HOW TO ROMANCE A RAKE – Manda Collins
St. Martin's Paperbacks
Juliet Shelby is one of the Ugly Ducklings, an unfortunate brand given to a trio of young ladies by some of the nastier members of the ton. In Juliet's eyes, the title is not too far from the truth. An accident she had as a younger girl has left her with a pronounced limp, a cane, and feeling less than beautiful. One night at a ball hosted by the handsome and very eligible Lord Deveril, Juliet is stunned when he comes to her defense after two of the young women who gave Juliet and her cousins the duckling name are caught making derogatory comments about Juliet. Deveril even offers to teach her to dance!
Juliet is also secretly trying to find why a close friend of hers has disappeared and left behind her baby. She lets Deveril in on the mystery, and he promises to help her find Anna. To complicate matters, Juliet's mother, Lady Shelby, is planning on marrying Juliet off to the slimy Lord Turlington.
Lord Alec Deveril has a family history he'd dearly love to hide, but the entire ton is aware that his father was Devil Deveril. Alec is determined not to follow in his father's unpopular footsteps, and he hasn't. He's well liked, considered a fancy dresser, and is uncommonly handsome. He hides a dark secret that he would love to forget, but which hangs over his head like a black cloud. To Alec, Juliet is a refreshing, intelligent change from the fawning girls who look to be the next Vicountess Deveril.
A mysterious painter has been producing disturbing portraits of women. Alec and his friends are trying to track down who it could be, and if there is a connection to a peer who is also an artist.
HOW TO ROMANCE A RAKE is the author's second novel, continuing with stories of the Ugly Ducklings . Her first book, HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE, was delightful, and this one does not disappoint. Juliet is a tough, but vulnerable heroine who has convinced herself that no man will ever want to marry her. When Alec comes into her life, she tries to keep her heart at arm's length from him, but his concern and attention make that difficult. A man of great moral strength, and with a big heart, Alec is the perfect hero, although his own sorrows will surface later in the story. The secondary characters, friends and relatives of both Alec and Juliet, are helpful, or not, in the ongoing friendship that soon blossoms into more.
Regency romance readers will welcome and delight in this unique plot. HOW TO ROMANCE A RAKE is excellent.