Book: A Rake’s Redemption by Cynthia Breeding (2018)

Reviewer: Bethany

Age/Genre: Period Romance

Preferred Reading Environment: This one’s good for curling up in your favorite chair on a rainy day.

Reading Accoutrements: Fuzzy socks, a warm blanket, and some hot cocoa (Books that take place in England always make me feel cold in an air conditioned room).

As you probably already know, it is the month of my birthday! As such, I’m leaning hard into the romance genre with my list of books to review because…well, I really like reading romance novels. I came across A Rake’s Redemption in one of the email lists I subscribe to and it seemed promising. Here’s a quick synopsis:

Inis Fitzgerald ran away from her home (and controlling uncle) in Dublin to avoid an arranged marriage. Due to a few mishaps upon landing in England, she ends up working as a servant in the house of an English lord named Alexander Ashley. Alexander is tired of the conventions and stodgy arrogance of the haute ton. He truly believes that nobility shouldn’t be able to treat the lower classes poorly because of an accident of birth. That, combined with the fact that his brother (the duke) married Alexander’s fiance, has made him cynical. He’s been sleeping with the wives of all of his brother’s friends in an attempt to subtly undermine his brother.

Then, Alexander hatches a better plan. He will teach one of the servants to be a lady (Pygmalion style) and present her to the Prince Regent at his brother’s ball in order to humiliate his brother. Unaware of her background, Alexander convinces Inis to be the servant he trains in exchange for passage to America. Inis pretends to need training on the societal conventions of upper crust London while she tries to avoid being recognized by friends of her uncle. Things seem to be going fine until a series of accidents make it clear that someone is trying to kill Inis.

Alexander and Inis are really cute together. They both struggle with the behavior of their compatriots in the upper class and choose to eschew the dictates of “polite society” by disobeying their rules. Both of them know all of their servants’ names and their families, they are careful to spread their wealth when possible, and they work hard to ensure the protection of those they feel responsible for. Their similar beliefs in politics give them common ground, except for one thing.

Alexander’s plot to embarrass his brother would have also embarrassed, and probably ruined the life of, whatever servant he chose to use for his ruse. The servant would not have been employable by any other noble households in England, at minimum. Not to mention her reputation would have been destroyed as a woman living with a well-known rake. At best, she could have hoped that Alexander would set her up in a house far from London with an allowance, and if he chose to take advantage of that situation by making her his mistress, what could she do? She would be entirely dependent on him to survive. The characters bring this issue up once, but it’s glossed over before any resolution can be found. Alexander’s selfishness in considering only the consequences that he cares about really irritated me, a lot like it did in the Pygmalion storyline.

Meanwhile, Inis is inadvertently ruining Alexander’s plans by being party to them. She is obviously unaware of the fact that the Prince Regent would never become offended by meeting her, which means Alexander’s brother would never be embarrassed, because she is a duke’s niece and was raised with all of the benefits of her birth. All it would take is one of her uncle’s friends recognizing her and Alexander’s plot – and her own to escape to America – would be foiled. Her naivete really bothered me, considering that otherwise she seems to have much more common sense than the average debutante I read about in period romances.

I really enjoyed the trying-to-kill-Inis plotline of A Rake’s Redemption because it broke up the monotony of just another Cinderella/Pygmalion/Princess-and-the-Pauper-style period romance. While it wasn’t really suspenseful because the reader knows who is orchestrating the attempts on Inis’s life the whole time, there was more excitement than the average romance novel knowing that the characters were unaware of the intentional nature of the “accidents” Inis was having for so long. It also left some plotlines unfinished that have enticed me to read the rest of the series eventually. But first…

I think I’m going to have to cut back on this type of romance novel for a while, because I realized while I read this book that I am really tired of the “they’re all out to get my money/power/body” trope. Seriously, all of the billionaires and lords and rockstars in my romance novels recently have been so obsessed with this thought that women could only be after them for one thing, and it’s never their personality. Their cynicism is  making me cynical. Especially because they tend to use this belief as an excuse to be complete and total assholes; they’ll be rude and crude, have sex with whomever they want, and then roll their eyes at any woman who tries to take it a step further and go back to being rude and crude. I recognize that often this is the plot point upon which the story hinges, but I’d rather see a plot that doesn’t include rich assholes lamenting the fact that women use them for money while they’re using those same women for sex (#FirstWorldProblems). Maybe I’ll come back to it some other time.

What do you think I should read next? Leave me a suggestion below!

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