A man’s past doesn’t have to map his fate, especially when a woman holds the key to his destiny in this timeless novel by New York Times bestselling author and legend in historical romance Mary Jo Putney…
Disinherited and disgraced, Reginald Davenport’s prospects cried for a dire end. But fate has given him one last chance at redemption—by taking his rightful place as the heir of Strickland, his lost ancestral estate. Davenport knows his way around women, yet nothing prepares him for his shocking encounter with Lady Alys Weston.
Masquerading as a man in order to obtain a position as estate manager of Strickland, Alys fled a world filled with mistrust and betrayal. She was finished with men—until Strickland’s restored owner awakens a passion she thought she would never feel. A passion that will doom or save them both…if only they can overcome their pasts.
Heat Level: 3
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Jenny Q
The Rake was originally published in 1998. Now that I’ve read my second Mary Jo Putney, I can say that she has a true talent for creating deep, dimensional characters that capture a reader’s heart. I’ve seen this book on quite a few “best of” lists, and it’s the characters that drive this emotional and sublimely satisfying love story.
The only thing Reggie Davenport has ever been good at is winning at gambling and using his winnings to drink away his demons every night. When the cousin who usurped his place in the family succession reaches out to him with a peace offering in the form of the manor where Reggie spent the happy days of his childhood, Reggie decides he’s been given a second chance at turning his life around, and sets off for Strickland with a purpose and a plan. That plan hits a snag the moment he arrives and discovers that the steward who’s been running his manor so profitably for the past few years is a woman. And not just any woman, but a tall, proud, commanding beauty who happens to be just his type. Reforming his wicked ways may prove to be harder than he’d thought with temptation so close to hand.
Alys Weston has heard all about her new boss’s notorious reputation, but she can’t afford to lose her position, let alone quit over a little thing like propriety. While nursing an old heartache and hiding from her true identity, Alys has made a home and a family for herself, and finally found a place where she belongs. She’s determined to remain the stalwart professional and prove her worth to Strickland’s new owner while resisting his plentiful charms. But that proves to be very hard to do, especially once she gets to know Reggie and realizes that his behavior as a rake is just a front for the wounded and noble man underneath.
As they spend their days caring for their beloved manor and their evenings in companionable conversation in the library, Reggie and Alys fall in love. But Alys holds old hurts close to her heart, and though Reggie is trying to best his alcohol addiction, the beast continues to rear its ugly head, sometimes with disastrous consequences. He’s convinced a woman like Alys, who is so good, so strong, and so competent, is utterly deserving of a man much better than he is. And though Alys pines for Reggie and the good man hidden inside him, she cannot condone the dark side alcohol brings out in him, nor can she trust enough in a future with him to reveal the secrets of her past. But when that past catches up with her and comes calling, Reggie and Alys face a danger that threatens not only their regard for each other, but their very lives. Can they come to terms with their issues to grasp for a future together before it’s too late?
The Rake does not have an exciting, fast-paced plot (though there are a few moments of action and suspense toward the end), nor is it full of balls and teas and social outings. It is a simple, pure, adult love story featuring two characters who leap to life from the pages in all of their beautiful, flawed glory. It’s a character-driven emotional roller coaster, with very deep and serious subject matter for a Regency romance, and some really poignant moments as Alys and Reggie come to terms with choices made and realize how much of their suffering has been self-inflicted, and how much they’ve hurt others. The depiction of such realistic struggles of two people overcoming vices and fears to take a chance on happiness and love evokes feeling on every page, and after I finished and closed the cover all I could think was, “Wow. That was a good love story.” Good enough to stand out from the crowd and earn a spot on my favorite romances list, and ensure that I will be looking out for more from Mary Jo Putney.