Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Danielle Dresser | In Which We Discuss the Bareknuckle Bastards

July 29, 2020

Would you love to chat with Sarah MacLean? Join us TOMORROW, Thursday, July 30, at 7pm CT for a Fresh Fiction Book Club chat. There’s an interview with Sarah first and then a chance to ask her questions directly, via a Zoom Chat. You can find out more details and register to attend here: Video Book Club with Sarah MacLean


I was late to the Bareknuckle Bastards. Don’t ask me why–but it was always one of those sore spots in with my fellow citizens of Romancelandia… “You HAVEN’T?” and “Why NOT?” and “Oh, you MUST REMEDY THIS NOW OR WE WON’T BE FRIENDS.”

That last one is slightly exaggerated, though not by much.

I understood their astonishment that I, a Sarah MacLean fan, had not read each book as it came out over the last few years. I just didn’t. . . But then came the cover reveal for DARING AND THE DUKE, the final book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series and these books were back on my radar. I decided to read all three of them back-to-back-to-back, and readers, I’m so happy I did. The worldbuilding, the backstory, the characters. There’s so much to love in the part of Covent Garden Sarah MacLean explored through this series, and I can’t wait to dive into some specific things I enjoyed about each of the Bareknuckle Bastards.

The fact that this historical romance series takes place in Covent Garden is one of the main reasons I enjoyed it so much. I love a fancy ballroom as much as the next historical reader–and there are still beautiful gowns and magnificent houses to be had–but the focus on the fringes of decent society where “real” people lived is lovingly and honestly portrayed. Each book has a moment of realization for the main character who is a part of the aristocratic world. There’s a pivotal scene where they realize this place, away from the money and political aspirations, is where they belong and feel fully alive. I loved how in WICKED AND THE WALLFLOWER, Felicity literally says how much she loves it there. She recognizes there’s more to life than being accepted by the ton, and the people of Covent Garden like her for who she truly is, not who they expect her to be.

All three of the books in this series can easily be described as feminist. Each of the heroines holds her own and knows her worth, and doesn’t need the heroes to convince them of such–they already know they’re great. But what’s really interesting about showcasing feminism in these books, the feminist ideals actually make sense and work within the constraints of the time period. Felicity, Hattie, and Grace all have ambitions, strive for more, and to make their own way, all on their own terms, with or without the support of their respective love interests. Additionally, Devil, Beast, and Ewan all recognize these women are formidable, demand respect, and deserve to be admired. In particular, Hattie from BRAZEN AND THE BEAST, knows she’s the best person to run her father’s shipping company. Her brother means well but isn’t the best when it comes to numbers or making sound investments (to say the least), so she takes it upon herself to negotiate terms and make sure the family fortune doesn’t go to waste based on faulty leadership.

Without giving too much away, all three books in the Bareknuckle Bastards series take risks and push the boundaries of what is expected from historical romance. These aren’t the first to do so, nor will they be the least, but from the series set up–four illegitimate babies born on the same day within the same hour to a powerful duke and his duchess but each with different mothers–to the unbelievably satisfying series ending, Sarah Maclean makes readers believe a demure lady can be an expert at picking locks and that skill will save lives, a sheltered daughter of an early can successfully run a business better than anyone in England, and a woman born without a name of her own can become the Queen of Covent Garden. . . and all three of them fall in love with unabashed criminals (not to mention a redemption arc to end all redemption arcs!). . . Grace from DARING AND THE DUKE is the personification of these risks. She’s a great leader, makes smart choices that could easily–and sometimes do–end badly, and will do anything for the people she loves, no matter the consequences. Even when that consequence is betraying the only family she’s ever known. These stories take risks, the characters take risks, and they are all worth the risk because the promise of the premise of each book is fulfilled.

Individually, these books do work on their own, but I think reading them together makes for an enriched and fully realized reading experience. This will be a series I recommend for years to come and I cannot wait to read what Sarah has coming next (look for the Hell’s Belles series soon)!

For an in-depth interview with Sarah MacLean about the release of DARING AND THE DUKE, check out this episode of Fated Mates, the podcast she hosts with Jen Prokop.

