A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen's club.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she's vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she's been missing.
But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.
If she's not careful, she'll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love . . .
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake was such a cute book. I've read novels before with a similar storyline - on the shelf heroine wants to break out of her shell and have an adventure, while the erstwhile hero follows about providing her with the source of her much needed adventure/entertainment. I don't think, however, I've read one that was so much fun. I was concerned that Callie would come off as desperate, or do something TSTL, but that didn't happen.
Callie is tired of never having any adventures. She's a 28-year-old spinster with a sterling reputation, but she's tired of lace caps and living in the bounds of propriety. After overhearing her younger sister and her fiance talking about her - and saying some not very flattering things - she makes a list of nine rules she'd like to break; everything from learning to fence to gambling in an actual gaming hell.
The first item on her list is to be kissed. Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston seems like the perfect candidate. She catches him unawares and asks him for a kiss. Never one to let an opportunity pass, Ralston decides they can help each other. Ralston has just been informed he has a sister who was raised in Italy. He needs someone of impeccable character to help ready her for society. With Callie's perfect manners and reputation, he can think of no one better suited. In exchange for a kiss, Callie will escort his sister about and help her become ready for society.
Only it doesn't stop there. Ralston keeps running into Callie in interesting situations, and it isn't long before he realizes she's up to no good. He decides to lend himself to her as more than just a first kiss. Yet the more time they spend together the more they realize the attraction between them is stronger than they'd thought. And when that attraction turns into affection, all bets are off....
As Rowena noted in her review, Callie is an excellent heroine. She's strong, practical and full of life. Her whole life she's done what society expected of her, and now she decides to find adventure. There were times I laughed out loud at her antics, or held my breath in fear of her being discovered. As I said above, she doesn't cross that line into stupid behavior. She skirts it on occasion, but she's mindful of what being caught will do to her reputation. I think I liked that best of all - though she wanted to have a good time, she didn't want to do it at the cost of her reputation or that of her family.
Ralston was just the right amount of wicked, though I admit to being put off initially by his reputation. I realize it can seem exciting for a man to have such a tarnished reputation - reformed rakes and all that - but I'm kind of over the whole man-whore thing. Still, there were flashes of good in him from the beginning, and though we saw evidence of his rakish ways early on, as the novel progressed I was able to set that aside and enjoy him as Callie did. He was strong and witty, and though he often disapproved of the things Callie wanted to do, he still indulged her.
I also very much enjoyed the family relationships. Callie is close to both her younger sister and older brother. They had a tight family bond that really came through. Even Callie's awful aunt and mother were endearing in their own way. The relationship between Ralston and his twin brother Nick was also strong and established. Watching the two of them come to know their new sister was hilarious. Julianna is outspoken and sensitive, and neither bother knows what to do with her. Some of the best scenes in the novel were between the siblings; Callie smoking a cheroot with her brother Benedick, Julianna and Ralston fighting over the dance master, etc.
Overall the book was sweet and light with just the right touches of humor and tenderness. I zipped right through it. I'm really anxious to read Nick's book, Ten Ways to be Adored While Romancing a Lord, which is set to be released sometime this winter.
4.5 out of 5
This book is available from Avon. You can buy it here or here in e-format. Share this post!