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The Bareknuckle Bastards #1

Wicked and the Wallflower

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Romance (2018)
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.

396 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published June 19, 2018

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About the author

Sarah MacLean

65 books12.8k followers
New York Times, Washington Post & USA Today bestseller Sarah MacLean is the author of historical romance novels. Translated into more than twenty-five languages, the books that make up “The MacLeaniverse” are beloved by readers worldwide.

In addition to her novels, Sarah is a leading advocate for the romance genre, speaking widely on its place as a feminist text and a cultural bellwether. A columnist for the New York Times, the Washington Post and Bustle, she is the co-host of the weekly romance podcast, Fated Mates. Her work in support of romance and those who read it earned her a place on Jezebel.com'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 & Harvard University. She lives in New York City.

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5 stars
5,784 (32%)
4 stars
7,227 (40%)
3 stars
3,924 (21%)
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1 star
230 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,367 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah MacLean.
Author 65 books12.8k followers
April 11, 2018
Well, I mean, obviously I like it.


I'm thrilled to tell you that WICKED & THE WALLFLOWER is finished and ready for bookstores -- and coming your way June 19, 2018!

This is a new series -- spun off of all my other series (you'll see the Fallen Angel and the Singing Sparrow again!) -- set in Covent Garden and featuring my Bareknuckle Bastards--three siblings who run a variety of businesses (some more legal than others) in the dark corners of London.

I'm so excited for you to meet the first of the Bastards, Devil, and the woman who brings him to his knees, who anyone who has read THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS, will recognize!

Wicked & the Wallflower is available for preorder now at:
Google Books
Your Local Indie, or
My local indie (signed & with goodies!)
Profile Image for Bibi.
1,282 reviews3,316 followers
June 30, 2020
I didn't like Felicity and barely tolerated Devil/Devon, the only bright spot in this story was actually, Ewan/Marwick. Sorry.
Profile Image for WhiskeyintheJar.
1,272 reviews516 followers
May 20, 2018
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Felicity Faircloth is clinging to the edges of respectability and she is tired of it. Deciding to show her former friends that she is just as good, if not better than them, she tells a little white lie and claims she is betrothed to the Duke of Marwick.
Devil has never been respectable and doesn't care. What he does care for is a childhood pact, one the Duke of Marwick is looking to break.
Felicity gets caught up in a decades old feud and Devil finds himself in a trap of his own making.
“You are too late for the duke,” she repeated, knowing, even as she spoke, that she must stop the words from coming. Except they were a runaway horse—loosed and free and wild. “Because I’ve already landed him.”
First in The Bareknuckle Bastards series, you will recognize Felicity from The Day of the Duchess but everything else is a fresh introduction to this world MacLean has created. The background that holds this series together is three bastard brothers, a girl they call their sister, and the monster father that tried to pit them against each other. There is a flashback to show how Devil (Devon) gets together with his brothers and father but any other past happenings are either inner monologue from Devil or some reminiscing/discussion with Whit (Beast), Ewan (Duke of Marwick), and Dahlia (Grace). I actually would have preferred more flashback scenes of them together as children to get a better feel for their relationships and what happened to them as children. I imagine since this is a series, the author wants to keep some mystery for the other characters and events and thus why we get more of an outline in this one, but it did hurt the emotional impact of Devil's background.
No heirs was the rule. The only rule.
The plot is Devil threatening the Duke of Marwick to stop his search for a wife, which Marwick is only doing to get Devil and Whit to come out of the shadows and have them tell or reveal where Grace is. It is kept a bit shady but apparently Marwick threatened or is a danger to Grace. There is talk about how the children made a pact to never let their father win and they would never give him the heirs he was so desperate for to continue his line. By taking the title of Marwick, Ewan fought "for" his father and the other kids ran away to save themselves. There is talk about Grace and Ewan loving each other, more than a brother sister relationship Devil and Whit seem to have with her, but Devil seems to think he must keep Grace away from Ewan for her safety. Felicity walks into their battle when she declares to be betrothed to Marwick, giving Marwick more validity that he is willing to get married and heirs if they don't tell him where Grace is. Devil decides to create a plan where he seduces Felicity and get her to break the betrothal, showing Ewan he will always be there to ruin his plans.

He took a step away from her, rubbing the back of one hand over his lips. He shook his head. “Christ. You’ll burn me down.”
Devil inevitably finds himself captivated by Felicity and falling in love with her but incessantly thinking he is not good enough for her. There is a lot of talk about how Devil is dark, from the darkness, dwells in the darkness, etc. but, as with a majority of the story, it is a lot of telling and not showing. Our couple meets up right away in the story and I kind of missed getting to know them outside of their developing relationship. Felicity was the stronger character for me and I liked her emerging, building of confidence, and self-actualization but her relationship with her family felt a bit whiffed on and she pretty much is all in with Devil right away. Devil begins to feel a bit silly and repetitive with his supposed darkness, lusting, and "I'm not good enough for her." They have fun banter in the beginning but I just never felt like I "knew" them and therefore their chemistry was lacking for me.
It was him. Here. In her bedchamber. As though it were perfectly normal.
The set-up with MacLean’s characters and relationships is promising but the emotional impact, possibly because of a shallow look at their childhood here, was not really there. There is a little bit of cheese factor too, with the supposed darkness of Devil and how he and his brother run their rookery. Devil’s brother "Beast" does a lot, and I mean a lot, of grunting, it becomes rather silly after a while but he seems interesting with his underground fighting. Grace probably shined the most with her personality, ownership of a for women bordello, and only one to point out that holding onto a pact made in childhood may not be completely mature in adulthood; I do find myself very curious about her and Ewan's relationship. Overall, this started off as fun escapism with the good girl wanting to go rogue and the Devil encouraging her but losing his thought to be nonexistent heart. As it went on though, it never developed the depth and emotion I look for and ended up feeling like window dressing with not a lot to back up the pretty cover.
“You should not have come.”
She swallowed, refusing to let him win. “Why not?”
“Because it is dangerous,” he said quietly, sending a shiver of belief through her. “Because the rookeries are no place for pretty girls with a breathless anticipation of adventure.”

