The Ruin of a Rake
By: Cat Sebastian
Releasing July 4, 2017
Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.
Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.
As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love.
Julian pursed his lips as he gazed at the symmetrical brick façade of his sister’s house. It was every bit as bad as he had feared. He could hear the racket from the street, for God’s sake. He pulled the brim of his hat lower on his forehead, as if concealing his face would go any distance toward mitigating the damage done by his sister having turned her house into a veritable brothel. Right in the middle of Mayfair, and at eleven in the morning, when the entire ton was on hand to bear witness to her degradation, no less. Say what one wanted about Eleanor—and at this moment Julian could only imagine what was being said—but she did not do things by halves.
As he climbed the steps to her door, the low rumble of masculine voices drifted from an open second story window. Somebody was playing a pianoforte—badly—and a lady was singing out of key.
No, not a lady. Julian suppressed a sigh. Whoever these women were in his sister’s house, they were not ladies. No lady in her right mind would consort with the sort of men Eleanor had been entertaining lately. Every young buck with a taste for vice had made his way to her house over these last weeks, along with their mistresses or courtesans or whatever one was meant to call them. And the worst of them, the blackguard who had started Eleanor on her path to becoming a byword for scandal, was Lord Courtenay.
A shiver trickled down Julian’s spine at the thought of encountering the man, and he could not decide whether it was from simple, honest loathing or something much, much worse.
The door swung open before Julian had raised his hand to the knocker.
“Mr. Medlock, thank goodness.” The look of abject relief on the face of Eleanor’s butler might have struck Julian as vaguely inappropriate under any other circumstance. But considering the tableau that presented itself in Eleanor’s vestibule, the butler’s informality hardly registered.
Propped against the elegantly papered wall, a man in full evening dress snored peacefully, a bottle of brandy cradled in his arms and a swath of bright crimson silk draped across his leg. A lady’s gown, Julian gathered. The original wearer of the garment was, mercifully, not present.
“I came as soon as I received your message.” Julian had not been best pleased to receive a letter from his sister’s butler, of all people, begging that he return to London ahead of schedule. Having secured a coveted invitation to a very promising house party, he was loath to leave early in order to evict a set of bohemians and reprobates from his sister’s house.
“The cook is threatening to quit, sir,” said the butler. Tilbury, a man of over fifty who had been with Eleanor since she and Julian had arrived in England, had gray circles under his eyes. No doubt the revels had interrupted his sleep. “And I’ve already sent all but the—ah—hardiest of the housemaids to the country. It wouldn’t do for them to be imposed upon. I’d never forgive myself.”
Julian nodded. “You were quite right to send for me. Where is my sister?” Several unmatched slippers were scattered along the stairs that led toward the drawing room and bedchambers. He gritted his teeth.
“Lady Standish is in her study, sir.”
Julian’s eyebrows shot up. “Her study,” he repeated. Eleanor was hosting an orgy—really, there was no use in pretending it was anything else—but ducked out to conduct an experiment. Truly, the experiments were bad enough, but Julian had always managed to conceal their existence. But to combine scientific pursuits with actual orgies struck Julian as excessive in all directions.
“You,” he said, nudging the sleeping man with the toe of his boot. He was not climbing over drunken bodies, not today, not any day. “Wake up.” The man opened his eyes with what seemed a great deal of effort. “Who are you? No, never mind, I can’t be bothered to care.” The man wasn’t any older than Julian himself, certainly not yet five and twenty, but Julian felt as old as time and as irritable as a school mistress compared to this specimen of self-indulgence. “Get up, restore that gown to its owner, and be gone before I decide to let your father know what you’ve been up to.” As so often happened when Julian ordered people about, this fellow complied.
Julian made his way to Eleanor’s study, and found her furiously scribbling at her writing table, a mass of wires and tubes arranged before her. She didn’t look up at the sound of the door opening, nor when he pointedly closed it behind him. Eleanor, once she was busy working, was utterly unreachable. She had been like this since they were children. He felt a rush of affection for her despite how much trouble she was causing him.
“Eleanor?” Nothing. He stooped to gather an empty wine bottle and a few abandoned goblets, letting them clink noisily together as he deposited them onto a table. Still no response. “Nora?” It almost physically hurt to say his childhood name for her when things felt so awkward and strained between them.
“It won’t work,” came a low drawl. “I’ve been sitting here these past two hours and I haven’t gotten a response.”
Banishing any evidence of surprise from his countenance, Julian turned to see Lord Courtenay himself sprawled in a low chair in a shadowy corner. There oughtn’t to have been any shadows in the middle of the day in a bright room, but trust Lord Courtenay to find one to lurk in.
Julian quickly schooled his face into some semblance of indifference. No, that was a reach; his face was simply not going to let him pretend indifference to Courtenay. He doubted whether anyone had ever shared space with Lord Courtenay without being very much aware of that fact. And it wasn’t only his preposterous good looks that made him so . . . noticeable. The man served as a sort of magnet for other people’s attention, and Julian hated himself for being one of those people. As far as he could tell, the man’s entire problem was that people paid a good deal too much attention to him. But one could hardly help it, not when he looked like that.
