Friday, March 2, 2012

Considering Rakes

Johnny Depp as Rochester

This week I’ve been thinking about rakes. First, I’ve recently read a soon-to-be-released book that features one of the best rakish heroes ever. Second, the responses to a question Sarah MacLean posed about rogues at The Romance Dish made me question if “rogue” and “rake” are synonymous. I don’t think so. “Rogue” connotes a lack of honesty and scruples that is not necessarily characteristic of a rake. Some heroes may be both rakes and rogues, but some are one or the other.

In his 1755 dictionary, Samuel Johnson defined a rake as “a man addicted to pleasure.” Historically, the term may be most famous as a description of the “Merry Gang,” as the poet Andrew Marvell called the group of English wits who were part of Charles II’s circle. Known for their debauchery, heavy drinking, and love affairs, these men expressed their ideas—some scandalous and some substantive—through limericks, lampoons, and satirical plays. The most famous of the group was the fascinating John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester (1647-80).  Rochester’s contemporary friend, the playwright Sir George Etherege is said to have based the rake Dorimant, a character in his play Man of the Mode, on Rochester. The play was first performed on March 2, 1676.  

While rakish heroes in romance novels are not guilty of Rochester’s most outrageous offenses, Etherege’s description ("I know he is a Devil, but he has something of the Angel yet defac'd in him.") is one that might be used to describe many of romance fiction’s most beloved rakes. Just think how many of them are referred to as “fallen angels” or bear nicknames such as “Devil” or “Lucifer.” Opinion is divided concerning Rochester’s deathbed religious conversion, but romance readers are unanimous in their expectation that a rake will be transformed by the power of his love for one woman.

After much consideration and even some rereading, I have narrowed a list of approximately fifty rakish heroes I love to a dozen (alphabetized by author), and I’m adding the new one I mentioned to make it a baker’s dozen.

Stepback for A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James,
a novel that features another of my favorite rakes,
Leopold Dautry, Duke of Villiers/
1.     Piers Verderan, Emily and the Dark Angel (1991), Jo Beverley
A true rake, Piers, known as the “Dark Angel” is aristocratic, witty, and experienced, although he is less dark than his reputation paints him, an attribute he shares with many a rake in romance.

2.     Lucien, Marquess of Arden, An Unwilling Bride (1992), Jo Beverley
Lucien is rake lite. His hard-drinking, hedonistic lifestyle seems more youthful rebellion and lack of purpose than entrenched character. Even before he falls in love with Beth, he moderates his habits.

3.     Tarquin Vale, Earl of Ashcroft, My Reckless Surrender (2010), Anna Campbell
Tarquin is a rake ripe for reform. He has the reputation of being a man who can’t say no to the women, from aristocrats to courtesans, who are eager to share his bed, but he is already sated with his self-indulgent life. His reformist politics and love of antiquities also suggest that he is more complex than his reputation suggests.

      4. Vere Mallory, Duke of Ainswood, The Last Hellion (1998), Loretta Chase
Vere behaves as a rake to escape the pain of all the losses in his life. The fact that he, the younger son of a younger son, inherits the title speaks to how great the losses are. From his first encounter with Lydia Grenville, his days as a rake are numbered.

Stepback for Nine Rules to break When Romancing a Rake
by Sarah MacLean, a book that features yet another favorite
rake, Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston.
  5. Sebastian, Marquess of Dain, Lord of Scoundrels (1995), Loretta Chase
Dain is the quintessential rake in character if not in looks, debauched and dissolute and influencing others to follow in his path. But no redemption of a rake has ever been more delicious than Dain’s.

  6.     “Saint,” the Marquis of St. Aubyn, London's Perfect Scoundrel (2003), Suzanne Enoch
The very worst of rakes at the beginning, ruthless, self-centered, interested only in bedding the heroine, his transformation is incremental and credible. He truly is a changed man by the book’s end.

  7.     Gideon, Lord Carradice, The Perfect Rake (2005), Anne Gracie
He really is the perfect rake. A womanizer and a charmer who turns a compliment with practiced grace, he is at first amused and then totally blindsided by love for Prudence Merridew, the plain sister among a bevy of beauties.

