A Rake's Guide to Pleasure, by Victoria Dahl

>> Thursday, December 16, 2010

TITLE: A Rake's Guide to Pleasure
AUTHOR: Victoria Dahl

PAGES: 289

SETTING: 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: It's linked to the other historicals I've read by this author, To Tempt a Scotsman and One Week as Lovers (I think it's in the middle of those two, but I might be wrong).

REASON FOR READING: Picked it up at the library


Raised by a titled, yet degenerate, father, Emma Jensen never imagined the gamblinglessons she learned as a child would one day serve her well. When she finds herself indire need of money, she concocts the alias of Dowager Lady Denmore andsets off to bewitch London’s noblemen by engaging them in games of chance. The fact that respectable ladies do not gamble does notintimidate her in the least. But the darkly handsome Duke of Somerhart does—for he’s awakened a deep, sensual hunger in her…


The dashing Duke of Somerhart has the notorious reputation of being one of London’s most incurable rogues. When he meets the alluring Lady Denmore, he is immediately intrigued. Her recklessness and innocence intertwined titillates him as no other woman ever has. But what secret is the lovely Lady Denmore hiding? He’s determined to find out. But first he must seduce her until she surrenders completely to his most wicked desires...
Emma Jensen is playing a dangerous game. After the death of her scandalous father, she was left with very little security, and has found it necessary to make her own fortune in London. The way she's chosen to go about it is a very risky one: she's pretending to be a widowed noblewoman, and using the freedom confered by that status to try gamble her way into making some money. She's getting close to getting enough to put together a nest egg that will allow her to live a modest but comfortable life when she attracts the attention of the Duke of Somerhart.

Hart is clearly interested in Emma, and she reciprocates his attraction. However, they met briefly when Emma was a girl (Hart was attending one of her father's infamous orgy parties and helped her get out of the way and out of danger). It was just a moment, and many years back, but Emma is still terrified that Hart will recognise her and know she's not who she's pretending to be, and so the game will be up.

But no matter how much she tries to avoid his attention, Hart is too intrigued to let it go. In spite of the cold, uncaring facade he's cultivated since a woman made a fool of him when he was young, Hart's growing feelings for this mysterious woman prove too hard for him to resist.

This sounds like a pretty average historical romance plot, but Dahl makes it feel fresh and different. It's all down to characterisation that's subtle and complicated and makes the characters come alive.

With Emma, I was a bit on edge at the beginning. Her behaviour really is quite risky, and I thought she'd better have some very good reasons to take the risks she's taking. In the end, they weren't the dramatic reasons I expected to find out about, but were rooted in the person she was and the way her past had affected her, and because of that, they did make sense. Mind you, I thought they were, to some extent, the sort of reasons I would expect more from a 21st century woman, but ok, given the person she was, I bought it.

That said, some things about Emma's character, I didn't completely get. Like, for instance, what exactly was her problem with marriage? I didn't really understand why the extreme reaction, and I was a bit confused by how it went from being front and centre in her thoughts to sometimes not being particularly an issue.

As for Hart, I always love to see the cold, forbidding man completely losing his mind and uncharacteristically going for a woman who's obviously completely wrong for him, just because he can't seem to keep away. It was especially poignant to see it in Hart's case, because unlike some of those other cold, forbidding characters, he has good reason to be that way. He was subject to ridicule over a woman as a young, inexperienced man, and his coldness is a defense mechanism. It's also a defense mechanism I actually saw the need for, given the way the ton is portrayed here.

All in all, an enjoyable book. I still think Dahl's voice worked even better in the one contemporary of hers that I read though. I need to read a couple more to test that out.



Lakaribane,  16 December 2010 at 14:06  

Ro, no need to read her other contemps, I can already confirm that, yes, VD is better in contemp than historical. In fact, it was quite a shock to me how much better she is!!! So you can read the other ones to verify this. I like her style but she seems more comfortable in modern times.

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