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Book Cover C2’s review of A Beginner’s Guide to Rakes (Scandalous Brides, Book 1) by Suzanne Enoch
Historical Romance published by St. Martin’s 4 Oct 11

Revenge! Blackmail! Wheeeee! It’s always fun to read about a couple with a history – especially when things ended badly.  And if revenge and blackmail are in the picture? Win!  Heh.

Diane Benchley, Lady Cameron, and her husband fled England under a cloud of debt several years before we meet her.  Diane has been a widow for a few years and finally has returned to London.  She has plans. Plans that, if successful, will keep her from depending on a man for her livelihood ever again.  To bring her plans to fruition she needs the assistance of Oliver Warren, Marquis of Haybury – whether he wants to help or not.

The last person Oliver expects to see in London is Diane Benchley.  When he last saw her, Diane was recently widowed and living in Vienna.  They had a brief fling before he returned to England without a word of farewell.  Not a good way to end things, faithful reader.

Diane has returned to open a gentlemen’s club.  Her original lordly male “helper” was killed in an accident and now she needs to find someone else to help her make sure she has covered all the bases necessary with the club – the right look, the right games, the right feel.  The only person she trusts to assist her is Oliver – not because of any good feelings toward him but because she has a very incriminating letter that would ruin his reputation if it were made public. Blackmail!

Diane is not the same person Oliver knew in Vienna.  She has grown a thick skin and sharp tongue.  He is still attracted to her – although less so when she threatens to publish the letter unless he assists with the club (both financially and in an advisory role).  Of course, Oliver looks for a way to turn things to his advantage, but it isn’t easy. Diane has thought of everything and isn’t falling for his charms a second time.

Naturally, over the course of getting the club ready and establishing it as a real option for the gentlemen of the ton, Oliver and Diane have much more contact than either would have first imagined.  And although both start out looking for weaknesses to exploit, they find they have more than just the club in common and enjoy each other’s company a great deal.

I believed the characters’ growth.  The lessening of Diane’s bitterness over time and Oliver’s realization about why he left Vienna is nicely written.  And the idea of a young widow coming to London and opening a gentlemen’s club – staffed by young women – is an interesting (if unlikely) one.  Of course, it might be completely accurate, historically speaking – what do I know?  As long as I’m entertained and the author makes me believe it, I’m good.

The subplot with Diane’s brother-in-law did nothing for me.  If I have to guess (and I am), I would say it might serve as a basis for Oliver and the Duke of Greaves to become friends again so one of the ladies working at the club might eventually become a duchess.  But again – what do I know?  The idea that several of the club’s employees are young ladies of good birth in bad circumstances is a welcome new twist on the sisters/schoolmates/best pals thread that ties together other series.

A small quibble or two regarding marketing choices – the title seems to have nothing to do with the book. At all. Diane didn’t need a guide to rakes and didn’t provide one to anyone else. Also, throughout the book Diane wears nothing but black, except for two special occasions (when she still wore deep colors) – it’s her thing to be distinctive and stuff, plus she looks good in black. So why is the person on the cover wearing white?? Ah well…

I enjoyed Diane and Oliver’s story and look forward to seeing more of the ladies of the Tantalus Club find their Happily Ever Afters.

CSquareds C2 Icon Grade:  B


All of London is abuzz with the return of the utterly alluring, recently widowed Diane Benchley. Will she remarry? What will she do with her late husband’s fortune? Sociey is shocked by her announcement—at the Grand Ball, of all places!—that she plans to open an exclusive gentleman’s gaming club in the family mansion. But no one is more stunned than the Marquis of Haybury, Oliver Warren.
Years ago, Oliver and Diane shared a private indiscretion. Now Diane threatens to reveal Oliver’s most ungentlemanly secrets…unless he agrees to help her. A notorious gambler—and rake—Oliver is overqualified to educate Diane in the ways and means of running her establishment. But striking a deal with Diane might just be the biggest risk Oliver has ever taken. This time, the only thing he has to lose is his heart…

No excerpt available. ( It appears the author’s website hasn’t been updated since her next most recent book which was published in 2010.)