January 2, 2023

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So there's a thing I've noticed with Sarah MacLean novels and me. I'm completely on board for 25%-40% of the book, and then something happens and suddenly I'm like, WHAT AM I READING. I noticed this with ELEVEN SCANDALS TO START TO WIN A DUKE'S HEART, where at first I loved the intrigue and banter with the hero, but got disenchanted by the heroine being the other woman and spending an uncomfortable amount of time fat-shaming the hero's intended (calling her "the grape"). And I noticed it in this one where at first I loved the intrigue and the banter with the hero, but got disenchanted by the heroine acting a little too MODERN for a historical romance, not to mention being the first to pick the "unpickable" lock and basically having nothing to really cement her attraction to the hero besides, well, banter.

I love Sarah MacLean's social media presence and her passion for libraries and history is obvious. I also think that she's a genuinely good writer. Her books always rope me in; they just don't keep me. A hero who transports ice for a living is different and novel, but I could NOT get over the fact that he felt like a Walmart version of Derek Craven. And a heroine who used to be a bitch until all her friends abandoned her and she slowly starts to realize her privilege is a laudable concept-- when done well. But when I mentally turned the amount of times the hero said the heroine's full name-- "Felicity Faircloth"-- into a drinking game and realized absolutely no one should play this game or they'd be dead of alcohol poisoning, I had to come to terms with the fact that the glow of the novel had worn off and we were now at odds.

I did like that this appears to be a Rumpelstiltskin retelling (asking him for favors, the gold dress, jokes about taking her firstborn-- is it just me??) and I think Ewan was my favorite character because he felt like a tragic antihero. The idea of three bastard brothers teaming up against the true heir could have been so good. SO GOOD. But the author didn't really do anything with the drama. Also, getting to second base in a room full of ice and NOT engaging in ice play?? Is this even a romance novel? At least it has a pretty stepback. I think I'll probably gift this novel to one of my friends who likes Tessa Dare and Eloisa James. I tend to be the black sheep when it comes to my IRL reading circles, anyway.

2 stars
Profile Image for Anne.
3,865 reviews69.2k followers
June 21, 2019
This was a cute little romance. I'm not sure it's the bestest thing I've ever read, but there's definite potential for the rest of this series. To be honest, I was just hoping this wouldn't suck.
It didn't.
It's a fluffy romance & I'm basically easy to please.


So Devil is this bad dude who runs London's underground with his brother (Beast) and his sister-not-really-sister (<--that's a whole nother story). Obviously, they're bad but not evil. I mean, otherwise, we couldn't really root for these people, you know?
It's a doable scenario.


Felicity is a 'plain spinster' that the cool kids are now ignoring because she found herself in a compromising situation once. She needs to marry for money, but she wants to marry for love.
So she bumps into Devil at a party and then (in a fit of insanity) decides to announce that the hottie duke in the next room has proposed to her. <-- This sets into motion all sorts of problems for our girl.
Devil hatches a nefarious plan to use poor Felicity to fuck with the hot duke.
Of course, he falls madly in love with her instead.
But the fun part is how they sort it out to get their HEA.


Alright. If you're looking for fluff, this should do.
I never really connected completely with the characters, but I really want to know more about his brother The Duke and 'sister'. <-- I'm definitely going to read their book.
Profile Image for Astrid - The Bookish Sweet Tooth.
793 reviews869 followers
June 18, 2018


When you start a book by one of your favorites you expect great things. When I started Wicked and the Wallflower I felt a tiny bit let down by Sarah MacLean. To be honest, the first half of the book I struggled - while I loved Felicity and Devil, it dragged in parts and I was afraid that it would be like that all the way until the end. I feared that it would be my first low rating for Ms. MacLean. Until I came to the middle of the story and all of a sudden it went from a three star to a five star.

Let me linger a bit on the first half - I think this story would have benefited from more showing than telling. Devil's story was told in his thoughts but it was never shown to us. I would have liked to see dialogues, scenes from the past with his brothers and sister to explain why things were so hostile between the hero and his brother. However, in the second half the pace picked up considerably and threw me into a whirlwind of emotions, from anger and frustration to sappy "aawwws" and adoration for both Devil and Felicity.
“Let me tell you about passion, Felicity Faircloth. Passion is obsession. It is desire beyond reason. It is not want, but need. And it comes with the worst of sin far more often than it comes with the best of it.”

Felicity was a wonderful heroine - she had spunk and courage. Her spirit made this story - for her to feel plain and not very interesting she had so much fire and charm. Her beauty was inside and it's what drew Devil to her. She was a pariah in the circles she moved in because of one mistake. And all she wanted was being accepted back by the ton until Devil showed her that the sparkle of a ballroom is boring compared to the rugged beauty of Covent Garden.
She was so sweet, heady and lush and soft like that spun sugar from all those years ago. She was sin and sex and freedom and pleasure and something more and something worse, and he was lost in the feel of her lips and the taste of her when she opened to him like she’d been waiting her whole life for him.

Devil was the wounded soul that needed saving. He never felt he deserved the spirited Felicity Faircloth although his desperation for wanting her was so palpable. He wanted to give her to world when all she wanted was him. Devil had so much goodness him and yet he couldn't see it. The things he did for the people under his protection spoke of his character. I loved him as much as he frustrated me. He bolstered Felicity's self-worth, made her feel like the treasure she was. His determination to protect Felicity was matched by hers to break down the walls of this mysterious man. My heart broke for these two when they seemed to be at a stalemate.
"I wanted you from the start. It was only a matter of time before everything—everything—was second to me wanting you. To me keeping you safe. To me loving you.”

I adored the smart banter between the main characters but I despised Felicity's family - they were selfish, spineless bastards and I couldn't fathom why Felicity would give up her own happiness just to save their dumb asses. I adored Dev's quiet but powerful brother Whit and I am very much looking forward to getting his story. Also, Ewan and Grace have me salivating for their story and I can't wait to see how Sarah MacLean will redeem Ewan - I don't feel very benevolent toward him right now.

