The Rake is the first of a new three-book series by Suzanne Enoch. (What is it with three-book series? Especially at Avon. It seems everyone there does a three-book series. Except for Stephanie Laurens, of course, who is in the midst of a 24-book series.) Three friends decide that men are basically clueless (and how nice it is to know that some things never change, I suppose.) and that they'd be doing the world a favor by offering instruction on how to treat a lady. Each will make a list of rules men should follow and pick a man of whom to make an example.
Lady Georgiana Halley knows just the man in need of a lesson: Tristan Carroway, Viscount Dare. Six years ago, believing herself in love, Georgie lost her virginity to Tristan only to find the next day that it was all part of a bet to win her stocking. The fact that he never collected on the bet or that their actions were ever revealed did not mitigate Georgie's feeling of betrayal. Their paths have often crossed in the subsequent years, as their families are close, and they have settled into a comfortably bickering, antagonistic relationship.
Viscount Dare has the reputation as a rake and a heartbreaker. However, we never see any proof of this. The Tristan we see is struggling to drag his family from the brink of financial ruin due to his father's profligate ways (Am I the only person who is tired of every father being a wastrel and leaving his children to cope with disaster upon his death? Anyone read a book that has a good, responsible father in it lately? Just asking.) and caring for his four younger brothers and two elderly aunts. How does he feel about what happened six years ago? I'm not sure. Enoch doesn't spend much time on this question. She writes that he didn't intend to bed Georgie, got carried away, kept rumors from circulating afterwards, but he apparently didn't ask her to marry him to make things right or even pursue the relationship afterwards. We know that Georgie is now untrusting of men and bitter but I would have liked to know more about his feelings about his actions of six years ago.
Georgie's plan is to somehow make Tristan fall in love with her so she can reject him and thereby teach him a lesson about playing fast and loose with people's hearts. Along the way she finds that he has changed over the years, has matured and is not the care-for-naught he used to be. He finds her even more intriguing than he did before. Eventually they sleep together, she leaves him in the night with a scathing note and another stocking and proclaims his lesson taught.
It is at this point that the book really begins to be satisfying for me, as the last half of the book details Tristan's efforts to win Georgie, not for a night, but for a lifetime, now that they are, as Georgie says, “even”. There are a variety of situations where Tristan must make choices and he, unknowingly, begins to follow the precepts laid down in Georgie's list of “rules”. Watching them learn to trust each other and take tentative steps toward each other is where the book starts to shine. Until then, there have been too many clichéd situations, characters whose motivations and storylines are left dangling, or are made into obvious setup situations for future books. (This last is a pet peeve of mine. Finish telling me this story first, before you move on to another.)
So, a mixed review from me. I like Suzanne Enoch's writing, I have read and, for the most part, enjoyed everything she's written. I like her humor and her engaging characters. I felt there were too many clichés and dangling threads for me to unreservedly recommend this. Though I will say that I enjoyed very much the last half of the book and the character of Tristan's brother, Robert – even though I was annoyed that he seemed to be there mostly to set up his own book.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, June 15, 2002