Francis Rohan is the Rakiest Rake That Ever Raked and hangs out in France as Rake-In-Chief of the "Heavenly Host" because if he goes back to England, they'll cut off his head for spoiler reasons. Elinor Harriman is the repressed daughter of a woman dying of syphilis, and devotes all her energy to protecting her beautiful younger sister. When the story opens, Elinor and her family, plus their two elderly servants, are on the brink of ruin when her mother runs off to a Heavenly Host party to gamble away the last of their food money. Similar dark themes run through the book, just this side of over-the-top, and it seems perfectly right in this book.
Elinor, naturally, goes after her mother and meets Rohan. Who has a mostly-naked woman on his lap but finds Elinor much more interesting because she's different and he is bored. Cue the crack! Not to mention the debauchery, which alas, is not shown in all its glory but referred to repeatedly in appropriately jaded tones.
The best thing about this entirely cracktastic book is that it was rife with commentary on the Rake Trope and on Old Skool Romance - I got a definite flavor of Heyer's These Old Shades writ in black Sharpie. Rohan's dialogue cracked me up numerous times, and Elinor was no slouch either, which was a nice change from the usually more "innocent" heroines in Stuart's contemporary suspense novels. Elinor is practical and sarcastic; Rohan is languid and sarcastic. I thought they were awesome fun. Also, there are offscreen swordfights.
I don't want to spoil this, so I won't say much more about the plot. I think those who read a lot of romance will no doubt find this more amusing than those who don't. Those who don't read a lot of romance...I don't know. If you read it, tell me what you thought!
One small annoyance: this book had a number of proofing errors, including one instance where Elinor's name was spelled "Eleanor."
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