Ms. MacLean captures the atmosphere of Covent Garden and its dangers and harsh beauty with wonderful prose and I felt totally at home there. Her storytelling is captivating and gorgeous.

Whit's book, Brazen and the Beast, is a year away so it will be a while until I get to spend time with The Bareknuckle Bastards again. While Wicked and the Wallflower was off to a slow start it totally won me over  in the second half and it totally grabbed my by the feels and wouldn't let go. If that is how Sarah MacLean does it in this series I'm happy to grab the next one.

Profile Image for Nicola.
1,393 reviews241 followers
September 15, 2021
Was almost a DNF this one. I think the most important point to get over is that Wicked and the Wallflower is worth the perseverance if you’re prepared to, because whilst the first half was a slog, what it leads to was far better.

Copy received courtesy of Avon/HarperCollins via Edelweiss for an honest and unbiased opinion.

Profile Image for Shawna.
3,495 reviews4,555 followers
July 12, 2018
3 stars - Historical Romance

This was okay and the audiobook narrator was great. But there were definitely some things that bugged me.

*Overused historical romance tropes...The revenge plot and dark, devilish hero paired with a plain-jane spinster heroine have been done before and better.

*Very repetitive...I lost count of how many times the words/phrase “moth”, “flame”, and “moth to flame” were used. And the hero, Devil, called the heroine by her full name constantly. Seriously, he said “Felicity Faircloth” so many times in the story that I thought I’d scream.

I did like the overall arc of the story and the secondary characters. I’m looking forward to Whit’s book, and I’m curious if/how she’ll redeem Ewan.
Profile Image for Pepa.
929 reviews232 followers
January 11, 2019
Reseña completa: https://masromance.blogspot.com/2019/...

Al final se lleva las 4...
Ha empezado siendo una novela más, de esas que has leído 100 veces.
Pero creo que ella va evolucionando muy bien y pasa de ser esa solterona que ha renunciado a sus sueños a coger su futuro con las manos y luchar por él
Me ha gustado todo el tema del "trabajo" de él, interesante el tema
La historia de los tres hermanos se prevé durilla.
Admito que Devil (no sé ni cuantos protagonistas he leído ya con ese apodo) tampoco es un personaje que llame excesivamente mi atención al principio, pero al final el giro que da me ha parecido original... sin llegar nunca de ser el héroe pero manteniendo la fuerza humana (esto ya sé que es complicado de entender, pero no quiero spoilear)
Entre ellos hay una historia común pero bonita, sobre todo con esa metáfora de la llama y la polilla... y esas frases que la reafirman
Eso sí, ya deseando que publiquen el tercero que será la historia del duque y a ver si ese ser (malvado) consigue conquistarme
Profile Image for ren ♡ .
295 reviews488 followers
May 5, 2022
“When you are ignored by the stars, you wonder if you might ever burn bright."

Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about this book because of the mixed reviews but so far, I’ve enjoyed most of Sarah MacLean’s books and decided to give it a chance anyways. And I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed Wicked and the Wallflower!

I found Felicity and Devil to be compelling main characters that I couldn’t help but love and cheer for. I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it again – I love plain Jane heroines, spinsters, wallflowers, the ones that are always overlooked because they’re just more relatable and fun to read about. Felicity was such a witty and charming character, and I loved her eagerness for passion and romance despite her odds. Devil was an equally enchanting hero. I loved how mysterious, loyal and sexy he was. When he started calling Felicity "my love"... I swear, I almost combusted. 😍

Felicity and Devil’s journey in discovering what they meant to each other was so perfect. I loved their secret meet ups, and all of their conversations. I’m pretty sure I had a dumb smile on my face throughout most of the book.

However, I couldn’t help but notice how flimsy the plot was and the glaring problem in the hero’s revenge plot the whole time I was reading this book. So, I had to deduct a star there. Nonetheless, like I said in the beginning, I really enjoyed this historical romance.

I’m really interested in reading the villain’s story in book 3. It’ll be fun to see how the author redeems him.

Rating: 4/5
Profile Image for preoccupiedbybooks.
447 reviews988 followers
July 18, 2020
3.5 stars

A fun, dramatic historical romance featuring strong, sassy women, gorgeous, brooding men, lock picks, smugglers and Dukes..

I started reading this at 1.30am on Thursday night, as I couldn't sleep, and was thoroughly entertained for a few hours! It was just what I needed after my last few books, which were quite dark!

I liked Felicity, she was clever, funny, sharp and unpredictable! The whole she's so plain, and everyone constantly telling her that did get a bit old though! Also how rude?! I really liked Devil (yes Devil 😂😈) and his complicated past too, but again I did get a bit frustrated with him. The whole I want her, but she's too good for me, so I can't have her, but I want her so I'm going to kiss her then be mean was repetitive! As was the topic of the moth and the flame..

However, I was hooked to the drama, I liked the banter between the main characters, and they had good chemistry! The sex scenes were hot and I liked the consent featured. The side characters were interesting and I'm looking forward to reading about Devil's brother Whit (beast) and his sister Grace (Dhalia). I wonder if a certain Duke might be featured, and if he will be redeemed?! There is definitely great potential for this cute historical romance series! 😈😈😈1/2 lockpicking and ice smuggling stars!
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,588 reviews1,467 followers
November 4, 2018
Sale Alert: Kindle Daily Deal 03Nov18 on Amazon for $1.99

Felicity Faircloth is a fairytale name to be sure, but she never thought she’d get her fairytale until the night she met a Devil.

In a world where women are a commodity to be sold off to the highest bidder and bargained with for alliances, money and prestige Felicity has found that the family she loves is plotting to marry her off to a Duke or anyone with money really to same themselves. She thought it her place, she wanted to help, but maybe there is more to the world than being used to farther one’s family goals. Maybe just maybe she should be thinking about her own desires and the man that brings them out in her.

This is a pretty cute tale. Felicity has been cast out of the inner ring of society due to a scandal or two and makes a desperate claim in a moment of weakness. She never thought that it would go anywhere but when the Devil claims he can make it a reality, to save her family Felicity agrees to a Devils bargain.
“Let me tell you about passion, Felicity Faircloth. Passion is obsession. It is desire beyond reason. It is not want, but need. And it comes with the worst of sin far more often than it comes with the best of it.”

