Thursday, April 12, 2012

Memorable Characters: Reggie & The Rake

The Rake
by Mary Jo Putney
The rake is as common a character in historical romances as is the duke or the dandy, the military hero or that second son. He is both loved and maligned and can easily play the hero or the villain. It has often been said that "there is no better husband than a reformed rake."

A rake is usually portrayed as a man whose physical attributes can only be outdone by his prowess in the bedroom and his charm with the ladies. The ladies want him and the gentlemen want to be him. Of course, usually some of those same gentlemen end up envying him for those attributes mentioned above, and others would prefer to get rid of him when their wives or mistresses share their admiration.

Nevertheless, to qualify as a rake a gentleman must have other skills. He must not care what others think or say about him, his wit must be as incomparably sharp as his sense of fashion and his superb knowledge of cattle. A rake is a risk-taker, and that often leads to gambling, horse races, and dueling. Adulation and emulation is also part of his daily life and the ton's young bucks usually flutter around him like bees around a flower. Womanizing, gambling, dueling, racing, drinking, and making the rounds make up the life of a rake. Visiting the right bedrooms, keeping the right mistress, and having enough pounds to finance this lifestyle is a 'must.'

These gentlemen usually begin following this life style early in life while they wait for their fathers, uncles, grandfathers, or nearest relatives to die off so they can inherit a title, or marry and live off allowances from their families until the title comes along.

But what happens if after years of "raking" and sowing wild oats there is no title, no wife, and no fortune? What happens when all those great expectations promised by society or family are dashed? What happens to a rake after years pass and there is nothing but more women, more duels, more gambling, and more drink? Then he becomes Reginald Davenport, the "Despair of the Davenports," a thirty-nine year old wastrel, The Rake.
Davenport was a complicated man, one who could act with both heroism and villainy, though he was neither hero nor villain. A man who, while not old, was certainly not young; who had the recklessness to create problems for himself, and the honesty to admit when he had done so. [...] he was fair and compassionate in his dealing with those around him. 
He was also very much alone.
There are many versions of the rake -- the much admired and reformed womanizer or the charmer is the most popular version. With Reginal Davenport, the author explores the intimate, personal reasoning behind such a life, as well as how society's influence encouraged and created the rake. After having read many a version of this popular character as a hero or anti-hero, to date Reginald Davenport is the most complete, complex version of a rake I have encountered, placing him firmly on my list of memorable characters.

8 comments:

  1. "The rake is as common a character in historical romances as is the duke or the dandy, the military hero or that second son."

    Well actually, the rake is more common as the duke, the dandy, the military hero and the second son are usually all rakes as well LOL.

    Well if your goal was to make me want to read the book, Hils, you succeeded! :)

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  2. LOL Nath, not necessarily, but I know what you mean!

    This is a great book Nath, I only touched on the one character because he is so central to the story, and as a whole it's definitely worth reading. It's the re-release of a classic. *g*

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  3. After having read many a version of this popular character as a hero or anti-hero, to date Reginald Davenport is the most complete, complex version of a rake I have encountered, placing him firmly on my list of memorable characters.

    He is in mind. I loved how MJP took the character type and looked at what happened when there has been too much raking. And why. I loved too how there is no quick fix...and I loved how the story ended. It just so worked for me. I should buy a new copy, as my current one was from my mother and I think was secondhand even then so it is worse for wear. And this is so a keeper!

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    1. Orannia, isn't this a great character study? I love the way MJP looked at the after effects of that type of lifestyle. Often there are little to no consequences to these characters actions: the dueling, gambling, whoring, the drinking, etc. They are usually such charmers and they always come out smelling like roses in the end, somehow. But even though Reggie struggles and wins in the end, there's so much more. It's not just the drinking either or his recovery from 'raking' that I loved about this character, it's also the way MJP shows through both Reggie's past history with his uncle and Julian's present problems with his father, how society encouraged such a character to evolve - a rake in the making if you would.

      I loved the whole story by the way. The heroine in this story is quite memorable herself, and the struggle, the journey they go through as friends and later lovers is one I will remember. Definitely a keeper. :)

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  4. Now you've got me racking my brain, trying to remember if I read this one. Even if I did read it, you've made me want to read it again! Lovely post Hils. :)

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    1. Les, the same thing happened to me! I thought I'd read it too because I'd read MJP years ago, and read so many books with Rake on the title. So, I passed on it countless times, lol! But although I didn't read it, now I know I didn't, I recognized pieces of this character and some of the circumstances depicted in the story from recent historical romances that I've read. It's interesting...

      MJP did an excellent job of characterization with Reggie, but his heroine is pretty special too. This book was originally released in 1990 but it holds up. Pretty good stuff!

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  5. I've got this one on my keeper-shelves from way-back-when. My favorite aspect is the friendship between Reggie and Alys. They are both flawed, with their share of hurts, but neither comes across to me as maudlin or oh-so-damaged. I liked seeing them recognize the worth in each other. I won't say that there isn't a physical component to their attraction -- there is -- but more than anything, they genuinely LIKE each other, which made for a strong foundation for their story.

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    1. Oh Nifty, this is such a fantastic historical romance book! It's also residing on my keeper shelf now.

      I so agree with you about the friendship, and relationship that develops between Reggie and Alys. I think that Reggie and Alys come through as human beings and not cartoon representations of a rake and the female figure in this romance. I ended up admiring him as he went through his journey, and Alys is a fantastic counterpart to Reggie. She's a genuine person with depth, weight, who hurts, cares, and loves.

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