Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers) by Sarah MacLean. Avon Books. 2010. Library Copy. Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord 2010; Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart 2011.
The Plot: Regency England. The St. John twins are scandalous, for reasons beyond their control -- their mother famously abandoned children and husband -- and in their control...they are young, handsome, and Gabriel, the elder brother and the Marquess of Ralston, is a rake of the highest level.
When the twenty year old daughter of their mother's second marriage, Juliana, shows up on their doorstep, they recognize her as their sister and will do everything to have her socially accepted.
Lady Calpurnia is 28, plain, and because she wanted more than a husband looking for her fortune, she is unmarried. She realizes life has passed her by, and writes a list of what she would do, if only... if only she was a man, who acts, instead of a woman, who waits.
She makes a list... of the things she wants to do. And while Gabriel isn't on the list, a kiss is, and why not try for a kiss from the man she's had a crush on since forever?
The Good: Nine Rules was fun and hot; Callie is so well respected that Gabriel gets her help in introducing Juliana to society. And Gabriel is such a rake that Callie keeps running into him as she does the things that, if known, would make her not respectable. I liked this book; I liked Callie and her desire for more; I liked the level of spice. But, I'll be honest: I never warmed to Gabriel. I don't think he ever appreciated just how society had boxed Callie in. Basically, this volume, and Gabriel, just wasn't feminist enough for me. Gabriel never really "got it," and it seemed a bit like Callie was doing this more from being single than from being unhappy with society's limits.
BUT. I loved Callie, I loved her list, I loved her chance at love, I loved the spice.
And I LOVED Ten Ways, about Gabriel's younger twin brother, Nicholas. Nicholas is chasing after a runaway lady and encounters Lady Isabel Townsend. Isabel has been keeping home and family together, after her gambling father took off, permanently, to London, her mother died, and now her father is dead as well. But Isabel isn't just taking care of her younger brother...
Long story short, Isabel has created "Minerva House," a place where women can go, women who need a place of safety. Abused wives, pregnant girls, women with no options or choices. And if anyone finds out the truth, it'll all collapse. And here comes handsome Nicholas.... I loved the romance, I loved the spice, and I loved that Nicholas totally got what Isabel was doing and why.
Juliana's story is told in Eleven Scandals, which is her love story with the Duke of Leighton. The Duke, who avoids any hint of scandal and looks down on everyone who isn't him. Since Juliana is half-English and half-Italian and is arguably illegitimate, and the daughter of a merchant, with no title.... well. Yes. She's a scandal just by existing. And Juliana, like her brothers before her, both hates that she's being judged and also fights back with outrageous behavior.
It would be really, really easy to hate the Duke because he's so superior. But.... I found myself feeling sorry for him. Because just as Juliana and her brothers were shaped by their mother, so, too, has Simon been shaped by a world that told him, constantly, he was superior. I loved Eleven Scandals because, well, it brought him down a peg or two; he was made to see that he, and those he loved, were human. And there's nothing wrong with that.
And now I can't wait to read MacLean's A Rogue by Any Other Name: The First Rule of Scoundrels (Rules of Scoundrels), both because I enjoyed these books and because I understand there is at least some overlap in characters.
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