Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-264233-0
Historical Romance, 2017
Lord Courtenay is the rake of your dreams. He makes love with a sneer of his face, because he is clearly too jaded and emo to make awkward faces during the act, and every act is a posture that screams just how broody and sexy he is. He smells of seductive alcoholic fumes, the apparent non-mention of him cleaning up after his flesh-oriented activities only imbue him with the eau de mansweat that will drive everyone with a working pituitary gland wild with desire. Of course, he is a man slut because he has all kinds of angst and hurt, so baby, you will want to embrace him and use your mangina to heal the hurt away, making him realize that you are his true love in the process. What, you are a woman? Don’t worry, he’ll ride that too. Everyone can love this guy, so take a queue number, and don’t forget, take a picture too because that will last so much longer.
Anyway, yeah, that’s the rake. His reputation takes a big hit recently, though, when a novel with a villain clearly after his likeness makes the rounds.
Julian Medlock is the responsible, prim, and proper fellow. He is devoted to his sister, a widow determined to live life to the fullest, while Courtenay is devoted to his nephew, the son of Julian’s sister. If Courtney wants to remain BFF with that nephew Simon – and really, which loving mother wouldn’t want her kid to be close to an awesome influence like Uncle Courtenay? – he best be on his good behavior. The sister, Isabella, decides that Courtney being seen in Julian’s company will be a great way to rehabilitate that man’s image. So there we go.
Now, isn’t this plot resemble something out of a typical “prim heroine and rake hero” Regency-era romance? Well, The Ruin of a Rake plays out just like one, to a degree that I sometimes wonder whether the author has merely swapped Julianne for Julian, slap a penis and a stubble on that poor girl, and voila, a gay romance. There is hardly any conflict here about two men doing all the things that may actually earn Courtney even more censure if word gets out whom he is doing that sodomy potato dance with, so the entire premise of him finding redemption in the magic private manparts of his one true love doesn’t quite ring real in this particular context.
It all boils down to personal preference. Sure, I love stories that have hot men bouncing off one another – who wouldn’t, because, you know, hot guys – but I personally prefer my historical gay fiction to present character and emotional exploration that are different from the ones that I can find in any romance with a strange couple. I likely won’t find this story as jarring if the author had included a foreword or afterword explaining that she is playing a little fast and loose with the norms of that era. Even then, I still prefer a story that isn’t in the vein of many, many historical romances with straight couples that I’ve read before. I mean, what’s the point? Sure, there are some readers of gay romance out there that will not touch romances with straight people – maybe this will appeal to them, who knows. Me, though, if I want those stories, I’d read those books, thanks very much.
The two guys are alright, if cookie cutter based on the archetypes they are based on, but that’s basically the only reason I may recommend this one. And it’s a weak reason at that.