Title: The Rake (Formerly The Rake and The Reformer – a better title I think)
Author: Mary Jo Putney
(beautiful cover *pats book adoringly* )
Review Number: 4
Genre: Romance – Regency
Stand alone or series: Stand alone although for what I understood the hero appears in an earlier book.
Summary: Fate has given a disgraced rake one final chance to redeem himself–by taking his place as the rightful master of an ancestral estate. But nothing prepares him for his shocking encounter with a beautiful lady who has fled a world filled with betrayal. Now he will awaken in her a passion more powerful than anything she has ever known–a passion that can doom or save them both if they dare to believe.
Why did I read the book: It is a classic in the genre and usually figures in the top 100 lists.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you my nomination for Most Tormented Hero of the Romantic world: Mr Reggie Davenport.
Reggie is a consummate rake. Which means that he spends his days doing nothing but indulging himself with women, gambling and all-nighters. He also has the usual issues: difficult childhood, no one who really loved him after his family died when he was 8, plus the fact that his inherited rights have been denied to him. You must be asking yourself, how is he different from the truckload of Tormented Heroes around?
The difference is that he has a serious drinking problem. He is also suffering from depression: he realises that he has nothing to live for and at the age of 37 he cannot keep up with his younger mates. He is suffering from constant memory loss that usually follows a night of debauchery and it is not unusual that he wakes up feeling like the world is crumbling apart, full of bruises he does not know how he came about or money he does not remember he won. A voice keeps telling him that this way of life is going to kill him and he despairs.
So it is no surprise when he jumps at the chance life is giving him when his cousin, who recently inherited the family title, decides to give his mother’s estate back to him. Strickland is where he was born and where he lived a happy life until he was 8, a estate that it should have been his for years but his eviiiiil uncle wouldn’t allow it. I could not help but to think that Strickland was to Reggie what Tara was eventually to Scarlett O’Hara– a lifeline, a source of strength where he could go and try to change his life.
But things are not as easy as it seems – he may have left the way of life behind but the drinking problem follows. To begin with, he doesn’t think it is a problem, he thinks he is in control and can choose when and how much to drink so he starts his new life full of hope. Strickland is a highly successful enterprise all because of his industrious steward who has been running the place very efficiently for 4 years so it was very surprising when he arrives there and realises that the steward is a woman! Enters the heroine, Lady Alys Weston.
Alys is a 30 year old spinster who is also running from her past. She is capable, smart and has earned her living for years as a governess and later on as the steward of Strickland, a job she got based purely on her references. Reggie’s uncle never interviewed her for the position and everyone in London just assumed she was a man. She is accepted and respected by everyone in the region and soon enough by Reggie too, who realises that she is brilliant at what she does.
On top of her brains, she also has a heart – she has 3 wards that she must raise by herself and she is the friend who provides Reggie with the support that he needs.
I loved Alys – she is a force to be reckoned with but to me, the book belongs to Reggie and his struggle to fight his inner demons, to stop drinking and to become a better man so that he could be with Alys.
As I read the book, I wanted so very much to see him win this fight that I was quite taken aback by my reaction. I have rooted for heroes before, I have suffered as they suffered, I had a most guttural reaction when Derek Craven was crying at the end of Dreaming of You and I thought I was going to dehydrate when Heathcliff heard that Cathy was dead in Wuthering Heights. But this was the first time I actually yelled at a book: every time Reggie thought about succumbing to his urge to drink I would scream “Do not do it Reggie!” or “STEP AWAY from that drink cabinet NOW” . Yes, I can see how this book helped me to prove to my partner that I am not crazy.
I was very surprised to see how delicately and yet seriously, the author dealt with the issue of alcoholism in the book. But this is still a romance novel and there are also moments that there are silly, flirty and sensual and a few secondary plots there were also interesting. And of course, eventually we are granted with the happily ever after that these two deserve.
Notable quotes/parts: I just LOVED the scene where Reggie succumbs and drinks and is caught by Alys. What ensues is a must gut-wrenching moment: he finally realises that he has no control and runs like he is being chased by demons until he collapses and prays. Alys finds him later and they just hold hands and talk for hours. It was sweet and we see how much these two mean to each other. Yes, they lust for each other but they are first and foremost, friends.
Additional Thoughts: In the book, Reggie finds in his library a pamphlet called The Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon Man written by one Benjamin Rush in 1784. This is when he realises that his drinking is a real problem. I looked it up – and this pamphlet is real. It just so happens that Benjamin Rush (who by the way, is a Founding Father of the USA and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence) was the one to introduce the idea of “addiction”. From wikipedia: “Prior to his work, drunkenness was viewed as being sinful and a matter of choice. Rush introduced the idea that the alcoholic loses control over himself and identified the properties of alcohol, rather than the alcoholic’s choice, as the causal agent. He developed the conception of addiction as a form of medical disease and finally developed the idea that abstinence is the only cure for addiction”.
So interesting. And I learnt this by reading a romance novel, a genre that is seen as trash. Oh, the irony.
Verdict: oh, definitely a keeper, it should be read by any romance lover. I want to read more of Mary Jo Putney, can someone recommend which one I should pick up next?
Rating: 7 – was torn between a 7 and a 8 and the only reason why I do not give this book a higher rate is because of the plot involving Alys’ past. OK, she was a heiress and I guess Reggie needed a chance to prove that he was noble and selfless but did she HAVE to be the greatest heiress ever of all times? Also, not enough sex. After all the build up I expected something more…..explosive.
Reading next: The Spymaster’s Lady!!!!!!!!