I first received a copy of this book in the mail as a lovely surprise. I had not heard of the book or the author, but I’ve been on a historical romance kick lately so I was willing to give it a try. I got a pleasant surprise though it sat me back on my heels a few times when the story didn’t act like I thought it would.
Normally, I would move into the summary and then discuss my impressions, but I’m going to tackle this review a bit differently. I’m going to blend my summary with my impressions.
Many times a book claims to be about a rake or has that in the title and it turns out that the character is not anything of the sort. I think the term ‘rake’ meant something of a harsher nature back in the day than it does now. It’s more romanticized these days I think like we do with our gentleman thieves, mercenary soldiers, mafia dons, gang leaders, MC bikers, etc. I hear it and I picture a bad boy character- the bad boy who just needs the right woman to save him. I muse on this because of the direction this book took my thoughts.
The rake in this story, Phillip Montcalm, by the societal rules of the day, was indeed a true rake. He stopped short of seducing virgins and the very young ladies, the unavailable or ravishing the unwilling, but he truly went about his business with the ladies delving into sensual delights keeping stuff strictly physical. He had a reputation and even a title given by society because of it, ‘Lord of the Rakes’. He doesn’t flaunt his behavior, he acts the gentleman in public and comes from a noble family so he is still received by Society’s hostesses, but he is watched warily by the mamas and papas of young innocent daughters. He does no real worthwhile things, but is fairly typical of the rich, idle sons of the nobility. What really floored me was that his actions were condoned and encouraged by his own father who was chair-bound due to a hunting accident so lived vicariously through Phillip. As Phillip’s story was revealed in the book, his behavior started to make sense and it made sense why he is a rake just waiting for reform. He has just been pitched to the curve by a cheating lover so he is ripe for a new conquest and his eyes settle on the amber gowned beauty, Lady Caroline Delamarre with the seeking eyes.
That leads me to the other main character, Lady Caroline Delamarre. Caroline has grown up hidden away and repressed on her family’s country estate because it is thought that she has the same unstable nature as her mother. Her mother went through bouts of illness and depression so her father’s methods were to keep her quietly away from others. Caroline is given some freedoms in that she is allowed to form a friendship with the girl living nearby and attend parties and such hosted by the family, but for the most part she is kept almost as locked away as her mother before she died. After her father dies, her brother continues with the father’s wishes and refuses to change things. Caroline desperately wants to get away. She wants a normal life, but her brother not only refuses to let her have a Season in London, but he now brings around only his friends who all smack their lips to get a rich wife with the right bloodlines. The suppression she lived under even if it was not overtly cruel felt as such to a strong, feeling, vibrant woman. Caroline’s side of the story with her family history, her brother’s overbearing behavior and her mother’s shadowy past that brought on her being tucked away has a gothic tone to it. There is a tragic feel so that when Caroline made her bid for freedom, I applauded her.
Caroline doesn’t just escape to London on the pretext of attending her friend’s wedding. She takes her coming of age trust money that she received through her mother and set up her own household which is not the thing for a young heiress. The real shocker was that she is planning to get up an affair. She is determined to seduce the notorious Lord of the Rakes. Caro has no intention of getting married. She will be free. She has seen what marriage did for her family. There was no happy, loving home for any of them. She acknowledges that there can be love for some like her friend, Fiona and her family, but she’s not taking that chance on her own life. She will be free and she will always be in charge. Thus, she will do the seducing and she will end the affair when she leaves to travel the Continent. And her plans come to fruition so that it is not long before she is experiencing the sensual delights with Phillip.
For all their plans to maintain emotional distance or even thoughts of breaking it off even as they explored things between each other, neither of them achieved that for very long.
“I want to kiss you, Caroline, hard, on your mouth and throat. I want to do such things as will have you crying out in your delight and begging for more. And you know you will beg before I am finished with you. But I cannot say any of those things. I vowed that I would not take advantage of any passion we have fostered between us. I would be rational. I would be reasonable. But seeing you here, so proud and so beautiful…” Abruptly Phillip stood and strode across the room, as if he needed to put as much distance between the two of them as possible. “God, Caroline!” he cried. “Either send me away or bid me to come to you, because I cannot stand this politisse anymore.” Caroline’s heart hammered so hard she shook from the force of its beating. She pictured herself sending him away. She should. She must. She had to find her poise, her control again. But she could not shape those words. “Come to me, Phillip.” p.179 Lord of the Rakes
“I want to kiss you, Caroline, hard, on your mouth and throat. I want to do such things as will have you crying out in your delight and begging for more. And you know you will beg before I am finished with you. But I cannot say any of those things. I vowed that I would not take advantage of any passion we have fostered between us. I would be rational. I would be reasonable. But seeing you here, so proud and so beautiful…”
Abruptly Phillip stood and strode across the room, as if he needed to put as much distance between the two of them as possible.
“God, Caroline!” he cried. “Either send me away or bid me to come to you, because I cannot stand this politisse anymore.”
Caroline’s heart hammered so hard she shook from the force of its beating. She pictured herself sending him away. She should. She must. She had to find her poise, her control again.
But she could not shape those words.
“Come to me, Phillip.”
p.179 Lord of the Rakes
The relationship is such that both know the score going in. They both have coping mechanisms which amount to the need to be in charge. Phillip’s past experiences leave him as a dominant in the bedroom playing sexual games. I’m not convinced that he is a natural at it so much as he needs it to maintain distance in his relationships. Caroline batters right through his walls just as forceful as he is. She plays the games with him, but has no intention of letting anyone have complete charge of her. Much of the story is spent in the bedroom with these too. It lingers and describes so that I felt like I was there right along with these too. This one should definitely be classified as more like historical erotic romance because of the sensual nature of this story. Caroline may be a virgin and technically an innocent when they start, but her nature and maturity are such that she doesn’t get shy or coy. She knows what she wants and she goes for it. It was much more believable therefore when she and Phillip come together. She starts out as a defiant need to take the town by storm and revel in her freedom, but then she sees the real man behind the mask. See, that’s the thing. They both see each other rather well and like what they see, but their issues make them fight it.
The romantic in me loved the way that what they had together changed Phillip for the better. He is in the middle of an actual relationship long before he recognizes it as such. His eyes are opened about the time his eyes are opened to a lot of things particularly about his family. I loved that. Caro actually becomes the harder sell because of her fears. If there is a true villain of the story, it is her dead father. He has a lot to be accountable for the way he controlled his household even beyond the grave. The man had me fired up even more than her brother did. Phillip’s father affected me the same way. He ruined Phillip’s life until Caro saved him. The other villains were small potatoes compared to these two.
So in the end, this is a very sensual and passionate read, but it is also a redemptive romance too. This one has nice historical elements to it and it is definitely romantic, but I would recommend it for those who don’t mind the moderate heat level to their romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read the book in exchange for an honest review.