The word "classic" gets bandied about fairly freely, but in this day of "instant classics," very few books really deserve that title. The Rake, first published as a Super Regency in 1989 as The Rake and the Reformer and later expanded into an Historical in 1998, was ground-breaking in its day and still relevant and powerfully moving today. Our hero Reggie was perhaps romance's first villain-to-hero, and an alcoholic. Unheard of in 1989.
Reggie Davenport is a clever, funny, smart, self-deprecating, handsome man who is slowly killing himself. Always a heavy drinker, lately he's been experiencing blackouts. He wakes up one morning, obviously injured in a fight, but with no memory of what happened. A voice in his head whispers, "This way of life is killing you." He knows it. The question is, can he do anything about it? Does he even want to do anything about it? A second chance suddenly presents itself to Reggie when his cousin gives him Strickland, a prosperous estate, and Reggie's childhood home, as a gift.
The estate is prosperous due to the efforts of the steward, A. E. Weston, aka Lady Alys, who, through several twists and turns in life, has wound up at Strickland, the guardian of three children. Reggie is taken aback to learn the estimable Weston is a woman, but he cannot argue with her results and they begin a tentative friendship that slowly turns into something more.
The romance is wonderfully done. Both Reggie and Alys have had hardship and pain in their lives. They are mature people - both in their 30's - and full, complete human beings. They complement and support each other beautifully. But, The Rake is Reggie's story and his struggle with his inner - and outer - demons. His fight with alcohol is riveting with both successes and failures, but through it all, you will find yourself always rooting for him.
If you've somehow missed reading The Rake, now is the perfect time to become acquainted with Reggie - a truly special hero and a genuine classic.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, April 16, 2012