You know going in that the Devil and the Damsel in distress are made for each other. It will just take them a little time to sort through everything to come to that realization as well. Felicity is a lot of fun though while she is exploring the shadier side of life. She isn’t your normal woman of the gentry, she likes a little danger and adventure and has a penchant for picking locks.
“It’s not the kind of skill one expects a woman to have.”
“It’s exactly the kind of skill we should have. Our whole world is built by men. For them. And we’re simply here for decoration, brought in at the end of everything important. Well, I grow tired of ends. Locks are beginnings.”

This couple was fun, I like the discovery of the Devil’s past and how he and his brothers were raised along with the sister who is not their sister at all. There are definitely some interesting stories there and I can’t wait to find out specifically how Grace’s (the sister) story will go. I totally loved her in this and know that she is going to be a great character. Add to that a brother nicknamed Beast and I’m pretty sure that will be a story trope I can get behind since Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite re-tellings ever.

This was a great start to a new Historical Romance Series. I really enjoyed The Rules of Scoundrels series by Sarah MacLean and hope to enjoy this series just as much if not more
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,371 reviews1,835 followers
June 11, 2018
"So many doors are closed to all but a fraction of us. Why should others be the ones to decide which doors are for me?"

I'm like this | | close to awarding this a five but there was one bit at the end there I didn't quite love. I still might come back and round-up though. However.. this is hands down my favourite MacLean to-date. I'm perhaps not as well versed in her stories as I should be but I've dabbled in the starter books of two different series and completed the one that this one off-shoots from (Scandal & Scoundrel) with good, but not great, results. WICKED AND THE WALLFLOWER blew my medium expectations out of the water. And I highlighted the shit out of this book.

"My mother has strict requirements for any suitor."
"For example?"
"A heartbeat."

I'm not sure any romance reader is averse to the good girl + bad boy trope and it's often sexier in the historical romance genre.

No one liked a spinster less than the world that made her.

With an almost-on-the-shelf wallflower, twenty-seven, plain, and very nearly ruined by being courted, and then dismissed, by a Duke, Felicity Faircloth is feeling both resentful and envious of the fact that she is no longer accepted by society, and no longer desirable, if she ever really was. And yet she still requires a husband, she must still attend balls in hopes of catching the eye of a potential suitor, even if every outing has her feeling more discarded, more alone, than the one before. She wants the love and acceptance her brother found in his marriage, the love that kept the Duke of Haven from offering for her, when he was so desperate for his wife. And though every potential suitor on offer by way of her brother is wealthy, could guarantee her the kind of life for which she is accustomed to, she dismisses them, thinking she is still not so desperate to accept a proposal she doesn't want.

"Mr. Binghamton is deadly dull."
"He's rich as a king."
"Not rich enough for me to marry, I'm afraid. Wealth does not purchase a personality."

But when her circumstances change, when an ill-timed lie backs her into a corner, her rescuer is not the expected white knight in shining armour. His name, in fact, is Devil.

"I thought I had money. Someone stole it. I didn't even feel it."
"Our cutpurses are the best in town."
"You must be very proud."

And he lives upto his name. Devil sees in Felicity the perfect chance for revenge. Revenge against his brother, one of three bastards born to the Duke of Mayfair, who, through a complicated set of circumstances, has inherited their father's title. With the current Duke of Mayfair on the hunt for a wife, which would betray an oath the boys took as children, and with Felicity spouting off that she has ensnared the new Duke, Devil makes her a bargain. He promises her that she will win her Duke and have her happily ever after. All she needs to do is grant him a boon for his services. He never imagines that this plain wallflower, almost a spinster, might bring Devil, one of the Bareknuckle Bastards, the King of Covent Garden, to his knees.

He wondered what he might have done to open that door if he'd known she was on the other side.

There were so many elements at play in this new series opener that I loved. There was ice-smuggling. There was a lock-picking spinster. There was a revenge plot. Complicated backstory. A self-aware heroine who longs to leave the glittering world she's always known for something.. more. A broody hero with legitimate trust and self-worth issues. So much delicious potential for future books and characters (which, I mean, we obviously know we're getting). Fabulously written sex scenes with dialogue chockful of consent and agency. A villain who might be more layered than your standard cat-stroking mustache-twirler. And quite a few scenes that made me outright laugh.

"I'm not happy with you right now, Felicity Faircloth."
"I can see that, as you just broke down a door."

I can't wait for book two!

4.5 "I'm going to steal you and make you mine / it's not theft if I allow it" stars

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Profile Image for Lana ❇✾DG Romance❇✾.
2,000 reviews11.8k followers
June 21, 2018
Felicity Faircloth was perfection—the first taste of it Devil had ever had. She tasted like a promise.

Wicked and the Wallflower is the first installment in a brand new series that's sure to be a new addiction for me from one of my favorite historical romance authors. However, I've been sitting on my rating for this book for a couple weeks now, somewhat stumped in how to rate it. I was completely enamored with the story in the first 15%, then somewhere along the way it began to lose me, only to reel me back in in the second half.
This world is all sin, Felicity, and I am the worst of it.”

I love a broody and broken hero, and Devil certainly fits the bill. This is a man that went through hell as a child, only to come up swinging. Now he's one of the notorious Bareknuckle Bastards, as rich as he is ruthless, and running a crime ring in the heart of Covent Garden. For years, Devil has yearned for revenge against those that wronged him and his family, and he's so close he can taste it now. But a woman just may throw a wrench into his hard built plans.
You wish to do the consuming.” She wished to be wanted. Beyond reason. She wished to be ached for. “You wish for him to fly into your flame.”

Lady Felicity Faircloth is in desperate need to wed a Duke. A mistake has now put her on the outskirts of the Ton, and made her into a social pariah. Her only recourse to help herself and her family is to wed a Duke. But Felicity is no vain or mindless twit. This is a woman of passion that will not settle for anything other than true love; no matter how much her incredibly selfish family pushes her otherwise.
For surely, no man on earth should be as handsome as this one. He looked remarkably like his voice sounded. Like a low, liquid rumble. Like temptation. Like sin.

