Lord Courtenay has always been thought a rogue and a scoundrel. In fact, a gothic novel is making the rounds and the villain is quite clearly based on Courtenay. Everyone assumes he is wild, has no manners, and goes from one sexual encounter to another. His family blames him for his sister’s ruin and subsequent fleeing to the continent. For the most part, Courtenay doesn’t much care what people think, except now his nephew, who he practically raised, is being kept from him as his father thinks Courtenay is a bad influence.
Courtenay’s good friend comes to his aid by enlisting the help of her brother, Julian Medlock, to reform Courtenay’s reputation. Julian has spent years working his way up the social ladder. He is always proper, always well behaved, and has managed to make his way from a businessman to someone who is asked into the most upper crust of parties and homes. Julian would do anything for his sister; in fact, he is pretty sure her unhappiness is due to his past mistake and he won’t refuse her now. But dealing with the brutish rake, who happens to be so handsome Julian can hardly think straight, isn’t exactly what he wants to do with his time.
As the men get to know one another, it becomes clear that Courtenay is no longer the wild cad he used to be; in fact, he lives a pretty low key life now. But having the rest of the world believe that isn’t easy. With Julian’s help, however, Courtenay begins to reform his reputation and make his way back into society. But things are complicated by the clear attraction growing between the men. Courtenay has to accept that he is worth loving and deserves happiness, instead of believing every bad thing people say about him. And Julian has secrets that he can not share, ones that make him sure he has no chance with Courtenay long term. But the connection between the men continues to grow stronger, and they both must decide if they are willing to risk their hearts on love and the future that can be between them.
The Ruin of a Rake is the third book in Cat Sebastian’s fabulous Soldier’s Scoundrel series. I absolutely went crazy for the first book, The Soldier’s Scoundrel (it was one of my top picks from 2016), and I am continuing to really enjoy this series. The stories all stand alone quite well, though there are connections between the characters and they do appear in small ways in one another’s books. So you could easily step into this one without having read the others, but there are some nice connections with the other books if you have read them all.
This book has a nice opposites attract vibe. I love the stuffy uptight hero with the lovable rake trope and this works really nicely, especially since Julian has the upper hand much of the time. I love that while Courtenay often leaves Julian all aflutter, Courtenay in turn is just as charmed by the more plain Julian and loves to see him in all his bossy, prickly glory. The men have a nice banter and witty dialog and it is fun to see them pitted against each other, ultimately finding they are falling for one another. There is also a nice twist here in that Courtenay is actually not all that bad of a guy. Most of his wildness has been left in his past, so while his reputation still far precedes him, in reality he is a pretty mild mannered man (though he loves to use his reputation as poorly behaved to speak his mind when he wants to). He is charming and sexy and with such an endearing vulnerability. Courtenay believes all his own negative hype. He is a caring guy and protects those he loves, even when it means accepting guilt and responsibility for everything that goes wrong. So I found myself really feeling for him, and rooting for Julian to be able to prove to Courtenay just how much he deserves love and compassion.
Julian is endearingly prickly. I’ll admit, I love a somewhat geeky hero who doesn’t quite fit in and is full of bluster. Julian has worked for years to fit in with society, even when it means he has respect without much friendship. He is someone who tries not to look too closely at his own feelings, or those of others, for fear he may see something he doesn’t like. So it is a nice twist in that while Courtenay is the one who supposedly needs reforming, Julian is actually the one who has to do some serious self reflection. He is not a bad guy, just one who is pretty single minded and tries not to look too carefully at things he doesn’t want to see. So I really loved these guys together and liked the way their personalities played off one another. There is nice sexual chemistry and I found seeing them open up and find their way together was really rewarding.
As I said, this book does stand alone well, but I loved the ending when we connect with the other two couples from the first books. Not only was it nice to see them again, but I loved the way they have formed this sort of family (though George and Jack are actually brothers) and there is a really sweet moment at the end where we see the lives they have built for themselves and the future that looks so promising. I am not sure if this is the last story in this series, but if it is, Sebastian has really pulled it together well.
If you are a fan of historicals, especially with an opposites attract vibe, I can definitely recommend this story. And I really have loved this series and can’t recommend it enough. Sebastian’s writing is clever and layered and her characters are really engaging. I am a big fan and definitely encourage you to give these a try.