And don’t forget! Join us for a virtual chat with Sarah MacLean TOMORROW NIGHT, July 30, at 7pm CT on Zoom. Find more information and register here: Video Book Club with Sarah MacLean



Bareknuckled Bastards #1

Wicked and the Wallflower

The first book in New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean’s daring new series about three brothers bound by a secret they cannot escape and the women who bring them to their knees

When Wicked Comes Calling. . .

When a mysterious stranger finds his way into her bedchamber and offers his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees–on one condition. She’s seen enough of the world to believe in passion, and won’t accept a marriage without it.

The Wallflower Makes a Dangerous Bargain. . .

Bastard son of a duke and king of London’s dark streets, Devil has spent a lifetime wielding power and seizing opportunity, and the spinster wallflower is everything he needs to exact a revenge years in the making. All he must do is turn the plain little mouse into an irresistible temptress, set his trap, and destroy his enemy.

For the Promise of Passion. . .

But there’s nothing plain about Felicity Faircloth, who quickly decides she’d rather have Devil than another. Soon, Devil’s carefully laid plans are in chaos and he must choose between everything he’s ever wanted. . . and the only thing he’s ever desired.

Romance Historical [Avon, On Sale: June 19, 2018, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780062692061 / eISBN: 9780062691972]



Bareknuckle Bastards #2

Brazen and the Beast

New York Times Bestselling Author Sarah MacLean returns with the next book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series about three brothers bound by a secret that they cannot escape–and the women who bring them to their knees.

The Lady’s Plan

When Lady Henrietta Sedley declares her twenty-ninth year her own, she has plans to inherit her father’s business, to make her own fortune, and to live her own life. But first, she intends to experience a taste of the pleasure she’ll forgo as a confirmed spinster. Everything is going perfectly. . . until she discovers the most beautiful man she’s ever seen tied up in her carriage and threatening to ruin the Year of Hattie before it’s even begun.

The Bastard’s Proposal

When he wakes in a carriage at Hattie’s feet, Whit, a king of Covent Garden known to all the world as Beast, can’t help but wonder about the strange woman who frees him–especially when he discovers she’s headed for a night of pleasure . . . on his turf. He is more than happy to offer Hattie all she desires. . .for a price.

An Unexpected Passion

Soon, Hattie and Whit find themselves rivals in business and pleasure. She won’t give up her plans; he won’t give up his power . . . and neither of them sees that if they’re not careful, they’ll have no choice but to give up everything . . . including their hearts.

Romance Historical [Avon, On Sale: July 30, 2019, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780062692078 / eISBN: 9780062691989]

Gruff criminal and earl’s daughter meet their match in business and in love

This title turns the beauty and the beast trope on its head in the best way!



Bareknuckle Bastards #3

Daring and the Duke

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.

Romance Historical [Avon, On Sale: June 30, 2020, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780062692085 / eISBN: 9780062691996]

The last Bareknuckle Bastard finally receives her HEA!!

Fake Duke is restored to the bosom of his real family (and gets the girl)


About Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean

I write books. There’s smooching in them.

New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today bestseller Sarah MacLean is the author of historical romance novels that have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Sarah is a leading advocate for the romance genre, speaking widely on its place at the nexus of gender and cultural studies. A romance columnist and co-host of the weekly romance novel podcast, Fated Mates, her work in support of romance and the women who read it earned her a place on’s Sheroes list and led Entertainment Weekly to call her “the elegantly fuming, utterly intoxicating queen of historical romance.” Sarah is a graduate of Smith College and Harvard University. She lives in New York City.

Rules of Scoundrels | Scandal & Scoundrel | Love by Numbers | Bareknuckle Bastards


Fresh Fiction Editorial Manager Danielle Dresser is an avid reader, lackluster-yet-mighty crafter, and accomplished TV binge-watcher. Once upon a time, she was a publisher publicist and continues to cultivate her love of books and reading by chatting with the best authors in the business. She lives in Chicagoland with her very own romance hero husband, darling daughter, and two tempestuous cats. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @dj_dresser. 

No Comments

Comments are closed.