A bargain with the Devil just may be the answer she seeks, but it doesn't go quite as planned.

I was instantly hooked from the first chapter of this book. I was intrigued by Devil and his story, as well as those of his brothers and sister. This was also the reason for my later struggle. Because while the author paints a beguiling picture with this character, she doesn't quite give the character development that I yearned for. There's a lot backstory to him that seems to happen off the pages, things that the reader is told, but you don't quite feel it. I struggled with this for the better part of the first half of the book. I wanted more of a connection to Devil and his past.

Felicity was a heroine I loved straight away. She's full of spark and sharp wit. I couldn't get enough of her. In a world of propriety beyond all, she stood out like a flame. She knew what she wanted and she wasn't afraid to voice it or to go after it. She was the perfect balance to Devil and I couldn't get enough of their chemistry.
I’m going to steal you, instead,” he said then, knowing she’d hear the words as part of the story and not as she should—as the truth. “I’m going to steal you,” he confessed again. “I’m going to steal you and make you mine.” “It’s not theft if I allow it,” she whispered. Silly girl; of course it was. But it wouldn’t stop him.

The second half of the book is where it really hooked me. We get a lot more story on Devil (though never quite as much as I hoped for) and the romance truly begins to bloom.

Sarah MacLean has a way with words that I simply adore, and she has hooked me completely on The Bareknuckle Bastards. I'm captivated and already salivating to learn more about Beast, Cassie, and even more of the naughty Duke himself. The romance here was a slow burn but oh so satisfying. With plenty of chemistry to keep a reader yearning for Felicity and Duke's HEA. So while it wasn't quite what I had hoped, it still kept me glued to the pages and eager to see what happens in the end. I can't wait for more in this series!

ARC courtesy of publisher in exchange for an honest review

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Profile Image for Stacee.
2,694 reviews702 followers
March 17, 2019
March 2019: I just really love this book. I don’t think I could add anything to my review because I still feel the same as I did when I read it last year. I love Felicity and Devil so much and I really need to see them in the next book of this series.


June 2018: Well, I was in a weird mood slash slump sort of thing when I started this book and it was literally the perfect thing.

I love love loved Felicity and Devil. She’s sassy and picks locks and he’s a marshmallow with a gruff exterior. They’re both so stubborn and have things in common and their banter is some of the best. The chemistry is off the charts and I absolutely adored all of the scenes of them together.

Plot wise, it was fantastic. There was some push and pull and of course there’s the push away because sacrifice, but it doesn’t last too long. The ending is perfection and the epilogue wasn’t enough because I wasn’t ready for it to be over.

This will definitely be a book I reread. I’m seriously debating starting it all over again. I’ll just be over here waiting for the next book in the series.

**Huge thanks to Avon Books for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Addie H.
490 reviews226 followers
February 7, 2021
On kindle sale today Feb 7th 2021 for USD $1.99

(Tropes: Spinster, Mistake Identity, Forbidden Love, Class Difference, Opposites Attract)

This book was incredibly hard to put down, and the family dynamics between the 3 bastard brothers and sister (all subsequent books of course) was quite fascinating and I will definitely read the rest.

The 2/3 are the strongest, and at times it is a tad melodramatic, but trust me..just go with it.


There had been a time when he might have been the duke. When he might have been able to give Felicity Faircloth the life of which she dreamed. And for a fleeting moment, he wondered what he might have done to open that door if he’d known she was on the other side.



Felicity is unique (once she gets over her slight obsession to be back in with her horrible ton friends), won’t take no for an answer and has a dry sense of humour. Devil is captivating, and I don’t blame Felicity one bit for not being able to stay away from him or the world he lives in. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Devil can’t resist her either, despite a looming deceit threatening to do irreparable damage.

- “I was looking forward to the set-down you appeared ready to deliver. I didn’t think you would be so easily put off.”
“Oh, I am not put off at all. Indeed, I’m grateful that you are no longer the most perfect man I’ve ever seen.”

- “No one saw me.”
“I’m sure not for lack of you sticking out like a daisy in dirt.”
Her brows rose. “A daisy in dirt?”
His lips flattened. “It’s a figure of speech.”
She tilted her head. “It is?”

- “Oh, yes,” she scoffed. “Aboveboard is one of the top three adjectives I would use to describe you. Immediately following proper and uninteresting.”

- “You don’t just come to see me, Felicity.”
“Why not? I’ve something to discuss with you.”
“It doesn’t matter. When we’ve things to discuss, I shall find you. You don’t just turn up in the rookery.”
“Is this a rookery? I’ve never been to one.”

- Everyone was always on about women’s décolletages and how corsetry was growing more salacious by the minute and skirts clung too close to women’s legs, but had any one of those people seen a man without a coat? Good God.


- “I should have killed him for touching it,” he said, softly.
“It wasn’t . . .” She hesitated, then whispered, “It wasn’t like this.”
His gaze found hers in the darkness. “What does that mean?”
“I won’t remember him,” she said. “Not when you are here now.”

- He’d given her access to his world in a way no man ever had before. And now, drunk on the power that came with that access, she wanted all of it. Every inch. More.

- When the kiss ended, they were both panting. He wrapped a large, firm hand around the back of her neck and pressed his forehead to hers.
He closed his eyes and said, achingly soft, “It’s the only truth. I want you. I’ve never in my life even dreamed of wanting something like you. Something pristine and perfect.”
His eyes opened, finding hers instantly. “It’s like wanting sunlight.”

- She was giving him the chance to give her the life she deserved. All he had to do was stomach losing her. All he had to do was choose her over himself.



- Her eyes closed, long dark lashes a sooty slash against her skin, luminous in the ethereal, icy light for half a moment before they opened again, found his.
“Unlock me,” she whispered.


4.25 stars
Profile Image for Stacey.
1,447 reviews1,158 followers
June 26, 2018
Are we there yet...?

