Release Date: Nov 26, 2019
Series: Union of the Rakes
Heat Level: Sensual
Imprint: Avon Books
Leigh brings the 80s to historical romance and I can gleefully say, “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.”
From a nice reference to the Safety Dance to plenty of ribald humor, Leigh captures the essence of the 80s movies we loved so much, though provides a more modern lens that removes the sexism prevalent in those films.
I love reading a Leigh story because it always offers something new to the historical genre, and teaches me as well. Whether breaking down misogynistic barriers or creating a more diverse world with characters from multiple backgrounds, I always feel transported to a London I would have enjoyed living in. Additionally the story is structured a bit different from the classic romance cadence and it works for both Seb and Grace’s transition from friends to lovers.
Grace, our heroine, is a woman who believes herself comfortable in her own skin, but is eager to use a man to gain the attention of another man… maybe she’s not as comfortable as she thinks. The best part about Grace is she’s educated, intelligent, and isn’t afraid of that knowledge—she’s a herpetologist (Cue the bad jokes). Her gift of knowledge, amply supplied throughout the story, enhances Grace’s way of seeing the world. The character is well-written, fully formed and I wanted to be her friend. FYI: She also appreciates the twelve year-old humor in the word Uranus.
Seb… oh Seb, he’s our Anthony Michael Hall character from Breakfast Club. The nerd who’s so good at the scholarly pursuits and rubbish with social interactions, that he becomes tongue-tied in the presence of any female. Before the start of the story he’s formed an unlikely friendship with Grace, which makes communicating with her easier, but he can’t help seeing her in an attractive light. Seb definitely isn’t stuck writing papers in this story. No, Seb is transformed into The Rake… the illusory, wanted-by-all man who gets the ladies swooning. With Grace’s help and the help of his friend, the Duke of Rotherby, Seb works to transform himself into a rake to help Grace woo the man she seeks to marry. FYI, the banter between Seb and the Duke in this story is priceless. Take this gem:
“Now,” the duke said, “there’s something I’ve been meaning to discuss with you, Holloway. Your wardrobe.”
Sebastian glanced down at himself. “What I wear is serviceable enough. I’ve had this waistcoat for years.”
“And it deserves some rest to repay its decade of valiant service,” Rotherby noted. “A rake is never dressed in clothing that’s old enough to marry.”
“After paying my rent, what’s left goes mostly to books.”
Rotherby snorted. “You must have a sizable library, then.”
“It’s not the size,” Sebastian replied drily. “It’s what I do with it. Very thick volumes.”
I don’t think I need to provide more information about the plot, it’s all set up to go wrong anyway. With dialogue like the above the characters sing. This is like a cross between Sixteen Candles and She’s All That… sort of. I also thought of Can’t Buy Me Love briefly in this, the one with McDreamy as the geeky guy transformed. Regardless, this story had me hook, line, and sinker by the end of the prologue. I fell for the characters, and even accepted their misguided lack of communication skills, aptly set up by their past experiences. They were antagonists to themselves as much as outside parties.
Overall, this book checked all my boxes and I can’t wait for the next. I am also eagerly excited that this series from Leigh is going to be five books. Each one ties to 80s romantic comedies, because that’s my bread and butter, though I can admit all of them are problematic. Though, I am eager to see how Leigh re-invents these story-lines and fixes them. Because that’s what she’s doing, bringing my 80s loving heart back to life in a new way.