Thursday, January 3, 2013

Those Fascinating Gentlemen in Literature - the Rakes!

Hi everyone,

Because I write about rakes in historical romance and my new release, THE RELUCTANT MARQUESS features a rake, I thought I’d look at where it all began.

The Rake's Progress through literature.

A rake (short for rakehell) is a historic term for a man of immoral conduct. His wealth allowed him to live as he pleased and he shirked duty and marriage for pleasure. In 18th Century England, a rake was seen to be someone who wasted his inherited fortune on gambling, wine and women incurring vast debts. He was also known to seduce innocent young women and desert them after they fell pregnant.

In Restoration English comedy  (1660-1688) the rake was a carefree, witty, sexually irresistible aristocrat. The merry gang of courtiers, of which the 2nd Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Dorset were a part, combined riotous living with intellectual pursuits and patronage of the arts.

After the end of Charles II rein, however, the rake took a dive into squalor. His fate was sealed in debtor's prison, venereal disease or in the case of William Hogarth's series of paintings A Rake's Progress, insanity in Bedlam.

In 1935 a ballet was made of The Rake’s Progress

In 1945 a movie

Ivor Stravinsky wrote an opera based on Hogarth’s paintings in 1951.

 This thoroughly unattractive rakehell has been turned into a brooding hero by authors such as the Bronte sisters, and later, Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland. In modern historical romances, he continues to be redeemed by a feisty heroine, but these stories have a happy ending.

While not all rakes in current romances are quite so black, they are reluctant to give up their rakish ways and settle down. Lord Robert, Marquess of St. Malin certainly fits this description and it takes a country girl, Charity Barlow to tame him.


Here’s a taste:

The footman knocked on a solid oak door.


She stepped with trepidation into the room to be embraced by warmth. A fire blazed in the baronial fireplace where a liver-spotted spaniel lifted its head to study her. After a thump of a tail, its head sank to its paws again, lulled back to sleep by the heat. Above the fireplace, the painting of a hunting scene featured several dogs. Two tall china spaniels flanked the fireplace mantel. The heavy oak beams across the ceiling, and walls covered floor to ceiling in shelves of tomes made the room seem snug. Charity rushed over and crouched on the Oriental rug beside the animal, giving it a pat. The dog’s tail thumped harder. ‘You’re a nice fellow, aren’t you?’ Her stiff cold muscles loosened, and the icy pit at the base of her stomach began to thaw. Maybe she could be happy here. She loved dogs.

‘Welcome to Castle St. Malin.’

A man rose from behind a massive mahogany desk strewn with papers in the corner of the room. He crossed the room to greet her. He was not her godfather. She caught her breath. He was tall, his dark hair drawn back in a queue, and there was something of the marquess’ haughty demeanour about his handsome face, but she doubted he’d yet reached thirty.

‘Thank you.’ Charity could only stare at his attire, her gaze locked on his gold silk waistcoat as he bowed before her. He was in mourning, for black crepe graced the sleeve of his emerald green coat. With a sense of foreboding, she curtseyed on wobbly knees. ‘Where is the marquess, if you please?’ She looked around hoping her godfather might pop out of somewhere, but the room was otherwise empty.

‘I am the Marquess of St. Malin. My uncle passed away a short time ago.’

‘Oh. I’m so sorry.’ What she feared was true. Charity had an overwhelming desire to sit and glanced at the damask sofa.

He reacted immediately, taking her arm and escorting her to a chair. ‘Sit by the fire. You look cold and exhausted.’ He turned to the footman. ‘Bring a hot toddy for Miss Barlow.’

Charity sank down gratefully, her modest panniers settling around her.

‘I find the staff here poorly trained,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what my uncle was about.’

‘Why did you send a carriage for me?’ she asked, leaning back against the sofa cushions. ‘I wouldn’t have come had I known.’

