Sarah MacLean: NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean
Rule of Scoundrels #3
Piatkus 2013
382 pages
3/5 stars

There’s just something that doesn’t sit right with me in MacLean’s novels. This is my second one (previous being from her Love By Numbers series, Eleven Scandals to Start to Win A Duke’s Heart), and although very different from Eleven Scandals, it still didn’t quite get to me. Let us examine the reasons, as far as I can analyse them.

We’ll start with the heroine. 80% of the time I love Mara. She’s brave, she’s clever, she does what she must fearlessly. She’s marvellous. Except when the hero is concerned. She goes addled and descends if not quite into a damsel in distress, then something very similar. I find this a great shame when she had the potential to be one of my favourite heroines ever. Close, so close!

The hero – well, I’m more inclined to like the hero, although here we run into some things that I don’t find believable. Temple, accused of killing Mara twelve years before the novel proper begins, has been allowed not only to keep his title (marquis at the time) but also to inherit the dukedom at his father’s death. High society ostracizes him, so he has become a prizefighter. Oh, trust me, I love me a prizefighter, and I do understand the importance of title there, but at the same time, it doesn’t sound plausible. It can be pulled off, I’ve seen it done, but duke or no, you don’t get away with supposedly murdering someone without losing anything but a few party invitations. Well, actually, you probably can, but the reasons for that would have needed to be explained in this book, which does not happen.

Then there’s the structuring of the prose. Someone on Goodreads commented on this book saying it sounds melodramatic, and to a degree I would agree with that; there are a lot of short sentences, often comprising a paragraph on their own, and a lot of italicisation of these short sentences. It gives a very superficial feeling to the text, which, for me, leads to it sounding rather amateurish and childish (but then again, I’m into Austen, and we all know what kind of sentences Austen likes to write!); “cheaply dramatic” seems to be how I described this while reading. In addition, I wish the editor had paid a little more attention, as some sentences don’t make much sense and pronouns get frequently confused.

I’m making this sound like a bad book, but it’s really not THAT bad. I did read all of it, and I got into it, and I enjoyed it. It’s just that I expected a little more… erudition of it. It aspires to a feeling of murky London, and it occasionally succeeds, but I’m not entirely not pleased by the way it goes for it. With some practice, I have no doubt, MacLean will get the tone right, but this wasn’t it for me. Nonetheless, I found myself drawn to the plot and the hero and heroine grew on me, he when he was with her and she when she wasn’t with him. And I’m rather enamoured by the idea of the Fallen Angel, the gaming club that binds the heroes of this series together. THAT has great feeling to it, what with the boxing ring and the betting and the one-way mirror. An excellent setting I would love to explore more!

Three out of five stars – it’s an enjoyable enough read, but not done in a way that would entirely appeal to me.

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