This book contains two tropes that I love: the fake engagement, and grooming a country girl to blend in with the ton. I liked the setup, but I didn’t quite fall for the romance.
Mellie’s father is a scientist, and their experiments have led to some lucrative formulas, including a bleach to turn muslin white. Her uncle owns a fabric factory, and the partnership means that everyone is rich. Mellie is expected to marry her cousin Ronnie. She’s also expected to turn over her personal formula for a woman’s skin cream, because as a woman, she shouldn’t have her own income and property. She’s not happy with the decisions thrust upon her, and she’s planning to earn her own money and escape.
Trevor is the grandson of a duke, and his father is still alive, which means that he’s third in line and doesn’t even have an honorary title. He’s Mr. Anaedsley, and he’s been a student of Mellie’s father for years, because as the grandson of a duke he doesn’t have much else to do other than random science projects. His dear old grandpa wants Trevor to secure the line, so to speak, and has cut him off financially until Trevor gets married. Trevor is now broke, relying upon the hospitality of society, waiting for some investments to come in.
When Mellie is refusing her cousin’s marriage proposal once again, Trevor sees a solution for both of them: a fake engagement. That will release his grandfather’s purse strings and allow Mellie to travel to London as his fiancee. She can meet all the eligible bachelors, then break the engagement and marry a real man. She reluctantly agrees, because, well, why not?
The tone of this book is almost satirical, with over-the-top scenes and characters. Cousin Ronnie is forever spouting poetry and challenging Trevor to a duel; Mellie is presented to society as a “Cricket Princess” because, without a quirky title, the ton will find her too boring to accept; and there’s a prolonged appearance by a turkey. I really, really disliked the Cricket Princess schtick. Mellie agreed because she decided that society was a game that she’d been invited to play, which made it seem even more superficial than in other books. Plus, her sponsor spent days (weeks?) planning elaborate, insect-inspired gowns, but after one ball the whole scheme seemed to fade and the outfits were barely mentioned again. What a waste.
Trevor was also kind of a waste. He seemed to fall in love with Mellie because she kissed really well. She was so responsive that he dreamed of all the other things he could do to her, and it would take years to accomplish them all. Sure, she was smart and competent and independent, but he seemed to crave her body more than anything. For her part, Mellie wanted Trevor because she knew him really well and she felt comfortable with him. They didn’t have a chance to really spend time together, so I just wasn’t feeling their connection.
I think that, for me, there was too much extraneous stuff, and not enough romance.
*ARC Provided by publisher
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50 Ways to Ruin a Rake
by Jade Lee
Release Date: may 5, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca