Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: The Rake by Mary Jo Putney

Ugh, I'm so sorry about the lack of posts and reviews lately!! Work is again kicking my butt ^_^; I don't know if it would have been this way had my co-worker been here... I'd like to say no LOL. In any case, I have been run around like a hen without a head, trying to get things done. It didn't help that my boss asked for some stuff out of the blues that demand some calculations and preparations :( Like stuff I only do once a year or two years ^_^;

As usual, I don't have any posts ready to go up for when I'm in a pinch. I really need to work on that! The good news though is today should be more relax (yay!), so I'm taking advantage of it and here we go! Enjoy :)

The Rake by Mary Jo Putney
published by Signet (NAL) in September 1989 and re-printed by Kensington in March 2012
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.
Genre: Historical romance
Series: None

The Story: Reginald Davenport is a rake of the first order. However, what people don't realize is that a lot of his behavior and defiance stem from his bad relationship with his uncle, the Earl of Wargrave, a very hard man with strict ideas of how to treat his heir. For most of his life, Reggie thought he would succeed his uncle... until the man died and a grandson who came from nowhere inherited the title and fortune. As a result, Reggie finds himself at loose ends, not knowing exactly what to do with his life, but growing tired of being a rake. At 37 years of age, carousing and getting drunk have lost a lots of its appeal, especially of late as Reggie has started blacking out after excessive drinking. And then, his new cousin offers him Strickland, an estate in Dorset, which was actually Reggie's childhood home till he became an orphan... and his by right as the estate belonged to his mother's family.

Alys Weston is not happy about this change of owner, rightful heir or not. She's been the estate manager for Strickland for four years now and has so far been able to hide her gender from her employer. It was easy with the old Earl, as he had no interest in Strickland and therefore, never came for a visit. When the new Earl came, she was able to pretend sickness in the family and avoided meeting him... But what if Reginald Davenport takes an interest to his estate? She's been an excellent estate manager and the books show it, but will results matter when he discovers she's a woman? In addition, Alys has her three charges to worry about - one of them a young woman and another, a young and impressionable young man. It can't be good for them to be around a rake such as Davenport and his reputation sure precedes him!

Neither Alys and Reginald is what each other expected... but they like what they see! And as they get to know each other, friendship turns into something more. But can a rake really change his lifestyle? And what secrets does Alys hide?

My Opinion: It's been a while since I last read a book by Ms Putney and while it was enjoyable, it didn't really wow me. As a result, I haven't really  kept up with her new releases and as such, The Rake wasn't on my radar... until I read Hilcia's commentary :) Luckily for me, The Rake being a reprint, I was able to easily find a copy and good thing too, since it was such an enjoyable read!

What I really liked about The Rake was how well-developed it was. The book is quite thick and Ms Putney really utilizes all these pages to flesh out the characters and establish a relationship between Reggie and Alys. I felt that was refreshing because in a lot of romance books lately, the romance seems rushed and the characters, superficial ^_^; However, in this case, we really got to know the characters and more importantly, they got to know each other :)

Personally, my favorite character in The Rake was Reggie. He is most assuredly a rake, but what makes him so likable is that he's honest about it and assumes the responsibilities and consequences it entails. I also liked his sense of honor... He probably doesn't see it as such, but Reggie has definite ideas on what he will do and what he won't and most of the time, it puts him in the good guys column LOL. Also if he'd been allowed to follow his dreams - to go into the army, I reckon Reggie wouldn't be such a different man :) Something else that I found interesting was Reggie's restlessness at the beginning of the story. How he was growing tired of his lifestyle... I think at 37 years old, it makes sense right? :) In most historical romances, a rake ceased being one when it comes time to settle down, get a wife and some heirs. However, Reggie no longer has such obligations and still, he's growing restless. I really liked that he had questions and doubts about his lifestyle even before he met Alys; I liked that for once, it wasn't a woman or family that made a rake change. Instead, it was the rake himself! I also liked our heroine, Alys :) Mostly because she was so unusual for her time, not only being an estate manager, but being competent as well! Although I think it would have been more fun to see here more at work. At the beginning of the book, she's a bit mad because she feels she has to prove herself again, even though she's been estate manager for four years now. The thing is, there was no concrete examples of that throughout the book. Once Reggie showed up, you don't see any tenants coming to complain about her or cause any problems. In addition, I think she pales a little in comparison to Reggie. She does have an interesting background story, but the character herself, I didn't feel like I got a good sense of who she was.

I did enjoy the romance in The Rake. I really liked that they didn't fall into bed right away. Reggie is attracted by Alys, but he doesn't want to screw things up - her being his estate manager and all. First, I liked that Reggie kept her on for her competence. She's proven herself and the books show the result and there was no doubt for him. I also liked that he was mindful of her reputation. All in all, because we got to see the attraction grow while the relationship was established and friendship bloomed, I really could believe that Reggie and Alys fell in love with each other :) Also, I believed the romance worked because of the honesty between Reggie and Alys. That was really lovely and refreshing. One thing though is I wished Alys had more trust in Reggie. I know she was in charge of 3 youngsters and therefore, cannot help but worry about Reggie's reputation... and a few times, I felt she got caught up with it. It was okay when she first met Reggie, but once she got to know him, I feel she should have trusted him a lot more...

As I mentioned, The Rake is quite a thick book and therefore a lot of things happened. Some of it was mundane, related to the estate, which was fun to see. I loved that Reggie had always wanted to wash sheep when he was younger and this time, did not miss the opportunity LOL. A lot of what happened was also more personal and was meant to really flesh out the characters. I liked that Ms Putney addressed Reggie's problems with alcohol. Obviously, back in those time, people were not aware of alcoholism which is exactly where Reggie was heading for. So that was very interesting. What worked less for me though is that his father and godfather just happened to struggle with alcoholism as well. I know it can run in a family, but I would have liked to see Reggie deal with it on his own. I think that in The Rake, Ms Putney tried her best to balance the different aspects of the story and I really enjoyed the mundane stuff and the more personal issues and conflicts. However, I think she failed a bit when it came to the intrigue that was related to Alys' identity. Some of it was just too predictable and she did a great job at the build-up, but when it happened, it was a bit anti-climatic, which was unfortunate.

My Grade: B+. Overall, The Rake was a really good read and I can see why Ms Putney won a RITA with The Rake. If she has more books like this one, I'll definitively be reading more of her in the near future :)