Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29832-7
Historical Romance, 2015
The Rake to Reveal Her is, of course, part of a series, Ransleigh Rogues in this instance, but it can stand alone very well. I mean, I don’t recall any details from any previous book in this series, but I can understand it just fine, so I think other people will be fine with it too.
Say hello to Dominic Ransleigh. He doesn’t seem like the wicked or slutty type, so I wonder whether the title is actually referring to the villain, who is trying his best to get his paws into the heroine Theodora Branwell’s bloomers without even some flowers or “Please, puppies will die if you don’t put out to me!” type of pleas. Dom has come back from the war, with all his limbs intact but with mobility issues that keep him from training and riding his beloved horses, probably permanently. He retreats to his country home in Suffolk to brood, only to have his peace interrupted by genteel folks who come complaining to him that a newcomer, Theodora, is in town trying to convert a property she has rented into a home for war orphans.
These folks are appalled, because kids that grew up in the battle fields would have come in contact with camp followers and what not, so they must be morally corrupted creatures not fit to be seen around proper folks! Fortunately, Dom doesn’t feel that way. He’s especially taken by Theo, who turns to be your every day charming nanny/mommy-figure heroine type who has no problems mouthing off and speaking out of her boundaries to a man who outranks her socially. She has lost a fiancé to the war, and she never thought she’d be attracted to another man again… until she meets Dom. However, she knows that she cannot put out for free, as much as she wants to, as she has to keep them tightly shut for the orphanage to continue, and she also has a few secrets that she needs to keep close to her bosom. Oh, what to do, what to do?
Now, given that this is a book by Julia Justiss, I expect the hero and the heroine to eventually start thumping their chests and trying very hard to outdo one another in being the biggest martyr ever for the silliest of reasons. How startling, therefore, that none of that shows up here. The heroine actually explains things to the hero when she is backed up against the wall, instead of going all dramatic and doing stupid things in order to be the drama queen of the year. Okay, Theo does have a tendency to jump to negative conclusions at times, but she doesn’t go as far as some of the heroines of the author’s previous books when it comes to pulling stupid stunts to martyr herself only to end up needing rescue. This is actually nice, just like how it is always nice to read about a heroine who, for a change, doesn’t automatically attempt to martyr herself as the default reaction to any situation. Do you how rare this is in a book by Julia Justiss? I feel like I’ve struck gold or something.
The hero is a nice guy. The closest Dom comes to being a rake is through references to his horse-crazy past – he loves to race and train horses, how shocking. But I guess the “rake” thing is needed to tie in this book to the rest of the series in a “the rake to whatever her” way. He is a pretty reasonable hero, and it is remarkable how protective he is of the heroine and how ruthless he can be when it comes to making sure that the villains can’t get to her.
The romance in The Rake to Reveal Her isn’t the most exciting thing around, as it is still noticeably another “brooding dude and the nanny/mommy-type heroine” tale without many variations in the proceeding to keep me on my toes, but the plot, including the heroine’s secrets, are handled very nicely – maturely, sensibly, allowing the hero to get all dramatic and gallant without making the heroine come off as utterly useless or inept in the process. The villain is pretty one-dimensional, but not too much – mean and nasty without going comical and absurd. The chemistry is pleasant, the romance is plausible, and I can buy the happy ending. Therefore, while this one doesn’t have many surprises in store, it is a tale of familiar stuff being handled in a reasonable and engaging manner that makes reading this story a very pleasant kind of entertainment.
Perhaps this is one book that reveals how the author can serve up a fun story if she could rein in her heroines’ masochistic determination to fling themselves into the nearest pyre every time their sensibilities get even a little bit hurt. Dare I hope that this is the start of a new pattern? Yes, I know, I’m not getting my hopes too high up yet.