Rating: 3 stars
Official book description:
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.
In exchange for funding his passage on an expedition leaving London in a few months, Sebastian allows Grace to 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 hired 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.
My Fake Rake is a romance of the “I’ll pretend to date someone else to make the object of my affection truly notice me, but wait, I find I fancy the someone else more than the original object of my affection” variety, but with a role-reversal make-over twist.
A historical romance set in Regency England and written by Eva Leigh, My Fake Rake is my seventh book by this author. I generally find her work good fun, but I’m starting to worry that her quality is slipping. While I very much enjoyed her first trilogy, the Wicked Quills of London, I thought the books in her London Underground series were merely OK. This beginning of her new series (where the prologue finds what is clearly going to be the heroes of the future novels collected in one room for some sort of collective punishment a la The Breakfast Club) is her weakest one yet. I found My Fake Rake rather dull, especially as both the hero and heroine keep agonising about their attraction for the other without EVER having an honest conversation about it. I will give Eva Leigh’s future novels a chance because I liked the supporting character of the Duke of Rotherby, who has to help our hero and heroine actually pull off the makeover and fake dating ploy, as our protagonists are too socially awkward and inexperienced to figure out how to do this on their own. He’s the hero of the next book. This one, however, was nothing special and if you are curious about the author’s works, I would not recommend this particular effort. Go for something in her earliest trilogy instead.
The main plot of My Fake Rake focuses, as I mentioned earlier, on a makeover story with a twist. It is not the socially awkward heroine who needs a new wardrobe, but rather the hero. Sebastian Holloway, eldest son of a wealthy industry magnate is an avid anthropologist, but because his father has cut him off, he can’t actually afford to do people watching outside the isle of Britain, on the occasional wander. He is tall, blond and crippled by social anxiety. In case you’d like social media to help you provide some mental casting, Eva Leigh has Pinterest boards for each of her novels, and she has the delectable Alexander Skarsgård as her suggested Sebastian. The heroine, Lady Grace Wyatt, is a wallflower, but mostly by choice. She is well-read, clever and passionate about lizards and amphibians. Her scientific interests make her unappealing on the marriage mart. For those wondering, Eva Leigh imagines her looking like Allison Brie. ¨
Lady Grace’s father is ailing and wants her to marry and find a husband to take care of her before he dies. Lady Grace has nurtured a crush on a titled, dashing fellow scientist explorer for years, but he seems to view her more as a sister. Sebastian and Grace are close friends and frequent study buddies and Grace is clearly ignoring any possible attraction to him (he’s been in love with her for years, but would never dare suggest that he, a penniless, untitled nobody would be good enough for her, even if she didn’t keep talking to him about her crush on another guy for years). Once Sebastian’s old school chum, the Duke of Rotherby joins in to help Grace give Sebastian a proper makeover, it becomes apparent that Sebastian is, in fact, a certifiable hottie, and Grace is forced to reconsider which man she actually wants. Many complications ensue before our nerdy couple move forward together secure in their love and commitment.
While there is far too much back and forth nonsense where Grace and Sebastian clearly fancy the pants off each other (she literally gets short of breath when he removes his spectacles at one point), they spend far too much time assuring themselves of why they couldn’t possibly voice their attraction towards the other. Even after they’ve kissed several times, they’re able to explain it away as something other than genuine passion and infatuation. This got tiresome. The Duke of Rotherby, the main supporting character made the story more bearable, but I still kept putting the book down and finding excuses not to read more quite a few times. It’s fun that the author is trying to basically take 80s high school rom com plots and turn them into Regency romances, but this one didn’t entirely work out.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.