My Fake Rake (Union of the Rakes #1) by Eva Leigh
Historical Romance published by Avon on November 26, 2019
Lady Grace Wyatt is content as a wallflower, focusing on scientific pursuits rather than the complications of society matches. But when a handsome, celebrated naturalist returns from abroad, Grace wishes, for once, to be noticed. Her solution: to “build” the perfect man, who will court her publicly and help her catch his eye. Grace’s colleague, anthropologist Sebastian Holloway, is just the blank slate she requires.
To further his own research on English society, Sebastian agrees to let Grace transform him from a bespectacled, bookish academic into a dashing—albeit fake—rake. Between secret lessons on how to be a rogue and exaggerated public flirtations, Grace’s feelings for Sebastian grow from friendship into undeniable, inconvenient, real attraction. If only she hadn’t asked him to help her marry someone else…
Sebastian is in love with brilliant, beautiful Grace, but their bargain is complete, and she desires another. Yet when he’s faced with losing her forever, Sebastian will do whatever it takes to tell her the truth, even if it means risking his own future—and his heart.
Read this book ASAP! I highly recommend it for fans of historical romance. I haven’t read much historical romance this year, especially stories published by the New York / traditional publishers. If they’re like this now, sign me up for more! This book is doing a lot and I am here for all of it. There are so many things I liked, many of them just little acknowledgements or references I’m not used to reading in “traditional” Regency historical romance and I loved it!
So much of this story is in my wheelhouse. Scientist / “nerd” main characters—both of the main characters! Seb and his found family of the Union of the Rakes! A fun spin on the clichéd “mousy librarian takes off their glasses and is now sexy” that I didn’t notice as I was reading but as I was preparing for this review it clicked and I’m like “whoa, well done, Eva Leigh!” So much goodness in book form—I can’t wait for the next book!
And then there are people of color! Discussion of colonizers stealing from cultures and displaying the stolen items in museums! The problems of patriarchy and toxic masculinity! Women, even virgins (gasp!), thinking and talking about orgasms and female pleasure! The effects of expanding populations and capitalism on wildlife and the environment! Cultural appropriation of indigenous people’s ceremonial practices! The use of slave labor! Not what I’m used to reading in traditionally published historical romance but a welcome and needed change.
Grace and Seb are lovely characters, flawed, but trying so hard. The story is from alternating points of view. I love that Grace admits to herself she’s physically attracted to more than one guy so not the typical “he’s the only one who makes me feel this way”. Seb has issues he’s working through and I love how supportive and understanding his friends are. Grace has to adjust her thinking and grow during the story. Seb steps way out of his comfort zone so Grace can have what she thinks she wants and it’s lovely and heart-wrenching at the same time. He also gains confidence during the story.
The secondary characters in the story are great too. The Duke of Rotherby, a member of the Union of the Rakes (and a main character of the next book in the series), is awesome. Grace’s friends, the Argyles, are adorable. Mr. Okafor, the librarian, Beale, Rotherby’s valet, and Katie, Grace’s maid, are also interesting characters. Along with the Argyles, I’d like to learn more about them and their lives.
This is a fabulous story. I loved reading it and can’t wait for more in the series. The fake relationship trope is not my favorite but I think was well done in this story. This is my first Eva Leigh book but just the first of many!
Content warnings for anxiety and references to possible emotional abuse.
You can buy a copy here.