Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: June 5th, 2012
Date finished: June 7th, 2012
Lady Diane Benchley's late husband was a dissolute gambler, who left her with nearly nothing after she paid off his creditors. She does possess the deed to his town house in London, however, and has very specific plans to make herself a fortune. Shocking all of polite society, she sets out to establish an exclusive gentleman's gambling club, run and staffed entirely by respectable women.
Oliver Warren, the Marquis of Haybury, has tried to forget Diane for two years, since they shared two incredible weeks of passion shortly after she was widowed. Diane knows only that Oliver abandoned her in Vienna without a word and sped back to England, and his heartless behaviour means she has no qualms about blackmailing him into providing the start-up capital for her club. She intends for him to be a silent, entirely passive partner in the club (once he has used his considerable experience as a very successful gambler to help train her staff).
Oliver has other plans. He's not spent long with Diane again before realising that he was a fool to leave her. Now he just has to convince the woman whose heart he broke to take him back, through fair means or foul.
While the book has an completely baffling title, which has NOTHING to do with the plot of the novel at all, A Beginner's Guide to Rakes is a lot of fun, and can now be added to my list of delightful romances where the heroine shoots the hero at some point. Diane has very good reasons for detesting Oliver, and being reluctant with trusting any man with her heart. To his credit, and very refreshingly in a romance hero, once Oliver realises the truth about his feelings for Diane, he does whatever he can to make up for his previous misdeeds and sets out to prove to her that he can be trusted.
As well as creating an engaging central couple, who spar most entertainingly, Enoch doesn't neglect the supporting cast, making sure that they are fully fleshed out, making the reader more invested in the creation and continued success of the Tantalus Club. Several of the characters are also clearly going to feature in future books, without their introduction and presence in the story feeling as forced as it sometimes does in planned multi-book series by other authors. The first instalment in the Scandalous Brides can definitely be recommended.