Rake’s Ransom by Barbara Metzger

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Madcap Tomboy…

When the local magistrate jailed Jacelyn Trevaine’s pet dog as a public nuisance, the country miss knew he meant to blackmail her into socializing with his nephew. High-spirited Jacelyn decided to free her dog by kidnapping the precious nephew, but unfortunately she abducted the wrong gentleman Her captive was none other than handsome Lord Leigh Claibourne–returned war hero and rake extraordinaire. And four hours alone with the libertine Earl was tantamount to social ruin. Of course if she was already ruined, Jacelyn may as well give society something to be scandalized about…

Hardened Womanizer…

Claibourne found country life tiresome and dull … until he was kidnapped by an irrepressible chit whose candor was utterly disarming. Even rakes have their points of honor, however, and when the situation threatened to compromise Jacelyn, the cynical nobleman was forced to give the appearance of being betrothed to her. Claibourne never gave something for nothing. And in the case of the deliciously appealing Jacelyn, he’d hold her reputation hostage…for a rake’s ransom.

Publisher and Release Date: Untreed Reads, 25 April 2012
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Patrice F

Readers should take note that this novel was written in the late 1980’s, and as such, the plot and characterization fit the “teen affliction” trend popular to the 80’s era, despite the fact this is a Regency romance. There’s the rollicking, endless cast to fit various archetypes; overblown hijinks, and risqué antidotes reminiscent of films such as Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club, to name but a few. No scenario was complete without the feisty, smart, none traditionally pretty heroine in the lead, capturing the attention of the popular guy/bad boy while pitting her wits against adversity, chaos, and rivals.

With that said, enter Lady Jacelyn Trevaine, a country hoyden who becomes entangled with worldly Leigh Merrill, Earl of Claiborne, a gentleman and soldier who secretly has no wish to be free of his obligations but must make a good show of it, lest his delightful prey escape him. While this unusual pair struggles to define their feelings and relationship, the demands of family, friends, and the ton intrude in ways that would do a John Hughes film proud.

For the zillionth time, Jacelyn “Jacey” Trevaine has run afoul of her neighbor, Squire Bottwick, a fox hunting enthusiast. Despite the Squire’s constant complaints and warnings to his oldest friend, Lord Trevaine, regarding the spunky miss, Jacey’s scholarly father dotes on her, acting as mediator when conflict arises — and it does, often. When Jacey crosses the line, Squire Bottwick retaliates by blackmailing her into visiting his nephew, Arthur. She responds by kidnapping her childhood nemesis. Later, Jacey discovers that she has captured the wrong man, the Earl of Claiborne, a man so compellingly attractive she wonders why she didn’t figure this out sooner.

Forced to announce an engagement to society, Jacelyn and Lord Claiborne maneuver their way through London society, who are all agog at the unexpected news. A battle of wills and a nasty plot to stop the nuptials test their mettle and the validity of their budding friendship and romance.

Lady Jacelyn is not a modern seventeen year old; she’s an English aristocrat with just a touch more freedom than other girls since she is a country lass. She does have the impulsive, rebellious traits that are familiar to teenagers today. She’s versed in at least two living languages, and one that is not, Latin. Jacey is familiar with the writings of Cicero and other Greek relic philosophers, and has been running her father’s household since her mother’s long-ago death. Financial independence, lack of female influence and more education than her peers has made Jacey outspoken and content with the idea of remaining unmarried. If she is the instigator in changing her future, then Claiborne is the catalyst. Although she’s been stuck in the country forever, Jacey is a quick learner, with loads of common sense and self-confidence. Because she’s never had romantic feelings for anyone, it takes a while for her recognize what she feels for Lord Claiborne is beyond friendship and gratitude.

Claiborne is dashing, with polish and charm from his time spent on the continent, after recovering from battles on the front with Napoleon. He has a strong sense of familial responsibility and honor. Grasping, scheming mothers, greedy socialites and vain debutantes circle him like sharks, and he never backs down while keeping his eye on Jacey’s madcap antics. I found him likeable though sometimes distant; his actions reveal the truth in the style of Heyer’s heroes.

Squire Bottwick, his wife, Clothida and their daughters Samantha and Priscilla, are central to the plot and trials the couple face as their relationship evolves. His nephew, Arthur, is on the outskirts of the story and is neatly woven into various situations that bring enlightenment and change. Claiborne’s relations, such as his French tante — a timelessly chic survivor of the Terror who reminds me of Coco Chanel — is the perfect contrast to Jacey’s family, in particular her aunt, Lady Parkhurst, who is unbendingly British. The antagonists are strictly there for comedic relief, and provide an amusing climax, and an unexpected, if a bit bewildering, finale.

Ms. Metzger brings to life a character as self-sufficient, witty and unconventional as Molly Ringwald in those iconic 80’s films. I liked Jacey’s wacky antics and Claiborne’s smooth strategy in dealing with her, keeping her safe. Their group of friends and acquaintances add just the right amount of conflict and resolution. I snickered at some of the sly and random bawdiness that suddenly appears in a few scenes.

Rake’s Ransom was a fun, wholesome read, a relaxing way to escape the traffic, work woes and “things-that-need-to-be-addressed” at home. If you’re okay with a liberal dash of Cartland-Heyer and a splash of Hughes’ movie attitude, then you can’t go wrong with this sassy, Regency romp.

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