I liked Wicked and the Wallflower but to be honest, it dragged for me. It took me way too long to get through this story and I normally devour anything Sarah MacLean writes. I think my biggest problem was that I never really connected with the characters. I thought the heroine was a ninny, the hero not as tough/strong/intimidating as I was told, and the villain a little insipid. Harsh, I know, but I needed more from them. I just didn't feel part of this story and never felt a desperate need to keep going.

She's a plain spinster, her name is in tatters and her family is desperate for her to marry. The only way she can improve her situation is to marry well and by well, I mean financially well. When the Duke of Marwick aka The Mad Duke, comes to town, it seems like the perfect answer to her problems.

He's on a mission of revenge and she's the instrument to cause the most destruction. What better way to seek his revenge than laying a trap for the Duke to fall for Lady Lockpick. He wants the Duke to suffer and at first, he's willing to do whatever it takes to get his revenge.

Neither knew that what they wished for wasn't all that they desired.

There was definitely chemistry between the characters but I wasn't completely convinced in their love story. I'm going to put in spoilers my biggest problem with the story and where it took my rating from a 4 star to a 3 star.

You can't win them all. Don't go by my review alone as a lot of others enjoyed Wicked and the Wallflower. I'm not writing the series off as I enjoyed meeting Devil, Whit, Grace, Nik and Evan. I think Evan's hiding something...maybe even protecting them from a truth? Oh well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,414 reviews959 followers
August 23, 2018
3.5 stars

A man called Devil turns out to be a mostly honorable scoundrel, meanwhile a shunned wallflower suddenly finds herself no longer concerned much about propriety when faced with freedom. I liked the banter between the two main characters, but the 'setting you free because I am not worthy of you' trope is uninteresting and illogical considering at that time she would be set free...to be alone and shunned by everyone she knows and thrusting her entire family into poverty. Gee, thanks?

Also repetitive words - darkness/light, moth/flame, and her full name Felicity Faircloth

I'll more than likely read the next two books to see what happens to the rest of the siblings, but man their father was quite promiscuous!
Profile Image for Christie«SHBBblogger».
954 reviews1,231 followers
June 13, 2018

Title: Wicked and the Wallflower
Series: Bareknuckle Bastards #1
Author: Sarah MacLean
Release date: June 19, 2018
Cliffhanger: No

Men raised in the dark will do anything for light. She wondered if he realized how much she wanted to explore the darkness.

Sarah MacLean thrilled me with this first installment in the Bareknuckle Bastards series! It's one of those books that you greedily consume, then slowly sigh in contentment after turning the last page. After that? You'll want to flip back to the beginning and re-read your favorite parts all over again because you want it to last just a little bit longer. There's nothing like the rush of starting a new series that checks every single historical romance box you have, and that's exactly what I found in Wicked and the Wallflower.

The Bareknuckle Bastards rule the seedy side of London with an iron fist, and merciless retribution for anyone that cross them. Their road to wealth and power began with street fighting, and eventually led to a smuggling empire built out of sheer grit and determination. No one is immune to their control. Not even the man who calls himself Robert, Duke of Marwick. One of three bastard sons to born to the former Duke, the title and lands were conceded to him under the deal with his brothers that he would never have any children to continue the family line. It was the one promise of solidarity after the years of terror and abuse he subjected them to. Once it was known that he intended to renege on their deal, the gloves came off, and things promised to get dirty.

The backstory of the group's tragic childhood is presented here with just enough detail to intrigue without slowing down the pace of the plot. Oftentimes, setting up a series can take away from the romance development, but that wasn't the case with Devil and Felicity. I felt the intensity of their attraction in every witty verbal match, and every sly glance.

Devil is a character that I shouldn't have liked based on his selfish scheming to use Felicity as a disposable pawn in his power play. But right from the very start, there's something about him that draws you in and snares your attention. He's a hardened man, scarred physically and emotionally, exuding an air of mystery and wickedness. But all it takes is one meeting on a dark balcony with Felicity Faircloth before you see the struggle with his conscience trying to break through.

Once one of the brightest stars of society, a scandal and financial ruin have killed Felicity's chances of every marrying, which places her firmly "on the shelf." The lords and ladies she once considered friends now turn up their noses in her presence. They either pretend as if she doesn't exist, or go out of their way to humiliate her. She's hurt and vulnerable when she boldly (and foolishly) starts a rumor that she has hooked the hottest catch of the year: the Duke of Marwick. And with this lie, she unknowingly steps into a situation that's sure to dig a deep grave for the final resting place of her reputation.

I loved Felicity's surprising gift of lockpicking. It was one of those things about her that contradicted the plain and boring label that came along with being a wallflower. I don't think I've read a heroine quite like her before which was extremely refreshing.

“I pick locks because I can. Because there are very few things in the world I can control, and locks are something I am good at. They are a barrier I can clear. And a secret I can know. And in the end, they bend to my will and . . .” She shrugged. “I like that.”

Underestimated and overlooked by everyone, it left her with an emptiness that she mistakenly believed could be filled by their acceptance. Like many women of her time, she didn't have a lot of freedom or choices. Her family was horribly selfish, and expected her to clean up their mess like a sacrificial lamb sent off to slaughter. So not only was she mistreated by those she once considered her friends, but she didn't even have family who truly cared about her wellbeing. That's a pretty lonely place to be, and it left her ripe for the alluring promises Devil whispered in her ear. She wanted fire and passion, but not just that, she wanted to do the burning. She wanted to know what it was like to captivate a man and inspire uncontrollable passion.

“You are the most remarkable woman I’ve ever known, and if I have only this moment—this present—with you, then I wish to make you burn until you’ve made the stars jealous of your heat.”

That quote right there...easily a favorite from the entire book, but there were SO MANY that held me absolutely riveted and on edge. You know that there is going to be a moment of reckoning when the truth comes out, and that makes for some deliciously angsty reading. I'm telling you, I was hopelessly ADDICTED to the sparks that flew between this couple.

Devil's siblings Whit and Dahlia were amazing in their own right, and brimming with potential. However, Dahlia is my favorite of the two as the reigning Queen Covent Garden. She is one serious badass who can hold her own in the streets, and I have a feeling that her book is going to be the most exciting of the entire series. After reading this story, I am officially stalking Brazen and the Beast until its June 2019 publication. Take my word for it, you do not want to miss this one.



