From the desk of Katie Patchell:
What do you think of when you hear the word “rake”? Do you think of a rogue, face and heart scarred, but with a devilishly attractive smile? Do you think angry thoughts, with words like “cad” and “bounder” (and maybe some unprintable ones) flashing through your mind? Or maybe you think of the gardening tool that sits in your shed? Regardless, rakes are tricky creatures, capable of evoking a passionate response. Josi S. Kilpack’s latest novel, Rakes and Roses, tells a story of the transforming power of mercy and love, one that’s reminiscent of the beloved legend of Beauty and her Beast.
Born the illegitimate daughter of a duke in a society where that detail matters greatly, Sabrina Carlisle has gotten used to turning a brave face to the world. When an older, titled man proposes, Sabrina accepts, happy to finally have peace and security. Her dreams are shattered soon after the wedding. Abusive physically and verbally, her husband makes her life a living hell. Unable to leave him permanently, she seeks reprieve one fateful night during a tense dinner party. While hiding in the bushes outside, Sabrina prays that no one notices her. Her prayer isn’t answered…but not in the way she fears.
Young, handsome, and reckless, Harry Stillman is already in training to be a rogue. When he takes a moonlight stroll in his host’s gardens with a beautiful woman on his arm, he doesn’t expect to see a face staring out at him with terror from the local flora. Steering his companion away from her is a small mercy — but returning to find out what the mysterious woman was afraid of is true kindness, a small act Sabrina never forgets.
Years pass; Sabrina and Harry find themselves in vastly different circumstances. Sabrina’s husband is dead and fear is no longer her constant companion. Harry, no longer carefree and wealthy, spends sleepless nights drinking and gambling. Consequences catch up to him in the form of thuggish moneylenders…but then the unexpected happens. An unknown person going only by the name “Lord Damion” offers him a chance at freedom. When Sabrina (through her pseudonym) finds the opportunity to save Harry from being killed by moneylenders or from drowning in his addiction, she jumps at the chance. The only question is—does he want to be rescued, as she did years ago?
Rakes and Roses stands out from others in its genre for a variety of reasons. The first happens immediately with Sabrina’s page-one panic attack, brought on by anxiety over her husband’s abuse. Each year brings statistics of more and more people around the world experiencing anxiety and depression, so I admire Josi Kilpack for addressing this through her heroine. Additionally, Harry’s struggle with addiction is (realistically) not easy or pretty. Many of us read Regencies because they’re free from modern issues we face daily, but Kilpack includes and handles the topics of anxiety, abuse, and addiction in a sensitive and hope-filled way.
Something unique that didn’t work for me as a reader was the huge plot point of Lord Damion. The idea of Lord Damion as the nom de plume of Sabrina was intriguing, but how he/she operated asked me to suspend my disbelief a little too far for historical fiction. I can believe in a mysterious entity that helps people who are down-on-their-luck during the Regency era; however, I have trouble believing in a phantom-like entity, traceable yet somehow not, who finds and convinces addicts to sign very tight, and (to me) confusing, contracts. It’s not very realistic for this genre, and because it wasn’t, I had trouble staying immersed in the story.
The final genre twist to mention is Sabrina and Harry’s relationship. First of all, she’s older than him by a few years! I’ve never seen this done in a Regency book to date, and I absolutely love this detail. Because of Sabrina’s terrible past experience and decision to help others in the future, Harry’s redemption became one of the main – if not the main – focus of Rakes and Roses. I don’t usually find that heroes in romance novels have much of the spotlight (besides being attractive and witty, of course), so this was refreshing.
In a world destabilized by COVID-19, there’s comfort in reading a story where love triumphs over anything, and where kindness and compassion can transform any broken life into something beautiful. Whether you’re new to the Mayfield Family series as I was or you’ve been a fan for years, I recommend Rakes and Roses for your next quarantine read.
4 out of 5 Stars
ADDITIONAL BOOKS IN THE SERIES
READ OUR REVIEWS
- Rakes and Roses: A Mayfield Family Romance, (Book 3), by Josi S. Kilpack
- Shadow Mountain Publishing (May 5, 2020)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (320) pages
- ISBN: 978-1629727356
- Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Romance, Inspirational Ficiton
We received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing © 2020; text Katie Patchell © 2020, austenprose.com.
Hello Dear Readers,
Have you read any of the novels in the Mayfield Family series, or by this author?
If you enjoy historical romance with witty dialogue, engaging plots, and endearing characters, Austenprose highly recommends them.
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Laurel Ann Nattress, editor