The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian

Cat Sebastian continues her series of gentle, melodrama-free Regency Romances with The Ruin of a Rake. As with the previous two books, the main characters are somewhat tepid, decent people, and the actualities of their sexual orientation situation feel fairly anachronistic. But that likely won’t deter readers who want something different than the typical ‘bad boy’ or alpha rake archetypes. These rakes/con artists are reformed before the stories begin.

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Story: Julian and his sister survived their father’s disastrous life choices and managed to create a place for themselves in London society. Lord Courtney has led a dissolute life but now wants to settle down and proceed on a more sedate level. Courney being best best friends with Julian’s sister, Eleanora, means Julian is conscripted by his sister to help Courtney rebuild his reputation so he can be with his nephew. The two at first dislike each other – the reprobate and the boring milquetoast – but they soon learn that appearances (and pasts) can be deceiving.

Here’s the thing with Sebastian’s books: not much happens. People go places, they talk, they have sex, they get to know each other, happy ever after. The characters don’t have highs and lows and there is an egregious amount of talk over show. At no times does Courtney resemble a dissolute rake (yes, he’s tired of the life, but even so…) and Julian is supposed to be obsessed with his image but doesn’t seem too perturbed that Courtney could ruin his social standing. At the point one man suddenly kisses another in the shady alcove of an opera booth and no one seems too freaked out that that might be a problem if discovered. The suddeness and the location resulting in me having a hard time suspending disbelief. It was too much of a stigma at the time for any one to be taking any chances like that.

As well, the bog standard plot of someone having a secret that could ruin that relationship if it got out (and it is an admittedly underwhelming one) made it hard for me to really love Ruin of a Rake. That said, a focus on relationship rather than shenanigans is welcome and I hope in future books characters are given more nuance and depth so that approach is worthwhile. There has to be more show rather than tell in order to define the characters.

Those looking for a light, gentle, treacly sweet M/M regency romance will likely greatly enjoy this book. There’s nothing challenging in any of the books in the series despite the characters supposedly having shady pasts. They are all reformed and ready for a boyfriend to walk into their life, without worry of Regency conventions against that type of relationship. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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