Feb 17 2017 9:30am

What Is the Difference Between a Rake and a Rogue?

Rake or Rogue?

If you’ve ever walked down the aisle of a bookstore in the romance section you’ve no doubt scene one or two words that consistently jump out at you when you peruse the historical romance titles. Rake and Rogue seem to be the most popular and possible the most misused.

So what do the words Rake and Rogue actually mean when it comes to historical romance books? I’m going to break it down for you!

So what is a Rake (also known as a Rakehell?)? A rake, short for rakehell (analogous to “hellraiser”), is a historic term applied to a man who is habituated to immoral conduct, particularly womanizing. Often, a rake was also prodigal, wasting his (usually inherited) fortune on gambling, wine, women, and song, and incurring lavish debts in the process. Comparable terms are “libertine” and “debauchee.” The term rakehell itself comes from the idea that these men are so bad or wicked that they will be having their feet raked over the coals in hell, hence Rakehell. So a basic definition for a rake is that he’s a seducer and a charmer.

So what then is a Rogue? It seems to have a far more negative connation with definitions ranging from: vagrant, tramp, a dishonest or worthless person, or a mischievous person. A basic definition for a rogue within a romance novels is that a rogue is a wild card, a man who is really unpredictable and possible dangerous (but not to the heroine in a bad way)

It’s clear that the term Rakehell has a much stronger historical background than rogue, so how do these two terms play out in historical romance novels and what do they have in common? Both Rakes and Rogues seem to have a love of women and seduction but the big difference seems to lie in how they act in society. A rake plays by the rules, even if he is wicked while he does it, where as a rogue seems to be the ultimate rule breaker, who won’t let anything stop him from what he wants, not even societal conventions.

In your typical historical romance title, the word Rogue is more often used than Rake, which seems odd, since the majority of the romance novels out there don’t actually involve Rogues, but actually Rakes. So here’s a go-to list of perfect Rake and Rogue romances:

Hungry for Rogues? These are a few must-reads:

Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey: (Amazon | Kobo | B&N) In this story, James Malory the hero is the ultimate rogue, he’s a gentleman pirate! There’s no playing for the rules by this man, especially when he discovers his cabin boy isn’t actually a boy. The sparks fly and James let’s little Georgina continue to play her game of being a servant on his ship, rather than insist she return to her feminine attire.

Sometimes A Rogue by Mary Jo Putney: (Amazon | Kobo | B&N) In this story, the hero Rob has turned his back on his disastrous family and has become a Bow Street Runner where he rescues the heroine Sarah. Now as a Bow Street Runner, he’s one of the early forms of “police” as they existed in the Regency Era. This is definitely a rule breaker hero.

Want a Wicked Rake? These are a few must reads:

When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn: (Amazon | Kobo | B&N) In this story, the hero Michael Sterling is London’s most infamous rake but he’s always been in love with his best friend’s wife. In true rake fashion he tiptoes around Francesca after her husband dies unexpectedly, because he doesn’t want to ruin the friendship he’s always had for her. But his sinful wickedness just might be the cure for her broken heart.

Captain Jack’s Woman by Stephanie Laurens: (Amazon | Kobo | B&N) This story might sound like it’s about a Rogue, but I think Jack is actually more of a rake since he uses tender and gentle yet sinful methods of seduction for his heroine Kit despite the fact that he’s running a smuggling ring.

H&H Editor Picks:

Unusual Historical Best Bets for January 2017

The Top 6 Unusual Historical Romances of 2016

Bring the Pain: Angsty Historicals






Lauren Smith is the author of the bestselling historical romance series “The League of Rogues” and loves writing about rule-breaking heroes. Connecting with readers by writing emotionally moving, realistic and sexy romances no matter what time period is her passion. To connect with Lauren, visit her at

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1. PhoebeChase
Great post! I have to admit, I love both, but the Rakes sound like a little more fun. ;)
3. lauralee1912
@Kareni - LOL

I always think of a rake as being all about pleasure until he falls in love. And he says he never will. And a rogue might steal a dowry or jewelry while stealing the heroine's heart.
Jennifer Proffitt
4. JenniferProffitt
@Lauralee1912 & @kareni: SAME. I think the rogue is known for like... being nepharious in other ways, like you mentioned he may cheat at cards, steal a dowry, secretly be a horse thief, while a rake is purely about the ladies.
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