By Love Undone

A Matter of Scandal

Meet Me at Midnight

Reforming a Rake

Taming Rafe

The Rake by Suzanne Enoch
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24472-X
Is there a large audience of women out there, longing for assurance that however childish, shrewish and self-righteous a woman is, Prince Charming will see through everything and love her anyway? If so, this is the book for them.

The Rake is the story of Lady Georgiana Halley, 24, and Tristan Carroway, Viscount Dare, 30, who may have been at one time but is not now a rake.

Six years ago, in order to win a wager, Tristan took a stocking from Georgiana and, while obtaining it, her virginity. Apparently because it would interfere with her self-righteous fury, Georgie ignored the fact that everyone thinks Tristan lost the wager and has spent the intervening years hating him and turning down dozens of marriage proposals from other men.

Now Georgiana wants revenge. To teach Tristan that he canít just go around breaking womenís hearts, sheíll make him fall in love with her, then dump him so heíll know how it feels. To help accomplish this, she arranges to move into his house as a companion to his elderly aunts. I guess six years of stewing was enough.

Tristan, because heís not an infant, realizes immediately that the unsubtle Georgie is up to something but he doesnít know what. Heíll have to wait and see, however, because heís got more important problems. His father, an extremely bad money manager, left him a title and a pile of debts, and heís been trying to dig the family out ever since. Tristanís worked hard to bring the estates back into profitability but it still looks like heíll have to marry an heiress.

Thereís just one problem - he canít bring himself to marry someone he doesnít care for, and he still has feelings for Georgiana.

Why that is, I canít begin to tell you. I donít know what she was like six years ago, but when the story opens she is an immature little hypocrite. Sheís not just sanctimonious and rude, she attempts to do Tristan physical damage any time heís within range of her shoes, his auntís wheelchair and her fan (several of which she actually breaks over him). Apparently her rules of polite behaviour apply only to men; ďladiesĒ may insult and assault with impunity.

Sheís also so wrapped up in herself that sheís completely blind to Tristanís true nature. In addition to the fact that he completely protected her from any consequences of their previous liaison, he is an affectionate nephew to the two elderly aunts he invited to live with him (even though he could ill afford it). He is kind and supportive to his four younger brothers and he replaces every single fan Georgiana breaks over him with a new one - always something she finds lovely and appealing. In other words, heís a kind, admirable, imaginative and romantic man (good looking goes without saying, right?) and deserves better than Georgie.

Fortunately, at about the mid-point, there is a significant turn-around in Georgieís behavior. Iím a little disappointed that some vigorous sex was apparently what she needed to rearrange her brain cells and try to be grateful that this has turned into a romance I can enjoy. Georgie actually starts listening to Tristan and entertaining, meaningful and romantic interaction with him is the result. I enjoyed the second half of the book much, much more than the first, but if I hadnít been reviewing it I wouldnít have made it that far. There were no early indications that a reasonable and likable person hid inside Georgie.

A cast of secondary characters makes important contributions to the story and even the ones who are just sketched are quite real. Their machinations - either for or against a relationship between Georgie and Tristan - helped keep my interest in the story alive even when Georgie was trying to throttle it.

There is also an authorís note where Chapter Thirteen should be, archly informing us that Tristan and Georgie have enough problems without adding unlucky chapter numbers. How cute. Unfortunately, the last thing this uneven book needed was the author standing up and waving at us in the middle of it.

--Judi McKee

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