an environment in which Beast and his brother, Devil, have the power and the money that parallels that of aristocratic heroes. They even have their own little world in Covent Garden with bird whistles and cane tapping and other delightful mysterious secret methods of communicating so they can manage their kingdom in secret. The result is a level of power that rivals or even outstrips that of most aristocrats in these novels. At the same time it’s impossible to say that a Covent Garden crime ring and the London aristocracy are the same thing, so there’s going to be a lot of baggage for Beast/Whit as he navigates his feelings for Lady Henrietta. Hattie’s father came from humble beginnings and has been elevated to Earl, but he’s a life peer, so she’s got one foot in Society and one foot outside of it, which is a nice flourish on the relationship problem in an Uptown Girl scenario.
The way Hattie and Whit navigate their relationship as they playfully antagonize each other makes all the other drama feel fresh and engaging. This book could easily be over the top, with secret fights and murderous dukes and a crime family called the Bareknuckle Bastards (of all things), and maybe it is a little bit over the top. But in such a good way.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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