Profile Image for Crystal's Bookish Life.
758 reviews1,290 followers
March 5, 2022
Re reading 2022: I loved this even more upon re read. I feel like this book specifically shows the very important work Sarah does in her books. And like I was just swooning so hard the whole time.

Originally read 2020: This was charming as all get out. I LOVED every bit of it.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,901 reviews1,507 followers
August 30, 2019
Even though this is the first in a "new" series, MacLean has this habit that I hate where she populates all her books with couples from previous works. It makes it hard for me to skip or jump in because I hate feeling like I'm missing something. That is very much the case in this one because Felicity has been a marplot in at least two other stories and her twin was the hero of another.

My hit/miss ratio with MacLean isn't very good and this one will tank it further. All the contrivance to setup the conflict in this one had my eyes rolling so hard I was looking into safety goggles "just in case". When Felicity kicked in with the dumbest possible lie that obviously wasn't going to achieve her sole aim in the conversation I knew I was on my last reserve. It was like if a snotty reviewer showed up at a bakery and the head baker decided that the best thing to do was sprinkle basilicum powder on all the cream puffs because "that'd show him". I mean, it doesn't achieve the goal and only serves to remove any good outcome right from the start.

And then Felicity learns that her brother from the previous book, the one with "the Midas touch" had "lost everything, absolutely everything" in a single venture and that her father had done the same I just couldn't continue. I mean, not only was Felicity made stupid in order to put her on her back foot socially, but her family had to be pummeled with the stupid stick so that she'd have to make her family's money situation a point of conflict for the eventual relationship, too. It's contrived and manipulated and what that means is that I can't trust this story to be about people having actual relationship issues because the author is going to stick her finger in the soup any time she feels like it.

Yeah, so I'm done, is what I'm saying. And maybe I need to stop giving Sarah MacLean chances, even when I can get them for free...
Profile Image for Katyana.
1,442 reviews181 followers
July 8, 2018

Well. This is a Sarah MacLean misfire, imo. I suppose it had to happen eventually. Honestly, I thought it would happen with Haven's book, but no, he won me over.

Devil, however, did not.

I really like Felicity. And for most of the book, I sympathized with Devil, and liked him. But when she threw herself at him for the 294857378945th time and he crushed her and pushed her away, I was fucking done.

This book is 100% Felicity making herself vulnerable, Felicity trying to win over Devil, Felicity bending over backwards to win him. He does nothing - and I mean nothing, because NO,

By the end of the book, I despised Devil, to a shocking degree. He was a fucking coward, and a high-handed asshole who does nothing to win Felicity. Well, except for

Fuck him. And fuck her family, because they are the worst. They hold over her head the scandal of Haven's book - her going to compete to be his wife - when her idiot mother DRAGGED her there. They don't tell her what's really going on - - oh no. Better to treat Felicity as the whipping post, blame her for the whole fall of the family and manipulate her into a shitty, hateful marriage just to fix their own fucking problems.

And the fact that, despite telling Felicity that they are trash that are using her, fucking Devil ... well, that's the point where I truly, utterly despised him. Like, the heroine treated it as the saving moment, but for me it was the final nail in the shitshow coffin.

Fuck Devil and fuck Felicity's family. I wish she'd have taken all the money and left the country, frankly. Fuck one-sided relationships with one partner hurling themselves at the other and being hurt over and over until he finally goes "okay, I guess I'll take you." Why would I ever believe in this relationship? The truth is, it looks like Felicity will always be bending over backwards to prove her love to Devil, because he's a selfish insecure asshole who will jump on any small thing as if it underscores how she should not be with him. She pretty much had to batter him into the relationship, and in no universe do I believe it will be a good one.
Profile Image for Grecia Robles.
1,452 reviews326 followers
May 13, 2020
Si no mal recuerdo este es el cuarto libro que leo de Sarah MacLean y sin duda ninguno se le acerca al libro de MI Gabriel el de 9 reglas, tal vez está muy de cerca el de El Canalla que no lo era

Aunque este libro si me gustó, al principio es un poco lento y no me terminaba de convencer pero conforme más me adentré a la lectura no podía dejar de leer.
Sin duda Sara MacLean hacer protagonistas que tienen una gran química que su tensión sexual es palpable durante todo el libro y cuando al fin se consuma es UFFF 🔥🔥

Está ambientado principalmente en el bajo mundo de Londres Convent Garden donde Devil es rey juntos con sus hermanos Los Bastardos de Bareknuckle.

La historia se centra principalmente en traiciones y venganza, tratos incumplidos de 4 hermanos que son bastardos y que sólo uno llegó a ser duque por medio de la traición.

Los protagonistas me gustaron, tuvieron momentos divertidos, sexis, conversaciones ingeniosas, y me gustaba mucho cuando estaban juntos sacaban chispas.

Voy a seguir leyendo la serie porque me intriga la historia del Duque y Grace pero tengo el presentimiento que no va a ser mi tipo de historia, además que la autora tendrá que redimir y justificar bastante a ese personaje para que llegue a enamorarme porque ser un duque no es suficiente.
Profile Image for Mei.
1,881 reviews410 followers
June 25, 2018
Revenge plot between two brothers turns sour when one falls for the tool of that revenge!

Felicity, the wallflower, has been chosen by Devil as a tool to thwart his brother's plot of getting a heir, but almost since the beginning Devil is intrigued by the seeminly plain woman.

As the time passes he is more and more attracted to her. She's not plain at all! On the contrary, she's very much smart and intelligent and challenges his in unexcpected ways!

I liked both Felicity and Devil, but also Grace and Whit and I almost liked Ewan too! I'm expecting that SML will develop their stories in the next books!

We get to see here that there's more to the story about their father and his monstruous challenges he throw his children in. I have high hopes for Grace and Ewan's story! The way Ewan is referring to Grace didn't seemed to me as how a man who wants her dead is behaving! To me it seems like a deeply in love man would behave! And Grace too. There must be some deep secret there and I'm curious to discover it!

