Once a rake is the story of a war hero, who has returned home scarred from war, living as a recluse for over two years. The heroine is the sister of his dearest friend who died in the war and has been in love with him for years. She decides to use her charity work as a reason to bring him out of his cage and get in touch with him anew. The plan seems to work; at least halfway. She does get in touch with him, and he even seems to be attracted to her, but he refuses to go out in society. During two thirds of the book, he keeps wearing a mask, so that she does not see his scars and run away in fear, as his former fiance did. His plan is to get her in bed first and remove the mask later, so that she'll be too "tied" to him to leave him. How 'heroic' is that line of thinking I wonder? There is also another suitor who is after her hand, or should I say her dowry. This man is known as the "Blond Angel", a man who makes women swoon on the ballrooms, but is also the brother of the hero's former fiance. Who, unsurprisingly, wants to win him back, even though she's married to another.
Once a Rake has good premises. A scarred, recluse man who used to be the beau of the ton is forced to leave his shell because of a young, persistent, clever girl. I love scarred heroes and initially this one showed much promise, as did the heroine. That was until the first half of the book ended. Which, IMHO, is where the book should have ended as well. After that, the heroine became an unrelenting dynast, confused in her own games. Torn between two friends, each of whom has a completely different view on marriage -one bad, one good- she follows their conflicting advice in turns, unable to form a mind on her own and completely confusing the poor hero, who from a war hero and proud man turns into a meek sheep, willing to crawl all his way to her feet, if that means he'll gain her "unconditional" love. I have to say, there were passages that were very good in the book. However, almost everytime I became engrossed in the story, I was abruptly awakened by a stupid act or phrase, usually from the heroine. In fact, this book was so full of "small treasures" that I couldn't help but write them here for everyone to see:
Without comments: "I want to <...> pleasure you so thoroughly that you would sing an entire operetta by the time I'm through."
A new definition on "unconditional" love: Perhaps she did want him, but she'd mapped out a Via Dolorosa for him to undertake before she pronounced him worthy of her unconditional, uninhibited, unaltered love, and he wasn't certain he would prevail.
Heroine's friend to heroine:"You foolish, impetuous girl! You turned down the man you adore to marry a peacock you don't care a straw about?"
"Must everything happen according to your timetable? Must everything be now or never?"
Well, her friend said it all. I rest my case."I begged her to marry me, to spend her life with me, and she accused me of being a despicable monster, who doesn't care a whit about her and wanted to put her in a cage."
I can't help but wonder why he still keeps crawling after her...
Another definition on unconditional, uninhibited love... Heroine speaking:-"I believe you. I shouldn't have doubted you- but it's your fault! If you were forthright with me..."
-"Even so, you were quick to assume the worst about me, knowing me as well as you do."
Once again, how it's his
fault she assumed the worst about the man she loves is beyond me...
A new definition on faith: "Your faith in my competence is heartwarming, Isabel."
"I have every faith in you, but what can you do? There is nothing to be done."
Her thoughts after her TSTL moment, where she made a bad situation a real mess and after he told her to trust him to handle the problem.
Hero: "Do you realize what you've done?"
There he went, assuming the role of a big brother again.
Hero: "You are an impetuous, reckless, irresponsible brat, who's been permitted to run wild all her life and has not learned to check her impulses."
My thoughts exactly!
What is sad, is that the book was not badly written as a whole and the characterisation was good and interesting. I think a good editor could have remove at least 100-150 pages and corrected some of those silly phrases and actions I mentioned above. It just needed a little tighter supervision and this could even be a 4 stars book. It's really sad that the second part was so different compared to the first; Like the first wasa edited while the second was not. It was not a bad book and had I been in a less critical mood, I'd probably rate it with 3 stars. But the heroine's actions in the end, and the fact that it took me 7 days to finish this, sealed its fate for me:)