Nov 18, 2011

Posted by in Reviews | 10 Comments

Review: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean (Love by Numbers #1)

Historical Romance
March 30 2010
Mass Market Paperback
422 pages
Avon Books

Yummy Man – Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston
Kick Ass Chick – Lady Calpurnia Hartwell

From Goodreads –
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried — and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she’s vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she’s been missing.

But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss — to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston — charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.

If she’s not careful, she’ll break the most important rule of all — the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love …


I was reading a different Historical Romance book and found it to be a little too heavy for what I was in the mood for.  After putting it aside, I was talking to many people on twitter about my HR experience to date and I got lots of advice (seriously, for recommendations, twitter people are great!).  I was told about Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean.  I had actually heard of that book and of that series, and seeing that it was also on the Goodreads list I was using as a reference, I was sold.

It turned out to be just my cup of tea.  (See what I did there?  It’s a Regency romance and I used to word ‘tea’ in my review.  I am so clever sometimes. *pats self on back*) This is the book that helped me realize that I prefer light and fluffy HR books over deeper darker ones.  Do not mistake me here.  I am not saying that this book has shallow characters with no depth and that the story is petty.  It is not like that at all.  What I am saying is that this book made me giggle over and over and over.  And the plot wasn’t a ‘life or death’ tale.  It was a sweet romantic book with witty characters and an interesting story.

Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake starts off with a seventeen year old Calpurina Hartwell (Callie) running away from a ball where she is coming out to the ton.  Her mother has dressed her in a hideous dress and Callie does not feel beautiful.  Plus she has not danced and feels humiliated.  She runs to the gardens and meets the Marquess of Ralston (Gabriel).  He is a little older and a known womanizer, I mean rake.  Same diff.   He manages to make Callie feel like a goddess.  The opening scene in the garden was very sweet and even though you know that the Marquess is a little full of it, he still pretty much won me right from then.

The book continues over ten years later.  Callie is ‘on the shelf’ as they say – meaning she is unwed and is not expected to change her circumstances anytime soon.  And she still remembers the Marquess of Ralston that evening and how he made her feel.  After Callie’s younger sister gets engaged, she starts to think about what is missing in her life and what adventures she would like to live – thanks to her brother’s suggestions.  While not his intention, Benedict has planted a seed in Callie’s mind – and once Callie is determined to do something, she does it.  She compiles a list of things she would like to experience.  This list happens to be filled with things only men are allowed to do.  But the first thing on this list is not something only men do but it is something you need a man to do with.  Callie wants to be kissed.  And so enters, once again, the Marquess of Ralston.

Callie is such a spit-fire!  You would assume that with her reputation of being a goodie goodie that she was just a plain society lady content with her place in the mess of things.  And she sort of was in the very beginning.  But soon that Callie disappears and is replaced with a really spunky character.  She is so smart and inadvertently funny.  And fun.  Let’s not forget fun.

Gabriel is great.  He isn’t actually a cheating scum bag who does anything with breasts.  He has mistresses and treats them very well.  He just doesn’t believe in love (because of what it did to his father) nor does he want to get married ever (because of what it did to his mother).    There was quite a depth to his character without making him come across as pretentious or closed off.  Even with his mess of a past, he’s still full of humor and warmth.  He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he knows his duties.  He really takes good care of Callie.  I liked how Sarah made it that he just happened to be there when Callie was trying to cross things off her list.  Sometimes how things happened was a little predictable, but they were still so much fun to read.

Callie and Gabriel together…wonderful.  They are on the page together quite a bit but not in every scene and I found myself missing them together when they were apart.  I think Sarah really got it right with these two.

I loved Gabriel’s family.  Nicolas is great (he’s the hero for book #2) and his sister Juliana (the heroine for book #3) is a total firecracker!  Callie’s sister and brother were fun to read too.

