How to Romance a Rake
The Ugly Ducklings - Book 2
By Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Miss Juliet Shelby lives on the fringes of the ton, a wallflower who does her best to go unnoticed. She wasn't always that way. As a young girl, she was the most animated of the three cousins who have been dubbed the Ugly Ducklings by a spiteful young woman of the ton. But, as a young teen, while living in Vienna with her parents, Juliet was critically injured in an accident, resulting in amputation of her left foot - an injury that left her self-absorbed mother horrified and embarrassed by her now "crippled" daughter. Juliet returned to London two years later a changed person; quieter, more subdued, telling no one of the severity of her injury, not even Maddie and Cecily, her cousins and two best friends.
Juliet isn't the only one who has grown up with a less than perfect parent. Lord Alec Deveril has spent the past several years trying to undo the damage done to his family name by his reprobate of a father in order to insure a good future for his younger sisters. A gorgeous man, he is a leader of the ton's young fashionable set but, as of late, as grown weary of it and knows it's time to find a wife and settle down. His criteria is simple: find someone likable but for whom he feels not one iota of passion. His late parents offered him a front row seat to the devastating consequences of a passion filled marriage. He briefly considers Maddie as a potential candidate but it's the quiet, self-possessed Juliet who continues to draw his eye.
When Mrs. Turner, Juliet's beloved music teacher, a woman who, over the years, has been more a mother to her than her own mother goes missing, it's Alec who offers his help in the search. As Juliet and Alec spend more time together, they forge a friendship and gradually a fondness for one another that then blooms into desire and, finally, love. But there are many obstacles to a happy ending for these two. Juliet's mother is determined to marry her off to a slimy older man Juliet has good reason to fear, her mother has done her best to convince Juliet that no man will ever find her desirable once he knows of her amputation and Alec fears the reprehensible actions of both his father and his uncle will make it impossible for him to love a woman passionately and bring her happiness. Then there's the mystery of Mrs. Turner's disappearance with twists and turns aplenty and a lurking danger that could put both Juliet and Alec in harm's way.
I loved this story so much. I've read it three times and have no doubt I will read it many more times in the future. I applaud Manda Collins for creating Juliet, a physically imperfect heroine who is absolutely perfect for her hero. Collins knows the subject well and brings to her character the realistic physical and emotional challenges as well as the quiet strength and determination that make Juliet one of my favorite heroines ever. Watching her grow throughout her journey and finally come into her own was wonderful. I cheered for her, hurt for her, feared for her and wanted to do unspeakable things to her witch of a mother for her but not once did I ever pity her.
I usually prefer my heroes dark but Alec just may have won me over to the blond side. He's a wonderful man with a kind heart who champions Juliet, protects her, desires her and, ultimately, loves her with every breath of his being. The scene when they first make love is so exquisitely beautiful it brought tears to my eyes and the declaration he makes about Juliet after the villain is vanquished shows how much he respects and understands her and made me want to stand and cheer.
The passion sizzles in this book and while Collins delves into deeply emotional issues she also infuses her stories with plenty of humor along with a terrific secondary cast. One of my favorite scenes is between Alec and Maddie while they wait for Juliet to be fitted for new gowns at the dressmaker's. I won't give away any spoilers other than to say it gives the reader a peek into the inner workings of Maddie's mind, something that has Alec pondering how useful she would have been to Wellington during the war, and has me anticipating her book even more. I have the feeling she's going to lead Monteith a very merry chase!
If you haven't read Manda Collins yet, now's the perfect time to start. How to Romance a Rake is going straight to my keeper shelf. I highly recommend it!