Published on 4 July 2017
Published by Avon Impulse
Copy for review provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.
Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.
As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love.
Cat Sebastian is a relatively new LGBTQ historical romance author but after I read The Lawrence Browne Affair, she immediately went on my must-read list. The characters in The Ruin of a Rake first appeared in that one (I actually went back to re-read their scenes) but all her stories are written well as standalones. The interesting dynamic in this story is the old adage that ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ as both men prove to be much more complex than at first glance.
Julian Medlock has worked hard to make a place for himself and his sister Eleanor in London society. Growing up in India, he’d suffered from a recurring illness and made the trek with his sister to London, and a subsequent improvement in his health, though not without other consequences. His background in business makes him work ever so much harder to appear perfectly proper in public. His affairs with other men are discreet and he’s got no plans for anything permanent. To his dismay, his sister has started to entertain Lord Courtenay, a reprobate of the highest order. The only way to make sure her reputation isn’t damaged is to do something to reform Lord Courtenay’s so he can be accepted into polite society. It’s a damnable chore, but one made much more interesting (if dismaying) by the frisson of sexual attraction that exists between them.
Courtenay knows his reputation is the reason he’s been banned from seeing his nephew, a young boy he helped raise before his sister died overseas and the care of the boy went to his rightful father. A libertine, a rake, a debauched character, his reputation hasn’t been helped by the publication of a salacious novel thinly disguised as a fanciful and fictitious account of his life (though quite exaggerated). His only interest in reforming is if he’ll get to see his nephew, but pulling loose the strait laces of Julian Medlock is an interesting side proposition. As Julian and Courtenay get more involved, feelings change, as do their expectations for the future. But when past secrets come forth, will they ruin the chance of a happy ever after for two men unexpectedly having found a perfectly imperfect match?
I loved this story! The contrast between the characters couldn’t be more stark with the lazy and affable Courtenay and the strict strait-laced Julian at odds from the start. It doesn’t stop the intense sexual attraction that flares between them leading to some very steamy scenes even as both don’t want to admit they are starting to like the other. But what’s equally interesting is the way they are perceived in public versus their own private beliefs of themselves. Julian is thought to be proper and boring and is well received in society. But the truth is he’s a little bit selfish too, having made some decisions without thought to the consequences to the people around him. Plus he’s trying to hide his modest beginnings so he knows that he’s putting on a fake facade, one that unravels the more time he spends with Courtenay.
Courtenay has the appearance of a man of leisure and has the funds to prove it, yet lives in a very modest flat in a poor area of London as much of his money goes to supporting family members (who want nothing to do with him) and old servants. He’s got a heart of gold hidden under that rakish exterior and feels the loss of his sister and the care of his nephew keenly, as they were the only people who didn’t judge him outright. Julian makes him realize that he’s been wallowing in self-pity for too long, even if it’s been hidden, and helps him regain his confidence by assisting in his business affairs and making him see that he needs to take a more active role in his life if he wants to be truly happy.
Both Julian and Courtenay go through significant growth as characters as the story progresses, discovering things about themselves both positive and negative. The conflict (with a heart wrenching black moment!) leads to a very satisfying conclusion as they find a way to accept each other’s flaws and admit to their true feelings. The Ruin of a Rake is an emotional and sexy character driven romance, and it’s definitely going on my re-read shelf.