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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Taming of the Rake by Kasey Michaels

The Taming of the Rake by Kasey Michaels
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (379 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Meet the Blackthorn brothers—Three unrepentant scoundrels infamous for being mad, bad and perilous to love

Charming, wealthy and wickedly handsome, Oliver "Beau" Blackthorn has it all…except revenge on the enemy he can't forget. Now the opportunity for retribution has fallen into his hands. But his success hinges on Lady Chelsea Mills-Beckman—the one woman with the power to distract him from his quest.

Desperate to escape her family's control, Lady Chelsea seizes the chance to run off with the notorious eldest Blackthorn brother, knowing she's only a pawn in his game. But as Beau draws her deep into a world of intrigue, danger and explosive passion, does she dare hope he'll choose love over vengeance?

One man’s whipping sets a course of events that ultimately takes a path of vengeance and turns it into a journey of love. A reader will figure out that the two beleaguered protagonists will get their happily ever after, eventually. What happens along the way however, is a grand bit of storytelling where some of the characters end up in very different places than what a reader is initially presented.

Oliver “Beau” Blackthorn is the eldest of the Blackthorn brothers. For all of his aura of responsibility, cunning and deviousness there remains a youthfulness to him. A reader will see it early on but will also see how it got destroyed. After reading this story and watching him fall in love with Chelsea, I don’t think it was demolished as much as suppressed, hidden and denied. It didn’t serve him well at all in the beginning. But with the heroine, elements and hints of the young, hopeful and earnest man he once was start to surface. He learns to trust her and like a flower unfurling in the sun, Oliver experiences emotions and feelings he never thought he would. Certainly he had no idea what to do with them, and that was the beginning of the entertainment.

Chelsea’s character is many things but the one thing that tops them all is, she’s fun. I got a charge out of how alternately smart she was, then blushingly innocent, before shocking the hero with her cheeky wit and stunning him with her plans. You see, she always comes up with a plan. It may sound silly, it may be over the top or just plain genius, but she always comes up with something. And it cracked me up every time. It was one of the best things about her because of what it did to the hero. I can just imagine the author rubbing her hands briskly together with an evil “bwahahaaa” as she concocted another predicament to toss at the hero and heroine. It was one snafu after another and Chelsea never took no for an answer, nor did she ever take a defeatist attitude. She was plucky, inventive and quite charming. Oliver never stood a chance.

The first set of secondary characters is the Blackthorn siblings. I was introduced quite thoroughly to Puck. Again, I found myself giggling as I imagined this poor beset upon young man having to travel all over the country, chasing after his brother and hopefully wife-to-be. He was a cheery sort and seemed rather vacuous in demeanor. Nothing could be further from the truth. The scene at the Crown showed he was made of sterner stuff. Also he has the ability to think on his feet and is as dedicated and loving to his brothers as a reader could wish. He was a great support cast and I enjoyed getting to know him. Good thing too because the next book is about him. I’m excited. As for the other brother, Jack, the author pretty much kept me in the dark but threw some very interesting tidbits to whet a reader’s appetite for the future. He’s a real mystery not only to me but to his own family. Very cool.

The other secondary characters are the bad ones. They either participated in the wrongs of the past or are perpetuating future grievous harm now. The ‘crow’ was truly the evil in the piece. It takes one to know one and ironically, Chelsea’s sister recognized him for what he was right off of the bat. In a way, I liked her shrewish disposition because it was entertaining and I could tell she enjoyed twisting the figurative knife. Chelsea’s brother is a bully. He’s not inherently evil, but he’s not a nice person. I sort of pitied him – but only a little. Even the bad brother had his own epiphany by the end of the story, but the truth didn’t enlighten him for long. After learning about him, I don’t think he could have responded any other way. He wasn’t a strong man of character. In fact, sour grapes was quite fitting for him. Once you read the book, you’ll know what I’m making reference to.

The family dynamics between Oliver’s family and Chelsea’s was fascinating to read about. The author took great pains to make sure I understood how unconventional the Blackthorn brother’s childhoods were. It is on the one hand sad and on the other, really bizarre, especially for the time period. Chelsea’s was normal yet that isn’t a compliment.

I was completely charmed by the verbal byplay between Oliver and Chelsea, and then again between Oliver and his brother, Puck. It kept the story lively, intriguing and faced paced. Another thing
Ms. Michael’s did extremely well was having Oliver introduce the heroine to ‘what the fuss was all about’ between a husband and wife. Chelsea’s response was entertaining and the results of some of the scenes were deliciously spicy. They were well spaced, effectively placed and sweet and saucy all at the same time. They were a credit to the story.

The Taming of the Rake is a rollicking good read. I laughed, I gasped and I giggled some more. The author kept surprising me with one fiasco or plot twist after another. The drama was light and enough to keep the story moving at a steady and energetic pace. I enjoyed the characters, the setting, the descriptions and the dialogue. I can’t think of one thing the author could have done better, I had that good of a time. If a reader is looking for a story that entertains, makes a reader smile and provides a sense of justice satisfied, all the while making it hard to put down due to the twists and turns of the adventure, then The Taming of the Rake is a real winner.