By: Sarah MacLean
Publisher: Avon Historical Romance
Publication Date: March 30, 2010
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 19, 2010
It’s Lady Calpurnia Hartwell’s debut evening into the lion’s den of high-muckety-muck English society. Calpurnia is a young woman who has played by the rules all her life; absolutely no one can find a single fault in her aristocratic frame. In fact, she reminds most people of the real Calpurnia – Empress of Rome – who turned out to be stronger and smarter than any of the men who surrounded her. So what would stop the young Calpurnia from being inundated with a mess of suitors? Unfortunately, she’s a real woman, not a slender reed swaying in the wind. In addition, her mother, the Countess of Allendale, dresses her up in absolutely ridiculous clothing, and the only suitors who surround her are fortune hunters and old men with creepy looks on their faces.
At the debut, Calpurnia runs away from the vat of hopelessly improper suitors and races into the garden, where she finds herself in the company of the King of Rakes – Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston. From that moment in time, everything in Calpurnia’s life begins to change. She’s tired of being passive, especially when her younger sister Marianna – the Allendale Angel – announces her forthcoming marriage. Calpurnia is immediately thrust into the role of family spinster, and confides in her beloved brother, Benedick, that she wants much more out of life. Her brother loves her with all his heart, and tells her to throw out her lace cap and have some sort of adventure (within reason). Calpurnia takes things one step further and makes a list of all she wants to do including; fencing; attending a duel; firing a pistol; and, smoking a cheroot. However, the most important thing on her list is to kiss someone passionately. She’s been a lady on the throne of propriety for far too long, and wants to see how the “other half” lives.
Ralston, for his part, is her intended “kissee;” and a deal is struck between them. If Ralston helps Calpurnia with her list than, in return, Calpurnia must teach his newly-arrived sister how to act and speak correctly in London society. As they work together to make Ralston’s sister’s debut a sparkling success, Ralston also works on aiding Calpurnia with her “list” of needs that could land the poor woman in the gutter. After all, Ralston is the biggest rake in town, so he should know all the “ins” and “outs” of getting around the rules of the ton.
For all readers, this is truly a book filled with fun and frivolity. Yes, the romance is extremely well-written and does Avon Historicals proud. But the witty conversations, and the ridiculous moments that Calpurnia finds herself wrapped up in, keep the story fast-paced and extremely fun to read.
Quill Says: To understand and love a rake…become one. Calpurnia’s strong will and Ralston’s protective nature will make readers run for pen and paper to start their very own list of adventures.