Out of the three books in this series so far, The Ruin of a Rake is one of the most emotionally driven books. I don’t think I would classify it as a hate to love trope, but definitely a hate to love you one.
So the gist of the story goes like this … Courtney has been stamped as a philanderer. A playboy, if you will. A rake. He doesn’t quite like that. No wait, let me rephrase. It’s not that he doesn’t like it. It’s that now his reputation has meaningful consequences in his life. Because of the societal rules of the day, his outlandish life is now going to keep him from being a part of his nephew, Simon’s, life. He’s never cared about his reputation before. He’s lived his life by his rules. Well, now it’s time to grow up 🙂 Cue … our prim and proper Julian Medlock, a paragon of correct behavior. As you can probably put together…these two fit together swimmingly LOL #not
The story is kind of divided into two sections. The first half really focuses on both Courtney and Julian push/pulling their way thru the story-line. Julian is very much attracted to Courtney but shouldn’t be because he’s not his type. And of course, Courtney may want to change his rakish ways, but he just can’t help himself. So oil and water it is. Let the games begin, if you will. It’s not until these two men really let go of their inhibitions and embrace what is right in front of them that you heart will literally explode. Their journey to acceptance of each other’s love for each other was cocooned with so many #feels, my heart sometimes was just too full. It was a thing of beauty to read.
Cat Sebastian has proven time and time again that she is a force of nature with prose, characterization and story-telling skills. I have loved this series from the beginning and I hope to read much much more from her in the future.
Copy provided for blog tour review
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I’ve had the first two books in this series, The Soldier’s Scoundrel and The Lawrence Browne Affair, sitting unread on my Kindle for months and now I’m mad at myself about that. Because Cat Sebastian’s writing is ah-mazing. (This book can definitely be read as a standalone, FYI.)
Historicals aren’t generally my jam. The threats and fears that LGBTQ people lived under in those days, and the fact that they can never be truly open about who they love at the risk of death, usually taint the HEAs for me. But of all the historical M/M romance that I have read, Cat Sebastian is among the cream of the crop.
This was a story about the men (and women) behind the mask. Each character we encounter, not only Julian and Courtenay, live behind a facade, either of their own making or society’s. Julian has deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy and yearns to fit in, to be normal, so he studiously creates an image for himself of the perfectly inoffensive, generic, polite man. Courtenay, born a titled gentleman but who seeks the pleasures of life while also mourning his sister and suffocated by guilt over her death, is shunned by polite society and deemed a scoundrel and rake.
The first half of this book, Julian and Courtenay are dancing around each other. They aren’t quite enemies, I wouldn’t say, but they don’t really like each other. Courtenay thinks Julian is fake and offensively inoffensive. Julian is fighting a massive crush on Courtenay that he really doesn’t want to have, because Courtenay is not an acceptable object of his affections (not that he wants to have affections in general, anyway). The second half is the two men admitting to themselves how they feel and deciding how they can fit together. There is some angst, but not nearly as much as I anticipated, which I loved. The main thing that keeps them apart is themselves and once they come to terms with themselves and their feelings, they are wonderful together. Ah, the feels I had once they finally start admitting their feelings to the other.
Now, excuse me while I correct months’ worth of mistakes and go finally read the first two books in the series.
The Ruin of a Rake is one of those unicorn books. A male/male historical romance complete with some hot, dirty emotional sex. We have Jeremiah , Lord Courtenay, a peer of the realm and the absolutely dissolute the rake of the title. But not for long if Julian Medlow has his way. His beloved sister, Eleanor, has asked him to reform Jeremiah’s image so that he can see his beloved young nephew, Simon, again. You see, Lord Courtenay is so debauched, that he isn’t permitted near young children. Or is he? From a wealthy family, The Medlows are not of the nobility however Julian is a fixture in the posh set and a bit of a social climber and prig. Complicating matters further, the world thinks that Eleanor and Jeremiah are having an affair because of their close friendship.
As is the case in most Regency romances, nothing is as it seems. Jeremiah is thoughtful and devoted to his nephew, one of the last of his blood. He blames himself for the death of his sister and plays the role assigned to him, that of the debauched Duke, mostly as a way of keeping the world away. However, that persona is not serving him well at all because his nephew’s father refuses to allow him any further contact with young Simon. Reintroducing the new and improved Lord Courtenay proves to be no small task, as each holds the other in disdain, and the project requires them to keep close company. Of course, the hate turns to attraction turns to love, with some really passionate interludes along the way. It turns out Medlock has secrets of his own, not the least of which was a fascination with and a crush on Lord Courtenay.
The story is engaging and, honestly, the main characters intrigue me. For me, the story felt a bit contemporary in spots, and the danger and difficulties faced by a same sex couple in 19th century London felt glossed over. I would have liked a little more angst and a bit more development of the emotional attraction between Julian and Jeremiah, especially Jeremiah because it felt like his attraction to a man came out of nowhere. Overall, it’s a lovely addition to the genre. Kudos for tackling a same sex couple in the historical genre.
An ARC was provided by OMG Reads in exchange for an honest review.
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Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.