Author's Website: http://www.sarahmaclean.net/
Notes: I received an eARC loan via Edelweiss from the publisher. All quotes will need to be check against the final version.
For the past twelve years the Duke of Lamont, known by the ton as the Killer Duke and throughout London's darkest corners as Temple, has fought his demons with his fists. Twelve years ago his life changed drastically when he awoke naked and alone in a bed covered with blood in the room of his father's fiance. There was no sign of the young woman who was to wed his father that very morning. His father upset, angered and embarrassed exiled him to the streets. Alone and penniless and not knowing if he'd actually committed the crime he was accused of, for he had little recollection past knowing he had been with the said lady, he had to learn to fend for himself and make a new life.
That new life included a partnership with three other men. They own a club called The Fallen Angel which has a long standing tradition that if a man loses everything at the gaming tables he still has one chance to regain the fortune he lost--He can challenge Temple to a fight in the ring. If he wins, his fortune will be returned to him. Temple, however, has never been bested in all the years the challenge has been extended. Now a woman he doesn't know wishes to regain the family fortune her brother lost. Temple doesn't fight woman, but this one isn't looking for a fight. She's looking to prevent one by acquiring the fortune her brother lost by another means--absolution. She holds the key to clearing Temple's name. For twelve years ago, on the eve of her wedding, Mara Lowe didn't die, she ran.
Vengeance is finally within Temple's grasp. He just has to reach out and take it.
One of the first things I thought to myself as I started getting into this story was how in the world were the two main characters of this book going to get over the event that happened 12 years ago? It seemed that Ms. MacLean had started off this book by painting herself into a corner for which there was no way out. As I tend to say, however, it's only the most brilliant and talented of writers who can, with a stroke or two of their pens, magically erase the seemingly permanent and impenetrable lines which corner their characters in, thereby, allowing the seemingly impossible to come true. That is what Ms. MacLean did with this story.
Mara Lowe is a strong, bold young woman who fights for what she believes in. 12 years ago, however, it was a very different story when at the tender age of 16, she found herself in an intolerable position and took the coward's way out by running. Her only true regret was the way she left things--with Temple, then William Harrow, Marquess of Chapin, being accused of her murder. Since then, she's reinvented herself as Margret McIntyre, the widowed proprietress of MacIntyre Home for Boys. It is her desperation to save that institution that coaxes her to come out of hiding and face the man she ruined all those years ago.
William Harrow, the Duke of Lamont, has been ridiculed, scoffed at, scorned, feared and talked about for years. Where once ambitious mother's of the ton practically threw their daughters at him, now they hid them from him lest they be his next victim. The only female companionship he could find were those he paid and even some of those wouldn't have him. Lonely and haunted by the past, he's not the carefree young man he once was who sported a quick smile. Now he longs for a wife, a child, a family, a legacy. Mara robbed him of that in just one night and he wants vengeance. The only problem is, the more he learns about the scheming young woman, the more he finds himself intrigued and attracted to her. Will vengeance truly get him what he wants?
Besides the two wonderful main characters, there is a cast of wonderful secondary characters who take it upon themselves to steer these two in the right direction. It was wonderful how they pointed out what might be obvious to others but not to them. While some may find what Mara did unforgivable, I felt this one line kind of sums things up rather nicely, "I know better than anyone that the roll is final once the ivories leave one's hand." Sometimes, once the dice are rolled, they can't be changed. You need to leave them where they lie. You can't undo them and you can only deal with the fallout.
Overall, I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. I loved how we slowly learn the what and the why of the events that fateful night. I enjoyed the way Mara was sorry for what happened to William, but wouldn't apologize for what she'd done. It was nice seeing how each had changed and grown in a positive way despite the terrible hand life had dealt each. I love the message that vengeance doesn't always have the effect you wish and you should be careful when dishing it out. Plus, I loved the chemistry between Mara and William which was undeniable. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned itself a STEAM rating bordering on a SHOWER rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.