The Union of the Rakes, Book 1
Heat Factor: Two steamy sex scenes in the last few chapters
Character Chemistry: Gotta love a man in glasses, but Sebastian is too woke for his own good
Plot: In order to attract some dude’s attention, Grace gets her friend Sebastian to pretend to woo her. Because dudes gotta have competition to think a woman is sexy, obviously.
Overall: Too much winking at the audience for my taste
I knew going in that My Fake Rake was a riff on 80s teen movies; I am generally down for tons of pop culture references in regency romances (I thought Lady Bridget’s Diary was loads of fun, for example), but this book didn’t really work for me. There is a time and a place for so-called contemporaries in petticoats, but Leigh dehistoricized things a tad more than I like.
The dealbreaker for me is, I think, the wokeness. Look, I love a good cinnamon roll hero. And while I wish that more men would be as considerate of their female friends as Sebastian is, by the time he thought about how he couldn’t tell Grace how he felt because that would impose upon her friendship for the fifteenth time, I wanted to tell him to nut up or shut up. (Am I a bad feminist? Maybe.) Even his friends fail to talk sense into him! They’re like, “You have to tell her you love her!” until he’s like, but she thinks I’m just a friend, and then they’re like, “Oh, obviously, your love must be unrequited and that hurts.” And while I hate the whole thing where a man befriends a woman only to get into her pants, this is clearly NOT the situation here. It’s not like Sebastian has asked her out on a date and gotten rebuffed. Instead, they have the best sex ever, and then he’s like, “It’s ok, we can still be friends because I should not impose my unrequited feelings on you.”
Characters also have explicit conversations (or internal monologues) about things like toxic masculinity. I am all about exploring toxic masculinity, but in this case, it felt very forced.
Grace making more than one juvenile joke about Uranus didn’t help matters.
On the other hand, I did enjoy that Sebastian was the one who got the makeover, which (of course) included him removing his spectacles. It was refreshing that almost all the sartorial description featured Sebastian – I couldn’t tell you anything about a single outfit that Grace wore, but Sebastian sounds like he was impeccably turned out (post makeover, of course). A nice gender role reversal there.
PS: I want a book about Katie, Grace’s lady’s maid who spends the majority of her time reading erotica. She’s got to do something to occupy her time when Grace makes her sit on a bench for hours in some musty library while Grace reads up about toads!
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