Yes, I know Ewan appears a the villain here, but I just don't want to belive it! :)
Profile Image for Riley.
424 reviews20.8k followers
July 4, 2018
This was my first Sarah MacLean book and I can definitely see why she is so popular!

Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,843 reviews5,560 followers
August 8, 2019
*3.5 stars*

Wicked and the Wallflower took me over a month to finish, and it has extremely mixed reviews from my friends, so I'm as surprised as you guys are to report that I actually really liked it.

I read the book in paperback, which is not the format I reach for most of the time. I put this one down for a couple of weeks at a time, sort of forgetting about it, only to be extremely engrossed once I picked it back up.

I had some issues, mainly with the name "Devil" being a distraction and some unanswered questions as to the set up of the Bareknuckle Bastards and their backstory, but I'm excited to read the rest of the books and find all of those details out for myself. I think the book felt a bit long in places and overworked, but there was something there that I enjoyed.

We'll see where the next book in the series takes me. This time, I'm reading on my Kindle.

Profile Image for Lover of Romance.
2,756 reviews795 followers
August 1, 2018
This review was originally posted on Addicted To Romance

*May Contain Spoilers*

Wicked and the Wallflower is the first book in the latest and newest series by Sarah MacLean...The Bareknuckled Bastards. I have no clue why I held off reading this book for so long, because WOW, I was impressed. This might be one of my favorite books that this author has written since her first trilogy. And I am so GLAD that I decided to try this book out in audio format because the narrator was just wonderful and she really added in the humor just right.

The Bareknuckled Bastards is a series that features around three siblings---technically there are four...but I am not sure if he is a villain or an anti-hero, this story didn't really decide that factor for me but I don't really like him so I am leaning towards villain. These four siblings were brought together when they were children, three boys, and one girl. All the boys were born on the same day, fathered by the same father but each had different mothers. They all came from less than ideal backgrounds, and then their father wanting his "heir" forced them to fight for the title. And the brother that won the title betrayed them all and now the three siblings joined forced, fought there way to the top and became known as the kings and Queen of Covent Garden and London's underworld.  All three of these siblings are such a HOOT.  I mean honestly, each of these three was so intriguing, but I think the sister intrigued me the most. But their kinship towards each other is so heartfelt and you can see even though they are so badass in the underworld, they will do anything to protect each other.

When the brother that is a Duke returns to London against their previous agreement, looking for a wife, they know they must prevent this from happening. They made a vow when they were children, to not let their father have his "heir" after what he did to them and what he made them do to survive. Devil "Devlin" has come up with a plan, a plan that must work but it might involve capturing the attention of a woman that will change him and his world.

Felicity Fairchild is known as a wallflower, although she used to be part of a social circle until a scandal that wasn't her fault got her in trouble and she found herself in a man's bedchamber who refused to do the honorable thing and marry her. Which Felicity is very grateful for even if it has cast her into the shadows when she was once in the center of attention. But she would like to return to that world one day before she was cast out and betrayed by those she called "friends". While out on a balcony, she meets a dark stranger, "Devil" who is temptation and witty and makes her laugh but stays hidden in the shadows. And out of a fit of anger, she declares to her "old" friends, that she is engaged to the Duke, well her life is about to go a bit crazy because Devil turns up when she least expects and makes promises to return her to the world she misses. Devil likes to do this on his own time table, but Felicity doesn't work with his clock and shows up on his doorstep, picking his locks, shocking him and pleasing his siblings.
“You should not have come.”
She swallowed, refusing to let him win. “Why not?”
“Because it is dangerous,” he said quietly, sending a shiver of belief through her. “Because the rookeries are no place for pretty girls with a breathless anticipation of adventure.”

Devil doesn't know what to make of Felicity, but she is the first woman to truly make him laugh and charms him in a way he has never felt before. But he doesn't know what to do with this unpredictable woman who isn't your typical wallflower you find among the Ton. She might not be a great beauty, but she has her own lovely appearance that is fascinating, her personality is passionate and creative and she is quite willful and independent and she is way more daring that he ever expects her to be.

Felicity has been betrayed by her friends, and her family wants to put her on the "marriage mart" to save them from financial ruin because of their own foolish plans and they don't seem to care what she deserves....to have a marriage like her brother and sister in law have, one of love and affection. She wants to be wanted and loved. At first Felicity thinks she wants the world of Mayfair and ballrooms and soirees, but she realizes that she isn't fit for that life....the life she truly wants is one with Devil in Convent Garden where he is in command of everything and everyone, where he lives in the shadows.

I always get a kick out of the heroes and heroines that this author writes, but I will say that this book still surprised me. And man...Devil and Felicity really surprised me, both of them really. I mean first off, Devil has a BAD plan, and you just know that from the beginning it's going to backfire on him. I understand where he is coming from, and quite frankly in his world he isn't used to dealing with people and women like Felicity who just come and go into his rookery whenever they please, picks his locks----even the ones he thinks are unpickable, and makes him fall in love before he knows it....his brother and sister know it before he accepts it.
Let me tell you about passion, Felicity Faircloth. Passion is obsession. It is desire beyond reason. It is not want, but need. And it comes with the worst of sin far more often than it comes with the best of it

There are so many swoony moments between the two. And some really sexy moments that I guarantee will make you swoon. The sex scene on the roof was DELCIOUS....it was so well written and it might not be super explicit but so provocative and sensual.
Felicity Faircloth, you are not what I expected. "

"You say that as though it is a compliment."

"It is."

"Will it still be one when I hit you square in the head with this candlestick?"

But Felicity, she really packs a punch with this book, because she is a fighter and when she realizes what she wants for her life, and realizes she wants Devil and his rookery and his secretive life, she wants that too and fights for it and really proves to Devil that he is important even when she learns the truth about what he keeps from her. She ROCKS y'all, she just rocked this book so dang well and she makes the perfect match for Devil.
I want to stay in your world. In the darkness. Beneath the stars.”

Overall I found Wicked and the Wallflower to be a highly amusing romance that takes you from London's ballrooms to Covent Garden, to making love on rooftops, a lockpicking heroine, an underground king for a hero and a sensual love affair that defies scandal and danger. AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED LOVE TALE!!!



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