5 star book review for Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, historical romance novel by Sarah MacLean.
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have nothing but glowing things to say about Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake! Truly, this is one of the best historical romances I’ve read. I enthusiastically add it to my faves list, and I will definitely be re-reading! This story is so brilliantly executed: wonderfully compelling and relatable characters (not only the main hero and heroine, but there are fantastic secondary characters); a plot that has all the elements we love in historical romance, but with an interesting premise and a few twists/turns that keeps the reader on her toes; several INCREDIBLY HOT HOT HOT SEXY TIMES that leave us breathless and desperate and sated. Sarah MacLean gives us a romance that makes us experience all the feelings…I laughed, cried, raged, swooned, cheered, face-palmed, had my heart broken, and fell hopelessly in love. Nine Rules to Break is SPECTACULAR, and deserves more than the 5 stars I’m giving it!
We begin with a 17 year old Lady Calpurnia Hartwell in her first season out in society. By all accounts, Callie should be the hit of the ton: she’s from a wealthy family with one of the oldest earldoms in England, a large dowry, and well-mannered. Unfortunately, all of these things aren’t enough…Callie is considered to be plain, plump, passive, and not very pretty. As a result, eligible men of the ton pass her over. One night as Callie is lamenting the state of things—while hiding in a garden during a party—she meets Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston. He is gorgeous, but Ralston is also a notorious rake and womanizer. Despite these things, he is very kind to Callie. Ralston takes the time to chat with her and encourage her not to take the ton too seriously. And when they part ways, Callie is completely enamored with Ralston.
Fast-forward 10 years, and Callie is still unmarried, still considered plain, and is essentially on the shelf, doomed to be a spinster. Her younger sister Mariana, has just had her debut and is a hit. She’s also just been engaged to the Duke of Rivington, and while Callie is happy for Marianna, she’s not happy about the snide comments from family and friends about her spinsterhood. Frustrated by her unexciting life, Callie decides to make a list of things she wants to do…things no “proper” lady would do: drink in an ale house, fence, gamble in a mens club, etc. But the first thing on her list is that she wants to experience her first kiss.
In a moment of bravery (perhaps even stupidity) Callie goes to Ralston’s house in the dead of night in order to procure that kiss. Needless to say, Ralston is chocked, yet intrigued by Callie and enters into a bargain. He will agree to kiss her now and provide a later (undisclosed) favor, and in exchange, Callie will agree to sponsor Ralston’s half-sister Julianna’s entry into society. From this point on, Callie and Ralston get to know each other. She realizes that he’s more than a rake, and he comes to see her as a great deal more than plain. Will Callie be able to convince Ralston to overcome his disdain for love and take on some adventure with her?
I love, love, LOVE Callie! In fact, she’s hands down one of my favorite heroines. Callie is kind, selfless, self-possessed, wise, and passionate. She’s always willing to help others. And even more, Callie doesn’t resent others…she doesn’t resent her sister’s successful engagement or even the ton’s semi-disdain. She just wants to experience the more exciting aspects of life, rather than sitting in a gilded cage, watching life pass her by.
And goodness, gracious Ralston is beyond sexy! It’s true that Ralston has a past as a womanizer, but he’s excellent at using those skills to make Callie feel beautiful and wanted. Ralston is also a great brother to his twin Nick (YES THERE ARE TWO OF THEM) and Julianna. He’s intense, and once he decides he wants something (or someone), Ralston is doggedly determined to get it.
I love watching Callie and Ralston’s relationship develop! He helps her to achieve the activities on her list–slowly but surely encouraging her to open up. And Callie teaches Ralston how to open himself up to love. These two have a fantastic rapport! Their interactions are steeped in sexual tension, which they act upon on several occasions.
Basically, I want to quote the entire book in this review, but I will restrain myself and only list a few faves.
Ralston gives Callie the most perfect first kiss in the history of first kisses:
“He kissed her then. Really kissed her. He pulled her against him and pressed his mouth to hers, possessing, owning in a way she could never have imagined. His lips, firm and warm, played across her own, tempting her until she was gasping for breath…just when she couldn’t stand another moment, he gathered her closer and deepened the kiss, changing the pressure. He delved deeper, stroked more firmly…until his lips closed scandalously around her tongue and he sucked gently—the sensation rocked her to her core.”
And as if that isn’t enough Ralston finishes by saying, “Kisses should not leave you satisfied. They should leave you wanting.” And goodness gracious I want Ralston! I want him alllllll…and Callie does too.
At the same time, Ralston can’t stay away from Callie and every time he’s around her, he *has* to touch her. Despite trying to convince himself and others that Callie isn’t his type, Ralston is positively addicted to her! Goodness…every time he calls her “Empress” my tummy flutters, my toes curl, and body heats up!
Eventually we come to learn why Ralston is so hesitant to let himself fall in love with Callie. And even though he does something that breaks Callie’s heart (and makes me want to junk-punch him), Ralston comes to his senses and makes things up to her in an epic way!
I love every moment of this book! Callie and Ralston banter and argue and collide in the most delicious ways. And by the time we reach the end, we just know that Callie and Ralston’s HEA will be filled with passion and love. I also really enjoy the secondary friendship between Callie, Mariana, and Juliana. They have fun together shopping and gossiping and getting Juliana ready for her debut…it’s great to see. I also think Benedick is a great older brother to Callie. He knows exactly when to push Callie out of her comfort zone, and when to stay back and let her make her own decisions…especially when it comes to Ralston!
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake is an absolute MUSTREAD! And now I’m off to make my own list…I hope a lovable rake with a heart of gold shows up for me too 😉