This one turned out to be unexpectedly sweet and tender, with a hero who's basically a good, decent man who has nothing to do with the 'Rake' on the title.
Lady Chelsea is told by her brother, the Earl of Brean, that she's to marry a man of his choosing, a conniving priest who's playing her brother for a fool ever since he (=the brother) had a close brush with death two years ago. In her despair, Chelsea escapes her brother's house and goes to his arch-enemy, Oliver Beau Blackthorn, asking him to marry her instead. This way, Beau can achieve his revenge on her brother and she will be out of her brother's and the priest's clutches. After some thinking Beau agrees to elope with her and with the help of his brother Puck, they start their long journey towards Gretna Green. However, many obstacles appear on their way and what starts as a typical journey, ends as an adventure and a journey of discovery for both of them.
Beau is essentially a good, clever and dutiful man, who unfortunately had to learn the hard way that all these traits matter less than nothing when you're born on the wrong side of the blanket. You can act as a gentleman, but will never be accepted as such by the ton. The Earl of Brean has hurt Beau deeply, but after getting to know Chelsea, he's quick to realise how different from her brother and sister she is. I liked the fact that he sees her as her own person, with a mind and will of her own and doesn't hold her family against her. Soon, he's beginning to understand that he's gaining much more than he expected out of this deal and doesn't hide it from himself or from Chelsea. He's protective and possessive of her and at the same time he doesn't try to smother her fiery spirit but rather admires her for it.
I also liked Chelsea a lot. She was witty, willful, honest and also bossy and impetuous, but she's basically well-intentioned. She soon starts to see the man Beau is behind the bastard's
label, his strength, his devotion to his family, his decency and starts falling for him. Sure, she spoke sharply sometimes, but it came to me as snarky humor, rather than actual meanness on her part.
In the end, it was a nice story between two lonely people who slowly fell in love with each other. The adventures on their way added a nice touch of humor and spice in their tale and kept me delightfully entertained. The pace was ok, neither too fast nor too slow and the style sweeter than I usually like but still not sticky sweet which would have ruined it for me. I'm really looking forward to reading the other two brothers' stories, especially Jack's, the darker of the two Blackthorn brothers.