Letter from a Rake
In Sasha Cottman’s Letter from a Rake, Millicent Ashton and her family have recently arrived in London. Her brother is the heir to a viscount and it’s time for twenty-year-old Millie to take her place in Society. However, Millie grew up in India, and as a result, London is foreign to her. Worse, she’s plump, and the story starts with her in a ballroom overhearing a remark about the elephant her family brought back from India.
Determined not to allow people to make her feel miserable, Millie befriends another girl called Lucy Radley. So far so good. Then Lucy introduces Millie to her brother, Alex Radley, the heir to the Duke of Strathmore.
Alex is the handsomest man Millie has ever seen, and even better, he asks her to dance. To her dismay, though, he grabs her hand and drags her on to the floor. Once there, he stands motionless. Realizing what a spectacle this is, Millie tries to talk to him, with no effect. Finally she gathers the tatters of her dignity and leaves, while other couples tactfully dance around the silent statue that is Alex.
If you’re wondering what’s going on, when Alex saw Millie, he was filled with lust. And when he tried to dance with her, his penis “threatened to punch a hole in his trousers”. The next morning, he lies in bed, imagines sucking Millie’s nipples, and gets the biggest erection ever erected in the history of erections. That settles it; he has to find a way to apologize to her. So he sends her flowers without signing his name to the cards, gets her brother to arrange a meeting in the park, accidentally-on-purpose turns up at the museum she visits, and so on.
Around a third of the way through the story, this lukewarm courtship has decided matters for Alex. He is in love with Millie, and she is going to marry him. But Alex is illiterate and ashamed of it, which is how the Big Misunderstanding comes about. He confesses his love to Millie, and despite being just as desperately in love with him, she refuses to take him seriously. Undeterred, Alex starts planning their wedding. Problem is, his family then makes their annual trip to Scotland, so he needs to send Millie a letter, and he asks his brother to write it. Said brother gets drunk and writes a letter to his sweetheart instead, but Alex signs and posts that, so Millie assumes Alex is courting the other girl, and shenanigans worthy of high school ensue.
So much for the plot. As for the characters, Alex personifies the idle rich, but he never comes off as exciting enough to be an actual rake, maybe because he’s only twenty-three and often seems younger. The author keeps telling us that he’s suave and debonair, only to show him as impulsive, gauche and unable to deal with the messes he causes. The one time he defies his father, the Duke compliments him on finally showing some backbone.
Nothing about Millie’s personality stands out except that she also seems too young for romance. At one point, she bursts into tears, so her father comforts her.
James reached out and lifted his daughter on to his lap on the couch. She flung her arms around her father’s waist.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine a twenty-year-old woman sitting on her father’s lap. Millie also has the usual ‘not like other girls’ schtick.
There were times she despaired of the females her own age. All they could think of day and night was how they were going to sink their claws into some unfortunate bachelor and his bank account.
India is a distant, exotic locale; it provides a nose ring and the occasional nostalgic moment for its spices and warm weather, but it never influences Millie’s identity, religious views, politics, etc. Oh, and the Kama Sutra is equated with sex.
I downloaded this book because it was free, so at least I didn’t lose any money. Ultimately, Letter from a Rake doesn’t live up to its intriguing title, and when I read “rake”, I expected someone experienced, seductive and a little dangerous, like Rhett Butler. Not a besotted twenty-three-year-old who stands silently while people waltz around him, unable to move because of the Tower of London in his trousers.