*Warning: Review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk***
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
published by Avon in April 2010
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.Genre: Historical Romance
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...
Series: TBA, Book #1
The Story: After 10 seasons, Callie has yet to find a husband despite being the daughter of an earl with a good dowry and relative beautiful. Thus, she believes herself firmly on the shelf and can only watch and be happy as her younger sister is about to marry a duke. However, after a discussion with her brother and witnessing her sister's midnight rendez-vous with her duke, Callie realizes that all she has to show for the past 10 years is a sterling reputation... and it's all due to her passivity. As a result, Callie decides to live a little by writing out a list of things (which defies the rule of good conduct for a lady)she'd like to do and realizing them - discreetly of course.
The first thing she sets out to accomplish is kiss Gabriel St.John, the Marquess of Ralston,
with whom she's been infatuated ever since her first season. She quickly realizes though how poorly thought out her plan is when she finds herself in Gabriel's private room. Unfortunately, it's too late to back out.
After the kiss, Gabriel finds himself intrigued by Callie... He also needs her help to bring out his newly found, feisty Italian half-sister into polite society. So he strikes a bargain with Callie: in exchange for her help, he'll assist her in her escapades.
Ames: First, I picked this up because I know Wena really liked it. And second, this theme is one I enjoy.
Nath: LOL, I also picked Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake up because of the good reviews it's been having over at Book Binge. Hmmm, but which theme are you talking about? Heroine infatuated with hero for years? Heroine wanting to change her life?
Ames: Heroine wanting to change her life. But I didn't feel like Callie really embraced the idea of wanting to change her life - at first. She really was dragging her feet on things and I was thinking and hoping that she'd be all gung ho to mix things up and change her life! But she was still hesitant, so that lessened my enjoyment somewhat. She did get into it, but she didn't really embrace the idea the way I wanted her to.
Nath: Nod nod, I agree with you Ames. Not only did it lessen the enjoyment, it also slowed down the pace and I think this is one of the reasons I found the book was a little draggy. I felt Callie was too wishy-washy. She's already taken the hardest decision - to liven up, so why hesitate to do it? I know she had a sterling reputation that she had to uphold to help out Gabriel's sister, Juliana, and also, her sister is about to become a duchess, but like her brother said, Callie's reputation has been above reproach. She could have taken one or two hits without problem.
Perhaps it would have helped if she hadn't started by the most difficult item on her list, the kiss LOL. Out of all the things on her list, wouldn't riding astride been the easiest? Just saying :P My favorite escapade was her visit to the sport club LOL. However, I felt it was just a bit too coincidental that Callie would run into Ralston there. He seemed to always be present when she sneaked out incognito...
Ames: I love how Callie was a bit tipsy when she went to get her kiss :P And it was good to get the hardest thing out of the way. Imagine how much harder things would have been for her if she didn't do that first?
I liked that Ralston was there for everything! It made him see her in a different light. Like when she went to the pub? He knew that she was up to something and sure enough, look who shows up! This is what worked for me. Taking Callie out of her comfort zone - the ballroom and the spinster circle - made Ralston see her differently and that's how we get the story. Plus, Callie really was a fun character to get to know.
Nath: For some reasons, I felt she was a bit different from other historical heroines (in a good way), but I can't pinpoint what it is exactly. I really liked her enthusiasm once she really got into realizing her list.
One issue that bothered me though is it didn't seem to me Callie got to know Ralston better. Gabriel got to see Callie rediscovering herself and that's how he got to know her. However, I don't feel like Callie "saw" the real Gabriel. I feel her infatuation and misconceptions got in the way. It helped when Gabriel shared with her his family history; but it just felt like she understood his persona better, but still not seeing the real him.
Ames: I think Callie did get to know him better. She's been hero worshiping him for 10 years, she didn't really know who he was. But through their interactions, we get an understanding of his personality. Also with his dynamics with his siblings. His twin brother and his newly found sister. I felt bad for all the siblings, with their horrible mom.
