I am not always a fan of Harlequin titles, but Kasey Michaels is one of my favorite historical romance writers, a New York Times Bestselling Author, she must be doing something right. Which is exactly what she has done with her latest offering from Harlequin. The Taming of the Rake is due to be released on July 26, 2011. It is the first book in a new trilogy about the Blackthorn Brothers.
Michaels begins her new novel with an introduction stating that while she has written a few rakes and bad boys, she has never written a bastard, well at least not according to the legal definition. She stays true to the time period by making her three bastard brothers outcasts to pristine ton society.
Oliver “Beau” Blackthorn is the oldest son of an English Marquess. He should have had it all, there is only one slight problem…he is the illegitimate result of the Marquess’ love affair with an actress. Young Oliver is immune to the ramifications of what being a bastard means in society because despite the misfortune of his birth, he and his brothers are loved, educated, and rich. He is also a young man in love. Love can put such blinders on everything.
Lady Chelsea Mills-Beckman is witness to these blinders after Oliver proposes marriage to her sister Lady Madelyn, which doesn’t go quite as expected. As if the heartbreak wasn’t enough for poor Oliver, he is thrashed by her brother for even thinking a bastard could rise above his station in such a way. She was only a child at the time and could do nothing but watch Oliver proudly walk away, bloody and bruised.
Flash forward years later, Lady Chelsea’s brother has found religion, at least the kind of religion where women should be subservient. What better way to show his support of his direct link to God then to give Lady Chelsea’s hand in marriage to the wet-lipped Reverend Francis Flotley? Desperate to escape her bleak future, Lady Chelsea runs away to the one person who hates her brother more — Oliver!
All three brothers are named after characters in Shakespeare’s plays and the titles of the novels also pay tribute to the bard. Just as in Taming of the Shrew, Lady Chelsea watches as suitors come to pay court to her sister. In this role, however she is cast as the mischievous younger sister. The buildup of Lady Chelsea and Oliver’s relationship was very well written and believable. When they first meet, she plays tricks on him like convincing him that Lady Madelyn would be upset to receive the beautiful bouquet of flowers as they make her sneeze. After throwing them out the door, Lady Madelyn is piqued that she did not receive a gift like flowers from her visitor. Lady Chelsea has a good heart, however, as can be seen in the tears she sheds for young Oliver and all the mischief she gets herself into while trying to help others.
It is Oliver who is cast as the bad tempered one, only he didn’t start out that way. The prologue was the best part of this novel because Michaels does a wonderful job representing just how naive Oliver was to his own situation. It would take something heart-crushing to turn such a wide-eyed young man into a hardened survivor closed off to love. The proud man who walks through Mayfair with dignity after a beating is a very different man from the one who came to pay court. This set up was perfect for the story and sets the stage for how a good man could possibly turn to vengeance and revenge.
Hopefully, A Midsummer Night’s Sin and Much Ado about Rogues will not be too far behind. It will be interesting to see what Shakespearean twists can be applied to the stories about the additional two brothers as they find their true places in society and their hearts.