Reforming a Rake
Grade : B

Have you ever been at a play, maybe a high school performance, and it's not working very well? All the props look fake, the rigging is showing, and the lead keeps missing his cues. The audience is left to try to indulge the performers and grit their teeth and get through it. That's what reading the first part of Reforming a Rake was like for me. Amazingly, there was such a dramatic improvement in the story that I was thankful my teeth held up.

Alexandra Gallant is a rather desperate governess. Her reputation blackened by an incident with her previous employer, she accepts employment from the only person who will hire her, Lucien Balfour. Since his own reputation is rather notorious, he doesn't worry about these things. All he wants is someone to help polish his rather immature niece so he can marry her off and fulfill his familial duty.

I disliked Lucien from the very beginning, and his obnoxiousness overcame whatever allure was making Alexandra dither about him. He had no qualms at all about sexually harassing his employee; the only thing to be said in his favor is that he didn't attempt to just throw her skirts up and take her, like her previous employer. His dislike of and offensiveness to his aunt and cousin seemed completely out of proportion to their sins, he seemed to be the biggest obstacle in the way of his stated goal of getting his cousin married, and his motivation for steering clear of love and marriage (his father was an amoral womanizer) was weak. Add to that a distinctly Regency Lite setting and a silly rank for Lucien (Earl of Kilcairn Abbey), and reading this book felt like the same kind of chore that watching an amateur play sometimes does.

But sometimes in those plays that start off badly, at some point, for no discernable reason, magic happens. Thing start coming together. The sixteen-year-old actors suddenly seem credible as Shakespearean lovers. The set recedes properly into the background. And something you thought would be a chore suddenly becomes a great pleasure. That's what reading the rest of Reforming a Rake was like for me.

I can't say when it happened, but suddenly I respected Alexandra more, Lucien began to grow on me, and the sniveling cousin grew a spine and became interesting. By the time Lucien made up his mind to make everything right so that Alexandra would marry him, I was cheering him on. If secondary characters like the aunt and cousin did not become totally three-dimensional, they at least grew from one dimension to two, or even two and a half. And I admit to being taken by surprise when a plot twist revealed an unexpected villain.

Best of all, the latter part of the book took me completely by surprise with some moments of emotional depth. I genuinely felt for Alexandra during painful encounters with her disdainful relatives, and for Lucien in his need to set his life back in order. Reformed rake stories are more satisfactory if the rake seriously changes, not just in forswearing womanizing (something Lucien openly planned to continue after marriage at first) but in changing the careless way they treat other people. Lucien does so, and I went from loathing him to liking him, even if I still thought his title sounded fake.

Moreover, it's rare that a book overcomes such a strong initial feeling of dislike to completely win me over. In fact, if I hadn't been obligated to finish Reforming a Rake in order to review it, I might have put it aside and moved on to something else. That would have been my loss.

Buy it on Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Reviewed by Colleen McMahon
Grade : B

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : April 7, 2000

Publication Date: 01/2000

Review Tags: With This Ring series

Recent Comments …

  1. What kept me reading was the sheer unpredictability of the storyline. I knew David’s and Chelsea’s paths would cross again…

Colleen McMahon

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