Title: A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure
Author: Victoria Dahl
Genre: Historical Romance
Stand Alone/Series: It can be read as a stand alone, but Victoria’s first release, To Tempt a Scotsman, tells the story of Lady Alexandra Huntington, sister of the hero in the Rake’s Guide.
Summary: TRUE PLEASURE… Raised by a titled, yet degenerate, father, Emma Jensen never imagined the gamblinglessons she learned as a child would one day serve her well. When she finds herself indire need of money, she concocts the alias of Dowager Lady Denmore andsets off to bewitch London’s noblemen by engaging them in games of chance. The fact that respectable ladies do not gamble does notintimidate her in the least. But the darkly handsome Duke of Somerhart does—for he’s awakened a deep, sensual hunger in her…
IS ALWAYS WORTH THE GAMBLE… The dashing Duke of Somerhart has the notorious reputation of being one of London’s most incurable rogues. When he meets the alluring Lady Denmore, he is immediately intrigued. Her recklessness and innocence intertwined titillates him as no other woman ever has. But what secret is the lovely Lady Denmore hiding? He’s determined to find out. But first he must seduce her until she surrenders completely to his most wicked desires…
Why Did I Read the Book: The book is the book of the month at Julia Quinn’s Bulletin Board, which I am a member of.
This is another one of those books that begs one to go past the cover, title and blurb to be able to find a treasure inside.
It begins just like many other romance novels: a destitute heroine with an unhappy past in search of independence and security and a Duke bent on keeping his cool and his control and not ever getting married.
Emma, a young lady who has lost everything that was dear to her: a beloved younger brother, an uncle that had taken care of her when her utterly reprobate excuse of a father died, her house. Left with only a meagre inheritance she disguises as a widow and travels to London to gamble away for two months in order to save enough money to be able to keep herself and rent a cottage far rom everyone and just live …alone, as she always has been. She creates an aura around her as a reckless gambler who is standing on the very line that separates acceptable behaviour from scandal but who is in control of what and who she is.
When the Duke of Somerhart, or Hart begins to pursue her, she feels she on the threshold of something that threatens to make her lose her balance because he speaks directly to a part of her that she wishes didn’t exist; that sexual minx that lives inside her with urges she thinks are unhealthy and that ultimately would make her just like her father, a man who sponsored orgies in their own house as she were growing up. In one of those nights, when she was only a child some sick disgusting man, tried to get into her room and scared, she was hiding in the hallway when a young Hart found her and helped her. Unbeknownst to him, she has lived with that memory and dreamt of him as her knight in shinning armor that would one day come back to rescue her, but never did. And this has helped shaping her personality as someone who simply refuses to trust anyone or to hope that she would be rescued ever again. She is her own woman and she will do her best and her worst to keep Hart away from her life.
Hart is a man who has survived scandal and heartbreak , who has outlived the most debauched urges of his youth and gained control of his life and his old self. He has no recollection of that night ages ago but he is taken with Emma at first sight. He wants her as his lover and he can’t understand how they connect so fast , so early , so easily. She too, threatens to break his control, to bring back all the things he has fought to suppress and he is taken aback that in her attempt to keep him away, she can only answer to him when he is cruel to her. That really hurts because not only he has a romantic soul but also because it shows that Emma can only allow herself being with him if she can pretend she has no choice or if they are together only in anger. She tries so hard to push him away, to make him not treat her with the kindness or tenderness he feels but he can’t keep away and she can’t make him go away, and they become sort of friends and some of their dialogue are pure gold and utterly delightful.
The sexual exchanges between them were so explosive and spoke of hidden appetites and desires that could have been shameful and inappropriate but between them ended up being not only sensual but also beautiful.
I am completely in love with this book and with Hart and Emma : as I was reading it, every time there was a particularly emotional scene from Hart’s point of view, I would bring my hand to my heart and sigh with content : SUCH a dear man. A man who actually thinks and even if he sometimes, jumps to conclusions, he is able to analyse them for what they are, a desperate attempt to keep his heart safe. And Emma, even though some of her actions let me grinding my teeth, they were all understandable as the hopeless efforts of a woman who could not, would not, let her heart break again. Loneliness was all that she could feel around her, anything else would crush her soul. In the midst of all their exchanges, sincerity and lies , control and chaos, they could in the end, just BE themselves with each other.
I was rooting for them all the way through and my commitment to the book was only marred by the parallel plot of the unwanted crazy suitor – I understand that it was necessary to make the story move towards its climax, but to me it would have been preferable if the story would have kept the conflict between Hart and Emma in the centre as there was so much in there to be explored without certain unnecessary villainous acts . Having said, at least the villain had depth and I did pity him for his relentless love for Emma and his struggle to accept his own desires in the face of his God.
Oh, and Emma befriends a destitute lord, Lancaster, who is honourable and needs to marry fortune and has a SCAR ALL AROUND HIS NECK. That book can not come soon enough.
Notable quotes/Parts: Nothing melts my heart as quickly as a man in the brink of despair because he believes the woman he loves is gone. There is one such scene in this book towards the end when I felt my heart was close to break along with Hart’s. It reminded me of Derek Craven’s despair at the end of Dreaming of You.
Additional Thoughts: The repartee between Hart and Emma were a huge delight to read – at points I thought he was going to strangle her. I am a sucker for witty conversations. The Rake’s Guide has plenty of those which bring humour to a story that has such high emotional content.
Verdict:A delightful read which left me alternately grinning and holding my breath at the more heart wrenching scenes.
Rating: 7 Very Good
Reading next: Before I Wake by Kathryn Smith