The Art of Taming a Rake features one of my favourite historical romance tropes: the marriage of convenience.
Venetia Stratham has returned from the continent after hearing rumours that Quinn Wilde, Earl of Traherne is paying court to her younger sister. Not on Venetia’s watch he’s not.
Burned by her rakish betrothed years ago, Venetia sets out to make sure that her sister does not suffer a relationship with a lord that is incapable of being faithful. Naturally, Venetia decides she must confront Quinn in a gentleman’s. Just managing to skate ruin (again), Venetia heads over to Quinn’s mansion to confront him once again having not received the definitive answer she wanted. When Quinn’s shot and Venetia found holding the pistol, Quinn decides to do the honorable thing and proposes marriage, otherwise Venetia will be the talk of the ton and her sister’s chances at a successful marriage will be ruined. Since saving her sister was the whole point of her escapes, Venetia reluctantly agrees to the marriage with the caveat that she can return to the continent when Quinn determines who’s out to harm his person. As is expected, this marriage of convenience becomes something less than convenient very quickly.
Considering the whole “marriage of convenience” element to The Art of Taming a Rake I had really high expectations of this book. And while I did like The Art of Taming a Rake there were a few elements that I wasn’t a fan of. First, there was a lot of flowery language – and a lot of usage of the word “tenderness”. I suppose this could have conveyed a deeper sense of emotion between Quinn and Venetia, but for me, it conveyed an artificiality that didn’t appeal to me. The language used also seemed to hide the relationship development rather than have readers participate in the slow burn between Quinn and Venetia. Readers are told that these two are talking and getting closer, but readers don’t actually “see” this happen. Personally, I would have liked a bit more emphasis on Quinn and Venetia’s relationship outside of the bedroom. The author did a great job conveying Quinn and Venetia’s physical intimacy but something was lacking in their emotional intimacy.
In addition to a writing style that was more tell than show, I also found the reasons for Quinn’s reluctance to fall in love a little unrealistic. Venetia’s reasons, those I buy. She jilted her betrothed on their wedding day after he arrives at the church unkempt having just left his mistress’s bed. Yeah, I think Venetia’s warranted in her trust issues. Quinn, on the other hand, was apparently burned by a fortune hunter in his youth (I think he was 18). Now as a thirty-year-old man, Quinn is still hung up on this betrayal. Really? This adult can’t get over having his heart broken as a young lordling? Somehow I can’t believe that, nor did I feel that it fit within Quinn’s character. Since readers have very little information about this betrayal, it seemed an issue with out of proportion consequences to Quinn and Venetia’s relationship.
While the initial banter between Quinn and Venetia was done really, really well, by the end I felt something was missing. There’s a large chunk of their relationship that I just feel like readers were not privy to. Venetia seemed to “tame” Quinn rather quickly with Quinn only putting up a token resistance. The Art of Taming a Rake is a nice read, but ultimately I was looking for stronger character development between the leads.
For another marriage of convenience romance I highly recommend Mary Balogh’s Only a Promise. I think it will appeal to those that also felt that something was missing from Quinn and Venetia’s romance. Balogh excels at showing readers the emotional intimacy of her characters and Only a Promise is a very good example of this. See my full review here.
Megan Frampton’s Put Up Your Duke is another good marriage of convenience story and I think it will appeal since the hero very much reminds me of Quinn. Also great character development here. See my full review.