Title: The Ruin of a Rake
Author: Cat Sebastian
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Length: 336 Pages
Category: Historical Romance
At a Glance: Cat Sebastian’s adroit hand at penning an emotionally encompassing story is once again on display in this novel, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to fans of historical romantic fiction.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.
Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.
As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love.
Review: Cat Sebastian has penned herself yet another praise-, not to mention swoon-, worthy novel in The Ruin of a Rake, the story of two imperfect men who struggle to find in themselves something worthy of the other’s love. As with the previous two novels set in this -verse, The Soldier’s Scoundrel and The Lawrence Browne Affair, the main characters and the significant role players all interconnect through family or friendship, and while some of the previous novels’ characters make their appearances in Julian and Courtenay’s story, The Ruin of a Rake can easily be read as a standalone.
I love the formula in this trilogy of Regency Era romances—the conundrum of two men who are so vastly different in temperament, in social standing and in virtue, falling in love. This may not be groundbreaking, isn’t out to reshape the historical romance genre, but what keeps these books from being commonplace is Cat Sebastian’s adroit hand at penning an emotionally encompassing story. These are novels of sensibility: the highs soaring, the lows acute, and the critical moment—the dramatic apex of the stories—always manages to hit the bullseye located in the dead center of my heart. Courtenay and Julian aren’t typical romantic heroes, either—Courtenay living his life outside the strict social confines of his title, the scandalous rogue; Julian, as prickly and misanthropic as he can be—there might even be a bit of the Fitzwilliam Darcy about him—and blends seamlessly with the ton, a position he’s worked hard to cultivate since his arrival in London from India, with his sister Eleanor in tow.
Even as an outcast from society and disowned by his family, there has still been no greater loss in Courtenay’s life, apart from the death of his youngest sister, than his being kept apart from his nephew, Simon, because the rakehell has been deemed a poor influence on the impressionable boy. This sets up the foundation for putting Courtenay and Julian in close proximity to one another when the plan is hatched to rehabilitate Courtenay’s reputation and reintroduce him to polite society so that Radnor (Lawrence Browne) might relent and allow the boy’s uncle to return to his life. It’s not something Julian is terribly keen on doing, considering it could very well backfire and damage his own reputation by association, but he agrees nonetheless. Don’t for a moment believe that the plan is the quick fix and a fast track to love, though. Sebastian puts her readers through their emotional paces right along with her characters.
The greatest surprise in this novel is the unexpected sympathy I felt for Courtenay. I had expected him to be portrayed as the antihero but instead, his backstory is filled with disappointment and guilt and regrets. It’s no wonder he became disillusioned, given that his own mother is the source of this turmoil. He needed to escape, and with that escape came a backlash against what was expected of him and what he was born to.
On the other hand, Julian is cold and distant and snobby and, at times, insulting and outright unkind. As a result, it took awhile to warm up to him, but I absolutely did. What keeps him from being an unsympathetic character is Sebastian’s teasing out of Julian’s own history and how his childhood—or, more accurately, his lack of one—left him with great responsibility at such a young age, and an overwhelming need for control and order. He hides behind a carefully crafted façade of disaffection, not allowing anyone to see what’s behind and beneath his well-heeled exterior, not even his sister, Eleanor. But Courtenay…he gets under Julian’s skin.
Courtenay and Julian aren’t the only couple fighting their way through the ups and mostly downs of a relationship in this novel. Lady Eleanor and her husband, Sir Edward Standish, have been estranged for years. Standish’s sudden reappearance at Eleanor’s parlor door, and misinterpreting the scene he walks in on, builds a secondary conflict that acts as a way to help resolve the seemingly unbridgeable gulf between Courtenay and Julian after Courtenay discovers a secret Julian had been keeping—a secret that feels a lot like betrayal. While I wasn’t as invested in Eleanor and Standish’s romantic frustrations (I wasn’t meant to be, I don’t think), I did like the way it brought out Courtenay’s romantic and idealistic side—the part of him that wants so much to believe in true and lasting love.
The Ruin of a Rake is some truly fine historical romance, as are the other books in this series. I continue to be impressed by this author’s ability to ground her readers in the early 19th century, without it feeling like a history lesson, through little more than the mannerisms and customs of the time, and the air of propriety in upper crust England. The dialogue is sharp, the narrative as decorous as the setting dictates, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to fans of historical romantic fiction.
You can buy The Ruin of a Rake here: