Summary from Goodreads:
New York Times bestselling 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.
Not gonna lie, I almost peed myself when the galley for Daring and the Duke went up on Edelweiss. (It took me a week or so to get to because work and other things like finishing up a shawl I’d been knitting for over six years, but I digress.)
Here’s the deal. You can certainly read Daring and the Duke without having read the two previous books, Wicked and the Wallflower and Brazen and the Beast, but I think this is a series that brings greater rewards if you read all the books in order. Each book brings another layer to the backstory of three brothers brought together to compete for a dukedom and the girl who loves them, one brother in particular. Over the course of Wicked and Brazen we are given Devil’s and Whit’s version of the night that Ewan won the dukedom and tried to kill them – and Grace – as children but Sarah withheld Grace’s perspective, as well as Ewan’s, until this book. And it is one that is a gamechanger.
At the end of Brazen, a grief-crazed Ewan blew up part of the London docks and seriously injured Hattie (he previously locked Devil in the ice hold in Wicked). Ewan, having been told that Grace is dead, has nothing left. And this is how Grace’s team catches him and secretes him in an upper floor of her women’s pleasure club. Grace, against her better judgement, isn’t done with Ewan.
This is where Daring and the Duke starts, during Dominion at Grace’s club with Ewan upstairs in the aftermath of Brazen. She’s been watching over him – secretly – while he sleeps but when Ewan wakes just as she’s leaving…he knows Grace is alive and tears through the door to try and find her. While he’s quickly subdued, Grace needs to mete out vengeance.
In the boxing ring.
Grace supported herself and her brothers on the streets of Covent Garden as a bare-knuckle boxer and she can still pack a mean punch. So she puts Ewan in the ring and proceeds to beat the hell out of him (and I got the feeling that a part of him lets her do it). And better Grace to do this than Whit who would prefer to carve Ewan up with his knives for harming Hattie. At the end of this beating, Grace sends Ewan away. Are they finished?
Not hardly. A year later – with Hattie healed and Devil and Felicity welcoming their first baby – Ewan returns a very different man. This man has hope. He has a future again. He wants Grace in it. And he’s prepared to do anything she asks and any amount of grovelling to make good on the promises he made as a child.
And I can’t say anything else without spoiling it! Daring and the Duke is far too good to spoil even a tiny bit. I tore through this book in one sitting. It’s sexy, so very sexy (one word: throne). Even among the lineup of Sarah’s incredibly strong and proactive heroines Grace stands out both with her strength and her vulnerability. To be a woman on those Covent Garden streets, even one as strong as Grace, risks being destroyed by showing any weak spots. I think it goes without saying that Ewan is Grace’s weak spot, as Ewan has already demonstrated that his weak link is Grace. Daring is a dark book, possibly darker than the first two, but lightness is added through Grace’s relationships with her employees – who enjoy calling her on her bullshit – and her brothers – who like all brothers everywhere tease their sister.
Now, I’ve mentioned grovelling. This is a Grovel Novel. Ewan has a lot to answer for, even with explanation of why he has been the villainous antagonist in the two previous book, and Grace putting him in the ring then in Cold Storage (that Sarah MacLean Special gets used on the page, loved it) is only the beginning. In my opinion as a reader, I think enough grovelling occurred for Ewan to deserve Grace (although, as with Sera’s and Haven’s book, he probably still needed punched more, maybe in the balls a couple times) so Sarah delivered on her Hero Rehab. But this is a very Your Mileage May Vary opinion. Some people don’t go in for rehabbing a villain, some really love it. If you were into Devil in Winter or Lothaire you’ll probably like Ewan and Grace. My opinion: PLEASE TO HAVE MORE, but only if Sarah writes it.
Daring and the Duke is out today, June 30! Your wait is over! Go buy it (safely) from your bookstore, order it, ask your library to stock on their shelves and their electronic lending system.
Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss but you bet your sweet bippy I also have a copy preordered on my Nook.