|Read an excerpt: here|
Fresh, different, absorbing- all apt words to describe this latest installment to the Drake’s Rakes series by Eileen Dreyer. A special kind of romance you have to read to believe! I couldn’t get over how much the characters, plot, and circumstances affected me during and after reading. I wanted to run over the Hero in my car, whack some sense into a heroine I ended up loving, and all the while, I crossed my fingers for their happily ever after. This book pushed the limits and sets itself apart from other historicals in a daring way. Never A Gentleman is quite simply a read to remember!
How much can one man sacrifice for the love of his country? Diccan Hilliard, son of the Most Reverend Lord Evelyn Hilliard, Bishop of Slough, has lived a debauched life for a purpose. Being a member of Drake’s Rakes, a group of aristocrats who do undercover work for the government, Diccan couldn’t fight for the honor of his country on the battlefield, but could contribute in other ways. Using his gentleman’s status, Diccan and the other ‘Rakes’ work behind the scenes, spying and retrieving information on another secret group of aristocrats named The Lions who plan to take down the current monarchy and replace it with one of their own making. When Diccan discovers some information on The Loins’ next nefarious plot, he makes his way to London with the news, but has to make a quick stop along the way- to get married!
Grace Fairchild didn’t harbor juvenile dreams of the kind of life the daughter of a solider could expect. She also didn’t have any misconceptions to the type of life an unattractive daughter of a solider with an unfortunate limp could look forward to. Grace is all that is kind, loyal, and dependable - but everyone, including her biggest supporters (the soldiers she nursed during the war) sees her as more of a savior than seductress. Painfully plain and awkwardly tall with an injured leg, vivid dreams are the only things she can rely on for carnal stimulation; that, and the muscular body of the naked man in her bed-which happens to belong to a drugged-up Diccan.
When Diccan wakes up naked and disoriented in Grace Fairchild’s bed and some of the foulest gossips of the ton are around to witness it, scandal isn’t the only thing at risk. What sort of credibility could be counted on a man who would debauch and publically disgraced one of the most respected spinsters in England? She may be taller than most men and earn his nickname for her, Boadicea, with every move that she makes, but what other choice is there? Who would believe the vital news he carried about The Lions if he brought down a veritable saint in the blaze of irrevocable scandal beforehand? Marriage is their only option.
Diccan had always liked Grace, but he never expected to come to care for her. In his line of work, showing your enemies what you valued most was the quickest way to get it taken away from you, and Diccan will not stand for his ‘Boadicea’ being put in harm’s way over his actions. Little does he know Grace has been hurting every day since they exchanged vows and he’s losing her in another way all-together. Diccan has been pushing Grace away and doing everything in his power to show the world his indifference towards his new wife- all with the hope that the Lions won't see her as potential prey to get to him, and it's working a number on their sham of a marriage. Secrets and deception threaten a love that was too absurd to ever be dreamed possible, but can Grace and Diccan find a way?
Rating: 4 Red Roses
My Favorite Part of the Book: I mean this in a good way: was the audacity of it. It took real mettle to write a book with characters as raw as Grace and Diccan were and with a plot that had so much complexity and emotion . The trope was one well-used by many authors, but stayed fresh and surprising in the hands of Dreyer.
This book ‘went for it’ and at first, I admit to thinking the goal couldn't be obtained. I thought it was genius of Dreyer to make a heroine who really WAS plain. There wasn't some big makeover and an "Ah, there's the beauty she's been hiding". And there wasn't blind appreciation or admiration. I can really dig when my mind has to look outside the box to picture the happily ever after. Not everyone is a super model.
Diccan was, for lack of a better word: a dick. I couldn’t believe the lengths he went to to convinced The Lions he didn’t care for his wife. *Spoiler’s Ahead* Here’s a scene from the book that I am sure every reader will remember and cringe over. Diccan is with his mistress and unaware that his wife is able to see and hear everything:
Minette fingered the damp curls at his neck. “What about your wife?”
Grace blinked, sure she’d heard wrong. Her heart had surely gone silent as she waited. But he sounded completely indifferent. “She has nothing to object to,” he was saying, his focus on Minette’s breast. “I married her. I’ll be damned if I have to fuck her’”
Yeah. I gasped too. I understand that he was trying to do his duty to his country by probing his mistress for information on The Lions, and also he was trying to keep his wife safe by pretending indifference, but he played his role a little too well for my tastes. He laid it on pretty thick. It made me feel as though, as much as he protested his wrong-doings in his head, that he secretly did harbor a few aversions towards his wife. Diccan’s efforts were extreme, and some his protests of feelings to the contrary of abhorrence didn’t ring completely sincere. At the end of the day, you want to end up loving the hero, but I was still pretty pissed with Diccan even after his explanations, reasoning, and self-deprecation:
He’d been trying to pretend it wasn’t so bad, because if it was, he wouldn’t be able to continue being such a bastard. He would be consumed by the pain he was causing her. He’d grab Grace and run, just like she wanted, far into the country where noon could follow, and he’d make it up to her.
And even though I came to really love Grace, I couldn’t admire some of her actions. She’s this strong, reliable, steadfast soldier’s daughter who can shoot rifles and ‘hang’ with all manner of raucous men; but when it comes to Diccan, she’s reduced to someone I couldn’t completely pat on the back. He treated her like dirt, and she just kept coming back for more. I was surprised at how much crap she took from him in the name of love and never giving up. Like I said earlier, Diccan went above, beyond, and over the rainbow to push Grace away, but Grace had a sort of desperation cloaking her actions that I couldn’t envy. She was sort of like that annoying friend we all had in High School that we loved, but sometimes wished we didn’t know when she would bring up her relationship with her dirt-bag boyfriend. We always knew that she deserved better, but the friend loved blindly (sort of like Grace- whose eyes were wide open, but she just didn't care) and it got annoying/tedious after a while.
There was chemistry abound and the characters were really stuck between a rock and a hard place. You have to respect the depth of the plot and the way everything was interlaced.
The story does redeem itself, you’ll realize, once you hit the last page and it’ll be a read you know was special because of the risks it took. Ripe with emotion, fantastic secondary characters, a dynamic plot, and protagonists that push the boundaries, Never A Gentleman will entice and intrigue any historical romance lover.
A Special Thanks to the author
for sending a copy for review
*Want more Dreyer? Check out the first Drake's Rakes book, 'Barley A Lady'