Historical Romance

Review: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake – Sarah MacLean (Love by Numbers #1)

Rating 4 Stars

What’s the book about?
A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen’s club.

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she’s vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she’s been missing.

But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.

If she’s not careful, she’ll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love.

My Review
I recently decided to tidy up and go through the books on my shelves. In amongst the many stacks of historical romances, I picked up my copy of Nine Rule to Break When Romancing a Rake and knew I had to do a re-read! This was the first Sarah MacLean novel I read and years later, I still enjoyed it immensely.

Lady Calpurnia (aka Callie) is considered “on the shelf” at 28 years old and with no romantic prospects. Tired of being alone while everyone else around her goes on living their lives, she decides to have an adventure of her own. She crafts a list of all the things she’d like to do/try that society doesn’t allow ladies to take part in. She adds all sorts of things to her list including but not limited to drinking whiskey, smoking a cheroot, gambling at a gentlemen’s club, and fencing, to kissing someone passionately and being considered beautiful just once. Society may not think highly of Callie in terms of marriageability but there is so much more to Callie that they’re all missing out on and Ralston is about to find out exactly that!

The Marquess of Ralston is a rake. He’s charming, rich, handsome and completely happy to focus on mistresses rather than love. With the sudden arrival of a new family member, Ralston is going to have to change – some of his ways, anyway – and after a chance encounter with Callie, he enlists her help. In return, he’s going to help her complete some of the items on her list.

I really loved watching Callie grow in this book. The reader can see tremendous growth as Callie goes from meek-ish and passive to confident and assertive. It takes some time but she begins to see her own self-worth and refuses to settle for less than she deserves. Ralston plays a key role in helping her on this journey and provides her with both a few setbacks and many opportunities for growth. During this time, he also proceeds on his own journey of self growth. He learns that his situation is in no way the same as his parents and that it is okay to be loved and love in return.

Outside of the central relationship, I also loved the family and friendship dynamics within this book. Callie has a wonderful friendship with her older brother and younger sister, and builds a new friendship with Ralston’s sister Juliana. Likewise, Ralston and his identical twin often made me laugh with their back and forth quips, and they both begin to develop a relationship with their newly discovered sister and understand what it means to be the older brothers to a sister.

The rest of the plot focuses primarily on Callie completing the tasks on her list and building up her confidence on this adventure she set for herself. There are so many laugh out loud moments and moments that make you stop and reflect. This entire book tugged on my heartstrings in many different ways and I enjoyed it from start to finish. Sarah MacLean is definitely an author to check out if you haven’t already and enjoy historical romances with a slightly modern twist.

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