The Notorious Rake (Waite #3)
The Lady and the LibertineThe Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh was originally published in 1992 by Signet and rereleased by Dell in an omnibus this year. It is a 224 page-long character driven Regency historical romance novel, and the last of the Waite trilogy. The first two books are The Trysting Place and The Counterfeit Betrothal. My first impression? After all this time I'm still amazed at the depth of characterization Balogh achieves and the amount of information she packs in so short a novel.
Lord Edmund Waite was everything that Lady Mary Gregg despised in a man. He was lewd, lascivious, mocking—the most notorious and successful rake in the realm. Happily, Mary had nothing to fear from this lord of libertines. A bluestocking like her could never tempt a man whose taste ran to pretty playthings for his pleasures.
How startled Mary was to find herself the object of Lord Waite's determined desires. But even more surprising was her reaction to his shocking advances. How could she remain a lady with this man who knew so well how to make her feel like a woman?
The story begins at Vauxhall with Lady Mary Mornington and Lord Edmund Waite surprised to be included in the same party. She's a not so attractive bluestocking, and he's a disgraced,unacceptable man. Mary, however, accepts his offer to stroll around the gardens out of courtesy. Unfortunately, an electric storm catches them unaware, and even after they find shelter Mary's terrified reaction to electric storms drives Edmund to comfort her. But nothing works until the two are wrapped around each other and end up having an unexpectedly passionate sexual encounter. Still in shock, Mary spends an unforgettable night of passion with Edmund. At least it becomes unforgettable to Edmund, who begins a relentless, and almost stalkerish, pursuit of Mary the very next morning.
He wanted to have her to start his days and as dessert to his luncheon, as a mid-afternoon exercise, as an appetizer before whatever entertainment the evening had to offer, and as a nighttime lullaby and a middle-of-the-night drug.
This novel has the perfect title. Edmund is crude, vulgar, a womanizer who doesn't hide who he is or what he has become. He admits to everything he is accused of by the ton: killing his brother and mother, jilting his fiancée for another woman and getting jilted himself, whoring, drinking, gambling. There's no end to what Edmund has done or won't admit to, he's upfront about all of it when he pursues Mary and hopes she will become his mistress. In Edmund, Balogh creates a self-loathing, unlikable hero. I need to check if there is a more self-loathing one in her repertoire, but Edmund is definitely at the top of the list.
Balogh likes to throw this curve around in her romances once in a while, I know, and I tend to love her hero-centric novels because she makes them work. You see, the thing about Edmund is that he kind of takes the place of the heroine in this romance. He is the one with the angsty past. He's the one with layers to peel behind the mask he presents to the world. Yet, Edmund believes that there is nothing to him and Mary buys it hook, line and sinker. Mary is an independent, strong woman in her own right. She doesn't just dislike Edmund, she despises the superficial wastrel she believes him to be. Mary feels she owes him for rescuing her at Vauxhall but is flabbergasted when she realizes that he is not going to go away easily. She is rude, judgmental, and hurtful to Edmund, but who can blame her. I mean, initially Edmund is obnoxious, insulting, and truthfully those first three weeks when he pursues her in London turn into a debacle when it comes to courting.
Of course there is more to Edmund, and Balogh goes on to peel those layers. It takes a lot to get underneath because this man's belief that he has nothing to offer is ingrained and goes deep. And Mary? With Mary it is a case of her "body" betraying her attraction while she fights her dislike of the man, and yes, she tells Edmund so. Mary is an intellectual, strong and sharp, but I would say that women's intuition fails her -- particularly after she learns more about him.
The Notorious Rake is not one of Balogh's uber romantic novels with the innocent child bride or a woman willing to sacrifice herself for love. It is not one of her novels where the hero is a respectable man of character. Yet, I found this romance to be better than that. It is intense and passionate with conflicted protagonists that are flawed, frustrating, and redeemable. Edmund is a memorable character, and although Mary's "body betrayed her" a few times here and there, she is a ruthlessly frank woman and I couldn't help but like that about her. I can see why so many Balogh fans love this novel.
Category: Historical Romance/Regency
Series: Waite #3
Publisher/Release Date: Dell/April 30, 2013