It's not often I'm surprised by a romance novel, especially one with a title so long it's almost a tongue twister, but I most certainly was surprised when I finished Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake. Sarah McLean's first book was a Young Adult Regency-set romance novel, but don't let that fool you. This author knows how to write an adult romance that's funny, clever, emotional, and oh, so sexy.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell, Callie, is sick of being seen as plain, plump, and good. She may be on the shelf and have the most respectable reputation of anyone in Society, but she's sick of it. She wants to be naughty. She wants to be adventurous. She wants to stop being a wallflower and dance! So she makes a list of nine scandalous things she wants to do and begins with number one - being kissed passionately.
Rakish and wickedly handsome Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston, has discovered that he and his twin have a half-sister of marriageable age who is coming to stay with them. He knows that her past is going to make it hard to launch her into society, but he has to find a way. Lucky for him, the most respectable lady in the ton just walked into his bedroom and asked to be kissed.
Callie has been in love with Ralston since she watched him make love to a woman in a garden during her first season, but making a bargain with him to help smooth his half-sister's path into society in exchange for a passionate kiss is like making a pact with the devil. It seems neither Ralston or herself had any idea that one kiss would lead to so many more.
This book was fun, sexy, and a pleasure to read. At times Ralston and Callie's sexual interludes had me yelling - YOU ARE GOING TO GET CAUGHT - but the danger kept me on the edge of my seat more than annoying me with its implausibility. Ralston may be a bad boy, but whenever he called Calpurnia "Empress," I melted and was able to forgive McLean anything for writing the best pet name in a romance novel ever.
Ralston and Callie have a lot of hidden depth for a book as fun as this one. At one point I even started tearing up. Her relationship with her family, especially her brother, were written with such truth to them that I could almost hear echoes of my own family interludes. The secondary characters as a whole are all well written and a lot of fun. I'm eagerly waiting to read their stories. But what really wowed me about this read was how well McLean wrote our rakish hero falling for Callie. When he realizes that he's lost all control of himself when it comes to her I got butterflies in my stomach. Butterflies = Great read.
Bottom Line: Sarah McLean has earned a place on my Keeper Shelf and Must Buy list!