‘I thought it best to sort the matter out here and now.’ He rested an elbow on a corner of the mantel and stirred the dog with a foot. ‘Shame on you, Felix. You might accord Miss Barlow a warm welcome.’ He looked at her. ‘My uncle’s dog; he’s mourning his master.’ He raised his brows. ‘Notice of my uncle’s passing appeared in The Daily Universal Register.’

‘We don’t get that newspaper in my village.’

‘You don’t? I wasn’t aware of you until the reading of the will. Then I learned of your parents’ death from my solicitor. I’m very sorry.’

‘Thank you. I’m sorry, too, about your uncle.’

‘My uncle fell ill only a few months ago. He rallied and then …’ The new marquess’ voice faded. He sighed and stared into the fire.

‘You must have been very fond of him,’ Charity said into the quiet pause that followed. Though, if she were honest, she felt surprise that the cool man she remembered could have provoked that level of affection.

He raised his eyes to meet hers and gave a bleak smile. ‘Yes, I was fond of him. He always had my interest at heart, you see.’ He sat in the oxblood leather chair opposite and rested his hands on his knees. ‘I am his acknowledged heir, and the legalities have been processed. I’ve inherited the title and the entailed properties. The rest of his fortune will pass to another family member should I fail to conform to the edicts of his will.’

‘His will?’ Charity gripped her sweaty hands together, she couldn’t concentrate on anything the man said. Her mind whirled, filled with desperate thoughts. With her godfather dead, where would she go from here? Her heart raced as she envisioned riding off along the dark cliffs to join a theatre troupe, or become a tavern wench.

‘This must be difficult for you to take in, and I regret having to tell you tonight before you have rested. But I’m compelled to move quickly as you have no chaperone and have travelled here alone …’

She raised her chin. ‘There was no one to accompany me.’  She would not allow him to make her feel like a poor relation, even though she was quite definitely poor. And alone. She hated that more than anything. What had her godfather left her? She hoped it would allow her some measure of independence and wasn’t just a vase or the family portrait.

The footman entered, carrying a tray with a cup of steaming liquid. Charity took the drink and sipped it gratefully. It was warming and tasted of a spicy spirit. She found it hard to concentrate on his words, as her mind retreated into a fog and her eyes wandered around the room. She finished the drink, which had heated her insides, and allowed her head to loll back against the cushions. Her gaze rested on her host, thinking he would be handsome if he smiled. She was so tired, and the warmth of the fire made her drowsy. What was he saying?

‘It’s the best thing for both of us, don’t you agree?’

She shook her head to try and clear it. ‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’

He frowned. ‘The will states we must marry. Straightaway, I’m afraid.’

‘I … What? I’m to m-marry you?’ Placing her cup down carefully on the table she struggled to her feet, fighting fatigue and the affects of whatever it was she’d just drunk. Smoothing her gown, she glanced at the door through which she intended to depart at any moment. ‘I have no intention …’

His lips pressed together in a thin line. ‘I know it’s perplexing. I didn’t intend to wed for some years. I certainly would have preferred to choose whom I married, as no doubt would you.’

Her jaw dropped. What kind of man was this? She had been raised to believe that marriage was a sacred institution. He made it sound so … inconsequential. She stared at him. ‘The will states I must marry you?’

‘Yes, that’s exactly what it states.’ He rose abruptly with a rustle of silk taffeta and moved closer to the fire. She wondered if he might be as nervous as she. ‘Unless I’m prepared to allow my uncle’s unentailed fortune go to a distant relative. Which I am not. As I have said.’ His careful tone suggested he thought her a simpleton. Under his unsympathetic gaze, she sank back down onto the sofa. ‘You are perfectly within your rights to refuse, but I see very few options open to you. As my wife, you will live in comfort. You may go to London to enjoy the Season. I shall give you a generous allowance for gowns and hats, and things a lady must have.’ His gaze wandered over her cream muslin gown, and she placed a hand on the lace that disguised the small patch near her knee. ‘What do you say?’

She tilted her head. ‘I shall receive an allowance? For gowns, and hats, and things a lady must have.’

