Title: Never Kiss a Rake
Author: Anne Stuart
Series: Scandal at the House of Russell, book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Source: Review copy from publisher
“Anguished by death. Driven by revenge.
Bryony Russell and her two sisters are left destitute by the disgrace and unexpected death of their father, a wealthy shipping magnate. He left a cryptic note, and Bryony is determined to find the real villain and clear her father’s name. In disguise as a servant, Bryony infiltrates the home of her father’s business partner to find proof of his guilt…or innocence. It’s not just clues that Bryony finds, but temptation too…Adrian Bruton, Earl of Kilmartyn, immediately suspects there is something not quite right about his new housekeeper. The brooding, irresistible rake plays along because he has his own guilty secrets, and his venal, scheming wife holds the key to them, trapping him in a hate-filled marriage. But against his will he’s fascinated by Bryony, seeing past the scars on her face to show her the beauty she never knew she had. Bryony must uncover the truth and attempt to preserve her father’s legacy, before things go too far and she falls in love with a man who might very well be her worst enemy.”
Never Kiss a Rake is the first book in the new series Scandal at the House of Russell by Anne Stuart.
Bryony Russell knows in her heart her father was innocent of the fraud he was accused of, a fraud that not only bankrupted two banks in England but also left her and her sisters destitute.
Something else also tells Bryony that the carriage accident in which her father died was not an accident at all.
Bryony needs to clear her father’s name and what better place to investigate that the house of his father’s partner, Adrian Bruton, Earl of Kilmartyn. Suspiciously enough Adrian was one of the few people that wasn’t affected by her father’ allegedly fraud and as her father’s partner that should have been the obvious case.
Luckily for Bryony the Kilmartyn’s house is in need of a housekeeper.
After an uneventful interview and despite his wife’s objections the Earl of Kilmartyn gives Bryony the job.
Bryony knew the Earl (Adrian) was a handsome man, what she wasn’t expecting was the instant attraction she felt for a man she’s supposed to despise.
Adrian knows Bryony is not what she is pretending to be, he shouldn’t have hired her; he’s a man with many secrets and if he’s right she has come to his household to uncover those. Secrets his manipulative and vindictive wife is using to control him and keep him by her side.
Bryony is a smart heroine but too innocent to be believable. She had smallpox as a child and one side of her face is slightly scarred, this makes her insecure and she doesn’t think she could ever find a husband because of it. Bryony can’t believe when Adrian shows interest in her, “a woman like her (scarred) could never capture the attraction of a handsome man like Adrian”, those kinds of thoughts went over and over and over and… you get the idea. It was so much that her self-doubt and loathing became tiresome and made me like her less.
Adrian pretends to be the unrepentant rake because that it’s what society expects of him. He also does it to mortify his wife. They have been married for ten long years in which she not only has him blackmailed, but also parades her lovers in front of him without remorse. Notwithstanding his rakish ways Adrian has a good heart and would like something better for him than his superficial and evil wife.
There is something that attracts and intrigues Adrian about Bryony and he makes it his job to discover more about the fake housekeeper.
Even though Adrian wife is a despicable woman I didn’t like the free way he flirts and seduces women (including Bryony). It lowers him to his wife standards and that was not a good thing.
There was not a clear reason for Bryony and Adrian’s attraction other than just the physical part and there was also not a clear moment when they fell in love, suddenly they went from attraction to love without a clear transition.
Bryony’s investigation doesn’t come to any conclusion, there is a side suspense story that felt underdeveloped and rush at the end. During the first two thirds of the book not much happens but Bryony working as a housekeeper and mooning after Adrian. Most of the action happens in the last quarter of the book. My problem here is that the resolution to the conflict felt rushed and unbelievable. And in a sense there was not a real resolution; Bryony didn’t clear her father’s name nor did she learn what happened to the money her father allegedly stole from his own company. I guess this will be explore/solve in books to come.
Next book will be Bryony’s sister Maddy’s Story, Never Trust a Pirate, to be release on December 3rd. I’m planning to read Never Trust a Pirate just because I can’t resist a pirate story.
After reading and liking The House of Rohan series by Mrs. Stuart I can say I had high expectations for Never Kiss a Rake, lamentably this novel didn’t meet many of them. Even though Never Kiss a Rake is an entertaining read, it’s also a book that didn’t bring anything new to the genre. Never Kiss a Rake was so generic that at times I felt as if I had read this book (formula) many times before.
My Verdict: 3 Paws
Other books in the series
Never Kiss a Rake
Never Trust a Pirate (December 3rd)
Other reviews Goodreads