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Friday, August 3, 2012

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean


A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen's club.

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she's vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she's been missing.

But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.

If she's not careful, she'll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love.

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A fun read that will have you laughing and cringing at turns. Surprisingly modern in many ways, the characters are still bound by the morals and social restrictions of their time which both adds to the hilarity and makes you feel sympathy for the characters at times for the social bonds they have to live with.



Calpurnia, Callie, is a young woman who, at 28, has been pretty firmly on the shelf for some time. It's been so long since she's been invited to dance at a ball that she heads for the "spinster seating" almost automatically upon arriving at one. She apparently hasn't given it all that much thought either until her younger sister gets engaged to a Duke, and suddenly she starts to wonder when she became a woman who wears lace caps and sits with the spinsters and never even attempts to do anything else. Realizing that she doesn't really have to guard her reputation quite as stringently as she always has anymore, she makes a list of scandalous things she wants to do - things that men are allowed to do without question but women never are - and resolves to check off each item on the list. Starting with being kissed. Passionately. Fearing to lose her nerve, she slips out of the house and goes over to Ralston's house in the wee hours of the evening and asks him to kiss her. And thus begins her great adventure.

Ralston has spent the last decade or more cultivating the reputation of being a rake and a libertine. He's been with several women, and kept more than one mistress over the years, until suddenly he's faced with the need to clean up his act and at least attempt to repair his reputation for the sake of his new-found Italian sister, Juliana, who he wishes to introduce to society in hopes of making a decent match for her. Her illegitimate (by English standards at least) birth, and the scandalous reputation of their mother are two big strikes against her being accepted, however, and he knows that his own reputation won't help matters. Most fortuitously, fate delivers Callie, whose reputation is spotless and whose family is held in high regard by the ton, to his bedchamber. Though taken aback by her highly unusual request that he kiss her, he nevertheless agrees on the condition that she agree to help introduce his sister to London society and back her with the power of her reputation and family name. And thus is a romance begun, though neither of them know it yet.

Callie and Ralston are both very engaging and believable characters. Callie has a lot of spunk despite having lived her live fairly passively thus far, and once she's decided upon a course she sticks to it regardless of what happens. Fiercely protective of her friends and family, she won't hesitate to stand up in support of someone she feels close to if she feels they are being treated unfairly. Standing up for herself, however, is another matter entirely, and she suffers greatly from insecurity and low self-esteem, especially as regards her looks and her desirability as a romantic or marital partner. Having always thought of herself as plain, a view that has been reinforced by comments made by countless friends and family members over the years, she stubbornly refuses to believe that Ralston (or anyone for that matter) could ever find her attractive or want to marry her.

Despite the build-up about how Ralston has such a roguish reputation, very little of that is seen in this book. Indeed, he often comes off as being more respectable and prudish than Callie who has always maintained an impeccable reputation and had never even once thought of doing any of the many things she now can't wait to try. In a nice bit of role-reversal, it is usually Ralston that is restraining Callie from her wilder flights of fancy and counseling her toward greater decorum, even though at first he largely only does so out of concern that Juliana's chances of being accepted will be further damaged if Callie's reputation becomes tainted since the two will be linked in the eyes of society. Still, his concerns don't stop Ralston from becoming Callie's partner in crime as it were, and it's primarily his assistance that enables her to get away with some of her wilder exploits.

The story takes a few twists and turns, and though largely predictable, things don't always play out quite how you'd expect them to. That, and the author's sense of humor and the often hilarious situations that Callie gets into keep the book fresh and fun and make it hard to put down. I'd definitely recommend this one to anyone who's a fan of historical romance, romance in general, or who just likes a good amusing read.

1 comment:

  1. It's been ages since I read this one and you've got me smiling remembering it. It really is a fun read. Loved the whole series and wished there had been more of them :) Glad you enjoyed it too!

    Anna@herding cats & burning soup

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