Note: The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes has a direct connection to The Queer Principles of Kit Webb. The timelines overlap and the book, the blurb, and this review will all spoil elements of the ending of that first story. While most of the key points that affect Marian and Rob from the first book are recapped here, I do think the books are best read in order starting with Kit Webb.
Marian Hayes learned from her blackmailer that she is not, in fact, the rightful Duchess of Clare. That title goes to the woman the Duke married years ago secretly in France. In return for his silence, the blackmailer wanted 500 pounds, however Marian and the Duke’s son, Percy, decided to turn the tables and let the truth come out. They just needed to steal a book of the Duke’s that would allow them to have some money to live on once the truth was revealed. Things were going great, until everything fell apart and Marian shot the Duke. Now, she has no idea if the Duke will live or if she will find herself wanted for murder, and Marian has no idea where to turn. The only person she knows who might be able to help her out of this mess is the blackmailer himself.
When Rob found out that his mother actually married the Duke years ago, he was quite horrified. Rob has made a living stealing from the rich and giving to the poor and the last thing he possibly wants is to be the rightful heir to a dukedom. Rob figured the best he could hope for is to use the information to keep Marian and Percy quiet, while also making sure that Marian knew the truth about her marriage. Yet somehow, through all their correspondence, Rob has found that he quite likes Marian despite himself. So when Marian comes to him in shock after shooting the Duke, Rob agrees to help her out.
As the two travel to Marian’s family home to ride things out until they know whether the Duke survived the gun shot, they get to know each other even better. That connection and spark they felt through their letter writing is even more intense in person. Rob finds himself charmed by Marian’s prickly sharpness and loves her strength, intensity, and determination. And Marian can’t help but admire Rob’s friendliness, warmth, and easy-going nature. The two begin to fall for one another, but the obstacles in front of them are huge. Marian’s life is in upheaval and she is about to be revealed as the Duke’s unlawful wife; Rob is the rightful heir who has no desire to claim the title; and at some point, both of them have to figure out their futures after this immediate crisis is over. But Rob and Marian have fallen for one another and they are determined to find a way to make their lives work together.
The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes is a delightful follow up to The Queer Principles of Kit Webb. I really enjoyed the first book, but I absolutely adored this one! Rob and Marian have such an incredible spark between them that just leaps off the page, and I found them tremendous fun.
The story starts off with a series of letters between the pair as Rob is attempting to blackmail Marian. I say attempting because Marian is having absolutely none of it and keeps Rob quite on his toes. The two start off as enemies, but we see through the letters how entertained both of them are with each other. The story then jumps to the aftermath of Marian shooting the Duke and the only person she can think to go to for help is Rob. Things then take on a road trip element as the two travel together to Marian’s family home. It gives them a chance to get to know each other better and the dire situation (and Marian’s eminent practicality) means there is an informality to their experience that really builds a connection between them. I love the way that both Rob and Marian sort of adore each other despite themselves. Marian isn’t the easiest or most agreeable woman (as she will admit), but Rob is absolutely charmed by pretty much everything about her — as was I. Marian is such a great character with so much strength and fire and I loved seeing her face down problems with a determination to just get shit done. For her part, Marian loves Rob soft side. He may be a thief, but the money goes to pretty much anyone he meets. He never met a person who wasn’t a friend within minutes. He adopts every stray animal. He is sweet and kind and he will do anything at all to make Marian happy. After her horrible marriage to a cruel man, it takes a while for Marian to trust in Rob’s goodness, but she is ultimately able to relax and know Rob would never hurt her. There is a bit of the “grumpy one is soft for the sunshiney one” vibe here, which is a favorite trope of mine. I just adored them together (particularly their bit of power exchange in bed as Rob loves to let Marian take over) and found them such an appealing couple.
Aside from the relationship, the story also resolves the issues of the Duke’s murder and the aftermath. We see how both Rob and Marian fare, as well as reconnect with Kit and Percy, as they are tangled up in things as well. There is also a minor side plot relating to one of Marian’s father’s neighbors who is taking advantage of him and we see Marian embark on a bit of crime of her own to get the situation fixed. It all leads to a really lovely resolution for all four characters and brings everyone to a great place.
So I absolutely loved this one and found Rob and Marian such a fun and charming couple. I had a great time following along on their adventures and it was nice to see everyone find their happy ending here. This is a great set of books and I can highly recommend them both.