Taming the Rake, by Erica Ridley

24 Mar

I requested the ARC because I could not resist the blurb–but obviously, the idea of a man who could not even remember the name of the woman he deflowered the night before would require either that there be an alternate hero, or a damned good reason for his ‘forgetfulness’.

Turns out, I’ll never find out.

Reader beware: very sweary ranting by yours truly, taking apart the plot and characterization up to 25%, when I gave up.

Taming the Rake, by Erica Ridley

Despite having several books by the author in the TBR, this is the first one of hers that I’ve tried reading. It did not go well.

Here’s the blurb:

All her life, Miss Gladys Bell was a wallflower whose parents despaired of her ever attracting a suitor. Then she met the man of her dreams, who said she was the woman of his. One passionate night later, Gladys awaits a marriage proposal that never comes. Reuben Medford, the ton’s most notorious rake, doesn’t even remember her name. 

Thanks to his cold-hearted callousness, Gladys lost her reputation, her dowry, and her chance at love. But now she’s back, and bent on revenge. He’s trifled with the wrong woman: This wallflower has thorns. Once Gladys holds that damnable rake’s arrogant, fickle heart in her hands… She’ll crush it, just as he did to her. 

This time, he’ll remember her name.

When the novel starts, at what is basically the extra-extreme version of genre romance wallpaper Marriage Mart (in this case, a week-long festival attended only by people desperate to marry), Gladys is in her fourth and last season: she either secures a proposal, or her meager dowry will be passed on to her younger sister–who is also “the” pretty one.

No, not just pretty; the younger sister is ‘ravishing’.

At any rate, I really liked Gladys. Her internal dialogue is very realistic. She wants more than what is deemed her only possible future, but she’s also pragmatic enough to understand that all the wants in the world can’t change facts. Therefore, she’s at first resigned to marry the man who’s willing to stoop to marrying a plain quasi-spinster for her meager dowry, and willing to make the best of what that life may be.

So far, so good: engaging writing voice, good heroine.

Then we have the meeting with the purported hero. It’s at heart a comedy of errors: he’s there for an assignation with a woman he’s never actually met, so it’s not like he could tell he got the wrong body when Gladys accidentally wanders into his hiding spot.

Meanwhile, since Gladys thinks that, when his eyes glazed over earlier while looking in her direction in the ballroom, he actually saw her, she’s happily making plans to delight her parents with the news that this eminently eligible and great looking man with such excellent prospects not only is willing to marry her, but that he actually chose her–her! The plain, mousy chit who’s never before even conversed with a man!

And then it all falls apart (and I get angry again, just thinking about what’s about to happen to Gladys).

Here’s the thing: Reuben is supposed to be so desperate for human contact, since he considers himself such a waste of space, that he’ll fuck whatever and whoever signals any interest. He doesn’t have liaisons or affairs: he fucks and moves on, “before the woman in question realize he’s worthless” or some such.

And married women pursue him for a fuck because of course: he’s good looking, heir presumptive to a title and some money, and hey, everyone else is fucking him too, so why not.

I have read characters like this before–it’s not like they aren’t numerous in genre romance, both historical and contemporary varieties–and there are authors who get me past the rolling of my eyes and into believing that these men can grow into people I care to spend time with, and wish them happiness with their chosen partner(s).

So I was ready to give Reuben time to grow on me, so to speak, and then this happens:

Gladys leaves before they can get much farther than some kissing and petting–he feels her up, but doesn’t even get to suck her breasts–and he’s all, “but I want this woman, I have to have *this* woman, she’s special and different and not like all the other nameless faceless fucks I’ve had before”–which difference, from what I can tell, is that she left before they got to the fucking, and nothing else.

Then, the woman he was actually meeting shows up, and Reuben, who’s still thinking about the woman he didn’t get to fuck…fucks this other body.

