The Rake to Redeem Her
I have read a few of Julia Justiss’ novels and always enjoyed her stories. The Rake to Redeem Her is also an enjoyable book, the second in her Ransleigh Rogues series. It might have even been a special book without a few problems. This is a book that I would recommend to others, but I doubt I would ever re-read. That is my measure of a truly great love story and this book did not quite make that cut.
Will Ransleigh is one of four cousins that style themselves the “Ransleigh Rogues.” In addition to Will, there is Alastair, Dominick and Max. We are briefly introduced to Alastair in the beginning of the book, a mention is made of Dominick, but the main dynamic for this book is the relationship between Will and Max. The three Rogues besides Will all had the luxury of being raised gentlemen from birth. Will, as far as I can tell, is the lone bastard of the bunch. His father, the younger brother of the Earl of Swynford, seduced his mother and then left her alone to raise their son. After his mother died when Will was five, he disappeared into the underground rookeries of Seven Dials until the earl sought him out seven years later. The earl also threatened to send him back if he could not be tamed enough for polite society. Without Max urging him on, Will would have never made that transition.
Will’s relationship to Max is important because it provides the entire impetus for this story. Will owes Max. So when Max was disgraced by inadvertently providing an opportunity for an assassination attempt on Wellington’s life during the Congress of Vienna, Will is determined to clear his name. That involves tracking down the instrument of Max’s disgrace – Madame Elodie Lefevre.
Elodie Lefevre is not at all what Will expected when he meets her in Austria. She is a very quiet and self-possessed lady who has obviously suffered grievously in her life. Even though he is attracted to her, Will is determined to bring her back to London to testify and clear Max’s name so he can resume his career as a diplomat. Elodie agrees to go but only if they go to Paris first. Will realizes that she will probably decide to elude him once they reach Paris, but feels his history and skills learned on the mean streets of London will see him through. What follows is a road romance that is really almost perfect in its execution. The relationship develops naturally and the dialogue is both authentic and organic. The pacing gives the feel of travel. Once they reach Paris everything changes.
The feel of the story from Paris onward changes dramatically. The pace speeds up too much for a major resolution and then slows to an almost painful level. I almost felt as if I were reading two different books. Even the dialogue changes, becoming more formal and stilted. When Will finally has some face-to-face time with his cousin Max, I did not feel the closeness between them that purportedly drove the entire book. Once Will admits his love for Elodie, his conversation changes to earnest flowery dialogue that just did not seem to mesh with his character. I also felt that the nicknames were a bit contrived – Ransleigh Rogues, Wagering Will – it just seemed a tad gimmicky to me.
I feel that Ms. Justiss lost her way a little in the last third of the book. It was not bad by any stretch of the imagination; it was just not as good as the first two-thirds of the book. I do not want my harsh criticism to give the impression that I would not recommend this book. I do. If you can forgive the last half of the book, you will enjoy immensely the rest of the story.