How to Romance A Rake
by Manda Collins
(St. Martins, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0312-54925-1
Manda Collins has written an entertaining story filled with intrigue, secrets, a heroine that is truly unique and a hero that one can sink her teeth into. How to Romance A Rake is the second in a trilogy about cousins, but it is a stand-alone story and one that I found myself struggling to put down at times. Juliet Shelby and Lord Alec Deveril are two people who are worth oneís time.

Some of the plot is familiar to Regency stories; some of the characters are a bit predictable but overall, there are enough twists to give this tale a unique flavor. First, the heroine is disabledÖshe is an amputee. The author has done some research on this and has admittedly taken some liberties too. But the result is a heroine who has endured things most people, let alone, women of the time have not endured.

Julietís parents have the money to deal with things and since the injury occurred while they were in Vienna when Juliet was just 12, they have been able to hide it from the ton. She is now eligible but her mother, who is somewhat of a shrew, has convinced her that while she is out in society, she must take care. She is pushing Juliet to a match with an older Earl of Turlington, a man that Juliet feels uncomfortable around. Juliet has a prosthetic leg, and has to have her slippers and other shoes glued to the leg so that they do not fall off. She is convinced she has done a good job of hiding her problem; most people have been told she had an injury and accept her limp and use of a walking stick.

Deveril is a man of distinction, and has worked hard to build his reputation to be different from that of his father, a man who was hard, unforgiving and if truth be told, a bully. He also gambled and drank. Alec is different and wants the world to know it. He rarely drinks and tries to be kind. His best friend, the Duke of Winterson married Julietís cousin Cecily and Alec has been intent on noticing her other cousin Madeline. But something about Juliet draws him and after their first several meetings, where some confidences were shared, they start to become friends. This leads to more. While they do end up eloping to keep Juliet from the reaches of Turlington, theirs is a relationship that builds in friendship and trust and ultimately love.

The intrigue/mystery plot line that underlies the tale is about a friend and somewhat of a mentor of Julietís who has come up missing. Anna Turner was Julietís piano teacher and seems to have disappeared. The reason seems sinister and both Juliet and Alec commit to figuring out where she has gone. Beyond the secret Juliet is keeping about her leg, Alec has some secrets of his past of which he is ashamed and trying to hide. For true love to burst, all the issues have to come to a head and when they do, the author deals with them with some aplomb. There are plenty of coincidences but generally the plot flows and is believable.

I enjoyed this relatively new author enough to go back and find her previous story and to keep an eye out for Madelineís tale this winter. Meanwhile, I can recommend How to Romance a Rake as a story that has some fun, some intrigue and two characters worth getting to know.

--Shirley Lyons

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