Regency Romance lore has it that reformed rakes make the best husbands. And no one writes rakes more in need of reform than Carolyn Jewel. Fortunately, no one does a better job of reforming them either.
Let’s start with the Historical Romance that put Carolyn Jewel on the romance map: Ruan Bettancourt, Duke of Cynssyr, or, as he is known among proper society, Lord Ruin. This, as it turns out is a well-earned name. He is a rake of the first order, with no regard for the women he ruins in his debauchery. The book opens with our “hero” climbing into bed with an unknown woman whom he assumes is a prostitute and having his way with her while she is in a drugged sleep. Even a dawning suspicion that she might not be a prostitute does not keep him from doing the deed.
The one moment, he was enjoying her pliant body beneath him, at last in the more usual manner, and showing her how to move with him, the next, he was submerged in pleasure so deep he thought he would actually die if he didn’t come in her. Now. This minute. He looked away for the briefest moment distracted by light reflecting off a pair of spectacles on the bed table.
Unfortunately for everyone, the light is caused by someone entering the room and discovering Lord Ruin in bed with the older sister of the woman he thought he would marry.
Not a total cad, Cynssyr agrees to marry Anne Sinclair, but has not yet embarked on his reformation.
“Hell, Anne. Everyone knows.” Ruan laughed. Amusement without mirth. Dark and quite ugly. Now that he’d recovered from his fit of lust, he remembered the consequences of his indulgence. “At this point, Miss Sinclair, the trick would be finding someone who did not.” He caught a glimpse of pale eyes wide with disbelief before he deliberately turned to Ben. He would not feel sorry for her. He absolutely refused.
Well… maybe he still is a total cad at this point. And probably continues to be for quite some time. But, as I said earlier, no one does a better job of reforming her rakes than Carolyn Jewel. This book takes us on Ruan’s journey as he falls in love with his wife. And, extraordinarily, it is a believable journey.
It starts, quite naturally, with an appreciation of her physical attributes.
Once the arrangement of a woman’s features had been the sole criterion by which he judged her beauty. But more and more Anne pleased him better than any Beauty he’d ever known.
As Anne and Ruan adjust to their life together, he comes to understand her character and her intellect.
Anne had changed everything he ever knew or believed about himself. He was a man familiar with lust, and honesty forced him to admit that what he felt for his wife was considerably more than that. The very underpinnings of his existence were gone.
This is a key element in Ruan’s growth. Everything is ripped away by his growing connection with Anne. And then, only then, can something finer take its place.
The Earl of Banallt, the rake in Scandal, Carolyn Jewel’s RITA nominated 2009 novel, is possibly not as unrepentant as Lord Ruin. Possibly. But this might because he has already fallen in love when we first meet him. He has come to offer marriage to Sophie Mercer Evans, whom first met him when he was her late husband’s companion in debauchery.
Improbably, Sophie and Banallt had become friends during the course of her marriage to the dissolute Tommy Evans. And, probably, the earl had ruined that friendship by proposing Sophie become his mistress while her husband and his wife were still alive.
She lifted her hand, but he caught her wrist and pulled her toward him. “Carte blanche,” he said. His face was hard, his mouth tense, and something wild came up from him and she was in an instant reminded of just how much smaller she was than him. Fear spilled down her spine, and she hated Banallt for this. For making her afraid of him. “Get out.” She shoved him hard enough that he let her go.
Their friendship ended but Bannallt has not been able to eradicate Sophie from his mind or his heart. When he finally proposes, Sophie has not forgiven him and does not believe that he has changed.
“I know him, John.” She clenched her hands into fists. “No one knows him better. He doesn’t love me. He just wants to have won.”
This book is the study of a relationship in which the rake has already been felled by love and must convince the object of his affection that he has, indeed, changed. While Scandal is still the story of a rake reformed, it is not a repetition of Lord Ruin or any of Carolyn Jewel’s other rakes. Banallt has already realized the error of his ways and has committed himself, not only to a less debauched life, but to work with the Foreign Office. Throughout the book, the story is informed by English politics as Napoleon escapes from Elba and musters his forces. Not only is every detail well-researched, it also propels the story of Sophie and Banallt toward the happy ending you know they deserve.
I don’t read paranormal, so I have not read any of Carolyn Jewel’s non-historical romances. But I can assure you that each one of her historicals is worth your time. She masterfully weaves characterization, historical accuracy, and plot to make each book unique and compelling. Go meet some of her rakes.
Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.