      8.  Lord Jasper Damerel, Venetia (1958), Georgette Heyer
Damerel is a prototype of the Regency Rake. His “careless elegance,” “cynically bored” eyes, “swashbuckling arrogance,” and the “laughing devil in his sneer” are adapted and reused for generations of     rakes.

How to Romance a Rake (July 31, 2012)
by Manda Collins  features a hero whom
I expect to add to my list of favorite
rakes, Lord Alec Deveril.
9.     Garrett Langham, Earl of Mayne, Pleasure for Pleasure (2006), Eloisa James
Mayne’s character arc covers five books, and by PFP, he really is a former rake. But in the beginning, London is filled with his former inamoratas, and Mayne is selected as the perfect lover for Helene, Countess Godwin, in Your Wicked Ways. Suffering from ennui when he encounters Helene, his transformation begins then and is completed with the HEA in Pleasure for Pleasure.

10.     Derek Craven, Dreaming of You (1994), Lisa Kleypas
Derek Craven is no aristocrat. A nameless waif who became a chimney sweep, a thief, a grave-robber, and a gigolo before he became a gambling club owner and one of London’s wealthiest citizens, Craven has had scores of lovers, none of whom has touched his heart. He is both rake and rogue until Sara Fielding teaches him that he is capable of loving and worthy of being loved.

    11.     Reginald Davenport, The Rake (1998), Mary Jo Putney
A wastrel and a drunkard, Reggie is on the road to self-destruction when an act of generosity and compassion gives him a chance to reclaim his life. Meeting Alys Weston gives him courage to fight his         demons, a friend and champion, and eventually an HEA.

      12.  Michael Stirling, When He Was Wicked (2004), Julia Quinn
Michael Stirling is known as the “Merry Rake” because of his indulgences, but one look at Francesca Bridgerton is all he needs to know he’s found his love. The problem is his cousin and best friend, John Stirling, Earl of Kilmartin, and Francesca are about to be married. Michael accepts the role of friend until John’s death gives Michael a title he never wanted and guilt that sends him running from Francesca for four years.

13. Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, A Week to Be Wicked, Tessa Dare
I’ll be reviewing AWTBW soon. For now, I’ll just say that Colin is one rake who made me cry, made me laugh, and totally captured my heart. Don’t miss this one.

Who are your favorite rakes?

WINNER: Kati, you are the Randomizer's choice to win the books from last week's giveaway. Please contact me at jangarho at gmail dot com.


MsHellion said...

You mentioned most of mine--Gideon (Anne Gracie) and Mayne (Eloisa James). And I've loved some of the others you've mentioned as well--I agree they're all good rakes who seem to have credible transformations. :)

And thanks for the great big teaser! I'm only waiting to read Tessa Dare's new book! *LOL*

Janga said...

Mayniacs forever, Hellie! LOL I do love Villiers too, but Mayne is the rake to whom I am most emotionally attached.

Tessa's Colin is a wonderful hero, but everthing about that book is terrific. You don't have long to wait now. It releases March 27. :)

PJ said...

Great list, Janga! I agree with all of them. Tessa's Colin just may end up in my top five favorite heroes of all time and the book will certainly be on my "best of 2012" list. I'm still savoring it, two weeks after reading the ARC. :)

quantum said...

I rather like rakes in a sporting context. SEP's Chicago Stars series is great. I loved Phoebe in 'It Had to be You' and Dan Calebow is almost a rake!

For really hot sexy rakes you can't beat Bella Andre. I liked Julie in 'Game for Anything' as #1 in her 'bad Boys of Football' series. Ty in Rake mode, brings out the best in her!

I like most of yours as well Janga, especially the books with very strong heroines who can make the rake really work for his pleasure!

Janga said...

PJ, I agree with all you say about Colin, and Minerva is just as wonderful. I think A Week to Be Wicked is a winner in every respect.

Janga said...

Q, I think contemporary rakes deserve their own post. I haven't read Bella Andre, but I agree that SEP has created some of the best contemporary bad boys. So has Nora Roberts. Cameron Quinn and Rafe MacKade would definitely rate high on my list.

Anonymous said...

What's about Sebastian in The Devil in Winter (by Lisa Kleypas) ? I love him :)