Oh, but because he’s thinking of the first body (I won’t say Reuben is thinking of Gladys–she told him her name but he was too busy fondling her to hear her–he’s thinking of the body he was fondling that he didn’t get to fuck), he doesn’t come. Talk about heroic behavior! He’s such a gentleman: he gives his assignation the orgasm she’s there for, but he reserves his own for the woman whose name he didn’t bother to retain when she gave it to him.

This is the man who, by the end of the novel, I’m supposed to believe will make Gladys happy.


I tried to get over myself and read further, which brought me to the whole, “no one has ever loved me, I’m worthless, and fucking random faceless, nameless, person-less women bodies is the only kind human touch in my life” self-justification, followed shortly by “I’d rather die than marry” when the woman-body he wanted so much he didn’t come when fucking his last assignation, is pointed out to him.

Let me repeat: Reuben recognizes Gladys, but he’d rather die than marry her–even though he’s keenly aware that if it’s discovered that he fondled her, she’ll be ruined.

And that’s where I had to quit.

I liked the author’s writing voice, but there’s no way I can spend more time with Reuben without getting an ulcer.

Mind you, because I didn’t want to DNF an ARC I had asked for, but I also couldn’t stomach reading further, I ended up reading nothing–nothing at all–for over a week.

Finally, I decided to take a peek at the ending, just to see whether there was a comeuppance that justified slogging through whatever hell Gladys has to face, and, no. There’s barely even any grovel at all–she forgives Reuben, basically because she was always going to forgive him, and my head exploded.




And you know, I’m truly sorry, but my reading mojo is fragile as hell these days, so yeah. DNF it is.

8 Responses to “Taming the Rake, by Erica Ridley”

  1. Lori 24/03/2023 at 8:45 PM #

    Oh. Um. So the fact that having sex with a man that you’re not married to can destroy a woman’s life and all these women are willing to do it with him but he’s convinced he’s worthless even though these women are willing to face homelessness and poverty for his dick…

    yeah. Okay.

    • azteclady 25/03/2023 at 12:11 AM #

      Well, it’s romancelandia Regency, in which all society marriages are loveless, and all wives who’ve produced at least one heir and one spare go around screwing all the rakes.

      But yes, this. He’s so convinced that his only worth is in his dick–however, he knows that Gladys is unmarried, present at the festival because she needs to marry, and that she believes that he’ll propose to her in the morning, so he knows, absolutely, that not proposing is likely to ruin her life–and he still ‘rather die’. Not one thought to what would happen to her.

  2. SuperWendy 26/03/2023 at 8:04 PM #

    Oh hell no. Like you, I found that back cover blurb VERY intriguing. I am here for a romance heroine seeking vengeance because it subverts the more common iteration of the trope (hero seeks revenge, uses heroine to do it). BUT – reading your DNF review, this one descends into that most annoying of tropes – the hero is a raging, inconsistent jackass because his mommy, daddy and/or pet goldfish (likely) didn’t love him enough. And on top of that, these stories usually feature a steaming pile of Not Like Other Girls nonsense. The heroine is so good, so pure, not like the countless other women and pet goldfish the rake hero banged his way through London with.

    Yeah, f*ck that noise.

    • azteclady 26/03/2023 at 8:27 PM #

      I am keenly aware that I may well be doing the author a huge disservice–for all I know the very next scene subverts everything, but that’s why I read the last chapter and epilogue, and…yeah, no.

    • willaful 27/03/2023 at 8:57 PM #

      Yeah, that blurb definitely made me go *perk*. 😦

      • azteclady 27/03/2023 at 9:06 PM #

        Honestly, I need some good old fashioned, “she paid him back, and he became a man worthy of her” in my life.

  3. Jen 27/03/2023 at 8:51 AM #

    OH HELL NO. Thank you for taking one for the team. I would have thrown my kindle across the room. Sounds like this plot isn’t clever, it’s annoying.

    • azteclady 27/03/2023 at 9:41 AM #

      I tend to feel a bit guilty when I post a DNF review, but when I hit 25% and we are ::gestures:: here, yeah. Time to give it up.

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