Review: Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean

The conclusion to The Bareknuckle Bastards Series is finally upon us. Wicked and the Wallflower set the scene, Brazen and the Beast made us fall in love, and Daring and the Duke made me a life long fan.

Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean is a sizzling, sensual, deeply dark, and deliciously ravenous adventure. A deeply satisfying conclusion to a fantastic trilogy.

Daring and the Duke,
Book 3 of The Bareknuckle Bastards Series by Sarah MacLean


From the publisher:

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.

What Works

MacLean’s vividly descriptive writing was especially sharp in Daring and the Duke. I hope Sarah had as much fun writing this book as it feels she did. There is a revelry to the work that expresses that this is a true book of the heart.

Grace and Ewen had a way to go, let’s be honest.

Ewen spent three books being an epic villain. Cold and calculating, manic and mad, and then lost to grief. His redemption arc was so satisfying. I honestly still can’t believe how well she did it.

We all knew Grace was going to be cool. But nothing really prepared us for how cool she and her gang of girl bosses could be. Grace and her amazing bordello solidified my notion that this trilogy deserves to be a television series.

Netflix get on this, please.

I loved how this book was crafted. The first half of the book weaves between past and present, we meet the children who went through the abuse and we know the adults managing their trauma as best they can. There’s a conclusion to the villain arc at the start of this book then we get a year gap. A lot happened in that year. Then the whole story begins again because Ewan took the time he needed to regroup.

This was so lovely and well done. It humanized Ewan and softened Grace. It was perfectly lovely.

Let’s Talk About the Romance

I feel like I’m still processing this book, really. This review has been difficult to write because I enjoy Grace and Ewan so much, but there is so much to unpack.

There may be updates to this post in the future. Especially in this section.

Honestly, it’s been a long while since I read such an angst-filled romance and I’m realizing just how much I love this kind of romance. It’s not easy, it’s not clean. It’s not fluffy.

It’s tragic.

It’s compulsive and full of regret. The longing is so romantic and sexy. It’s the kind of relationship that the sensible part of your mind dismisses with an – eh, it’ll never last. But this is fiction. It’s good, well crafted fiction.

So, Grace and Ewan will last. They’re the real deal. MacLean crafted a story that takes these two through hell and back and never have two characters – and a family earned a more satisfying happily ever after.

I want to find more books like this. I think I need them in my life.


It’s intense, people. Grace and Ewen are extremely intense. I can’t bring myself to fall into the cutesy flame and fire references because what these two characters went through to get to where they got… it’s so earned. It’s so satisfying. It’s good.

He so desperately wants her, and she do desperately wants him back. There are a million good reasons for her to hate him. This couple captures that deliciously sexy “this is wrong but so right” tone that can be so hard to land well.

This lands well.

It’s so sexy, people. I barely have words. I can’t even properly gush.

A Quick Note on Communication

It could be argued that a difficult conversation could have alleviated some of the anguish these characters went through. But, I’ll just say I’m very happy we got the heightened angst, longing, and strive. It was delicious.

Recommendation Station

I would urge readers to read all three books in order. Wallflower and Brazen could be read independently and enjoyed as stand alone books. I feel Daring depends on the two books before. I’d be curious to chat with readers who have only read this book, to see what their experience was. But I stand by that in order to get the most enjoyment out of Daring and the Duke, the whole trilogy should be read in order.

This series is perfect for a first time romance reader. It’s perfect for the paranormal or thriller reader who is curious about historical, but wants more substance to their reading.

It’s a deeply satisfying read.

Magical Moment

The fight Grace demanded at the start of the book.

Marwick’s Masked Ball. The description of the decor was amazing. I have a perfect visual of that place.

Rooftop rendezvous.

The club tour leading to the darkened stairwell.

No masks.

This book.

This series.

*chef kiss*

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