Callie’s mother was annoying – but that was the point of her.  She is written as your typical mother who has a younger daughter marrying well and two older siblings who aren’t married yet…and who may never marry.  That’s a big deal to a mother in the early 1800’s because, of course, the children are a reflection of the family.  But I could have done with a slightly toned down version of her.  Another little point that I didn’t find necessary was the bet.  I won’t go into detail but I just found it was one thing too many in this story and I didn’t think it was essential to advance the plot.  Also, the odd time I wondered why Callie wasn’t just saying “hey, back off bub!”  Yes, it was Gabriel and he is a yummy man, but again, just the odd time here and there, I wondered why Callie didn’t smack him away.  Other than that, the book was great.

There were two scenes in particular that really brought a smile to my face – and a giggle or five.  The gambling scene in the men’s club was just super cute…and really hot.  And the scene where Gabriel visits Benedict – just classic.  How casual the two men are in that scene…funny.

Overall, I found this book to be a nice blend of cute and sweet and sexy and fun.  I was told by an anonymous source (*cough* Marcela *cough*) that the third book is even better than this one.  I will definitely be checking that one out sooner rather than later.

My many thanks to all who suggested I try this book.  Great choice.

4 stars

Giggle worthy quotes

“’There’s no need for sarcasm, Benedict,’ she said curtly.  ‘It isn’t very becoming.’

‘Unlike an unmarried lady – the daughter of an earl – asking one of London’s most notorious rakes for a recommendation to a tavern.  That, of course, is the very epitome of becoming.’

‘When you put it that way – I can see how it might appear – problematic.’

‘Might appear?’


“Frustrated by another loss, Callie burst out, ‘You cheated!’

He looked at her, wide-eyed with feigned outrage.  ‘I beg your pardon.  If you were a man, I would call you out for that accusation.’

‘And I assure you, my lord, that I would ride forth victoriously on behalf of truth, humility, and righteousness.’

He chuckled, shuffling the cards.  ‘Are you quoting the Bible to me?’

‘Indeed,’ she said primly, the portrait of piousness.

‘While gambling.’”

Books in the Love by Numbers series –
Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake
Ten Ways to be Adored when Landing a Lord
Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart

  1. I love your review! I was recommended this one a while ago and bought myself a copy, but I never actually got to the point of reading it for some reason. I can tell you that you’ve definitely made me want to change that fact and quickly. 😉 It sounds super good and I love books that make me giggle. I’m the same with the HR preferences too, so this sounds promising!

  2. I read lots of Regencies and I loved this one. I wasn’t quite as wild about the second and third. They were good, but not great, but this one is definitely a keeper. I like my Regencies on the angsty/emotional side but with humor and two authors that manage that combo really well are Julia Quinn and Loretta Chase.

    Another great book that I would highly recommend is A Night To Surrender by Tessa Dare. Very funny, but not farcical, with great characters who are also older (the heroine is in her 20’s not 18 or 19 as is the case in so many Regencies).

  3. I loved this book!! But then if an author combines really witty humor, dialog and plot…well, I’m hooked. I, too, didn’t enjoy the next two books as well as this one.

  4. I have never heard of this book before, but if it got you to giggle that much and is still hot with a great plot I think I have to give it a try. And nice that the series follows a family, guess I should start at the beginning huh.

  5. Rebecca – Super cute!

    Jen & Dot – Hmm…now you’ve got me wondering about the next books. lol

    Lexi – I am assuming you’ll want to start at the beginning. 😉 And I too like series that follow families. Usually that means that the characters you enjoy reading in the first books are in every book. I’m hoping that happens in this series too.

  6. Exactly, you get connected to characters early on and then get to see them have their own story told. Yup, had to put this series in my list. Thanks for the suggestion!

  7. I was sure I had commented on this post… I guess I’m crazy. I’m glad you liked this book, I also love Callie and Gabriel. I don’t know if Mrs. McLean is planing to write Benedict’s book, but I really hope so. I hope you like 3rd book when you get the chance to read it.

  8. Great review, I need to start reading this author!

  9. Got to add this to my TBL list, I love finding new author.

  10. Lexi – 🙂

    Bookaholic Cat – Benedict’s book would be great!

    Lupdilup – I am going to look out for your review. 😉

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