Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: June 7, 2022
Series or Standalone: London Highwaymen #2
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads – StoryGraph
CW: Blood; murder; gun violence; Alzheimer’s/dementia
The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes was a delightful surprise of a book. I went into this book with no exceptions, but I came out completely enamored. Something about the romance between Rob and Marian touched a special part of my soul, and this book was so sweet, loving and tender that I feel like I have a dopey smile on my face every time I think about it.
The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes picks up immediately after the ending of The Queer Principles of Kit Webb as Marian flees after the incident in the carriage (note – do NOT look up the official summary of this book if you have not read book one or you’ll have that book’s ending spoiled). The only person she can turn to is the charismatic criminal who has been blackmailing her – Rob Brooks. Rob is a highwayman and cheerful criminal who cannot help but be intrigued by the woman who led him on a merry chase through London, tied him to a bed and then returned needing his help. As they flee across the country, they feel more joy and peace than either has felt in ages. But as their past catches up to them, they must decide if they can reshape their lives to forge a future together.
Marian intrigued me in The Queer Principles of Kit Webb as I loved her nonsense attitude and that she didn’t play the traditional role of Duchess. I wanted to learn more about her and everything that led up to that faithful night in the carriage with the Duke, and this book delivered on that. This book is very much a grump/sunshine novel, with Marian playing the role of the grump. She can come across as very stoic, unfeeling and aristocratic, but that’s a mask she wears well. Behind it, there is a lot of emotion, pain and fear. I can see some people struggling to connect with her, but I thought she was such a fascinating character, and I loved exploring all her layers. She presents such a strong face to the world and feels she needs to be independent as she believes relying on people is a weakness since they can rescind their support just as quickly as they give it. And then she meets Rob.
Rob was the perfect foil to Marian. He gives off major golden retriever energy and can find a bright spot in any situation. He’s friendly, affable and charismatic. He can get strangers to trust him and open up to him in a matter of minutes – the complete opposite of Marian. He also seems to have a knack for finding strays – literally and figuratively – and taking them under his wing. He’s a genuinely good guy, and I absolutely adored him. He understood Marian better than she understood herself in many ways. He knows what to give her to make her feel happy and safe, and I loved how steadfast he was in his devotion to her.
The romance between Rob and Marian was perfect. This was one of the sweetest, most caring relationships I’ve read about in a while, and my heart was bursting with feelings. I loved the two of them together. They get to know each other through letters, which start as blackmail but turn into friendly letters. The banter between them is perfect – so fun and flirty. We get a lot of fantastic tropes from only one bed, class difference and road trip to help round the romance out.
One thing I love about this book is how it approaches intimacy and sex. Marian had a very traumatic pregnancy, and her relationship with the Duke left her with some fraught feelings toward sex. Just because she doesn’t desire traditional sexual intercourse, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel desire or crave sexual intimacy with another person. Rob understood that perfectly and didn’t pressure her at all in their sexual relationship. I adore he was willing to give her whatever she was comfortable with in bed and that they didn’t need to have penetrative sex to have a happy and fulfilling sexual relationship. That’s not something you often see in romances.
In terms of the story, it took me way too long to put together that this was a spin on Robin Hood, even though the signs are VERY clear from the beginning. It wasn’t until about 30% that I was like “duh” on that point. The Robin Hood storyline comes into play later in the book as the first half is more of a road trip adventure with Rob and Marian trying to get to her father’s place. As much as I liked the road trip aspects of this story, the Robin Hood plot was weak. For example, I forgot about the whole plot to rob Sir John, the bad guy raising rates on Marian’s father’s tenants, until it was literally about to happen. The plot is probably the weakest part of the whole book, to be honest.
There is so much more I could say about this book that I loved – from Marian’s relationship with her father to her feelings towards motherhood to the cameos of Kit and Percy – but you also need just to read the story to get the full impact of how perfectly everything comes together. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you pick this up. I would recommend you read The Queer Principles of Kit Webb first, as the ending of that book directly impacts this.