The Rake
Mary Jo Putney
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Buy *The Rake* by Mary Jo Putney online

The Rake
Mary Jo Putney
352 pages
March 2012
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Great story reissued

I read this book and had no idea, until the end, that it was actually a reissue of an older story, originally published in 1989. The world and writing styles/tastes have changed a fair bit in the intervening 20+ years, and a lot of reissued books that I’ve read recently haven’t made the transition well. This is not one of them - The Rake works really well.

The premise is best summarised by the book's original title--“the Rake and the Reformer”--giving equal billing to both central cast members. The rake, Reginald Davenport, is an interesting character whose initial shallow dissipation is gradually revealed to be only part of the truth about this man. Estate manager Alys Weston is doing a man’s job, and she’s rather unusual to look at (very tall, mismatched eyes). She nonetheless leads a pretty normal life despite all these things, providing stability for her three wards and doing an excellent job of running Strickland. When Reggie is gifted Strickland by his cousin, he leaves off his destructive raking for a short while to go and visit it. This becomes a pivotal time for him: he can leave his old life behind and make a new one--or can he?

I generally find ‘reformed rake’ stories unconvincing. I always have a sneaking suspicion that rakes don’t really reform, let alone being worried that they are riddled with disease. Here, however, Mary Jo Putney provides us with a slow, gradual, actually believable reformation, particularly regarding the struggles Reggie feels and his occasional slipping back into his old ways. Even Alys isn’t quite what she seems.

A subplot about a threat to both of them isn’t that significant a part of the book. The bulk of the story is the rake reforming and the reformer coming to terms with her past, and it is a very enjoyable story. Strong echoes of Georgette Heyer’s Frederica reverberate in this story for me. As I love that bookm there’s no harm in that, but this is a more down-to-earth story with perhaps a few aspects that don’t feel quite realistic. Otherwise, it’s a great read.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Helen Hancox, 2013

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