Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake - Sarah MacLean My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

These are my thoughts after 15 chapters of the book:

After finishing like 15/16 chapters of the book, I have to say, I'm rather disappointed. Seeing all those really sparkling stars, I might've expected something more original, something more ... I don't know. Something that will blow me away. But, sadly I'm not. I'm not even moved, really. I spend at least 13 chapters of the book pitying Calpurnia and fighting my irritation at Gabriel. Have to say it's not a very good sign.

I wish Callie would learn that Gabriel isn't worth 10yrs full of pining and when to stand up, give a little fight, show him what an a$$ he really is! Some of the incidents that I've read where he was rather insulting/trying to patronize her, she never stood up to him or at least tried to ignore him as much as possible. Yah, she did try to talk back but most of the times it was frustrating since those talks mostly went nowhere. One kiss, a little flirtation or a smile from Gabriel would make her forget that he was just insulting her this moment and she'd gladly let him do whatever he wants to do with her. Really?! It's NOT love. How can a woman pine for a bed hopper and imagine herself in that bed, too I'll never know! And, yes, there's lot more in love than just pining and one sided sighing for someone. I'm not even gonna talk about her stupid list. If you really wanna ruin your reputation and have an adventure, the shortest, quickest possible way is to compromise yourself, possibly with a man like Gabriel, even Oxford will do. Why making 9? Also, I'm yet to understand how she binded her rather 'ample bosom' with a bit of linen and made her rather 'fleshy' body look like a man's? Not once, but twice! Right!

For Gabriel, just because his mom left him and that he's a marquess doesn't give him the right to treat others so shabbily and act as a cold, arrogant boor! Well, maybe being a marquess does but for me, bleh! Why is he so angry at his mom that she'd cuckolded her husbands? He didn't learn a single thing from it and for all I know, cuckolded husbands all around England! Isn't it rather hypocritical? Saying all these, it's time to stop the cliched theme that one little kiss and a touch or two would reform a serious rake who'd seen it all, done it all with countless other women! It takes a brilliant author (Lisa Kleypas or Elizabeth Hoyt comes to mind instantly) to 'reform' a rake so well, that you can't but love him, fall for him hard. A lot of reverence, emotional turmoil and crazy chemistry with humor between the h/h are needed to make an outstanding novel. The story doesn't always have to be original but at least not so predictable as this one. So, Sarah MacLean has a long way to go IMO.

Then things started to change and I believed maybe I was wrong by judging the author too soon. This thought stayed for at least 3 chapters or so, just before the big misunderstanding, the climax and the epilogue. Now, I'm back to square one and think I wasn't judging her too soon after all! I still believe this book could've been different, even amazing if it wasn't so predictable, if I could adore and love the characters in it. No, I actually liked some of them, one was of course Gabriel's twin Nicholas, for which I'm interested to read his book.

Anyway, even though I know that there are many really good reviews, quite creative (both positive and negative), which would give you an adequate summery of the story, I'd still talk about it. Lady Calpurnia or Callie met our hero Gabriel, the marquess of Ralston on her debut ball, which was becoming a disaster. In that shadowed garden, he said some nice things to her, which made her instantly fall for him. Doesn't matter when he turned his head, she was instantly forgotten. Doesn't matter when Callie followed him inside the hedge maze, found that he was rather 'busy' in a tryst with his latest paramour! Boy, I thought she'd turn back and run, but no, she stood there, hiding and spied on them for quite a while (you can guess!), thinking what would it like to be that woman! Really?

Fast forward, Callie ten yrs later; a spinster and still obsessed with Gabriel though he'd never given a damned thought about her as I mentioned earlier. Trust me, there are many many times throughout the book this fact is proven. And, reading Callie's thoughts, it occurred to me that she's still stuck 10 yrs ago, still being the 17yrs old. She didn't really change, her personality showed no sign of maturity and it went on for the better part of the book. This is where the list comes. Yah, that really obnoxious list! First of which was, kissing someone passionately and of course, it had to be Gabriel! So she drunk a lot of sherry because she was rather depressed about her sister Mariana's engagement to a duke, a love match no less. I can understand it and of course hated the way her relatives, even her mother talk to/about her. It's very very demeaning and personally, I'd be mad myself. But Callie just gave in (which also went for better part of the book), listened to them and thinking: 'well, that's the real me'! Oh, why? This is what didn't endear Callie to me in the first place and you can already guess why I didn't care for Gabriel much. So after eavesdropping on Mari and her fiance, listening to the way they talk about her, she decides now it's time to take her life in hand, to embark upon some adventures which is .... a list of things men do in their world, doesn't matter how imbecilic it sounds. It'd, of course, give her a sense of accomplishment! Right!! *rolls eyes*

But, first things first- drink a lot of sherry, snuck out in the midnight, go to the residence of one of the most notorious rakes in London (the one you've pined for all eternity), let the butler led you to his bed chamber since that's nothing new in that household, see him playing piano and then listen to his diatribe on his very recently dumped mistress, talk and get the deal of chaperoning his sister in exchange for a kiss, kiss, come back home and in the morning, put all the blame on the sherry! Phew!! What an accomplishment!