And of course you know me, I did a little squee when Gabriel got jealous of Nicholas! When they were dancing. :P
Nath: Yeah, the readers got to know Gabriel and he was definitively an interesting character :) But Callie? I'm not convinced...
LOL. To me, the best show of jealousy by Gabriel was when he thought that Callie's list consisted of men she wanted to kiss. Hilarious LOL. Only a man would think that way.
I have to say though, my favorite element of this book was by far the sibling interactions, on both sides :) Clearly, Gabriel doesn't know how to deal with this new sister - perhaps it's because he's the head of the family. While he and Nick always shared this connection as twins. I also loved how Benedick and the younger sister, Mariana, were there for Callie, pushing her to explore. The scene where Benedick gave a cheroot to Callie LOL. It's funny how Benny and Gabriel each think of each other as irresponsible, helping Callie complete her list. Although Mariana was 10 years younger, she wasn't spoiled or self-absorbed and there was no jealousy between the two sisters. Mariana was actually very mature and concerned towards Callie and wanted Callie to be happy. I liked that :)
Ames: Yeah, the siblings were great all the way around.
I do want to mention the spelling of Benedick's name. When I first started reading the book, I was a bit thrown off, because I'd only ever seen Benedict, with a T. But I did some research and Benedick is a character's name from one of Shakespeare's works. Which kind of fits, with Callie's real name being Calpurnia.
Nath: Oh right! I remember now, you researched his name while reading the book :D True, true, it does make sense; however, I did think it was distracting :P
Ames: I found distracting too, that's why I had to look it up. LOL
What did you think of the subplot surrounding the bet? I didn't really care for it. I knew it would lead to a big misunderstanding at the end, so it was a predictable plot device that I didn't really care for.
Nath: The subplot surrounding the bet was okay. It was typical, but still well executed. I was happy that Callie didn't jump at the first man who court her. That although she was a spinster, she was still choosy :P It would perhaps have been more interesting if the man was truly interested in Callie...
Ames: I have to agree. If there was another man that wanted Callie for herself, and there wasn't a bet, that would have been a sweet book too.
So do you think Juliana is going to get a book? Remember the guy in the bookstore? Who ends up being a snob?
Nath: I'm pretty sure Juliana is going to get her book. Actually, I'm pretty sure they're all are (i.e. Nick, Benedick and Juliana). I could have done without the sequel baiting though between Juliana and the other duke. I mean, seriously, if he was so snob, why would he even talk to her in the bookstore?
Ames: Because he didn't know who she was!!
Nath: But from the snippet we got at the ball, he seems to be really, really snob. I don't see himself even addressing to commoners, so Juliana's parentage doesn't really factor here. Know what I mean?
Ames: I know what you mean, but she was hanging out with Callie at the bookstore. What chances are there of a commoner knowing how to read? And to be dressed up as I'm sure Juliana was? LOL I just think he took her at face value because of who she was with and the environment. But he knows that Callie has a good reputation too, so he probably just assumed Juliana was someone worth knowing. And she totally is, but to his snobby ways, because her father was a nobody, she's not. I hope Juliana gives him his comeuppance!
Nath: Nah, I'm still not buying it LOL. She could have been a *gasp*cit*gasp* or an American heiress or whatever. I guess we'll have to see, but yeah, I hope Juliana shows him LOL.
So, what is your overall verdict, Ames? I did enjoy Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, but I thought some parts of it were draggy and it made me lose interest a bit. Also, I thought the author tried putting too many plotlines in the book (the bet, the bargain between Callie and Gabriel and the list). It was too much, especially since I didn't feel that much happened. However, Ms MacLean had interesting and engaging characters, dynamics and situations :) So Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake is a B- for me :)
Ames: I enjoyed it. I'm going to give Nine Rules a B+. I thought Callie was cute and she was a different kind of heroine. I found the bet predictable but it doesn't lessen my enjoyment. Like you, I found it a bit slow in some places but overall, it was enjoyable and if you're in the mood for a fun historical, definitely check this book out.