Book Review: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean

Posted October 24, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Avon on March 30, 2010
Pages: 422
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

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First in the Love By Numbers historical romance series and revolving around the St. John family. The couple focus is on Lady Calpurnia Hartwell and the Marquess of Ralston.

In 2011, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake was nominated for the RITA Award by Romance Writers of America for Best Regency Historical, and in 2010, it won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Seal of Excellence and was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Romance.

My Take

It was a very surface story with MacLean pulling in all sorts of tropes, some of which worked, some which didn’t. There were a number of scenes which MacLean could have developed more and given the story more depth. Ralston’s interactions with Callie’s “adventures” and the choices Callie’s mother made were an opportunity to add tension, drama, and life to the story that MacLean ignored.

Certainly more show would have helped and might have inspired MacLean to connect events and activities more smoothly, give them more drama.

It didn’t start well with the trope of a young girl out for her first Season who falls head-over-heels for the first handsome man to pay her a compliment. I did, however, like the switch-up to the half-sister sent by the St. Johns’ hated mother, which was capped by the conversation between Callie and her brother. Her rather liberated brother!

MacLean keeps bouncing for the rest of the story between a realistic view of the time period’s mores and manners and succumbing to easy outs that had my eyes rolling. The St. Johns’ odd approach to their sister’s supposed illegitimacy and Callie being willing to head upstairs in a gentleman’s house — let alone calling upon a gentleman in his home! — contributed to that eye rolling.

I did like that Callie and the brothers are so positive about Juliana. They’re not ones to kowtow to societal expectations and gossip. Of course, there always has to be an Oxford, and MacLean could have made better use of this variation.

She does create a very easygoing and nice Ralston, a rake who likes women, a brother concerned about his newly met half-sister’s feelings, and with an appreciation for an adventurous lady. Unless she’s chaperoning his sister. Another opportunity for drama and tension that was ignored.

I like that Callie is determined, but I do wish she’d own her actions. All of them. I like that she has a mind of her own, it’s just too bad that it took her 10 years to start choosing her own dresses.

Still, I thought it was a fun story.

The Story

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.

The Characters

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is the oldest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Allendale. Anne is Callie’s maid. Mariana is her attractive younger sister, a.k.a., The Allendale Angel, who is newly engaged to James Talbott, the sixth Duke of Rivington. Benedick Hartwell, the Earl of Allendale, is Callie and Mariana’s brother. Aunt Beatrice is but one of the rude family members. Michael, one of Anne’s sons, is a coachman.

Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston has been one of London’s most notorious rakes for years. Nicholas St. John is his younger twin brother. Juliana Fiori is the half-Italian, half-English, feisty half sister who doesn’t want to be in England. The mother they share abandons her children within ten years of having them. Aunt Phyllidia is a dowager duchess and their father’s sister.

Nastasia Kritikos is Gabriel’s latest mistress and an amazing opera singer. Wingate is the St. John family lawyer. Geoffrey was the second ineligible man who proposed to Callie. Madame Hebert is a popular modiste; Valerie is one of her employees. Sir Marcus Breton is one of her disguises. Monsieur Latuffe is the dancing master.

The Earl and Countess of Salisbury are good friends with the Allendales. Baron (Rupert) Oxford is a jerk who needs a wealthy wife. Prudence Marworthy is single and simple but wealthy. The Earl of Chilton doesn’t believe any but Berwick’s daughter will take on Oxford. Miss Heloise Parkthwaite is one of the spinsters. A bit of foreshadowing with the snobby Duke of Leighton. The Countess of Marsden is predatory. Lord Weston is heir to a dukedom. Lord Raleigh will be Oxford’s second.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a pastel peach background on the left side of the cover which serves as a background for the embossed script for the gold in the author’s name at the top and the deep red of the title below it. On the right is a figured gold and cream background against which Lady Calpurnia stands in her soft peach, off-the-shoulder empire gown, a band of embroidered flowers below the bust.

I guess the title makes sense in a roundabout way, as it isn’t really Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, but more a case of societal rules to break that will appeal to a rake’s sense of humor.

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