The sad thing was, in most of her imbecilic 'adventures', somewhere in her addled mind Callie knew she was doing something wrong here, maybe she should turn back and not make a fool of herself but the 'new' Callie didn't care how stupid she looks when Gabriel caught (in at least 2 of the things in the list, others he actually accompanied!) and berated her. And, I've already mentioned, she never really stood upto him, gave him hell, for which I was pissed! She starts chaperoning Gabriel and Nicholas's half-sister Juliana and in the process, kept seeing Gabriel more than she'd ever done in her life, unless it was from the edge of a ballroom; him with his latest mistress/paramour and she in the wallflower/spinster row. And now, it's wreacking havoc on her, turning her into a mush and making her a veritable ninny! Lord, I only wish ... *exasperated sigh*

Gabriel, meanwhile, is getting hard just thinking of that kiss in the midnight with Lady Calpurnia, who was rather someone he never really cared about, saw her in the wallflower/spinster row now and again and thought rather plain and boring. But, wow, she loves adventures, which makes him hard instantly since he'd apparently (even though he'd rather ploughed through London with a vengeance for the most part of his life) never had anyone like her! Seriously, you want me to believe that??! But, I digress! Afterwards, they started talking and stuff, then kissing and touching and so on. Callie keeps giving into his demands and 'expert hands and mouths'! I wasn't particularly moved by their little interludes in the fencing club and in some library (not sure since I skipped most of it being rather annoyed at Callie). Why? Let's see. There was a scene, where Gabriel talks to Nicholas and when the twin asks him if he can court (of course he was trying to rile him) her, Gabriel acts as an a$$ and tells him what would he do with such a plain, missish spinster! Eavesdropping again, Callie hears it all. You would think she'd learn that now's the time I should give him a wide berth, at least give him something to think about in his worthless life but NOOOOOO! She'd, of course, believed that Gabriel feels something special for her, tsk tsk tsk! So, she basically does nothing and no 'sorry' was forthcoming from Gabriel. Another, while they were in the opera and Callie understood the singer as his ex-mistress, she was hurt knowing Gabriel was going to see her after a note arrives in the interval. She follows him and stops him (I was getting ready for quite a scene!) but nothing, really. Gabriel patronizes her in his own way. Then, the very next day, a little smile and flirting, she forgets!

After catching her in one of her 'adventures', Gabriel tells her she can't take risks like this, which would hamper Juliana's coming out so he'd accompany her, which led to their gambling at Brook's. Guess, I've already mentioned the little 'dressing up as a man' part! Callie's lady's maid Anne (whom I found rather annoying at times) could've dressed actors on stage I guess! Anyway, they go there, secure a room and start gambling. Here, I started enjoying their banters quite a lot, mostly I believe, because Gabriel didn't sound so cold and condescending for the first time in the book and Callie matched his tone by being witty and charming, also first time in the book. And, boy didn't I just lurved their interlude this time?! I did, really did love the first love scene. And things got better from here. I loved the way they interacted. I loved that Gabriel was falling, even though he kept denying it. I loved that he perused Callie when she didn't accept his marriage proposal afterwards, knowing he's doing it out of honor. And, yes, that was the correct thing to do IMO. Then came the most beautiful scene of this book, the scene at the Allendale (Callie's home) library. I was very moved by this scene, where Gabriel was trying to convince her again and Callie said some things that made sense and sounded very logical to why she's not accepting his suit. But, I didn't like that Callie thought Gabriel didn't deserve her! I mean, c'mon woman, a little self-respect won't hurt you! But then, I liked seeing Gabriel lost about what to do now, since he'd never been in a situation like that having always getting his way in the past. I liked the way later on, Benedick, whom I thought rather too prone to giving into Callie's wheedling [see: the cheroot smocking scene or talking about the list scene], talked to Gabriel and the understanding both men reached to. Of course, I loved the scenes that followed; Gabriel taking to Callie about his parents, why he thought he'd never fall in love (it was quite sad, his father's life) and so on. Callie understanding it all said 'yes' and I thought, well, this is really good! I loved the love scenes here, too. Somewhere in the middle, Callie sees Gabriel's ex-mistress, the opera singer in a dressmaker's shop and I was pissed again that she started comparing herself with the woman and thinking how can he want her when he can get such beautiful women bla bla bla. Oh Callie, please!! But, the scene as the two women talked, turned out to be another interesting scene of the book and I came out rather sympathizing with the woman myself. I thought this scene was handled quite well.

Later in another ball, where they were supposed to announce their engagement, Callie learns of a stupid wager Gabriel and Oxford (a fortune hunter who was pursuing her himself) made quite a while ago. I'm not going into the details of 'why' but Callie gets hurt. Of course she's supposed to. And, Gabriel challenged Oxford in a duel because he was saying dirty things about her. I was glad to see that he was doing something chivalrous at least once in his life. But ... yah but, afterwards, just knowing that Gabriel is fighting a duel took all the fight and hurt out of Callie, again! ... And, they had to sort out their mutual feelings in an open field, where their brothers were there along with a few other strangers including that moron Oxford and the doctor prodding at Gabriel's flesh wound! I've never read a less romantic setting for exchanging ILUs!

Then comes the epilogue. God! Callie had to select the same hedge maze for a garden tryst with Gabriel, where she saw him 10 yrs ago, with another woman. WHY????!!!! I know, given to Gabriel's reputation, it'd be rather difficult to find spots in gardens but why this one? Hello?? I was sooooooooo annoyed! And Gabriel, again, proved that he never remembered her after all since he had no recollection of their meeting, while Callie treasured it all her life. She never asked about that woman he was with but I'm sure Gabriel wouldn't remember her either. Lord! *insert more eye-rolling here*

So, I ended the book with more annoying moments and frustrations, for which, even though in the middle I was considering a 4 star, I simply cannot give it one. I'm a sucker for spinster/wallflower theme but this book wasn't satisfactory IMO. I leave the book with a 3 star because of the scenes I genuinely loved in this book, nothing more, nothing less.