Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (#64 on AAR's Top 100 Romances)

Sarah MacLean

An AAR Top 100 Romance

originally published on April 15, 2010

You know what they say – never judge a book by its cover. I’ll amend that: Never judge a book by its synopsis and title, especially when they reek. But underneath this book’s wretched surface, is a touching character-driven romance, and a strong adult romance debut for Sarah MacLean.

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell, or Callie for short, has spent a lifetime being a good girl and model lady, but now she regrets it. On the eve of her younger sister’s wedding – a love match – she realizes her perfect reputation is a result of passiveness rather than choice, and decides she needs to change. Drawing up a list of forbidden activities is her first step, and being kissed (passionately) is the first item on the list.

Her kisser of choice is Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston and the man she has loved for years. As the weeks go by and Callie embarks on her other activities, Gabriel encounters her so often during her escapades that he finally makes her a proposition: He will squire her if she will shepherd his new found half-sister through her debut.

If ever there was a case for ignoring the superficial, this is it. The title is so cutesy I nearly gagged – by gad, it rhymes! – and the back cover blurb is incredibly misleading, making the book sound contrived.

But the book is neither generic, nor shallow, nor cutesy. Rather, it’s a romantic character-driven story that also provides ample reasoning for the characters’ actions. I never once considered Callie’s list-making idiotic or contrived, and found myself sympathizing with her more often than not. If I occasionally thought she became idiotisch, well, no one’s perfect. Gabriel is more or less your typical romance novel aristocrat, but he has depths that ring true and set him apart. His interactions with his family are particularly endearing. The secondary characters are roundish, if not quite well-rounded, and the external conflict believable.

My main complaint with the book itself regards the prose. Length is a double-edged sword; Ms. MacLean’s detailed explanations permit character depth, but occasionally become long-winded. The prose also sometimes lapses too much in the direction of Sex and the City, despite generally finding a happy medium.

However, the romance and character depth more than compensate for any failings. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake is a good addition to the Avon canon, and I look forward to more from Ms. MacLean.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Enya Young

Grade :     B

Sensuality :      Hot

Book Type :     

Review Tags :      |

Recent Comments


  1. Blackjack
    Blackjack October 25, 2017 at 2:20 am - Reply

    I disliked this book and struggled to get through it. The heroine has terribly low self-esteem and dislikes herself, but even worse, so does everyone else, including the hero. In order to become more interesting, the heroine constructs a bucket list for herself, and the list, unfortunately, is immature and trivial. I found this book silly, and since I have subsequently tried another MacLean book and felt the same, her writing clearly just does not work for me.

    • Christine October 25, 2017 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Well that made me feel so much better, I thought I was the only one who didn’t like this book or enjoy the author’s writing. I always feel a little grinchy when I am commenting negatively about a book other people love and I just don’t like. This book really worked for a lot of people but pretty much everything you outlined above are problems I had with it.

      I even tried a subsequent book of hers that Dear Author (whose reviewers can be very hard critics- a lot of my A books get B- minus grades there) gave an A and I loathed it. The heroine was Italian, or half Italian which sparked my interest, but was a cliche out of the 1950’s or something. She was so fiery because… ITALIAN! I expected her to pull Gina Lolobrigida’s line from Come September and yell “I don’t have to make sense, I’m ITALIAN!” After that I was done with trying and just accepted that this is another author whose humor and style just doesn’t work for me.

      • Blackjack
        Blackjack October 26, 2017 at 12:10 am - Reply

        Yes! I just have to put MacLean down as an author whose popularity is a mystery to me. It will take a lot to entice me back to another one.

      • Sarah Adiron Jones October 26, 2017 at 4:04 pm - Reply

        That one (Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart) is my favorite MacLean book — she’s talked a lot about the fact that the relationship in that book is based on her mother & father’s relationship (her mother is British & her father is Italian). She grew up in Italy, partially, too, I think, so I really loved all the Italian bits…but goes to show, nothing works for everyone!

        • Chrisreader October 27, 2017 at 4:10 pm - Reply

          That’s very interesting to know as I didn’t know anything about the author. I’m half Italian myself which is why I think that one particularly rankled. The heroine didn’t seem like any of my relatives, including the ones still living in Italy. But of course everyone’s experience is different and as Robin says below that is one of the great things about AAR, people can disagree without rancor or fallout. I’m glad her books bring you enjoyment.

  2. Robin October 26, 2017 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    That’s what I love about AAR. Everyone is allowed to say how they feel about a given book. There’s no right or wrong so long as everyone is respectful.

    • Dabney Grinnan
      Dabney Grinnan October 26, 2017 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks. We appreciate the kind words!

    • Chrisreader October 27, 2017 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      Yes exactly! If only it worked that way everywhere else in life!

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