It’s been a while since Gail Eastwood’s last Regency romance and I for
one was glad to see The Rake’s Mistake on the shelves.
Eastwood’s previous books offered interesting tidbits about the world of
the early 19th century as well as intriguing plots and characters. Her
new release is not exception. Here we learn quite a bit about yachting
and the art world; we also encounter an intriguing heroine and a dashing hero.
The rake of the title is Archer Everett Drake, Lord Ramsdale. His
youthful excesses had led his powerful uncle, the Marquess of
Huntington, to exile him to the West Indies three years earlier. Now
returned to England, older and wiser, he plans to behave more
circumspectly. Then, he hears a woman’s laughter from a shop in Bond
Street and is immediately enchanted. He discovers that the lady’s
person is as charming as her laugh. Discovering that the lovely woman
is a widow with a reputation for love affairs, Archer concludes that she
will make a perfect mistress and plans his campaign to win her.
Daphne D’Avernett Stanswell, Lady Wetherell, has indeed had a checkered
past. Her father was an immensely talented but improvident artist who
used his daughter as a model for his students. She was seventeen when
her father died and would have faced a dreadful fate had not one of his
patrons, the much older Lord Wetherell, offered to marry her. Despite
her care to act properly, she had become an object of malicious gossip.
Now widowed, she is not received by polite society despite her title.
While she might not care for herself - she is mostly interested in
perfecting her own artistic abilities - she worries because her husband
made her guardian of his son and she fears that her reputation might
lead his uncle to challenge her authority.
Archer discovers that young Lord Wetherell has fallen into bad company
and decides that taking the cub under his wing might help him win the
lady’s confidence. He meets the widow and uses this ploy to spend time
in her company. He discovers that he and the ton may well have been
mistaken about Daphne’s character.
The plot worried me at first; I am not necessarily fond of heroes who
pursue women for illicit purposes. But it soon became clear that
Archer’s immediate attraction to Daphne quickly deepened to admiration
and something more. Whatever his original purposes, Archer soon proves
himself useful as Daphne tries to deal with her errant stepson and
invaluable as she and he investigate what appears to be a case of art forgery.
I noted above that Eastwood includes interesting details about yachting
and art. The role of the latter is indicated above. The former is one
of the more charming parts of the tale. Archer is a yachtsman who
dreams of winning the Duke’s Cup. He has brought some interesting new
ideas about ship design from the West Indies. Moreover, since Lady
Wetherell’s home is on the Thames, he decides to court her on the river.
Daphne discovers that she enjoys sailing almost as much as she enjoys
spending time with Archer. She might suspect his motives; she knows
full well how ineligible she is. But Archer stirs feelings in her that
her husband never did.
Eastwood has crafted an entertaining and interesting plot as well as an
enjoyable romance. There is a nasty villain who has to be thwarted and
obstacles to true love that have to be overcome. Daphne is a complex
and attractive heroine; Archer, after a shaky start, proves to be a
heroic hero. The Rake’s Mistake is very good Regency romance. I
hope we will not have to wait too long for Eastwood’s next book.