I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“There’s no should when it comes to what we feel. There aren’t scientific laws when it comes to the human heart.”
With a little inspiration from The Breakfast Club, the Union of Rakes series introduces readers to five boys in detention, identified with similar-ish personalities from Breakfast Club movie characters. My Fake Rake stars “the brain”, Sebastian, and Lady Grace, the woman he has become friends with as they both frequent a library. Grace has always been an outsider as she gets labeled a bluestocking for her interest, love, and study of amphibians. She has a big crush on another member of the library, Mason, a naturalist and a plan gets concocted to have Sebastian play the rake hitting on Grace in public, thus drawing Mason's attention and waking him up to the idea that Grace is desirable. However, as fake relationships are wont to go in romanceland, Sebastian and Grace find their “fake” feelings are very real.
Reptile or human, you were guaranteed to make a cake out of yourself when mating season arrived. No, that wasn’t fair—to reptiles.
As a child of the '80s, I was very excited about the Breakfast Club inspiration but it turned out to be a very faint one. We get a brief prologue introducing the five boys but no scenes with them all together bonding. Only one of Sebastian's friends from the group is shown throughout the book, giving readers a hint of the emotional connection between those two but not the group, as the other three only make a brief appearance towards the end. I, personally, felt like this could have a been a fun theme strung out throughout the book and gave readers an intimate and male friendship angle. Grace has a couple scenes with a female friend and she seems to have bonded with her romance reading maid (I can't be the only one wanting her to have her own story!) but I felt secondary character emotional additives were mostly missing and the five detention boys bonding angle could have fulfilled this.
He was also poor as a churchmouse, which, unfortunately, meant that he hadn’t the financial means to court anyone.
When readers come into the scene, Sebastian already has feelings for Grace but he's not an heir and his father disapproves of his anthropological studies, making him feel that he could never support Lady Grace as she would deserve and keeping him from declaring his feelings. Grace has focused all her attention on Mason and though she occasionally sees Sebastian in more than a friend light, until she starts spending more time with him, she never consciously considers it. Grace's changing feelings for Sebastian started popping up pretty quickly but the acknowledge, push away, and “Oh, Sebastian could Never feel that way about Me” goes on for far too long and drags down the pace of the story. There was something external or missing outside forces that made this story a little dull. I liked the outline but there was some spark and emotion missing that made this hard to pick back up. The focus lasts too long on Mason when Grace keeps saying how much she likes Sebastian and the only thing keeping them apart is her thinking he couldn't possibly like her back, even when she points out times he seems jealous and they have intimate moments that should make someone who is brave in going against the grain and fairly self-aware, ask even covertly “Do you like me?”.
She realized at that moment that scholars didn’t just read, they knew things, naughty things.
Sebastian being an introvert and shy but working to be a rake provided some sweet moments but these two seemed to be forced into cross-purposes when in contrast their personalities probably would have figured it out much quicker. Sebastian and Grace's relationship with their family, Grace's friendship with her maid and other lady, and the group of five, felt too faint to gain any emotion from. Rothbury (one of the five detention club boys and possibly “the princess”) was the only secondary character that I felt pulled his weight and gave something to the story, his friendship with Sebastian helped flush Sebastian's character out.
Shouldn’t someone take an interest in her on the basis of who she was, rather than who they believed her to be? Yet that was precisely what she had done, and couldn’t help but feel some regret that she’d set her sights on someone who needed to be shown—by another man—that she was worthwhile.
The beginning and Breakfast Club inspiration excited me but the middle dragged and failed to animate the characters and their relationship, there were also some obvious points that the author wanted to make and when you personally agree with them, want them stated and they still feel jarring and take you out of the story, they probably weren't woven in naturally enough. The ending failed to recapture the spark I lost and while I think this series still holds promise, My Fake Rake was a slow start.
But, bloody hell, pretend or no, his kiss would haunt her to the end of her days.