The Rakehell's Reform
The Rakehell’s Reform has an extremely melancholy air about it, one which never goes away, even when good things happen. The sadness in the lives of Rakehell Jack Ramsay and bourgeoisie Selina Preston permeate every page of the book, so that there is never a sense of joy to be felt, and that includes the HEA ending.
Jack Ramsay is indeed a rakehell. The story begins after he has gambled away his oldest brother’s inheritance and, in order to win a bet, has crashed the ball of a "mushroom’s" daughter – mushroom being a term of derision for a self-made man. It seems Jack is a brilliant cellist and he’ll win 500 pounds if he dares to play the cello at the mushroom’s ball. He does, and Selina Preston sees how the cello cries for him. While she holds him in disdain for holding her lack of inherited wealth in disdain, she also begins to feel the stirrings of lust for the rake.
After some startling scenes in which …
- Jack stumbles on a spy ring and kills the ringleader, who happens to be a friend,
- Spends the night hiding out in a prostitute’s bed, and
- Visits an old friend who had to marry for money and is miserable,
… Jack realizes he’s hit rock bottom and is determined to reform. And so he takes up Selina’s father’s offer to teach her the cello and accompanies them to their country home. They are attracted to one another, and Jack’s double-entendre-laden flirtation is very smart. When he is not flirting with Selina, he is condemning himself for doing so, but their attraction is not to be denied.
The author never sugarcoats the rakehell’s existence, and for that she is to be applauded. However, Jack’s reform is so filled with despair, for both he and Selina, that the "romance as fantasy" failed for me. One scene in particular, is devastating in its depiction of life at that time. As Selina follows Jack through her village, the villagers do not know who she is, only that she is an unaccompanied female. Therefore, she must be a whore. She is called foul names (I have rarely read the "c"-word in any book, let alone a Regency), and is mauled by various men before Jack saves her.
This is a fairly erotic Regency, but author Fairchild managed to make what could have been a luscious love scene seem degrading. I’ve read many a romance where the heroine must convince the hero it’s alright to "ruin" her, but this is the first time I’ve felt her truly ruined.
This book has a stretching-the-boundaries feel to it. Being new to this sub-genre, perhaps I’m not ready to stretch. If you can get over the sadness and despair, this book might work for you, but it never really did for me.