What I Read This Weekend
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean -- Regency Historical
Though I think Sarah is super cool and nice, this review will be honest and unbiased.
At the age of 18, Lady Callpurnia Hartwell is too plump and plain to be of interest to anyone except fortune hunters, bored and old men. She's had enough humiliation during her first Season to last a lifetime and she's fed up. Callie runs away to the garden where she encounters the dashing, dangerous and very very charming Marquess of Ralston. Ralston tries to boost Callie's self-confidence with a few kind words which cause Callie to fall hopelessly in love. Ten years later, and firmly on the shelf, Callie is still dreaming of love. It doesn't help that her little sister has made a magnificent and loving match while Callie sits with the spinsters and wears lace caps. Longing for adventure, Callie makes a list of things she'd love to do, things proper young ladies aren't supposed to do. She decides to start with "be kissed passionately" and seeks out Ralston to accomplish her goals. In return, Ralston enlists Callie's aid in helping his newly discovered Italian half-sister come out into English Society. Soon Callie is overcome with the passion she's always longed for but still yearns for the heart of the one she loves. I am sorry to say that I found the plot mostly unrealistic and uninteresting. I fail to see how an intelligent girl like Callie would allow Ralston to take advantage of her without any declarations of love. I understand her attraction to him and longing to be with him, but I would think that it would make her feel worse that he doesn't love her. I couldn't like Callie until 2/3 of the way through the book when she reacts the way I thought she should have reacted a lot earlier. Ralston is a typical alpha male rake. He's stubborn and authoritative at times. He is so worried about his sister's reputation but doesn't stop to consider what his seduction of her sponsor will do to that reputation. Also, he's a total idiot not to realize that Callie loves him and not to understand what he feels for her. I felt the book was fairly boring and annoying until nearly the end when Callie and Ralston finally talk about their feelings. Even though I'm not crazy about Callie and Ralston, they are well-developed and eventually became more realistic and human. The secondary characters were far more entertaining and interesting. Callie's little sister Mariana made me giggle and Ralston's little sister Juliana is more my kind of heroine, outspoken and tough. Both girls, and Ralston's brother Nick are not typical stock characters relegated to the background. Even the opera singer defies stereotype. It's a refreshing change for the heroine to have girlfriends to talk to.
This is a sizzling, steamy romance novel. The reader inhabits Callie's body and sometimes Ralston's head and the action is very detailed. The steamy scenes can be skipped though they contribute to the character development. The first 180 pages are not too graphic, but then the characters give in to desire and the action heats up. If you're not interested in graphic love scenes, stop reading as Callie begins her fencing adventure and pick up again in the last few pages of the novel.
I look forward to Sarah's next YA novel. She's a good writer when she doesn't get carried away writing X-rated content. The story could have been a lot better if Callie and Ralston had spent more time getting to know one other intellectually rather than physically. I think I'll search for spoilers for her next adult novels rather than try to read the whole thing. I prefer my romantic tension of the Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer variety with well-written plots and characters where the reader's imagination can take her as far as she wants to go.