‘Exactly,’ he said with a smile, obviously quite pleased with himself. ‘I see we understand each other perfectly. So … do you agree?’

What was wrong with this man? Slowly, Charity released a heavy sigh. She could barely contemplate such a thing as this, and yet he acted as though he’d solved all the problems of the world with fashion accessories. She had hoped for a small stipend, but marriage! And to a complete stranger. She couldn’t! Not for all the gowns and hats on earth. She straightened up in her chair and lifted her chin. Her words were clipped and precise, and she hoped beyond hope he would accept her decision gracefully. ‘I say no, Lord St. Malin.’

‘No? Really?’

‘Yes, really.’

‘How disappointing,’ he said quietly.

She gulped as his heavy-lidded eyes continued to study her from head to foot. She was uncomfortably aware that the mist had sent her hair into a riot of untidy curls, and she smoothed it away from her face with both hands as she glanced around the room. She tucked a muddy shoe out of sight beneath her gown and then forced herself to meet his gaze. Might he like anything of what he saw? Her father loved that she had inherited her mother’s tiny waist, and she thought her hands pretty. His lordship’s gaze strayed to her breasts and remained there rather long. She sucked in a breath as her heart beat faster. When their eyes met did she detect a gleam of approval? It only made her more nervous.

Excerpt 2

Robert dropped his hand and went to sit on the sofa. He watched her walk around the room, her skirts swaying gracefully around her. ‘Come here.’

She remained where she was.


‘If you wish.’ She crossed the room to stand by his side.

He took her hand, turning it over in his large one, marvelling at her delicate, pointed fingers. He thought of the carvings he’d seen on her mantel. ‘I’m sorry I snapped at you.’

‘Are you?’ She pulled her hand away, her voice doubtful.

He patted the sofa beside him. ‘We need to learn more about one another, don’t you agree?’

When she hesitated, he seized her by the waist and tumbled her onto his lap.

‘The servants might come in.’ Charity struggled to rise, but he held her fast within his arms.

‘No, they won’t.’

‘How can you be sure?’

‘They wouldn’t dare. I told them we wished to be alone.’

Her green eyes widened. ‘Why do such a thing? There will be gossip in the servants’ quarters.’

‘Servants love to talk. Why must we deny them something to talk about?’ His hands roamed from her tiny waist to her bodice and her full breasts, enjoying the feel of her soft curves. She was unlike the willowy women he was used to. Her derriere felt plump and delightful against his hardening erection. Should he stop? He struggled with his conscience and his conscience lost. He slid his hands up her smooth thigh, wishing to bare her body and study every bit of her he wanted to kiss and lick.

‘Robert, should you…’                                  

‘Yes. I intend to make love to you.’

She squirmed and gasped. Her full lips open and inviting. ‘Now? Here?’

‘Why not now and here?’ he asked, forced to remove his hand as she jumped up.  He drew her down again. ‘Don’t you want me to touch you?’

‘But this is scandalous.’ Charity’s eyes widened, her small pink tongue licked her bottom lip, sending a bolt of fire straight to his groin. She gave a shy smile. ‘A kiss perhaps.’

He found himself trembling as if it was the first time for him too, when he took her chin in his hands and pressed his lips to hers. Charity gave a soft moan. Her hands moved through his hair to the nape of his neck, pulling him closer. God, he’d started something now. How he wanted this luscious and delicate woman.

She drew away with a deep shuddering breath. ‘The bedchamber at night would surely be the ….’

Robert began to undo the buttons on her gown. ‘I find myself unable to wait.’

‘Unable? But you said …’                                              

He undid the last button and pulled her gown away. Leaning forward, he kissed the tender nape of her neck. ‘Can’t a man change his mind?’

My books featuring Georgian and Regency rakes:  




You might like to read my free Regency short stories on my website: Caroline and the Captain and The Earl Takes a Ward.

My Spies of Mayfair Series A BARON IN HER BED is published in the US on March 6th.

More information about my books can be found at:

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