Saturday, March 2, 2013

7 Heart Review: If You Give a Rake a Ruby by Shana Galen

If You Give a Rake a Ruby (Jewels of the Ton #2)
Shana Galen

Page Count: 341 

Release Date: 5 March 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: Complimentary ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Her mysterious past is the best revenge...
Fallon, the Marchioness of Mystery, is a celebrated courtesan with her finger on the pulse of high society. She’s adored by men, hated by their wives. No one knows anything about her past, and she plans to keep it that way.

Only he can offer her a dazzling future...
Warrick Fitzhugh will do anything to protect his compatriots in the Foreign Office, including seduce Fallon, who he thinks can lead him to the deadliest crime lord in London. He knows he’s putting his life on the line...

To Warrick’s shock, Fallon is not who he thinks she is, and the secrets she’s keeping are exactly what make her his heart’s desire...

Review


I absolutely love what Shana Galen does for historical romance. I find a lot of the genre densely written and often just carbon copies of each other with the characters' names accordingly replaced and the central conflicts modified, but her stories are always creative, amusing, and captivating to read. Last year, I reviewed and adored The Rogue Pirate's Bride and am pleased to say If You Give a Rake a Ruby is equally passionate, equally fast-paced, and equally engrossing.

True to form, Galen acquaints readers with unconventional characters: Warrick Fitzhugh, the rebellious son of an earl who was disowned after choosing to go fight during the French Revolution and still is suffering mental post-war ailments, and Fallon, an exotic, exquisite courtesan with an unnameable past. Warrick works for the Queen and finds his way to Fallon's bed—literally—because he knows she has information regarding the murder of a fellow spy, and he'll go to any lengths to find out who or what is threatening the country. Upon meeting Fallon, Warrick immediately has a prevailing respect for her, which is something she receives little of from anyone else. And this respect is what shapes their relationship and forms a mutual understanding.

The characters are fresh and enticing. They aren't cookie-cutter characters; they have depth, concerns, flaws, R-E-A-L emotions and hopes and fears, and that's what made me love them so much. Fallon and Warrick's dynamic is both hilarious and red-hot. They both recognize in each other, a desire to be understood, a desire to have someone to whom they can whisper all their secrets and dreams.

Fallon is lovable and could be your best friend. Fiercely impulsive, dangerously cunning, and all-around awesome, she basically kicks everyone's ass in the novel. Although her vocation prevents her from being respected by high English society, Warrick has never met anyone as extraordinary as her; he trusts and regards her highly immediately:
[Fallon] shook her head. "[Leaving me to fight all by myself] is no way to treat a lady."

"That's because most ladies are skittish ninnies who faint if a man utters the word damn in her presence. You should hope I don't treat you like a lady. I have no use for ladies."
Both may be faring well today, but both have committed unthinkable crimes they don't want to relive. Fallon is at once animated and weary; she has finally escaped her past that made her the sturdy, independent woman she is, but its horrors have also made her too experienced, too jaded, and too wise to be seduced or to love. Warrick is successful, but is just trying to escape the wartime memories still haunting his mind. All in all, they both seem to have the world at their fingertips, but he's no hero and she's no damsel in distress.

Fallon just may be Warrick's cure, and he, her sweet relief... but not if the rungs on the ladder of society get in the way. And don't you dare think they won't. She is a courtesan after all; she may have celebrity status and be classier than most women in the country, but in the end, her title is just a prettier word for the women of the street. Fallon and Warrick can only do so much for to see a passion like theirs to survive this brutal, high-collared English society: hold on, keep hope, and make sacrifices, even if they do risk losing everything.

The plot itself moves at a thrilling pace, but romance is too abrupt. We've got "I love you"s by the first half and "I'll love you forever"s not much later—not very believable and way too hasty, like a forced romance novel. I do like the crime-ridden central conflict, but am not taken with the mystery, especially since it's open-ended. It is resolved in that the villain SPOILER ALERT—who is just this completely random, previously unmentioned man—SPOILER OVER is revealed, but it isn't settled... at least not in this story. While I do understand there will be more mention of it in the next book, I wish it had been tied up more cleanly; the book shifts back and forth between the romance and the life-or-death situation, but only fully consummates one of them.

I will say, however, there are shocking revelations and dangerous bumps in the road that shape the suspense brilliantly. I have no complaints on the story itself, just on the jarringly empty conclusion. The other Diamonds—Fallon's fellow coveted friends—and Lady Sinclair—Fallon's benefactor—are delightful secondary characters. The book ends on a persisting note and with an expected, but still intriguing confession. Due to both, I'm eager to try the preceding and succeeding books in the series—When You Give a Duke a Diamond and what I assume will be Lily's story—to discover more answers, more stories, and of course, more secrets surrounding the Diamonds.

Pros


Story is entertaining // VERY strong characters // Charming cast of supporting characters // Steamy, perfectly improper love scenes // Undercurrent of danger is suspenseful // Lovely French Revolution context // Well-written and easy to read // I definitely want to try the other books in the series now // Breathtaking romance and heartfelt emotions

Cons


Affections are premature and difficult to believe // The ending is just ?????? /?

Love

"What are you doing?"

"For a courtesan, you're rather modest. Don't you dance naked at the Cyprians' balls or some such thing?"

Courtesans did dance naked at some of the debauched balls held by Fashionable Impures ... but Fallon had never participated. She wasn't all that modest, either, but she didn't like the effect his touch had on her.

Or perhaps she liked it too much.

Verdict


Sharp, scintillating, and not even for a moment dull, Shana Galen's newest installment in the Jewels of the Ton series is not your typical bodice ripper. There are plenty of scandalous premarital rendezvouses that'll make readers blush and their skirts rise, yes—but there are also dark, deceptive emotions, dangerous peeks into organizational London crime, and two delicate, troubled, and tremendously tender characters that they'll want to take home, themselves. Sometimes the romance is a little rushed and stilted, but I love the chemistry between Fallon—the contrary heroine who's smart as a whip and won't ever let you down—and Warrick—the tragic, loyal, and passionate hero who'll have you sighing in content. Light-hearted, sentimental, and narrated in a gratifying and playful voice, If You Give a Rake a Ruby is a refreshing addition to the historical romance genre
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7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable (x)