Publication Date: August 23, 2022
Series or Standalone: Hell’s Belles
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: Violence; blood; child abuse
This review is a tough one for me to write. I’ve had to sleep on my rating for this book as there were many things I liked, but a few things stopped me from loving it. Weirdly, I think this is a book I’ll enjoy more on reread than on the first read.
After Adelaide’s crime lord father tries to marry her off to a rival, a twist of fate takes her from the streets of the South Bank to the ballrooms of Mayfair. Her upbringing helped her hone some unique skills, such as blending into the background, which means no one knows she’s the notorious Matchbreaker, using her skills to help brides avoid the altar to unworthy gentlemen. Henry, the Duke of Clayborn, has an impeccable reputation and seems to be a typical, stuck-up aristocrat. However, he’s got some secrets that he’d rather keep hidden. When Adelaide and Clayborn find themselves in a breakneck race to stop a wedding (for very different reasons), he can’t resist Adelaide, who both frustrates and fascinates him. As they are forced together by fate, they cannot resist the electric pull between them, and the walls come down between them as secrets are revealed.
The romance shines in this. Sarah MacLean truly packs in ALL THE TROPES in this book and executes them flawlessly. She knows what her readers want and delivers. For a taste, here are just a few of the tropes in this book:
- Only one bed
- Forced proximity
- Road trip
- Class differences
- Hero falls first
- Tall/spectacle heroine
- Age gap
- Praise kink
- Nursing back to health
The banter between Clayborn and Adelaide was electric, and I loved how they continued to try to one-up each other. They also have one of my favorite meetings in a historical romance – its action-pack, high stakes and perfectly sets the tone for their relationship. Clayborn is so far gone for Adelaide, and I adored that. And MacLean truly delivered on the sex scenes. Like seriously, they were HOT. She’s a master at building the sexual tension and romantic relationships.
When it comes to Clayborn and Adelaide, I started out loving both of them but ended up liking Clayborn more in the end than Adelaide. Adelaide made some decisions towards the end that made me want to shake her. She kept insisting on doing things on her own despite having all these people in her corner willing to have her back. I thought Clayborn was a fascinating character, especially since he’s a Duke. There are a lot of layers to him, and he’s so not what I expected after our introduction to him in Bombshell. Adelaide was a badass and more than capable of taking care of herself. This is very much a feminist historical romance, celebrating the power of women, which I truly enjoyed. However, with Adelaide, I felt like she failed to see that letting people in to support her is a strength, not a weakness.
One thing that made me question how I would rate this book was the pacing. It felt a bit uneven to me. The book started with a bang, and its first half felt like it was moving ahead at a lightning-fast pace, with action-packed scenes, good banter and fun plot points. However, around the 60%-70% mark, the story started to drag, which made it hard to stay invested. The plot felt like it hit a wall and slowed down dramatically before picking up again right towards the end. There was also a LOT going on plotwise, and I’m not sure all the elements were executed flawlessly. By the end, I wished for tighter plotting in the book as there were a lot of storylines to wrap up in a few short chapters.
I feel like most people will love this one, but I wished for a little more than I got. I did go into this book with sky-high expectations as I adored Bombshell. This book mostly met those expectations, but it did have a lot of extra pressure to deliver. I still love Sarah MacLean’s writing and story. She truly delivers on the romance, and I know she’ll never let me down there. I can 100% see Heartbreaker being a book I reread and ending up loving more in the future – that’s happened to me with multiple books before, and this book is giving me that vibe. But overall, I think if you’re a fan of MacLean’s writing and enjoyed Bombshell, I think most people will end up loving this.
Thank you to Avon/Netgalley for the ARC. All thoughts, ideas and opinions expressed in this review are my own